Julius Caesar



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Relationship with his army

Past HSC question 2007
Question 24 (b) Assess the military achievements of Julius Caesar. (15 marks)
(This question also takes in "Gallic Wars" and "Role in the Civil War")

Since the time of Marius, the loyalty of the Roman armies had shifted from Rome itself to their individual commanders. In return for this loyalty they expected to be rewarded at the end of a campaign with land. Caesar was able to lead and inspire his army in a number of ways as are shown in the following extracts from sources. The best examples come from Plutarch Life of Caesar 16 and 17, in which Plutarch gives many examples of Caesar's soldiers' complete dedication to him and then shows the reasons for it.

"His ability to secure the affection of his men and to get the best out of them was remarkable. Soldiers who in other campaigns had not shown themselves to be any better than the average became irresistible and invincible and ready to confront any danger, once it was a question of fighting for Caesar's honour and glory"
Plutarch Life of Caesar 16

Plutarch goes on to give some specific examples of individual soldier's dedication to Caesar. Here is just one of them:
"Then, too, in Libya, Scipio captured one of Caesar's ships in which Granius Petro, who had been appointed quaestor, was sailing. Scipio gave the other passengers over to his soldiers as booty but told the quaestor that he would spare his life. Granius, however, said that with Caesar's soldiers the custom was to give, not receive, mercy, and so plunged his sword into his body and killed himself."
Plutarch Life of Caesar 16

"It was Caesar himself who inspired and cultivated this spirit, this passion for distinction among his men. He did it in the first place because he made it clear, by the ungrudging way in which he would distribute rewards and honours, that he was not amassing a great fortune from his wars in order to spend it on his personal pleasures or on any life of self-indulgence; instead he was keeping it, as it were, in trust, a fund open to all for the reward of valour, and his own share in all this wealth was no greater than what he bestowed on his soldiers who deserved it. And secondly, he showed that there was no danger which he was not willing to face, no form of hard work from which he excused himself."
Plutarch Life of Caesar 17

Caesar's ability to lead by example and inspire his troops in shown in this account of the campaign against the Nervii:
"In all probability the Romans would have been destroyed to the last man if Caesar himself had not snatched up a shield, forced his way through to the front of the fighting, and hurled himself on the natives; and if the tenth legion, seeing his danger, had not charged down from the high ground and cut their way through the enemy's ranks. As it was, Caesar's personal daring had its effect; in the fighting his men went, as the saying is, beyond themselves - though even then they never made the Nervii turn and run, but cut them down fighting on to the end."
Plutarch, Life of Caesar, 20

Following the Conference of Luca, we get an insight into how Caesar increased the size of his army and gained their loyalty:
"The success encouraged Caesar to expand his regular army with legions raised at his own expense: one even recruited in Transalpine Gaul and called Alauda (Gallic for "The Crested Lark"), which he trained and equipped in Roman style. Later he made every Alauda legionary a full citizen."
Suetonius 24

The following extract shows Caesar's tactical brilliance which gained the confidence of his men. A Celtic army of 60,000 men under Ambiorix besieged a Roman legion led by Cicero (the orator's younger brother). Caesar came to the relief of Cicero.
"He kept his soldiers from making any attacks on the enemy, and made them act as though they were afraid, building up the ramparts and barricading the gates. This strategy had the effect of making the enemy despise him all the more, until the time came when their confidence led them to make a disorderly attack on the camp. Caesar then led his men out, and routed the enemy, killing great numbers of them."
Plutarch, Life of Caesar, 24

Caesar took pains to ensure that his troops were well paid. Towards the end of the Gallic wars, "He fixed the daily pay of the regular soldiers at double what it had been, for all time. Whenever the granaries were full he would make a lavish distribution to the army, without measuring the amount, and occasionally gave every man a Gallic slave."
Suetonius 26

Plutarch on Caesar and his army in Gaul:
"He was making his army into something which he controlled as though it were his own body; these native tribes were not the main point; he was merely using his campaigns against them as a form of training... with the final aim of creating a force of his own which would be both alarming and invincible."
Plutarch, Life of Pompey, 51

"The wealth which Caesar took from the country in booty, confiscations and war contributions cannot be calculated, but must have been quite enormous. The restoration of his own shattered fortune was the least important factor, but his extravagant generosity towards all who served him knew no bounds. The enthusiastic support of the soldiers for their general rested partly on the splendid rewards with which he recognised the services of his army."
Gelzer, p.167

After the triumphs celebrated by Caesar in 46:
"Every infantryman of Caesar's veteran legions earned a war-gratuity of 240 gold pieces, in addition to the twenty paid at the outbreak of hostilities, and a farm."
Suetonius 38

"To be sure, Caesar's army with its centurions formed a reliable following, the like of which no previous Roman statesman had been able to employ in a political battle. In addition there were the senior officers who had been taught in his school to render efficient service, as well as members of the equestrian order who served him with absolute loyalty and could be fully relied upon to carry out his political instructions."
Gelzer, p.188