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Caesar's Literary Work.

As a man of letters Caesar is hardly less eminent. His vast and massive intellect could hold in its grasp a great variety of subjects. He wrote on many different themes, such as philosophy, language, astronomy, and divination. Of all his books only his Commentaries on the Gallic and Civil Wars have come down to us in complete form. They stand as the best military history that was ever written. Their ulterior purpose was to justify him in the eyes of the world for the course he took in opposing the senate and the government. He does this rarely by argument, but by such a tactful and masterful collocation of facts that the unthinking reader feels himself persuaded that Caesar could hardly have done otherwise.

The style of these memoirs is remarkable for directness, terseness, and simplicity. Cicero, one of the greatest masters of style, says of them, "I pronounce them indeed to be very commendable, for they are simple, straight-forward, agreeable, with all rhetorical ornament stripped from them as one strips off a garment." While the language is lucid, it is packed full of meaning, and even a good Latinist needs to read slowly and with deliberation that the full thought of each sentence may be gathered. Sometimes a whole sentence is crammed into an adjective or a participle. To translate into good English requires, therefore, frequent amplification.

Like all great men, Caesar rarely speaks of himself. In his works he refers to himself in the third person and with such modesty and impartiality that you would never suspect him to be the writer. He betrays his identity by three slips of the pen where he uses the first person. He never struts or poses for effect, not even when he is narrating sublime deeds of heroism.

Caesar wrote his Commentaries in the midst of intense activity. They were jotted down as he journeyed fought; mere notes, as it were, for future amplification. Hirtius says, "While others know how faultlessly they are written, I know with what ease and rapidity he dashed them off."

For us the Gallic War has a peculiar interest because it treats of the peoples with whom we are most familiar and from whom most of us derive our ancestry. It marks, in a sense, the beginning of modern history. Active, keen-sighted, and truthful, Caesar gives us such insight into these nations as serves to explain many of their present political and social peculiarities.

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