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a German chief, who engaged in war against C. Julius Caesar in Gaul, B. C. 58. For some time before that year, Gaul had been distracted by the quarrels and wars of two parties, the one headed by the Aedui (in the modern Burgundy), the other by the Arverni (Auvergne), and Sequani (to the W. of Jura). The latter called in the aid of the Germans, of whom at first about 15,000 crossed the Rhine, and their report of the wealth and fertility of Gaul soon attracted large bodies of fresh invaders. The number of the Germans in that country at length amounted to 120,000 : a mixed multitude, consisting of members of the following tribes :--the Harudes, Marcomanni, Triboci, Vangiones, Nemetes, Sedusii, and Suevi, most of whom had lately occupied the country stretching from the right bank of the Rhine to the Danube, and northwards to the Riesengebirge and Erzgebirge, or even beyond them. At their head was Ariovistus, whose name is supposed to have been Latinized from Heer, " a host," and Fürst, " a prince," and who was so powerful as to receive from the Roman senate the title of amicus. They entirely subdued the Aedui, and compelled them to give hostages to the Sequani, and swear never to seek help from Rome. But it fared worse with the conquerors than the conquered, for Ariovistus first seized a third part of the Sequanian territory, as the price of the triumph which he had won for them, and soon after demanded a second portion of equal extent. Divitiacus, the only noble Aeduan who had neither given hostages nor taken the oath, requested help from Caesar, and was accompanied by a numerous deputation of Gallic chiefs of all tribes, who had now forgotten their mutual quarrels in their terror of the common foe. They all expressed the greatest fear lest their request should be known to Ariovistus, and the Sequani regarded him with such awe, that they durst not utter a word to Caesar, but only shewed their misery by their downcast looks. Caesar, who was afraid that first Gaul and then Italy would be overrun by the barbarians, sent orders to Ariovistus to prevent the irruption of any more Germans, and to restore the hostages to the Aedui. These demands were refused in the same haughty tone of defiance which Ariovistus had before used in declining an interview proposed by Caesar. Both parties then advanced with warlike intentions, and the Romans seized Vesontio (Besançon), the chief town of the Sequani. Here they were so terrified by the accounts which they heard of the gigantic bulk and fierce courage of the Germans, that they gave themselves up to despair, and the camp was filled with men making their wills. Caesar reanimated them by a brilliant speech, at the end of which he said that, if they refused to advance, he should himself proceed with his favourite tenth legion only. Upon this they repented of their despondency, and prepared for battle. Before this could take place, an interview between Caesar and Ariovistus was at last held by the request of the latter. They could come, however, to no agreement, but the battle was still delayed for some days; Ariovistus contriving means of postponing it, on account of a prophecy that the Germans would not succeed if they engaged before the new moon. The battle ended by the total defeat of Ariovistus, who immediately fled with his army to the Rhine, a distance of 50 miles from the field. Some crossed the river by swimming, others in small boats, and among the latter Ariovistus himself. His two wives perished in the retreat; one of his daughters was taken prisoner, the other killed. The fame of Ariovistus long survived in Gaul, so that in Tacitus (Tac. Hist. 4.73) we find Cerealis telling the Treveri that the Romans had occupied the banks of the Rhine, " nequis alius Ariouistus regno Galliarum potiretur." This shews that the representation which Caesar gives of his power is not exaggerated. (Caes. Gal. 1.31-53; D. C. 38.31, &c.; Plut. Caes. 18; Liv. Epit. 104.)


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58 BC (1)
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  • Cross-references from this page (4):
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 1.31
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 1.53
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 4.73
    • Plutarch, Caesar, 18
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