2000 Years of Latin Prose | History and Literature

Chapter 6 – Julius Caesar: The Rivalry Between Pullo And Vorenus

This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.

Two thou­sand years of Latin Prose is a dig­i­tal anthol­o­gy of Latin Prose. Here you will be able to find texts from two mil­len­nia of gems in Latin. In this sixth chap­ter, we will learn more about one of his­to­ry’s most famous men: Gaius Julius Cae­sar. We will also read a pas­sage from his Com­men­tarii de Bel­lo Gal­li­co(5.44) where Cae­sar speaks of two brave men – Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo.

If you want to learn more about the anthol­o­gy, you will find the pref­ace here.

You can down­load a pdf here Get a print-ready PDF ver­sion of this chap­ter: 2000 Years of Latin Prose: Chap­ter 6. Julius Caesar.

Life & Works of Julius Caesar

(100–44 B.C)

White marble statue of Julius Caesar by Nicolas Coustou, 1696.
Julius Cae­sar by Nico­las Cous­tou. Com­mis­sioned in 1696 for the gar­dens of Ver­sailles, now with the Lou­vre Muse­um, Paris.

Just like Cicero in the pre­vi­ous chap­ter of 2000 years of Latin Prose, Julius Cae­sar, needs very lit­tle, or no, intro­duc­tion, as he is one of history’s most famous men. Here is a brief one anyway. 

Life of Julius Caesar

Gaius Julius Cae­sar was born in 100 B.C. in Rome dur­ing the month of Quin­tilis which lat­er became July, named after his fam­i­ly the Julii. Dur­ing his life, he became a promi­nent mil­i­tary gen­er­al, a politi­cian, and in the end, a dic­ta­tor. He was also a skilled ora­tor and author.

We know a lot about Caesar’s life from his own accounts as well as from oth­er con­tem­po­rary sources, such as the let­ters and speech­es of Cicero and the works of Sal­lust (86–35 B.C.). How­ev­er, the biogra­phies of Cae­sar writ­ten lat­er by Sue­to­nius (69–122 A.D.) and Plutar­chos (46–120 A.D.) are also rel­e­vant sources.

Cae­sar was born in the city of Rome into a patri­cian fam­i­ly, i.e., the rul­ing class, the gens Julia. The Julii, accord­ing to Sue­to­nius, descend­ed from kings and the god­dess Venus her­self. (Div. Jul. 6). 

Woodcut illustration from 1506 of the birth of Julius Caesar by Caesarian section.
Illus­tra­tion of the sto­ry of the birth of Julius Cae­sar by Cae­sar­i­an sec­tion. Wood­cut from Vitae Cae­sarum by Caius Sue­to­nius Tran­quil­lus. Pub­lished: 1506.

The ancients had sev­er­al ideas as to the ori­gin of Gaius Julius’ cog­nomen, Cae­sar. Plin­ius Maior, or Pliny the Elder (23–79 A.D.), wrote that the name came from an ances­tor who had been born by a sur­gi­cal birth, an ancient Cae­sare­an sec­tion. The name would, there­fore, stem from the Latin word for “cut” (i.e. cut­ting out the child from the womb) which is cae­do, ceci­di, caedere, cae­sum (Nat. Hist. 7.5). 

In His­to­ria Augus­ta (prob­a­bly from the end of 4th cent. A.D.) we find not just Plin­ius’ expla­na­tion of the ori­gin of the name Cae­sar, but three more: 

“Cae­sarem vel ab ele­phan­to, qui lin­gua Mau­ro­rum ‘cae­sai’ dic­i­tur, in proe­lio cae­so, eum qui primus sic appel­la­tus est doc­tis­si­mi viri et eru­di­tis­si­mi putant dic­tum, vel quia mor­tua matre et ven­tre cae­so sit natus, vel quod cum mag­nis crinibus sit utero par­en­tis effusus, vel quod oculis cae­si­is et ultra humanum morem viguerit”

His­to­ria Augus­ta, Aelius 2

“Men of the great­est learn­ing and schol­ar­ship aver that he who first received the name of Cae­sar was called by this name, either because he slew in bat­tle an ele­phant, which in the Moor­ish tongue is called cae­sai, or because he was brought into the world after his mother’s death and by an inci­sion in her abdomen, or because he had a thick head of hair when he came forth from his mother’s womb, or, final­ly, because he had bright grey eyes and was vig­or­ous beyond the wont of human beings.” (transl. David Magie)

Roman coin, a denarius, showing an elephant above the name Caesar.
Julius Cae­sar, 49–48 B.C. AR Denar­ius (17Mm, 4.01 G, 2H). Mil­i­tary mint trav­el­ing with Cae­sar. Ele­phant advanc­ing right, tram­pling on horned ser­pent / Sim­pu­lum, aspergillum, securis, and apex.

Now, Cae­sar issued coins with images of ele­phants, sug­gest­ing per­haps that he favoured the inter­pre­ta­tion of his ele­phant-killing ancestor.

Or, per­haps he just liked elephants. 

As a young man, Cae­sar became the high priest of Jupiter, Fla­men Dialis. He lost this title togeth­er with his inher­i­tance when Sul­la (138–78 B.C.) won the war against Caesar’s uncle by mar­riage, Gaius Mar­ius (157–86 B.C.). Thanks to the influ­ence of his mother’s fam­i­ly, things calmed down, and Cae­sar could pur­sue a mil­i­tary career. Cae­sar thus joined the army and left Rome. 

After Sul­la’s death, Cae­sar returned to Rome and became a lawyer. His career pro­gressed, and he was soon elect­ed mil­i­tary tri­bune, quaestor, and then aedile. In 63 B.C., he was elect­ed Pon­tif­ex Max­imus, i.e. high priest of the Roman state reli­gion. Lat­er, he became a prae­tor and was appoint­ed gov­er­nor of His­pania Ulterior.

Four years lat­er, in 59 B.C., Cae­sar was elect­ed con­sul along­side Mar­cus Calpurnius Bibu­lus (c.102–48 B.C.). How­ev­er, Bibu­lus’ attempts to stand up to his fel­low con­sul failed mis­er­ably. In real­i­ty, Cae­sar was act­ing as sole con­sul. Indeed, Sue­to­nius reports that some peo­ple when sign­ing doc­u­ments jok­ing­ly dat­ed them not as Bibu­lo et Cae­sare con­sulibus (“when Bibu­lus and Cae­sare were consuls”)—the names of con­suls were used rather than years—but as Julio et Cae­sare con­sulibus (“Julius and Cae­sare were con­suls”) (Suet. Caes. 20).

Around this time Cae­sar formed an infor­mal alliance with Mar­cus Licinius Cras­sus (c.115/112–53 B.C.) and Pom­peius Mag­nus, more com­mon­ly known as Pom­pey (106–48 B.C.). These men were lat­er known as the First Tri­umvi­rate. Between the three, they had enough cap­i­tal and influ­ence to con­trol pub­lic busi­ness and politics. 

After his con­sul­ship, Cae­sar was set to gov­ern Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum, with Transalpine Gaul added lat­er. He spent nine years on mil­i­tary cam­paigns in these provinces and the lands that lay uncon­quered at their bor­ders, and he did so suc­cess­ful­ly (from a Roman per­spec­tive). These cam­paigns are relat­ed in his Com­men­tarii de bel­lo Gallico.

Painting by Lionel Royer form 1899 showing how Vercingetorix throws down his weapons at the feet of Julius Caesar ather the battle of Alesia
Vercinge­torix jette ses armes aux pieds de Jules César / Vercinge­torix throws down his arms at the feet of Julius Cae­sar after the bat­tle of Ale­sia by Lionel Roy­er 1899

After some ini­tial years of suc­cess, the Tri­umvi­rate began to see some ten­sions. As Pom­pey’s wife, Cae­sar’s daugh­ter, died in child­birth, the rela­tion­ship between the two men was strained. Not long after, in 53 B.C. Cras­sus, the third man of the alliance, fell in the bat­tle of Car­rhae, bring­ing an end to the tri­umvi­rate. When Pom­pey mar­ried the daugh­ter of a polit­i­cal oppo­nent of Cae­sar, he put the last nail in the cof­fin of their alliance.

In 50 B.C., the Sen­ate, led by Pom­pey, ordered Cae­sar – still wag­ing war in Gaul – to dis­band his army and return to Rome as his term as gov­er­nor had come to an end and he was being replaced. 

Did Cae­sar fol­low this order?

Yes and no. 

He did return to Rome, but with­out dis­band­ing his army. Instead, on Jan­u­ary 10, 49 B.C., with one of his legions, he crossed the riv­er Rubi­con, the bound­ary between the province Gal­lia Cisalpina and Italy. 

Bring­ing his army into Italy was noth­ing else than a dec­la­ra­tion of war. 

You can read more about the cross­ing of the riv­er Rubi­con, why it was such a big deal and a big sur­prise to the Sen­ate and Pom­pey, as well as about the famous quote that refers to this event: Alea iac­ta est / Iac­ta alea est, in this arti­cle: Iac­ta Alea est: Cross­ing the Rubicon

As Cae­sar and his legion approached Rome, Pom­pey and many Sen­a­tors with him, fled to be able to fight anoth­er day. 

A black marble bust of Julius Caesar seemingly looking at a white warble bust of Cleopatra.
Bust of Julius Cae­sar “look­ing at” the bust of Cleopa­tra VII from the Antiken­samm­lung Altes Muse­um, Berlin.

Long sto­ry short – this war, sim­ply called The Civ­il War, between Cae­sar and Pom­pey and his allies, was won by Cae­sar. Pom­pey was killed in Egypt. 

Cae­sar arrived in Egypt after Pom­pey’s death and mourned his old friend. He also became involved with a new con­flict, the one between the Egypt­ian queen Cleopa­tra and her broth­er-hus­band, Ptole­my XIII. He famous­ly sided with Cleopatra. 

Cae­sar was now appoint­ed dic­ta­tor – i.e. a mag­is­trate of the Roman repub­lic but entrust­ed with the full author­i­ty of the state. 

He con­tin­ued to fight in dif­fer­ent parts of the Repub­lic: He went to Asia Minor to fight King Phar­naces II of Pon­tus, to Africa to fight the remain­ders of Pompey’s sup­port­ers, and also chased Pompey’s sons to Spain.

In spite of all this, Julius Cae­sar was not all dic­ta­tor, war, fight, and blood­shed; he was also a reformer. 

He extend­ed rights through­out the repub­lic, passed lux­u­ry restric­tions, reward­ed fam­i­lies with many chil­dren, cre­at­ed social mea­sures such as the alle­vi­a­tion of debt. And, per­haps most famous­ly, he cre­at­ed a new cal­en­dar: the Julian calendar. 

The old Roman cal­en­dar was based on the moon. Cae­sar replaced it with a cal­en­dar that instead was based on the sun. He then set a new length for the year: 365,25 days. Every year had 365 days, but every fourth year an extra day was added in Feb­ru­ary. He added three addi­tion­al months so that the year now began in Jan­u­ary instead of March. 

Does this at all sound familiar?

It should. 

The so-called Julian cal­en­dar is almost, but not quite, iden­ti­cal to the cur­rent west­ern cal­en­dar. The cur­rent cal­en­dar, the Gre­go­ri­an cal­en­dar from the 16th cen­tu­ry, has short­ened Cae­sar’s aver­age year by 0,0075 days, which means that the Gre­go­ri­an cal­en­dar skips a leap day in 3 out of every 400 years. 

Cartoon illustration of the assassination of Julius Caesar by John Leech, 1860.
The end of Julius Cae­sar, Illus­tra­tion by John Leech from The Com­ic His­to­ry of Rome, 1860.

This means that with the excep­tion of ‑0,0075 days in a year, we use the same cal­en­dar as the one Julius Cae­sar introduced. 

But let’s head back to Roman politics: 

Cae­sar’s pow­er only grew. Dis­agree­ment with his rule in com­bi­na­tion with a fear of him want­i­ng to over­throw the Repub­lic and estab­lish a monar­chy began to spread amongst the Roman aris­toc­ra­cy and many senators. 

These men thus took it upon them­selves to save the Repub­lic by assas­si­nat­ing Julius Cae­sar in the sen­ate on the infa­mous day the 15th of March 44 B.C. also known as the Ides of March. 

Julius Cae­sar was stabbed 23 times. 

Two years lat­er, he was the first Roman to be dei­fied by being grant­ed the title Divus (“Divine”): Divus Iulius. 

Works of Julius Caesar

Cae­sar is famous­ly known as the mil­i­tary gen­er­al, the politi­cian, and the dic­ta­tor we have been dis­cussing. What is per­haps less known to those who do not study Latin is that Cae­sar was regard­ed as one of the best ora­tors and prose authors of his time. Even Cicero – who rarely agreed with Cae­sar – held him in high regard on this point and put these words into the mouth of Atti­cus in his work Bru­tus:  

“illum omni­um fere ora­to­rum Latine loqui elegantissime”

— Cicero, Bru­tus, lxxii

“of all our ora­tors he is the purest user of the Latin tongue”

15th century ornate manuscript of Julius Caesar's De Bello Gallico.
Julius Cae­sar’s Com­men­tarii De Bel­lo Gal­li­co, c. 1469, Man­u­script found in the Bay­erische Staatsbibliothek.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Cae­sar did not, unlike Cicero, pub­lish his speeches. 

What we have left from Cae­sar’s writ­ing are his two com­men­taries of war: 

  • Com­men­tarii de Bel­lo Gal­li­co, about the years of his cam­paign­ing in Gaul and Britain.
  • Com­men­tarii de Bel­lo Civilii, about the civ­il war with Pom­pey

A few let­ters of his also remain as inser­tions in Cicero’s cor­re­spon­dence to Atticus. 

But Cae­sar also wrote a gram­mat­i­cal work on anal­o­gy, a trav­el poem, a praise of Her­cules, a col­lec­tion of apothegms, a tragedy called Oedi­pus, and a work on astron­o­my. None of these have come down to us.

In this chap­ter of 2000 years of Latin Prose, we shall turn our atten­tion to one of his com­men­taries on war: De Bel­lo Gal­li­co. 

De Bel­lo Gal­li­co con­tains eight books with each book cov­er­ing, more or less, one year of Cae­sar’s cam­paigns in Gaul (mod­ern France) and south­ern Britain. This match of one book to one year con­tributed to the long-last­ing belief that De Bel­lo Gal­li­co was writ­ten con­tin­u­ous­ly through­out the war. It was believed that the books were writ­ten and pub­lished annu­al­ly, almost like “reports from the front”. There is some evi­dence that Cae­sar did send reports to the sen­ate, though De Bel­lo Gal­li­co was not it. 

No, De Bel­lo Gal­li­co seems instead to have been writ­ten all at once, most like­ly with reports and notes at hand, dur­ing the win­ter of 52–51 B.C. 

Book eight, how­ev­er, was most like­ly not writ­ten by Cae­sar him­self but is believed to have been put togeth­er by one of his legates, Aulus Hirtius. 

De Bel­lo Gal­li­co is known to most Latin stu­dents as it is vir­tu­al­ly always part of the cur­ricu­lum. How­ev­er, many stu­dents only get to read the first part of the first book. We, on the oth­er hand, shall, in today’s Chap­ter of 2000 years of Latin prose, turn to book five and a pas­sage describ­ing two of Caesar’s cen­tu­ri­ons: Titus Pul­lo and Lucius Vorenus. These two have late­ly been made famous through the TV series Rome; how­ev­er, the char­ac­ters in the series are only loose­ly made up by the men Cae­sar is describing.

Ray Stevenson and Kevin McKidd as Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus from Hbo’s Rome.
Ray Steven­son and Kevin McK­idd as Titus Pul­lo and Lucius Vorenus from Hbo’s Rome.

The real Pul­lo and Vorenus belonged to the gar­ri­son of Quin­tus Tul­lius Cicero, Cicero’s broth­er, and in the pas­sage which we will read today their gar­ri­son had come under siege. Cae­sar speaks of the men’s rival­ry but also of their brav­ery. Through their sto­ry, we get a glimpse of Romans at war, a chaot­ic bat­tle­field, and what was con­sid­ered brave and applaud­able to a Roman such as Caesar. 

writ­ten by Amelie Rosen­gren, M.A.

Further reading and resources

If you want to know more about Cae­sar the per­son, but not feel like read­ing, you can lis­ten to this text: Cae­sar and the pirates from Sue­to­nius which you can find in our audio archive

There is also, as men­tioned above, an arti­cle about one of Caesar’s most famous say­ings: Alea iac­ta est that you can find here: Iac­ta Alea Est: Cross­ing the Rubi­con. The arti­cle not only dis­cuss­es the famous line but also gives you more detailed infor­ma­tion about the actu­al cross­ing of the Rubi­con and the polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion of the time. 

If you are curi­ous about the TV-series Rome in which the fic­tion­al ver­sions of Pul­lo and Vorenus appear, you can find it here. (It is a phe­nom­e­nal series, so even if you’re not curi­ous about Pul­lo and Vorenus, I still rec­om­mend watch­ing it if you haven’t already.)

If you want to learn even more about Cae­sar and his works and lit­er­ary style, I warm­ly rec­om­mend Michael von Albrecht’s A His­to­ry of Roman Lit­er­a­ture: From Livius Andron­i­cus to Boethius or The Cam­bridge com­pan­ion to the writ­ings of Julius Cae­sar, edit­ed by Luca Gril­lo, Christo­pher B. Krebs.

Audio & Video

Click below to read and lis­ten to a pas­sage from Cae­sar’s De Bel­lo Gallico.

Video with English Subtitles

Audio of Latin text

Latin text

Below you will find the orig­i­nal text of the pas­sage from De Bel­lo Gal­li­co in Latin. 

De Bel­lo Gal­li­co, 5.44

Erant in ea legione for­tis­si­mi viri, cen­tu­ri­ones, qui prim­is ordinibus appropin­quar­ent, Titus Pul­lo et Lucius Vorenus. Hi per­pet­uas inter se con­tro­ver­sias habebant, quinam ante­fer­re­tur, omnibusque annis de locis sum­mis simul­tat­i­bus con­tende­bant. Ex his Pul­lo, cum acer­rime ad muni­tiones pugnare­tur, “Quid dubitas,” inquit, “Vorene? aut quem locum tuae proban­dae vir­tutis exspec­tas? Hic dies de nos­tris con­tro­ver­si­is iudicabit.”

Haec cum dixis­set, pro­ced­it extra muni­tiones quaque pars hostium con­fer­tiss­ma est visa irrumpit. Ne Vorenus qui­dem tum sese val­lo con­tinet, sed omni­um ver­i­tus exis­ti­ma­tionem sub­se­quitur. Tum, medioc­ri spa­tio relic­to Pul­lo pilum in hostes immit­tit atque unum ex mul­ti­tu­dine procur­rentem traic­it; quo per­cus­so et exan­i­ma­to hunc scutis pro­te­gunt, in hostem tela uni­ver­si coni­ci­unt neque dant regre­di­en­di fac­ul­tatem. Trans­fig­i­tur scu­tum Pul­loni et verutum in bal­teo defig­i­tur. Aver­tit hic casus vagi­nam et gla­d­i­um educ­ere conan­ti dex­tram moratur manum, imped­i­tumque hostes cir­cum­sis­tunt. Suc­cur­rit inim­i­cus illi Vorenus et lab­o­ran­ti subvenit.

Ad hunc se con­fes­tim a Pul­lone omnis mul­ti­tu­do con­ver­tit: illum veruto arbi­tran­tur occisum. Glad­io com­mi­nus rem ger­it Vorenus atque uno inter­fec­to reliqu­os paulum pro­pel­lit; dum cupid­ius instat, in locum deiec­tus infe­ri­orem con­cid­it. Huic rur­sus cir­cum­ven­to fert sub­sid­i­um Pul­lo, atque ambo incol­umes com­pluribus inter­fec­tis sum­ma cum laude sese intra muni­tiones recipiunt.

Sic for­tu­na in con­tentione et cer­t­a­mine utrumque ver­sav­it, ut alter alteri inim­i­cus aux­ilio salu­tique esset, neque diiu­di­cari pos­set, uter utri vir­tute antef­er­en­dus videretur.

You can down­load a pdf here Get a print-ready PDF ver­sion of this chap­ter: 2000 Years of Latin Prose: Chap­ter 6. Julius Caesar.

Vocabulary & Commentary

These fol­low­ing words are key to under­stand­ing the text, if you already know them — great! — if not, make a men­tal note of them.

prim­is ordinibus appropin­quar­ent: Pul­lo and Vorenus, both cen­tu­ri­ons, want­ed to become cen­tu­ri­ons of the first cohort, thus the senior cen­tu­ri­ons of the legion (Gaiss­er).

per­pet­uas inter se con­tro­ver­sias: i.e. they were always in con­test over who was the best and most deserv­ing of being promoted. 

cum–pugnaretur: i.e. when there was fight­ing going on

Ne Vorenus qui­dem: Ne–quidem usu­al­ly means ”not even” but here is is clear that the mean­ing is rather the oppo­site “of course–not”.

qua: adv. where, quaque ”and where, whither”

scu­tum Pul­loni: lit. ”the shield for Pul­lo”. This is a so-called dativus incom­mo­di (”dative of dis­ad­van­tage”) where the per­son who suf­fers the dis­ad­van­tage is placed in the dative. This is espe­cial­ly com­mon with blows and hits, e.g. illi caput per­cus­sit (“He struck his (lit. for him) head”). This con­struc­tion also lays the focus on the object rather than the person.

quo per­cus­so et exan­i­ma­to, hunc scutis pro­te­gunt: Here Cae­sar ”vio­lates” the school rule of the abla­tive absolute.This occurs through­out clas­si­cal lit­er­a­ture, and shows that these rules are not unbreak­able laws, but rather strong tendencies.

gla­d­i­um ēdūcere cōnan­tī dex­tram moratur manum: anoth­er exam­ple of the dative of dis­ad­van­tage: ”delays the right hand of him (lit. for him) try­ing to pull out his sword”

appropin­quo, ‑are: approach

con­tro­ver­sia, ‑ae f.: con­tro­ver­sy, quar­rel, dispute

simul­tas, ‑atis f.: feud, quarrel

con­tendo, ‑dere, ‑di, ‑tum: fight over, strain

irrumpo, ‑ere, ‑rupi, ‑rup­tum: burst into, dart upon

verutum, ‑i n.: javelin

bal­teus, ‑i m.: sword belt

aver­to, ‑ere, ‑ti, ‑sum: to turn aside

diiu­di­co, ‑are: decide

ante­fero, ‑ferre: prefer

muni­tio, ‑onis f.: con­struc­tion, fortification

iudi­co, ‑are: to judge

con­fer­tus, ‑a, ‑um: con­densed

exis­ti­ma­tio, ‑onis f.: opin­ion, reptutation

sub­se­quor, ‑i, ‑secu­tus: fol­low closely

medioc­ris, ‑e: mod­er­ate­ly large

immit­to, ‑mit­tere, ‑misi, ‑mis­sum: to send in

procur­ro, ‑cur­rere, ‑cucur­ri, ‑cur­sum: to rush forwards

traicio, ‑ire, ‑ieci, ‑iec­tum: to pierce

per­cu­tio, ‑ire, ‑cus­si, ‑cus­sum: to strike, thrust, or pierce through

exǎn­i­mo, ‑are: to deprive of breath; to kill

scu­tum, ‑i n.: an oblong shield 

pro­tego, ‑ere, ‑xi, ‑ctum: cover

coni­cio, ‑ire, ‑ieci, ‑iec­tum: to bring togeth­er, unite; to hurl

regre­dior, ‑i, ‑gres­sus: to come or go back; retreat

fǎcul­tas, ‑atis f.:  oppor­tu­ni­ty

trans­fi­go, ‑ere, ‑xi, ‑xum: pierce

defi­go, ‑ere, ‑xi, ‑xum: plant firm­ly, fix

impe­dio, ‑ire, ‑ivi, ‑itum: to entan­gle, hinder

cir­cum­sis­to, ‑sis­tere, ‑steti: to surround

suc­cur­ro, ‑ere, ‑cur­ri, ‑cur­sum: run to aid

sub­ve­nio, ‑ire, ‑veni, ‑ven­tum: to come to one’s assistance

con­fes­tim: imme­di­ate­ly

com­mi­nus adv.: in hand to hand combat

pro­pel­lo, pro­pellere, ‑puli, ‑pul­sum: to dri­ve, push, urge forward

cupidus, ‑a, ‑um: eager

insto, instare, ‑sti­ti, ‑stǎ­tum: to press upon, pursue

deicio, ‑ere, ‑ieci, ‑iec­tum: throw down from; drive

cir­cum­ve­nio, ‑ire, ‑veni, ‑ven­tum: to come around; encir­cle; surround

sub­sid­i­um, ‑ii n.: help, aid; troops sta­tioned in reserve

ambo: both together

inco­lu­mis, ‑e: unharmed, uninjured

com­plures, ‑ia, ‑ium: several

con­tentio, ‑onis f.: strug­gle, contest

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English translation

Below you will find an Eng­lish trans­la­tion of the text. 

De Bel­lo Gal­li­co, 5.44

In that legion there were two very brave men, cen­tu­ri­ons, who were now approach­ing the first ranks, T. Pul­lo, and L. Vorenus. These used to have con­tin­u­al dis­putes between them which of them should be pre­ferred, and every year used to con­tend for pro­mo­tion with the utmost ani­mos­i­ty. When the fight was going on most vig­or­ous­ly before the for­ti­fi­ca­tions, Pul­lo, one of them, says, “Why do you hes­i­tate, Vorenus? or what [bet­ter] oppor­tu­ni­ty of show­ing your val­or do you seek? This very day shall decide our disputes.”

When he had uttered these words, he pro­ceeds beyond the for­ti­fi­ca­tions, and rush­es on that part of the ene­my which appeared the thick­est. Nor does Vorenus remain with­in the ram­part, but respect­ing the high opin­ion of all, fol­lows close after. Then, when an incon­sid­er­able space inter­vened, Pul­lo throws his javelin at the ene­my, and pierces one of the mul­ti­tude who was run­ning up, and while the lat­ter was wound­ed and slain, the ene­my cov­er him with their shields, and all throw their weapons at the oth­er and afford him no oppor­tu­ni­ty of retreat­ing. The shield of Pul­lo is pierced and a javelin is fas­tened in his belt. This cir­cum­stance turns aside his scab­bard and obstructs his right hand when attempt­ing to draw his sword: the ene­my crowd around him when [thus] embarrassed.

His rival runs up to him and helps him in this emer­gency. Imme­di­ate­ly the whole host turn from Pul­lo to him, sup­pos­ing the oth­er to be pierced through by the javelin. Vorenus rush­es on briskly with his sword and car­ries on the com­bat hand to hand, and hav­ing slain one man, for a short time drove back the rest: while he urges on too eager­ly, slip­ping into a hol­low, he fell. To him, in his turn, when sur­round­ed, Pul­lo brings relief; and both hav­ing slain a great num­ber, retreat into the for­ti­fi­ca­tions amid the high­est applause.

For­tune so dealt with both in this rival­ry and con­flict, that the one com­peti­tor was a help and a safe­guard to the oth­er, nor could it be deter­mined which of the two appeared wor­thy of being pre­ferred to the other.

Trans­lat­ed by McDe­vitte and Bohn (1869)

Amelie Rosengren

Amelie Rosengren

Amelie Rosengren, M.A. and co-founder of Latinitium, is a published author, illustrator and historian. She specializes in daily life, has a soft spot for historic curiosities, and works as a museum educator at the world’s oldest open air museum, Skansen.
Written by Amelie Rosengren

Written by Amelie Rosengren

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