When the consul is proconsul

Roman military history illuminates fundamental themes, such as the conduct of war or the task of imposing domination. As for Caesar, his conquests illustrate a strategy and tactics, the art of war as a political project.

When we close Yann Le Bohec’s work, Caesar and warwe wonder what makes the subjects addressed specific: what is the quality of the work put together worth?military history? Isn't this just Roman history??

The major magistrates of the city, consuls and lenders, fully exercised their power when they were in a space which could be considered as that of the city, and more particularly that of the City, or when, having left, they transformed into weapon commanders.

Prove yourself as a war leader

These men were in charge of wars or the task of imposing the domination of Rome. Even those whose way of existing had been shaped within a civil framework (such as Cicron) felt obliged, when they were sent as proconsuls to the provinces, to put on a good front in this respect.

In Cilicia, Cicron ends up turning into a man of war. He even claimed to have done enough to deserve, from the soldiers he had taken with him, the cry ofimperatorwhich placed him on the same level, at least formally he could believe, as the great generals of the Roman city Fabius the timerwho knew how to master Hannibal; Scipio the Africanwho distinguished himself against Carthage; Sylla who succeeds (Felix) by the will of a protective divinity; Pump greatbecause his exploits are reminiscent of those of Alexander.

Caesar and war, it is Caesar dressed in paludamentumthe red coat of the war chief, which the magistrate wore when, at this time, after having managed the essentially civil tasks of the consulhe was leaving, like proconsulin the province whose contours had been defined by the Senate, then validated by a law, which a popular assembly voted on.

Caesar had been consul with Bibulus in 59, thanks to the support of Pompe and Crassus. Everything had been done to officially assign him a space in which he could express his ambitions and reveal himself as a war leader: he could accumulate loot and prestige, bind to his person the soldiers of his army, more particularly the legionnaires, Roman citizens who saw in participation in the conquests of Rome a way out of the difficulties of their existence. Victory would bring hope of a return to the citizen's life in a more favorable environment.

Its province, made up of an area controlled for a long time by Rome, Cisalpine Gaul, from Turin Aquile, also includes an area which extended it to the north-east, Illyricum, giving access to the Danubian world and the regions north of the Alps, and a space added at the last moment, transalpine Gaul, where the migration of the Helvets immediately gave him the opportunity to use the military tool at his disposal to give his action, as representative of the Roman people, a warlike component. By setting itself the objective of mastering, beyond the southern lands, all the Celtic peoples up to the shores of the Ocean.

The erasure of the Republic

But Caesar and warit is also the extension that brings Gallic War (THE Bellum Gallicum translations of high school students) another part of the corpus of works published under the name of Caesar, the Civil war (THE Bellum Civile). As Christian Goudineau nicely writes, these are two works or two sets of works built on the same model: the stylistic choice creates a distancing between the writer and his object, using the third person singular.

They are also two parts, very different for the opinion of his time as for posterity. One develops as a testimony to the power of Rome, underlying all reflection on the greatness of its empire and on the obvious historical success whose scale and duration required reflection, which the Greek authors had already done.

The other appears, by fracturing the city, as an evil which can have far-reaching consequences: in the absence of the decline of Roman power, the transformation of its institutions, experienced as an erasure of the republicanwhat was considered to be the political regime par excellence, that of an ancient city, where the sphere of audience (which belongs to all) had been considered the main factor in the imperialist success of Rome.

But the originality of the work is not to present the articulation of the two aspects which punctuate the life of Caesar as a war leader or the relationships between this character and the tasks of war, even if the author clearly specifies what are the differences which separate the two ways. to wage war and lead it.

It is possible to treat the subject globally. Here, these are smaller studies which form, in a way, a parallel book. Very often, the work of the historian breaks down like this. Why not offer a passionate audience which is both a foundation and a superstructure of research?? Base, because it involves props applied to a precise point, loaded with meticulousness. But superstructure sometimes, because we must also give the details all the meaning that engages them in new perspectives.

Material data

There are sometimes, not repetitions, but parallel developments. It is the fragmentation of subjects which imposes this way of doing things, which cannot be criticized. Cicron took advantage of this, because his line of irony anchored in people's minds, which Voltaire would not have disdained: did Rome still need the slaves that would be brought by the conquest of Brittany, announced by the crossing of the Channel carried out by the proconsul in 54, after recognition in 55?

Was this country really renowned for providing excellent cooks or remarkable musicians which a witty man needed much more (p. 314 and p. 338)? This is an important subject, because servitude was often the fate of the vanquished, such as the Venetians of chapter 1: the elites or leaders, called senatuswere put to death, the common people were sold at auction.

What is military history is the attention paid to the analysis of themes that can be linked to strategy and tactics. And in this desire to properly highlight what makes war situations particular, material data (for the soldier, armament, for the army as a whole, logistics) are subjects which attract attention and which are treated with great care. meticulous.

We can wonder, for example, if Caesar's concern to widely embrace space in the organization of his offensive or defensive maneuvers is not conditioned as much by the concern to split the opposing forces as to facilitate the supply of his troops on the march.

This shows the interest of this book constructed by assembling fragments, reclassified by theme. Perhaps we could have abandoned No. 18 or delivered it, but reworked, in order to deepen it. If a revision were to be considered, it might be necessary to correct the finishissimi from p. 33 in finitimiand the stips from p. 49 in stirps, and retouch map and narrations on p. 139-145, because Caesar's account is perhaps not followed with the greatest fidelity. Finally, we congratulate the Laballery printing company for the quality of the printing.