De Bello Gallico (Classics) by Frankie Ruperto


Frank Ruperto

This excerpt from Caesar’s De Bello Gallico, which recounts Caesar’s campaign in TransAlpine Gaul and Germania, discusses the punishment, escape, and likely suicide of Orgetorix, a Helvetian chief who was accused of treason. This displays some Helvetian customs and laws as well as the power that comes with high social status in ancient society. I decided to translate this chapter because it displays that such a small

province was important to Caesar. Caesar paid attention to the smallest details within his region of power, which is part of the reason he became such a powerful ruler. This also reveals Caesar’s ability to see what goes on beneath the surface in each province.

De Bello Gallico

Julius Caesar

Book 1, Chapter 4


This thing was announced to the Helvetians through a notice. According to their customs, they forced Orgetorix to speak his case from chains; it was necessary that a condemned person pay a punishment, that he is burned in the fire. On the day having been established of the pleading of the case Orgetorix collected from all sides, all his family, around ten thousand people, for justice, and all his clients and his debtors, a great number of whom he had, he conducted to the same place; he snatched himself away through them in order to not plead his case. With the state having been incited on account of this thing, they were trying to execute their law with arms and the magistrates forced a multitude of men from the fields, Orgetorix was dead; and suspicion is not absent, as the Helvetians judge, that he himself felt guilty of his death.

Original Text

Ea res est Helvetiis per indicium enuntiata. Moribus suis Orgetoricem ex vinculis causam dicere coegerunt; damnatum poenam sequi oportebat, ut igni cremaretur. Die constituta causae dictionis Orgetorix ad iudicium omnem suam familiam, ad hominum milia decem, undique coegit, et omnes clientes obaeratosque suos, quorum magnum numerum habebat, eodem conduxit; per eos ne causam diceret se eripuit. Cum civitas ob eam rem incitata armis ius suum exequi conaretur multitudinemque hominum ex agris magistratus cogerent, Orgetorix mortuus est; neque abest suspicio, ut Helvetii arbitrantur, quin ipse sibi mortem consciverit.

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