7.1 Caesar, Gallic War, Book 5, Chapters 38-40

5 min readjanuary 26, 2023



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Use this study guide as a refresher after instruction from your professional Latin instructor/teacher. As it is AP Latin, you will be expected to learn the grammar in class except for questions which we will go over again. The main purpose of this study guide is to provide 80% literal, 20% interpretative translations and to break down the text, context, and grammar. What interpretative means is that it is not the literal Latin translation but that it has been restructured in some way to better fit the modern English vernacular.

Comentarii de Bello Gallico, Book 5, Chapters 38-40

Original Passage

] 1 Hac victoria sublatus Ambiorix statim cum equitatu in Aduatucos, qui erant eius regno finitimi, proficiscitur; neque noctem neque diem intermittit peditatumque subsequi iubet. 2 Re demonstrata Aduatucisque concitatis postero die in Nervios pervenit hortaturque, ne sui in perpetuum liberandi atque ulciscendi Romanos pro eis quas acceperint iniuriis occasionem dimittant: 3 interfectos esse legatos duos magnamque partem exercitus interisse demonstrat; 4 nihil esse negoti subito oppressam legionem quae cum Cicerone hiemet interfici; se ad eam rem profitetur adiutorem. Facile hac oratione Nerviis persuadet.
] 1 Itaque confestim dimissis nuntiis ad Ceutrones, Grudios, Levacos, Pleumoxios, Geidumnos, qui omnes sub eorum imperio sunt, quam maximas manus possunt cogunt et de improviso ad Ciceronis hiberna advolant nondum ad eum fama de Tituri morte perlata. 2 Huic quoque accidit, quod fuit necesse, ut nonnulli milites, qui lignationis munitionisque causa in silvas discessissent, repentino equitum adventu interciperentur. 3 His circumventis magna manu Eburones, Nervii, Aduatuci atque horum omnium socii et clientes legionem oppugnare incipiunt. Nostri celeriter ad arma concurrunt, vallum conscendunt. 4 Aegre is dies sustentatur, quod omnem spem hostes in celeritate ponebant atque hanc adepti victoriam in perpetuum se fore victores confidebant.
] 1 Mittuntur ad Caesarem confestim ab Cicerone litterae magnis propositis praemiis, si pertulissent: obsessis omnibus viis missi intercipiuntur. 2 Noctu ex materia, quam munitionis causa comportaverant, turres admodum CXX excitantur incredibili celeritate; quae deesse operi videbantur, perficiuntur. 3 Hostes postero die multo maioribus coactis copiis castra oppugnant, fossam complent. Eadem ratione, qua pridie, ab nostris resistitur. 4 Hoc idem reliquis deinceps fit diebus. 5 Nulla pars nocturni temporis ad laborem intermittitur; non aegris, non vulneratis facultas quietis datur. 6 Quaecumque ad proximi diei oppugnationem opus sunt noctu comparantur; multae praeustae sudes, magnus muralium pilorum numerus instituitur; turres contabulantur, pinnae loricaeque ex cratibus attexuntur. 7 Ipse Cicero, cum tenuissima valetudine esset, ne nocturnum quidem sibi tempus ad quietem relinquebat, ut ultro militum concursu ac vocibus sibi parcere cogeretur.

Questions about the Latin

1. What is the subject of the verb "proficiscitur" in line 1?
2. What is the direct object of the verb "hortaturque" in line 3?
3. What is the verb tense used in the phrase "interfectos esse legatos duos" in line 3?
4. What is the subject of the verb "profitetur" in line 4?
5. What is the verb tense used in the phrase "huic quoque accidit" in line 7?

Answers about the Latin

1. Ambiorix
2. Nervios
3. Perfect passive
4. Ambiorix
5. Imperfect passive


Chapter 38
Elated by this victory, Ambiorix marches immediately with his cavalry 
to the Aduatuci, who bordered on his kingdom; he halts neither day nor 
night, and orders the infantry to follow him closely. Having related the 
exploit and roused the Aduatuci, the next day he arrived among the Nervii, 
and entreats "that they should not throw away the opportunity of liberating 
themselves forever and of punishing the Romans for those wrongs which they 
had received from them;" [he tells them] "that two lieutenants have been 
slain, and that a large portion of the army has perished; that it was not 
a matter of difficulty for the legion which was wintering with Cicero to 
be cut off, when suddenly assaulted; he declares himself ready to cooperate 
in that design. He easily gains over the Nervii by this 
Chapter 39
Accordingly, messengers having been forthwith dispatched to the 
Centrones, the Grudii, the Levaci, the Pleumoxii, and the Geiduni, all 
of whom are under their government, they assemble as large bodies as they 
can, and rush unexpectedly to the winter-quarters of Cicero, the report 
of the death of Titurius not having as yet been conveyed to him. That also 
occurred to him, which was the consequence of a necessary work - that some 
soldiers who had gone off into the woods for the purpose of procuring timber 
and therewith constructing fortifications, were intercepted by the sudden 
arrival of [the enemy's] horse. These having been entrapped, the Eburones, 
the Nervii, and the Aduatici and all their allies and dependents, begin 
to attack the legion: our men quickly run together to arms and mount the 
rampart; they sustained the attack that day with great difficulty, since 
the enemy placed all their hope in dispatch, and felt assured that, if 
they obtained this victory, they would be conquerors 
Chapter 40
Letters are immediately sent to Caesar by Cicero, great rewards 
being offered [to the messengers] if they carried them through. All these 
passes having been beset, those who were sent are intercepted. During the 
night as many as 120 towers are raised with incredible dispatch out of 
the timber which they had collected for the purpose of fortification: the 
things which seemed necessary to the work are completed. The following 
day the enemy, having collected far greater forces, attack the camp [and] 
fill up the ditch. Resistance is made by our men in the same manner as 
the day before; this same thing is done afterward during the remaining 
days. The work is carried on incessantly in the night: not even to the 
sick, or wounded, is opportunity given for rest: whatever things are required 
for resisting the assault of the next day are provided during the night: 
many stakes burned at the end, and a large number of mural pikes are procured: 
towers are built up, battlements and parapets are formed of interwoven 
hurdles. Cicero himself, though he was in very weak health, did not leave 
himself the night-time for repose, so that he was forced to spare himself 
by the spontaneous movement and entreaties of the soldiers.

Translation sourced from http://classics.mit.edu/Caesar/gallic.5.5.html

Wrapping these Lines Up:

Congrats on completeing Unit 7.1! Keep it up! Remember to keep the themes, importance, focus, and language of the text in mind.
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