Bachelor of Arts
Christopher V. Trinacty
Benjamin Todd Lee
Ancient civilizations, Ancient history, Classical studies, Comparative literature, History, Rhetoric
Imagine a Roman citizen of the 50s BCE unrolling Caesar’s Commentarii de Bello Gallico. They might expect a dramatic tale of barbarians rushing naked against Roman shields with faces painted blue, blonde mustaches adorning their faces, their hair like horses’ manes flowing in the wind. Our Roman would probably believe Gallic society to be even more mysterious than their battle tactics; after all, they counsel with druids, they count by nights, and they believe in a never-ending cycle of life and death. Although some Romans possibly read Posidonius’ account of Gallic society (which dispels some of these prejudices), most would think of them as the barbaric enemy to the North. After all, these were the descendants of the Gauls that sacked Rome in 390 BCE. At distinct points in the narrative, this is what Caesar wants you and I, or rather his Roman audience, to believe is the reality of Gaul. However, it is a purposeful exaggeration of the truth, an invented Gaul created by a man writing an account of his own achievements. Caesar clearly exaggerates the social function of clientela among the Gauls, which is first described in Posidonius. Posidonius describes the “parasites” that eat around the military gentry, but this relationship is concerned with nothing more than dining traditions. Caesar on the other hand uses clientela as the central piece for his ethnographic purposes because of the prevalence of patrons and clients in Rome. In the world of the late Roman Republic, clientela and its web of power relations deeply affected the political landscape. Caesar exaggerates these aspects in Gauls not only because the Roman landscape is dominated by clientela, but also because he wants to comment on the implications of this system in Rome of the 50s BCE. Leaders such as Cicero, Pompey and Caesar amassed massive numbers of clients and in turn increased their personal power. I will argue that Caesar’s exaggeration of Gallic clientela plays into this trend. I have chosen to focus on clientela, as it speaks directly to Caesar’s internal and external motivations. In doing this, I will be able to show what purpose the ethnography served Caesar the general, the statesman, and most importantly, the conqueror.
Godfrey, J.T., "Friends, Barbarians, Future Countrymen: Clientela and Caesar’s De Bello Gallico" (2020). Honors Papers. 689.