Julius Caesar's Military Tactics

Instructor: Cirrelia Thaxton

Cirrelia is an educator who has taught K-12 and has a doctorate in education.

Learning about Julius Caesar's military tactics is important for understanding how he was able to lead his army successfully in the pursuit of fortune and glory. In this lesson, we'll cover his campaigns in Gaul and the Roman civil war.

Caesar: Rise in Power

In 63 BC, Julius Caesar was elected Pontifex Maximus, which means high priest in Latin. Having political liaisons with the Populare faction, he sought to strengthen his position in government with the support of the people rather than the senate. In 60 BC, he maneuvered to join forces with Crassus, a rich Roman gentleman, and Pompey, a well-liked Roman general. The three men formed the First Triumvirate, a trio of statesmen who exercised total control over the Roman Republic. Due to the trio's power and wealth, they were able to intimidate others, including the Roman Senate.

It did not take much time before Caesar's political stature grew and afforded him special command of Cisalpine Gaul (northern Italy), Illyricum (southeastern Europe), and Transalpine Gaul (southern France). He held this command as Consul for five years. By 55 BC, Caesar's term in Gaul had been extended another five years, as the First Triumvirate continued their rule of Rome. Caesar used his popularity with his army and the people to sway their support. Despite his popularity, he was in great debt and needed to use his army for military excursions, such as razing and pillaging foreign lands. Since Gaul seemed to be a power base from which Caesar could recruit soldiers and secure his fortunes, he focused on conquering it.

The Gallic War

During 58 BC, the Helvetii people attempted to migrate from Switzerland into Gaul, but Caesar would not permit them to enter Roman territory. He raised his legions or soldiers to hold back the Helvetii, keeping their leaders at bay. In addition to halting invaders, he commanded his army to seize formidable opponents, such as the Belgae of Gaul. In so doing, he drove a wedge between Germany and central Gaul and devastated Germanic camps. Another tactic used by Caesar was the suppression of rebels by besieging their camps until they ran out of food and water.

Military Campaigns of Caesar in Gaul

To accomplish his military feats, Caesar also stationed quarters near lands he wished to conquer, and he oversaw the building of bridges to reach hostile territories. From 58 BC to 50 BC, Caesar used his power as a military leader to train his legions and to discipline them. During his military campaigns, Caesar even targeted Britain. Despite several excursions to Britain by sea and land, his army was not at their best in these attempts. For example, in July of 54 BC, he and his men reached Britain's Thames River; however, they could not establish a permanent camp because they had to return to Gaul to put down rebellions by the Belgae.

Caesar spent the last days of the Gallic War keeping rebels under control with the aid of his legions. Then, in 53 BC, the death of Crassus caused violent turmoil in Rome, which Caesar helped put down. Pompey, now, sole consul, decided to marry the daughter of Quintus Metellus Scipio, a major adversary of Caesar. This union generally signaled that the Triumvirate was over, although hostilities were still a few years off. By 52 BC, another revolt occurred in Gaul, which was led by Vercingetorix, another opponent of Caesar. Nevertheless, Caesar's army defeated Vercingetorix at the Battle of Alesia using a double siege wall, displaying the effectiveness of his siege strategies yet again. After eight years, Caesar had been triumphant in conquering the Gallic peoples.

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