GCSE Latin Prose A (2023-24)


Conflict and Conquest

OCR Latin Anthology for GCSE

Caesar, Tacitus & Cicero

GCSE Latin Prose (A) 2023-24

Caesar's soldiers


Gaul, 1st century BC


The two passages by Caesar both come from the Commentarii De Bello Gallico, his first-hand account of the military campaign he led in Gaul from 58-50 BC.

The first passage, Bravery and strategy in battle (from Book 5, 44-48), is set in the winter of 54/53 BC. The Eleventh Legion, commanded by Quintus Cicero, is surrounded by an uprising of Gallic tribes. First, there is an account of the heroic actions of Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, rivals for the position of primus pilus (“top centurion”). Pullo leaves the camp and launches himself at the enemy, Vorenus follows; aiding each other, the two men kill several of the enemy before returning to safety. We then learn of Vertico’s slave, used by Cicero to send messages to Caesar, and Caesar’s ingenious methods for communicating with Cicero.

The second passage, Caesar at the heart of the battle against the Belgae (from Book 2, 20), is considerably shorter, and focuses on an earlier point in the campaign, in 57 BC, when the Nervii attacked Caesar and his men as they were setting up camp. Caesar’s leadership qualities and the experience of his soldiers are emphasised throughout.

Boadicea (Boudicca) and her army


The Tacitus passage Inspiration for the fight comes from the Annals, his great history of the early Roman Empire. It covers the last stand of the British warrior queen Boudicca against the Romans: the Battle of Watling Street.

The rebellion led by Boudicca had met with initial success, overwhelming Roman settlements such as Camulodunum (Colchester) in south eastern Britain. But under the Roman governor, Suetonius Paulinus, the Roman forces rallied.

The motivational speeches of Boudicca and Paulinus before the battle – as much literary inventions as historical recordings – form the first parts of the set text, before the details of the battle itself. The Romans are savage in victory, although their success is legendary, so heavily were they outnumbered by the Britons.

Roman marriage ceremony


The Cicero passage Marital conflict deals with an altogether different kind of battle – that between a husband and wife in a failing marriage. The husband in question is Quintus Cicero (who also features in the Caesar passages), brother of the much more famous Marcus Cicero, one-time consul and the writer of these letters. The wife is Pomponia, the sister of Atticus, a close friend of Marcus Cicero. Marcus Cicero conducted a long, intimate correspondence with Atticus, and many of these letters have survived.

In the first letter of the set text, Marcus Cicero is keen to prove that his brother’s marriage is functioning, and that he is doing his bit to ensure this.

In the second letter, Cicero is quick to defend his brother after Pomponia has allegedly been discourteous and outspoken.

Both letters show the awkward nature of Marcus Cicero’s situation, and how he must show as much diplomacy as any general when writing to Atticus.


Bravery and strategy in battle (i)

Caesar tells of the bravery and heroism of two of his centurions at the very heart of battle, whilst dealing with revolt in Gaul.

erant in ea legione fortissimi viri, centuriones, qui primis ordinibus appropinquarent, Titus Pullo et Lucius Vorenus. hi perpetuas inter se controversias habebant, quinam anteferretur, omnibusque annis de locis summis simultatibus contendebant. ex his Pullo, cum acerrime ad munitiones pugnaretur, ‘quid dubitas,’ inquit, ‘Vorene? aut quem locum tuae pro laude virtutis spectas? hic dies de nostris controversiis iudicabit.’

There were erant very brave fortissimi men viri in in that ea legion legione, centurions centuriones, who qui were approaching appropinquarent the first primis ranks ordinibus, Titus Pullo Titus Pullo and et Lucius Vorenus Lucius Vorenus. These men hi used to have habebant continual perpetuas disputes controversias between inter themselves se as to which quinam should be preferred anteferretur, and -que every omnibus year annis they used to contend contendebant for de the highest locis positions summis with quarrels simultatibus. One of them ex his, Pullo Pullo, when cum they were fighting pugnaretur very fiercely acerrime at ad the fortifications munitiones, said inquit, ‘Why quid do you hesistate dubitas, Vorenus Vorene? Or aut what quem opportunity locum do you see spectas for pro the praise laude of your tuae courage virtutis? This hic day dies will decide iudicabit de our nostris disputes controversiis.’

Signum of Legio XI Claudia, simplified reconstruction, Neptune's image is taken from a coin of Gallienus

ea legione – the legion in question is the Legio XI Claudia, recruited by Caesar in 58 BC for his Helvetii campaign and still in existence in the early 5th century AD. Despite being disbanded in 45 BC after Caesar had won the civil war, it was revived by Augustus in 42 BC in the fight against Caesar’s assassins.

fortissimi … appropinquarent – before we even know their names, Pullo and Vorenus are described through the use of a tricolon. Note how the tricolon gets more specific: we learn the men are very brave, then their rank, then that they are seeking promotion. The superlative fortissimi is in a prominent position, since it would conventionally come after viri. It is the very first thing we know about these men.

centuriones – a centurion was a Roman army officer in charge of a group of 80 soldiers called a century. There were between five and eight centuries in a cohort and ten cohorts in a legion.

primis ordinibus – “the first ranks.” Pullo and Vorenus are in competition for the rank of primus pilus, the leader of the first cohort.

perpetuas … controversias habebant – “they used to have constant arguments.” The imperfect of habebant and the adjective perpetuas show that the rivalry between Pullo and Vorenus was habitual and continuous.

quinam – “which of the two.” Equivalent to uter.

omnibus annis – “every year.” Another indicator of the scope of their rivalry.

simultatibus contendebant – “they used to compete with quarrels.” The juxtaposition of these two words makes the rivalry seem even more intense.

ex his – “one of them” (literally “out of these”).

cum acerrime … pugnaretur – “when there was very fierce fighting.” pugnaretur is an impersonal use of the passive (lit. “it was being fought”). acerrime provides the context for Pullo’s speech, and thus adds to his bravery.

‘quid dubitas’ – “why are you hesitating?” This and the following question are rhetorical: Pullo does not expect Vorenus to answer his queries, but to be spurred on by them. The use of direct speech is much more exciting than reporting Pullo’s taunts indirectly.

locum – “opportunity.”

hic dies iudicabit – “this day will decide.” Pullo delivers his challenge as if it has the force of a prophecy.

haec cum dixisset, procedit extra munitiones, quaeque pars hostium confertissima est visa irrumpit. ne Vorenus quidem sese vallo continet sed omnium veritus existimationem subsequitur. tum mediocri spatio relicto Pullo pilum in hostes immittit atque unum ex multitudine procurrentem traicit; quo percusso et exanimato, hunc scutis protegunt, in hostem tela universi coiciunt neque dant regrediendi facultatem.

When cum he had said dixisset these things haec, he advanced procedit outside of extra the fortifications munitiones, and -que rushed into irrumpit the part pars of the enemy hostium which quae seemed visa est most crowded confertissima. Vorenus Vorenus did not even keep ne quidem continet himself sese within the rampart vallo, but sed fearing veritus the opinion existimationem of all omnium, he followed subsequitur. Then tum, with a moderate mediocri distance spatio left relicto, Pullo Pullo sent immittit a javelin pilum into in the enemy hostes and atque pierced traicit one unum of the crowd ex multitudine as he was running forward procurrentem; when he quo was struck percusso and et unconscious exanimato, they protected protegunt him hunc with shields scutis, and they hurled coiciunt their weapons tela at in the enemy hostem all together universi and did not give him neque dant the opportunity facultatem to retreat regrediendi.

procedit – “he proceeded.” This verb and the following verbs in this section are in the historic present tense, which makes the scene more immediate and dramatic.

confertissima est visa – “seemed most crowded.” Note the importance of est visa for qualifying Pullo’s bravery: he intentionally heads to the area of the most intense fighting. The unusual word order (visa est would be more conventional) highlights this.

vallo – “inside the rampart.”

omnium veritus existimationem – “fearing the opinion of everyone.” This makes Vorenus an epic hero: he is motivated by the fear of looking like a coward. The Greek term for this is aidos (αἰδώς).

mediocri spatio relicto – “with little space remaining.” The fact Pullo runs right up to the enemy before hurling his spear amplifies his courage.

hunc scutis protegunt – “they (i.e. the Gauls) protect him (i.e. the wounded Gaul) with their shields.”

in hostem – “at the enemy.” This actually refers to Pullo (the enemy of the Gauls). This shift in viewpoint (the Gauls were the hostes earlier in the sentence) shows how the situation has dramatically swung round against Pullo.

universi coiciunt – “they hurled in unison.” The concerted action of the Gauls spells big trouble for Pullo, who is one against many.

regrediendi facultatem – “an opportunity of retreating.”


Bravery and strategy in battle (ii)

transfigitur scutum Pulloni et verutum in balteo defigitur. avertit hic casus vaginam et gladium educere conanti dextram moratur manum, impeditumque hostes circumsistunt. succurrit inimicus illi Vorenus et laboranti subvenit. ad hunc se confestim a Pullone omnis multitudo convertit; illum veruto arbitrantur occisum. gladio comminus rem gerit Vorenus atque uno interfecto reliquos paulum propellit: dum cupidius instat, in locum deiectus inferiorem concidit.

Pullo’s Pulloni shield scutum was pierced through transfigitur and et a javelin verutum was planted defigitur in his belt in balteo. This hic event casus shunted avertit his scabbard vaginam and et hindered moratur his right hand dextram manum trying conanti to draw out educere his sword gladium, and que the enemy hostes surrounded circumsistunt the encumbered man impeditum. His rival inimicus Vorenus Vorenus ran to help succurrit him illi and et assisted subvenit him as he toiled laboranti. Immediately confestim the whole omnis crowd multitudo turned se convertit from Pullo a Pullone to him ad hunc; they thought arbitrantur that Pullo illum had been killed occisum by the javelin veruto. At close quarters comminus, with his sword gladio, Vorenus Vorenus carried on gerit the task rem and atque, after one had been killed uno interfecto, he drove away propellit the rest reliquos a little paulum: while dum he pressed on instat too eagerly cupidius, he was driven down deiectus and fell concidit into in a lower place inferiorem locum.

transfigitur … defigitur – there is plenty of style in this sentence to enhance the drama of the action. The verbs are in the historic present tense, use a repeated root (polyptoton) and are situated at either end of the sentence, creating a chiasmus (transfigitur … scutum … verutum … defigitur).

Pulloni – “Pullo’s.” The dative case here is used for possession.

avertit – “shunted.” Promoted to the front of the sentence, next to defigitur, to link the sequence of events more closely and intensify the action.

conanti … moratur … impeditum – these words all show how much difficulty Pullo is in.

succurrit – “ran to help.” The contrast with inimicus epitomises the paradoxical nature of the relationship between the two soldiers.

laboranti – “as he (Pullo) was toiling.” Again, Pullo is in serious trouble.

subvenit – “came to help:” essentially means the same as succurit; this tautology highlights the fact that Vorenus has become Pullo’s saviour. Both verbs frame the sentence, creating a chiasmus (succurrit … illi … laboranti … subvenit).

confestim – “immediately” (cognate with festino “I hurry”). The word is enclosed by ad hunc and a Pullone to show how quickly the Gauls turned from the one to the other.

omnis multitudo – “the whole crowd.” Given the chaotic nature of such skirmishing, and the fact the fighting was already very fierce (acerrime) when Pullo joined in, this seems like an exaggeration (hyperbole) designed to amplify the heroism of Pullo and Vorenus.

comminus – “at close quarters.”

rem gerit – “continues the combat.”

cupidius instat – “he pressed on too eagerly.” Caesar evokes the overzealous nature of epic heroes such as Patroclus with this description of Vorenus.

deiectus – “having slipped.”

huic rursus circumvento fert subsidium Pullo, atque ambo incolumes compluribus interfectis summa cum laude sese intra munitiones recipiunt. sic fortuna in contentione et certamine utrumque versavit, ut alter alteri inimicus auxilio salutique esset neque diiudicari posset, uter utri virtute anteferendus videretur.

In return rursus Pullo Pullo brought fert help subsidium to Vorenus huic who was surrounded circumvento, and atque both ambo retreated recipiunt sese safely incolumes inside intra the fortifications munitiones with the highest praise cum summa laude, with several of the enemy slain compluribus interfectis. Fortune fortuna dealt with versavit both utrumque in in rivalry contentione and et conflict certamine in such a way sic that ut one alter rival inimicus was esset a source of assistance auxilio and que safety saluti to the other alteri and it could not neque posset be determined diiudicari which of the two uter it seemed videretur should be preferred anteferendus to the other utri in courage virtute.

huic rursus – “to him in turn.” Now Pullo helps Vorenus. Note how, despite all the rivalry, Caesar is demonstrating the idea that soldiers are more effective as a team than as individuals.

compluribus interfectis – “with very many (men) killed.” complures can mean “several,” but it probably means “very many” here, to underscore the battle prowess of the two soldiers and to contrast with the mere solitary kills they managed when fighting alone.

sese recipient – “retreated.”

in contentione et certamine – a tautology to reinforce the soldiers’ rivalry.

auxilio salutique – another tautology.

uter utri – balances alter alteri. The competition is a dead heat.

neque diiudicari posset – “it could not be decided.” diiudicari echoes Pullo’s words at the start of the passage: “hic dies iudicabit.” In the end, a decision could not be made because each centurion was so immensely brave.


Bravery and strategy in battle (iii)

Caesar plans to come to the aid of Cicero.

quanto erat in dies gravior atque asperior oppugnatio, et maxime quod magna parte militum confecta vulneribus res ad paucitatem defensorum pervenerat, tanto crebriores litterae nuntiique ad Caesarem mittebantur; quorum pars deprehensa in conspectu nostrorum militum cum cruciatu necabatur.

However much quanto more serious gravior and atque rougher asperior the attack oppugnatio was erat day by day in dies, and et particularly maxime because quod the matter res had come pervenerat to a small number ad paucitatem of defenders defensorum, since a great number magna parte of the soldiers militum had been worn out confecta by wounds vulneribus, to the same degree tanto letters litterae and que messengers nuntii were being sent mittebantur to Caesar ad Caesarem more frequently crebriores; a portion pars of these quorum were killed necabatur with torture cum cruciatu, having been caught deprehensa within the sight in conspectu of our soldiers nostrorum militum.

quanto … tanto … – “by how much … to the same degree …” These words (correlatives) help to explain clearly a correlation between the fiercer fighting and the increase in dispatches from the camp.

in dies – “day by day.” Along with the comparative adjectives gravior and asperior, this gives a sense of the growing danger for Cicero’s camp.

maxime quod magna parte – “especially because a large part …” The polyptoton of maxime and magna conveys the size of the threat to Cicero’s camp, due to the fact so many of his troops have been injured or maimed.

litterae nuntiique – “letters and messengers.” Since the messengers would have carried the letters, this is an example of hendiadys, magnifying the urgency of Cicero’s attempts at communication. The comparative crebriores (“more frequently”) again shows how the situation is escalating.

cum cruciatu – “with torture.” Since this cruelty was conducted in front of the Romans (in conspectu nostrorum militum), it was obviously done as a deterrent. Such extreme measures show how concerned the enemy were about communication leaving the camp, and makes the subsequent story of Vertico’s slave even more suspenseful.

in conspectu nostrorum militum – “in sight of our soldiers.” Caesar uses nostrorum to increase the outrage of his Roman audience.

erat unus intus Nervius nomine Vertico, loco natus honesto, qui a prima obsidione ad Ciceronem perfugerat, suamque ei fidem praestiterat. hic servo spe libertatis magnisque persuadet praemiis ut litteras ad Caesarem deferat. has ille in iaculo inligatas effert et Gallus inter Gallos sine ulla suspicione versatus ad Caesarem pervenit. ab eo de periculis Ciceronis legionisque cognoscitur.

There was erat a certain unus Nervian Nervius inside (the camp) intus, called nomine Vertico Vertico, born natus in a position loco of honour honesto, who qui had deserted perfugerat to Cicero ad Ciceronem at the start of a prima the siege obsidione, and que had shown praestiterat his suam loyalty fidem to him ei. This man hic persuaded persuadet his slave servo with the hope spe of freedom libertatis and que with great rewards magnis praemiis to ut deliver deferat letters litteras to Caesar ad Caesarem. He ille carried these out effert has tied inligatas on a javelin in iaculo and et, as a Gaul Gallus going about versatus among inter Gauls Gallos, he reached Caesar pervenit ad Caesarem without sine any ulla suspicion suspicione. From him ab eo it was discovered cognoscitur about the dangers de periculis of Cicero Ciceronis and que the legion legionis.

loco natus honesto – “born in an honourable position,” i.e. he was born into Nervian nobility. Being high-born would suggest, in the eyes of upper class Romans, that he is more trustworthy.

a prima obsidione – “at the start of the siege.” More evidence of Vertico’s loyalty to the Romans – he joined them as soon as he could.

persuadet – the first historic present tense, after a string of scene-setting imperfect and pluperfect tenses. Now the main action is starting.

versatus – “going about.”

In part of the text not included here, we learn that Caesar receives this letter from Cicero via Vertico at about 5pm. Overnight he summons help from commanders of other legions and the following morning they set out. Caesar has a much smaller force (about 7,000 men) than he had planned.


Bravery and strategy in battle (iv)

venit magnis itineribus in Nerviorum fines. ibi ex captivis cognoscit quae apud Ciceronem gerantur, quantoque in periculo res sit. tum cuidam ex equitibus Gallis magnis praemiis persuadet uti ad Ciceronem epistolam deferat. hanc Graecis conscriptam litteris mittit, ne intercepta epistola nostra ab hostibus consilia cognoscantur. si adire non possit, monet ut tragulam cum epistola ad ammentum deligata intra munitionem castrorum abiciat.

He came venit into the territories in fines of the Nervians Nerviorum by long marches magnis itineribus. There ibi he found out cognoscit from prisoners ex captivis what quae was happening gerantur in Cicero’s camp apud Ciceronem, and -que in how much danger in quanto periculo the situation res was sit. Then tum, with great rewards magnis praemiis, he persuaded persuadet one of cuidam ex the Gallic cavalrymen Gallis equitibus to uti carry deferat a letter epistolam to Cicero ad Ciceronem. He sent mittit this hanc written conscriptam in Greek letters Graecis litteris, in case ne our nostra plans consilia were discovered cognoscantur by the enemy ab hostibus if the letter was intercepted epistola intercepta. If si he was not able non possit to approach adire, he advised (him) monet to ut throw abiciat a javelin tragulam with cum the letter epistola tied deligata to the strap ad ammentum inside intra the fortifications munitionem of the camp castrorum.

venit magnis itineribus – “he came on forced marches.” venit, as with most verbs in this section, is in the historic present tense. The forced marches (magnis itineribus) were necessary due to the urgency of Cicero’s situation and the fact Caesar had to travel 100 miles due east from Samarobriva (Amiens) to arrive at Cicero’s camp.

ex captivis cognoscit – “he found out from prisoners.” Probably through torture, or threat of torture, even if Caesar does not make this explicit.

quae apud Ciceronem gerantur – “what was happening at Cicero’s camp.” Caesar already knew, from the message delivered by Vertico’s slave, that Cicero was in trouble, so this must refer to more specific details, such as the nature, deployment and plans of the enemy.

quantoque in periculo res sit – “and in how much danger the situation was.” Slightly superfluous if Caesar has already ascertained “quae apud Ciceronem gerantur,” but it reinforces that Cicero was in considerable danger.

magnis praemiis – “with great rewards.” As in the previous section, the risky and critical nature of the mission requires special incentives.

Graecis conscriptam litteris – “written in Greek letters.” Almost certainly the Greek language as opposed to Latin written in Greek script, which would have been too easy to decipher. Knowledge of Greek was a given for well-educated Romans of the time, such as Caesar and Cicero, but it would have been alien to the Nervii.

intercepta epistola – “if the letter was intercepted.” Ablative absolute, here having the sense of a conditional clause.

ad ammentum deligata – “tied to the the strap.” Greenough: “the amentum was a small strap fastened to the middle of a light spear, in some cases, at any rate, giving it a whirling motion, like the rifle-ball of modern times. By its use the spear could be thrown twice as far and with better aim than without it, as has been proved by experiment.”

in litteris scribit se cum legionibus profectum celeriter adfore; hortatur ut pristinam virtutem retineat. Gallus periculum veritus, ut erat praeceptum, tragulam mittit. haec casu ad turrim adhaesit neque ab nostris biduo animadversa tertio die a quodam milite conspicitur, dempta ad Ciceronem defertur. ille perlectam in conventu militum recitat, maximaque omnes laetitia adficit. tum fumi incendiorum procul videbantur, quae res omnem dubitationem adventus legionum expulit.

In the letter in litteris he wrote scribit that he se would set out profectum quickly celeriter and be present adfore with his legions cum legionibus. He urged (him) hortatur to ut maintain retineat his former pristinam courage virtutem. The Gaul Gallus, fearing veritus danger periculum, launched mittit the spear tragulam, as ut had been ordered praeceptum erat. This haec stuck adhaesit by chance casu to a tower ad turrim, and having not been noticed neque animadversa by our men ab nostris for two days biduo, was noticed conspicitur on the third day tertio die by a certain a quodam soldier milite; having been taken down dempta it was carried defertur to Cicero ad Ciceronem. He ille, having read it thoroughly perlectam, read it out recitat in an assembly in conventu of soldiers militum, and -que affected adficit everyone omnes with the greatest joy maxima laetitia. Then tum the smoke fumi of fires incendiorum was seen videbantur in the distance procul, a thing res which quae cast out expulit all omnem doubt dubitationem of the arrival adventus of the legions legionum.

adfore = adfuturum esse “would be present.”

hortatur ut pristinam virtutem retineat – “he urged him to maintain his former courage.” Caesar’s motivational skills are evident here. The pristinam virtutem to which he refers is probably the virtus shown by Cicero when he turned down the enemy’s conditions at the start of the siege. (5 41.7 ff.).

Gallus periculum veritus – “The Gaul, fearing danger.” Contrasts with the Roman virtus of the previous sentence.

haec … conspicitur – Note how much tension is created in this sentence: the javelin sticks randomy (casu) in a tower, unnoticed (neque animadversa) for the whole of the next day (biduo) and only the day after (tertio die – Romans counted days inclusively, so primo die = hodie) does it happen to be noticed (conspicitur) by some soldier or other (quodam milite).

perlectam – “(having been) read thoroughly.” epistulam or a corresponding pronoun should be understood. Cicero reads the letter to himself before reading it aloud (recitat) to his soldiers.

maxima laetitia – “with the greatest joy.” The superlative maxima conveys the soldiers’ immense relief at the news of Caesar’s arrival; omnes shows how widely this relief was felt.

tum – “at that point.” Due to the long delay in spotting the message, Caesar arrives just after it has been read.

procul – “in the distance.”

quae res = res quae “a thing which” (referring to the sight of the smoke from Caesar’s campfires). The effectiveness of the message is emphasised by omnem dubitationem.

We learn in the continuation of this passage, not reproduced here, that the Gauls then abandon their siege of Cicero’s camp, and after going to meet Caesar, are routed.


Inspiration for the fight (i)

In AD 60-61, Suetonius and Boudicca meet in battle. They both make speeches to inspire their forces before the Romans win a famous victory.

Boudicca curru filias prae se vehens, ut quamque nationem accesserat, solitum quidem Britannis feminarum ductu bellare testabatur, sed tunc non ut tantis maioribus ortam regnum et opes, verum ut unam e vulgo libertatem amissam, confectum verberibus corpus, contrectatam filiarum pudicitiam ulcisci. eo provectas Romanorum cupidines ut non corpora, ne senectam quidem aut virginitatem impollutam relinquant.

As Boudicca Boudicca was carrying vehens her daughters filias in front of her prae se in a chariot curru, when ut she had approached accesserat each quamque tribe nationem, she declared that testabatur in fact quidem it was customary solitum for Britons Britannis to fight bellare under the leadership ductu of women feminarum, but sed at that time tunc she was not non as ut a woman descended ortam from great ancestors tantis maioribus avenging ulcisci her kingdom regnum and et wealth opes, but verum as ut one unam of the common people e vulgo (avenging) her lost freedom libertatem amissam, her body corpus worn out confectum by lashes verberibus and the violated contrectatam chastity pudicitiam of her daughters filiarum. The desires cupidines of the Romans Romanorum had been carried provectas to the point eo that ut they did not leave non relinquant bodies corpora nor even ne quidem old age senectam or aut virginity virginitatem unpolluted impollutam.

filias prae se – Boudicca’s daughters were raped by the Romans, so she parades them here to incite the Britons.

testabatur – “(she) proclaimed.” The rest of the section is dependent on this verb and is a reported version of Boudicca’s speech (served with a generous amount of artistic licence).

solitum – understand esse: “it was customary.” Emphasised by its prominent position and the use of quidem (“indeed”).

feminarum ductu – “under the leadership of women.” Boudicca wants to persuade the gathered Britons not to hesitate to follow her based on her sex. Other than Boudicca, Cartimandua is the only other female leader of Britons in Tacitus’ history.

tunc – the equivalent to nunc in reported speech.

non ut … verum ut – “not as … but as …” Boudicca sets out her reasons for fighting the Romans with a pair of balanced phrases.

non ut … tantis maioribus ortam – “not as one descended from great ancestors,” a form of praeteritio. Even though Boudicca claims to be “one of the people” (unam e vulgo), she still mentions her noble origins, knowing this will spur on the Britons.

libertatem amissam, confectum verberibus corpus, contrectatam filiarum pudicitiam – an ascending tricolon. Boudicca tells the Britons she is not fighting to maintain her privileged status (regnum et opes) but basic human rights: freedom and vengeance for her physical abuse and the sexual abuse of her daughters. pudicitiam (“chastity”) is in an emphatic position.

eo … ut – “to such a point that …”

eo provectas (esse) Romanorum cupidines – “the lusts of the Romans had moved to such a point.” The juxtaposition of Romanorum and cupidines would have caused a sense of shame among Tacitus’ audience, and a sense of outrage among Boudicca’s crowd. Note the delay of the subject noun cupidines for maximum effect.

non corpora, ne senectam quidem aut virginitatem – another ascending tricolon, capped by another morally loaded word: impollutam. The extremities of senectam and virginitatem are emphasised by ne … quidem, implying that no one is safe from the Romans’ depravity.

adesse tamen deos iustae vindictae: cecidisse legionem, quae proelium ausa sit; ceteros castris occultari aut fugam circumspicere. ne strepitum quidem et clamorem tot milium, nedum impetus et manus perlaturos: si copias armatorum, si causas belli secum expenderent, vincendum illa acie vel cadendum esse. id mulieri destinatum: viverent viri et servirent.

However tamen the gods deos were on the side adesse of righteous iustae vengeance vindictae: a legion legionem which quae had dared ausa sit battle proelium had fallen cecidisse; the rest ceteros were hidden occultari in their camps castris or aut considering circumspicere fleeing fugam. They would not even tolerate ne quidem perlaturos the roar strepitum and et the noise clamorem of so many thousands tot milium, let alone nedum their charges impetus and et fighting manus: if si they weighed up expenderent to themselves secum the forces copias of armed men armatorum, if (they weighed up) si the causes causas of the war belli, it was necessary to conquer vincendum esse or vel to fall cadendum in that engagement illa acie. This id had been ordained destinatum for a woman mulieri: men viri might live viverent and et be slaves servirent.

adesse … cecidisse – these verbs are in emphatic positions. tamen helps to change the tone of the speech from one of pessimism to one of hope.

cecidisse legionem – “a legion has fallen.” This was the IX Hispana Legion, led by Petilius Cerealis. It had been almost annihilated at the Battle of Camulodunum.

quae proelium ausa sit – “which had dared (to engage in) battle.” A remark so confident that it is both pathetic and ironic considering what happens next.

ne strepitum … perlaturos – Boudicca now uses an argument a fortiori to inspire her followers: seeing that the Romans would not even be able withstand the noise (strepitum, clamorem) of so many thousands of Britons, certainly they would not be able to tolerate physical combat (impetus et manus) with such a number. Note that she uses pairs of similar words to strengthen her point.

secum expenderent – “(if) they considered to themselves.” Boudicca says her soldiers should be motivated by their strength of number (copias) and their reasons for war (causas belli). The anaphora of si…si reinforces both points.

id mulieri destinatum – “this was a woman’s resolve.” Note that, despite what she said at the beginning of the speech, Boudicca now uses the unusual fact she is a female leader to coerce the male fighters into battle: she contrasts mulieri with viri, and her final words end with a mellifluous alliteration: viverent viri et servirent.


Inspiration for the fight (ii)

ne Suetonius quidem in tanto discrimine silebat. quamquam confideret virtuti, tamen exhortationes et preces miscebat ut spernerent sonores barbarorum et inanes minas: plus illic feminarum quam iuventutis aspici. imbelles inermes cessuros statim ubi ferrum virtutemque vincentium toties fusi adgnovissent. etiam in multis legionibus paucos qui proelia profligarent; gloriaeque eorum accessurum quod modica manus universi exercitus famam adipiscerentur.

Nor indeed ne quidem was Suetonius silent Suetonius silebat in such a great crisis in tanto discrimine. Although quamquam he had confidence confideret in their bravery virtuti, nevertheless tamen he mingled miscebat words of encouragement exhortationes and et entreaties preces so that ut they spurned spernerent the sounds sonores of the barbarians barbarorum and et their empty inanes threats minas: (he said that) more plus women feminarum were seen aspici in that place illic than quam young men iuventutis. The unwarlike imbelles and the unarmed inermes would yield cessuros immediately statim when ubi they recognised adgnovissent the sword ferrum and -que courage virtutem of their conquerors vincentium, having been routed fusi so often toties. Even etiam in the case of many legions in multis legionibus, it was the few paucos who qui decided profligarent battles proelia; and -que it would add accessurum to their glory gloriae eorum the fact that quod a small modica band of men manus should obtain adipiscerentur the renown famam of a whole army universi exercitus.

ne Suetonius quidem silebat – “nor (indeed) was Suetonius silent.” A litotes: Suetonius’ speech is powerful and effective.

Statue of Gaius Suetonius Paulinus on the terrace of the Roman Baths

exhortationes et preces – “words of encoragement and entreaties.” The fact he uses a range of motivational tactics shows that Suetonius does not fall into complacency with regards to the preparation for battle.

spernerent sonores barbarorum – “scorn the barbarians’ noises.” sonores is a poetic word (sonitus is the prose equivalent); “barbarorum” is insulting to the Britons. Note the sibilance of spernerent sonores.

inanes minas – “(their) empty threats.” Foreshadowing the imminent massacre.

imbelles inermes – “unwarlike (and) poorly armed.” The position, similarity and asyndeton of these words help to compound their effectiveness.

ubi ferrum virtutemque adgnovissent – “when they recognised the steel and the courage.” A zeugma.

vincentium – “of their habitual conquerors” (Furneaux). The participle here acts like a noun. Note how Suetonius invokes past glories to instil confidence into his soldiers at this point, and the juxtaposition with toties fusi (“routed so often”).

paucos qui proelia profligarent – “it is the few who determine the outcome of battles.” Suetonius has around 10,000 men at his disposal, and is heavily outnumbered by the Britons. So he points out that even with a massive army, only a few soldiers are really effective. Note the contrast between multis and paucos, and the plosive alliteration of paucos proelia profligarent to hammer home his point.

gloriae – in an emphatic position at the start of the sentence, and virtually synonymous with famam at the end of the sentence. Contrary to what Boudiccca said in her speech (“fugam circumspicere”), these Romans seek honour and distinction.

modica manus – “a relatively small number of men.” Juxtaposed with universi exercitus (“an entire army”).

accessurum quod – “it would add (to their glory) the fact that…” The entire quod clause is the subject of accessurum (esse). Note the accumulative effect: acquiring renown will add to their glory.

conferti tantum et pilis emissis post umbonibus et gladiis stragem caedemque continuarent, praedae immemores: parta victoria cuncta ipsis cessura. is ardor verba ducis sequebatur, ita se ad intorquenda pila expedierat vetus miles et multa proeliorum experientia ut certus eventus Suetonius daret pugnae signum.

Only tantum in close order conferti and et with their javelins launched pilis emissis afterwards post with their shields umbonibus and et with their swords gladiis should they continue continuarent the butchery stragem and -que the slaughter caedem, forgetting about the plunder immemores praedae: when victory had been won victoria parta, everything cuncta would yield cessura to them ipsis. Such is enthusiasm ardor followed sequebatur the general’s words verba ducis and et the old vetus soldiers miles had prepared themselves se expedierat in such a way ita to hurl ad intorquenda spears pila, due to their long experience multa experientia of battles proeliorum, that ut Suetonius Suetonius gave daret the signal signum to fight pugnae sure certus of the outcome eventus.

conferti – “in close formation.”

post – “afterwards” or “next” (adverbial).

stragem caedemque – “butchery and slaughter.” A powerful juxtaposition, showing the utter ruthlessness of the Roman military machine.

praedae immemores – “ignoring the plunder.” In ancient battles it was fair game to strip the dead enemy of armour or objects of value. Suetonius instructs his men not to do this until after the battle.

parta victoria cuncta ipsis cessura – “when victory had been obtained, everything would yield to them.” Suetonius promises his men the earth (cuncta “everything”) once they are victorious, a sentiment which is underscored by a chiasmus (participle … noun … noun … participle).

is ardor – “such passion.” Suetonius’ words are so effective that they have an immediate effect, the intensity of which is conveyed by the meaning and personification of ardor.

vetus miles – “old soldiers” (singular for plural, as Tacitus often treats miles).

multa experientia – “with long experience (of battles).”

certus eventus – “sure of the outcome.” More foreshadowing of the outcome of the battle. Suetonius knows his speech has had the desired effect, and this insight into his feelings heightens the tragedy of Boudicca.


Inspiration for the fight (iii)

ac primum legio gradu immota et angustias loci pro munimento retinens, postquam in propius suggressos hostes certo iactu tela exhauserat, velut cuneo erupit. idem auxiliarium impetus; et eques protentis hastis perfringit quod obvium et validum erat. ceteri terga praebuere, difficili effugio, quia circumiecta vehicula saepserant abitus. et miles ne mulierum quidem neci temperabat, confixaque telis etiam iumenta corporum cumulum auxerant.

And ac the legion legio, with their position gradu unmoved immota at first primum and et keeping retinens to the narrow parts angustias of the place loci as a defence pro munimento, after they postquam had discharged exhauserat their spears tela with precise certo throwing iactu at the enemy in hostes, who had drawn suggressos nearer propius, burst out erupit like velut a wedge cuneo. The attack impetus of the auxiliary troops auxiliarium (was) the same idem; and the cavalry et eques, with spears protruding hastis protentis, broke through perfringit what quod was erat in the way obvium and et strong validum. The rest ceteri showed praebuere their backs terga, with escape being difficult effugio difficili, because quia the wagons vehicula placed around circumiecta had blocked saepserant the ways out abitus. And et the soldiers miles did not even exercise restraint ne quidem temperabat in the murder neci of women mulierum, and -que also etiam the pack animals iumenta, skewered confixa by spears telis, had increased auxerant the heap cumulum of bodies corporum.

Battle of Watling Street

gradu immota – “with their position unchanged.” The discipline of the Roman soldiers is evident here. Woodcock suggests translating the participles in this senetence as main verbs, e.g. “they did not move from their position.”

angustias loci retinens – “keeping to the narrow parts of the place.” Thus only a few Britons can attack the Romans at once, eliminating their numerical advantage. This topographical description implies the Romans were stationed inside a narrow valley or gorge. The exact location of the battle is not known. Here is a brief discussion of some possible sites.

certo iactu – “with precise throwing.” This is the expertise which made Suetonius supremely confident at the end of the last section.

velut cuneo erupit – “burst out as if in a wedge shape.” After the long build-up, a dramatically short sentence, punctuated by the perfect tense of erupit.

idem auxiliarium impetus – “the attack of the auxillary troops was the same.” Another very short sentence to convey the pace of the action, even the verb (erat or fuit) has been omitted (ellipsis). The auxillaries were non-Roman, specialist troops who were attached to the legions.

perfringit quod obvium et validum – “broke through what was in the way and strong.” Note that the mass of Britons is now dehumanised as simply “quod,” reflecting the clinical attitude which the cavalry would have had to adopt as they ploughed through the enemy hordes. The compound perfringit is a powerful choice of verb, producing an alliteration with protentis.

ceteri terga praebuere – “the rest showed their backs,” i.e. they tried to flee. Another strikingly short clause.

circumiecta vehicula – “the wagons placed around.” The Britons become trapped by their own mobile homes.

neci temperabat – “refrain from the slaughter.” tempero + dative case = “show restraint in” or “refrain from.”

mulierum – these women would have been present to provide support and encouragement to the fighting men, and hence would have been mostly unarmed. The shocking fact they were slaughtered is highlighted by ne quidem.

iumenta corporum cumulum auxerant – “the pack animals had increased the pile of bodies.” A gruesome image of the mounting heap of dead animals intermingled with dead people, a detail underscored by the alliteration of corporum cumulum.

clara et antiquis victoriis par ea die laus parta: quippe sunt qui paulo minus quam octoginta milia Britannorum cecidisse tradant, militum quadringentis ferme interfectis nec multo amplius vulneratis. Boudicca vitam veneno finivit.

The glory laus achieved parta on that day ea die (was) famous clara and et equal par to the victories of ancient times antiquis victoriis: indeed quippe there are sunt those who qui relate that tradant a little fewer paulo minus than quam eighty thousand octoginta milia Britons Britannorum fell cecidisse, with about four hundred ferme quadringentis (Roman) soldiers militum killed interfectis and not nec many more multo amplius wounded vulneratis. Boudicca Boudicca ended finivit her life vitam with poison veneno.

laus – another synonym of the gloria and fama Suetonius mentioned in his speech. The magnitude of this glory is emphasised by the position of its adjective clara (“famous”) at the start of the sentence and the comparison to (the glory of) the victories of old (antiquis victoriis).

quippe – “indeed.” Used here to present the startling statistic.

sunt qui tradunt – “there are those who record.” Tacitus is vague about his sources here. The numbers he gives for the dead (80,000+ Britons vs roughly 400 Romans) is likely to be an exaggeration. There could have been as few as 8,000 Britons killed, we just can’t be sure.

Boudicca vitam veneno finivit – “Boudicca ended her life with poison.” Another short sentence, particularly in contrast with the previous one. The manner of Boudicca’s death is not known for certain, but Tacitus, who generally portrays Boudicca in a sympathetic light in this account, grants her a noble death.

Legio II Augusta Capricorn symbol


Marital conflict (i)

Cicero writes to Atticus telling him of the problems his brother Quintus is having in his marriage to Pomponia (the sister of Atticus).

quod ad me scribis de sorore tua, testis erit tibi ipsa quantae mihi curae fuerit ut Quinti fratris animus in eam esset is qui esse deberet. quem cum esse offensiorem arbitrarer, eas litteras ad eum misi quibus et placarem ut fratrem et monerem ut minorem et obiurgarem ut errantem. itaque ex iis quae postea saepe ab eo ad me scripta sunt confido ita esse omnia ut et oporteat et velimus.

What quod you write scribis to me ad me concerning de your tua sister sorore, she herself ipsa will be erit a witness testis for you tibi of how much quantae care curae there has been fuerit from me mihi that ut the attitude animus of my brother fratris Quintus Quinti was esset towards in her eam that is which qui it ought deberet to be esse. Since cum I thought arbitrarer it quem to be esse rather offensive offensiorem, I sent misi that eas letter litteras to ad him eum with which quibus I might both appease him et placarem as ut my brother fratrem and et advise him monerem as ut my junior minorem and rebuke him et obiurgarem as ut a wrongdoer errantem. And so itaque from ex the things iis which quae afterwards postea have been written scripta sunt often saepe from him ab eo to me ad me, I trust confido that everything omnia is esse such ita that ut it is both as it should be et oporteat and as we would wish et velimus.


Marital conflict (ii)

Some years later, Cicero again writes to Atticus to tell of an incident which shows how bad things have become between Quintus and Pomponia.

postridie ex Arpinati profecti sumus … prandimus in Arcano (nosti hunc fundum). quo ut venimus, humanissime Quintus, ‘Pomponia,’ inquit, ‘tu invita mulieres, ego vero accivero pueros’; nihil potuit, mihi quidem ut visum est, dulcius idque cum verbis tum etiam animo ac vultu. at illa audientibus nobis ‘ego ipsa sum’ inquit, ‘hic hospita’; id autem ex eo, ut opinor, quod antecesserat Statius ut prandium nobis videret. tum Quintus, ‘en,’ inquit mihi, ‘haec ego patior cotidie.’

On the next day postridie we set out profecti sumus from Arpinum ex Arpinati… We lunched prandimus at Arcanum in Arcano (you know nosti this farm hunc fundum). When ut we arrived venimus there quo, Quintus Quintus said inquit most considerately humanissime: ‘Pomponia Pomponia, you tu invite invita the women mulieres, and vero I will summon ego accivero the slaves pueros.’ Nothing nihil could have been potuit sweeter dulcius, indeed quidem so ut it seemed visum est to me mihi, and -que this id both cum in his words verbis and tum even etiam in his attitude animo and ac in his expression vultu. But at she illa, as we were listening nobis audientibus, said inquit: ‘I ego am sum a guest hospita here hic myself ipsa;’ however autem this id, so ut I think opinor, was due to the fact that ex eo quod Statius Statius had gone ahead antecesserat so that ut he might see videret to our lunch prandium nobis. Then tum Quintus Quintus said inquit to me mihi, ‘Look en, I ego suffer patior this haec every day cotidie.’

dices ‘quid quaeso istuc erat?’ magnum; idque me ipsum commoverat; sic absurde et aspere verbis vultuque responderat. dissimulavi dolens. discubuimus omnes praeter illam, cui tamen Quintus de mensa misit; illa reiecit. quid multa? nihil meo fratre lenius, nihil asperius tua sorore mihi visum est … ego inde Aquinum. Quintus in Arcano remansit et in Aquinum ad me postridie mane venit mihique narravit nec secum illam dormire voluisse et cum discessura esset fuisse eius modi qualem ego vidissem.

You will say dices, ‘What quid, I ask quaeso, was erat that istuc?’ A big deal magnum; and -que this id had shaken commoverat me me myself ipsum; so sic irrationally absurde and et harshly aspere had she replied responderat with her words verbis and -que with her expression vultu. Though I was pained dolens I concealed it dissimulavi. We all reclined omnes discubuimus except her praeter illam, however tamen Quintus Quintus sent (food) misit to her cui from the table de mensa; she illa rejected (it) reiecit. What more quid multa? Nothing nihil seemed visum est to me mihi more gentle lenius than my brother meo fratre, nothing nihil more harsh asperius than your sister tua sorore… I (went) ego from there inde to Aquinum Aquinum. Quintus Quintus stayed behind remansit in Arcanum in Arcano and et came venit to me ad me in Aquinum in Aquinum the next day postridie in the morning mane, and -que told narravit me mihi that she illam had refused nec voluisse to sleep dormire with him secum, and et when cum she was esset about to leave discessura she had been fuisse in that mood eius modi which qualem I ego had seen vidissem.


Historia Civilis: The Battle of the Sabis
Good background for Caesar at the heart of battle against the Belgae (Section 5). The ambush he is describing happened at the start of this battle.

Historia Civilis: Boudicca
Good background for, and overview of, the Tacitus set text passages.