Kirk Shellko
Loyola University Chicago

Caesar had a multi-faceted purpose for his commentaries.  They are historical documents demonstrating the military and social predisposition of the time; they give us a glimpse of the Roman army as a social unit and they bring the reader into their literary and social context while glorifying the writer-general, Caesar.  Caesar did not limit his tactics to the battlefield; his writing is testament to his strategy.  He inherited the idea that order, tajiw, was responsible for military success or failure from the Greeks.  The Greeks relied on tight formation and geometrical perspectives of weight that were the result of logical or mathematical calculations.  The Romans took this calculative estimation of battles, tajiw, and used its violence, vis, for their engagements.  Thus, Greek military metaphors were based on stationary forces; Latin military metaphors were based on movement of those weights. 

Caesar, inheriting this Romano-Greek tradition of engagement, appropriates these battle tactics and alters them: he employs the force of weight as movement with its gravity rather than its gravity alone and he makes these tactics and their description part of his narrative.  This makes him versatile as well as powerful, a potent combination.  The characters and the action of his narrative become the movements of the mass of his men.  He brings the reader into the action of battle through speeches and narrative set within tightly expressive simple Latin.  His commentaries thus possess a manipulative simplicity.  They are themselves the commands and the presence of Caesar as general who guides the reader into an elevated respect for him, the author-general.  Caesar’s writing is part of his arsenal.