The History, 15.12

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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12Nearly all the Gauls are of a lofty stature, fair, and of ruddy complexion; terrible from the sternness of their eyes, very quarrelsome, and of great pride and insolence. A whole troop of foreigners would not be able to withstand a single Gaul if he called his wife to his assistance, who is usually very strong, and with blue eyes; especially when, swelling her neck, gnashing her teeth, and brandishing her sallow arms of enormous size, she begins to strike blows mingled with kicks, as if they were so many missiles sent from the string of a catapult.

2The voices of the generality are formidable and threatening, whether they are in good humour or angry: they are all exceedingly careful of cleanliness and neatness, nor in all the country, and most especially in Aquitania, could any man or woman, however poor, be seen either dirty or ragged.

3The men of every age are equally inclined to war, and the old man and the man in the prime of life answer with equal zeal the call to arms, their bodies being hardened by their cold weather and by constant exercise, so that they are all inclined to despise dangers and terrors. Nor has any one of this nation ever mutilated his thumb from fear of the toils of war, as men have done in Italy, whom in their district are called Murci.

4The nation is fond of wine, and of several kinds of liquor which resemble wine. And many individuals of the lower orders, whose senses have become impaired by continual intoxication, which the apophthegm of Cato defined to be a kind of voluntary madness, run about in all directions at random; so that there appears to be some point in that saying which is found in Cicero’s oration in defence of Fonteius, “that henceforth the Gauls will drink their wine less strong than formerly,” because forsooth they thought there was poison in it.

5These countries, and especially such parts of them as border on Italy, fell gradually under the dominion of the Romans without much trouble to their conquerors, having been first attacked by Fulvius, afterwards weakened in many trifling combats by Sextius, and at last entirely subdued by Fabius Maximus; who gained an additional surname from the complete accomplishment of this task, after he had brought into subjection the fierce tribe of the Allobroges.

6Cæsar finally subdued all the Gauls, except where their country was absolutely inaccessible from its morasses, as we learn from Sallust, after a war of ten years, in which both nations suffered many disasters; and at last he united them to us in eternal alliance by formal treaties. I have digressed further than I had intended, but now I will return to my original subject.

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