Caesar BG 1.1

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Japonicus
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Caesar BG 1.1

Post by Japonicus » Wed Jun 05, 2019 6:42 am

When describing various locations, Caesar gives very clear references to significant geographic features. (rivers, mountains, etc.) However, he also provides a description with respect to heavenly bodies (rising sun, northern stars). What is the point of this? It seems like the geographic features are perfectly clear. Is this simply to give an astronomical position as well? I guess a Roman reader would have a far greater appreciation of this without access to maps . Thanks for any input!

Here are some examples from 1.1:

spectant in septentrionem et orientem solem

spectat inter occasum solis et septentriones

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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Caesar BG 1.1

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Wed Jun 05, 2019 12:08 pm

Yes, google maps was too rudimentary to be useful in those days... :)

These are simply ways of expressing direction.

spectant in septentrionem et orientem solem

"They look toward the north and rising sun," i.e., the northeast.

spectat inter occasum solis et septentriones

"It looks between the setting of the sun and the north," i.e., the northwest.
OLD wrote:septentriōnēs ~um m. pl. Also septemt- and as two words. Subsequently sg. form ~ō, ~ōnis. [septem + triōnēs]

2 The northern quarter of the sky, the north.
▶ (pl.) Europa (iacet) ad ~es et aquilonem VAR. L. 5.31; inflectens ‥ sol cursum tum ad ~es tum ad meridiem CIC. N.D. 2.49; omnis Gallia ad ~es uergit CAES. Gal. 4.20.1; 〈quae〉 sub ~ibus nutriuntur gentes VITR. 6.1.3; MELA 3.61; notum est limites regionesque esse caeli quattuor: exortum, occasum, meridiem, ~es GEL. 2.22.3; —(sg.) fluminum ‥ plurima maximaque inueniuntur egressa ad ~onem VITR. 8.2.6; Poenis in ~onem uersis LIV. 22.46.8; 45.29.8; a ~one Nasamones sunt, gens Syrtica CURT. 4.7.19; in frigora ~onemque uergentibus inmansueta ingenia sunt SEN. Dial. 4.15.5; PLIN. Nat. 4.19; TAC. Hist. 5.6; (in tmesis) Hyperboreo septem subiecta trioni gens effrena uirum VERG. G. 3.3.81.
b the northerly regions of the world or their inhabitants.
▶ (pl., in tmesis) Scythiam Septemque triones horrifer inuasit Boreas OV. Met. 1.64; —(sg.) totus hinc aut illinc ~o eremigatus PLIN. Nat. 2.168; ~o fert et equorum greges ferorum 8.3.9; totum paene orientem ac ~onem ruina sua inuoluit FLOR. Epit. 1.40(3.5.21).
c the northern part of a specified area.
▶ (sg.) quarto subiacent circulo ‥ Icarium mare, Cycladum ~o, Athenae PLIN. Nat. 6.215.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
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Ronolio
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Re: Caesar BG 1.1

Post by Ronolio » Wed Jun 05, 2019 4:41 pm

To add, the ancient mind would be very receptive to astronomical descriptions, given the frequency of use for temporal as well as navigational purposes.

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Re: Caesar BG 1.1

Post by Japonicus » Thu Jun 06, 2019 12:03 am

I'm glad to see this confirmed. I wasn't sure if I was reading it correctly. However, I'm still stuck on one thing. If Caesar tells us that Aquitania is bound by the Garonne, the Pyrenees, and the ocean, what else do we learn from spectat inter occasum solis et septentriones? Perhaps I'm just being dense or missing the real meaning of spectat, but the physical boundaries seem perfectly adequate. Does this give a relative position within the boundaries? The dictionary suggests this is the case, as it offers, "is situated to the north - west" Am I being blinded by the modern luxury of easy access to information about French geography?

For reference I was using this entry from Lewis & Short:
Of localities, to look, face, lie, be situated towards any quarter (syn.: prospicio, vergo); constr. usu. with ad, in, inter, etc., or an adv. of place; less freq. with acc.: Aquitania spectat inter occasum solis et septentriones,” is situated to the north - west, Caes. B. G. 1, 1 fin.

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Re: Caesar BG 1.1

Post by seneca2008 » Thu Jun 06, 2019 11:30 am

If Caesar tells us that Aquitania is bound by the Garonne, the Pyrenees, and the ocean, what else do we learn from spectat inter occasum solis et septentriones?
You raise an interesting question. I think, however, that you are making some unspoken and unwarranted assumptions.

Firstly you read the text with your modern understanding of disposition of the land Caesar describes. Secondly you do not engage with Caesar's politics.

You seem to imagine that Caesar's contemporaries were familiar with the geography he describes, but in fact according to Cicero the reverse is the case. See this interesting article:

https://research.ncl.ac.uk/histos/docum ... Caesar.pdf

Caesar's description which on the surface is a strictly geographical one has a political purpose. No one had previously described the region. He was marking it out as his creation which "he was going to subdue militarily" (Johnstone).

I think also that it is difficult to follow what you are saying because your quotes are out of context. Here are some quotes from the Loeb:
Eorum una pars, quam Gallos obtinere dictum est, initium capit a flumine Rhodano; continetur Garumna flumine, Oceano, finibus Belgarum; attingit etiam ab Sequanis et Helvetiis flumen Rhenum; vergit ad septentriones. Belgae ab extremis Galliae finibus oriuntur; pertinent ad inferiorem partem fluminis Rheni; spectant in septentrionem et orientem solem.

The separate part of the country which, as has been said, is occupied by the Gauls, starts from the river Rhone, and is bounded by the river Garonne, the Ocean, and the territory of the Belgae; moreover, on the side of the Sequani and the Helvetii, it touches the river Rhine; and its general trend is northward. The Belgae, beginning from the edge of the Gallic territory, reach to the lower part of the river Rhine, bearing towards the north and east.

Aquitania a Garumna flumine ad Pyrenaeos montes et eam partem Oceani quae est ad Hispaniam pertinet; spectat inter occasum solis et septentriones.

Aquitania, starting from the Garonne, reaches to the Pyrenees and to that part of the Ocean which is by Spain: its bearing is between west and north.
So the question is where are these bearings of north east and west from? Perhaps its from the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensia (Horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae, propterea quod a cultu atque humanitate provinciae (the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensia, formed about 121 b.c.) longissime absunt). So in effect Caesar is describing unknown (less well known) regions with respect to their bearings from civilisation - Gallia Narbonensia. To the North be dragons. But more importantly the act of defining these regions in this complete way is a way of showing his mastery over them.

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Cathexis
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Re: Caesar BG 1.1

Post by Cathexis » Wed Jun 12, 2019 12:29 pm

No expert but,

I think the real reason for these inclusions is that Caesar wasn't writing FOR himself but always to PROMOTE himself.
These colorful additions would add to the novelty of his expeditions and help to draw in and entertain the audience.
I've read [Goldsworth's "Caesar"] that each book was read out loud to the masses back in Rome and then posted for
any to see & read themselves. No, Rick Steves he wasn't. But he was a superb politician and knew the people would
enjoy his "adventures."

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Re: Caesar BG 1.1

Post by Ronolio » Wed Jun 12, 2019 2:28 pm

While Caesar was most definitely writing to promote himself, what Goldsworthy actually says is much more vague than what you have given. He says that in the sources "there are hints" indicating that public readings were common and history was particularly popular and that "it seems probable" that Caesar would have used this medium as well. For a very good account of various elements of Caesar's writing, I would recommend Andrew Riggsby's Caesar in Gaul and Rome: War in Words.

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Cathexis
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Re: Caesar BG 1.1

Post by Cathexis » Wed Jun 12, 2019 4:14 pm

I had to go back to the book, page 188, in particular. You are correct that I exaggerated, or conflated it with some other event.

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Ronolio
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Re: Caesar BG 1.1

Post by Ronolio » Wed Jun 12, 2019 5:00 pm

I had to go back and check as well. I couldn't recall if he was in the annual camp or the all at once camp. But if you are interested, you should check out Riggsby's book. He talks a good bit about Caesar's representations of the land and peoples he encounters without being overly technical. Another good one on Caesar is Jeff Tatum's Always I am Caesar. Tatum incorporates Caesars life with descriptions of Roman society and culture.

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Cathexis
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Re: Caesar BG 1.1

Post by Cathexis » Thu Jun 13, 2019 12:29 am

Thanks!
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