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Caesar and the Druids

An Examination of Roman Military Policy and Indigenous Religion

By Galina Krasskova

Throughout de Bello Gallico, Caesar utilized the account of his military campaigns as a type of intellectual conquest to pave the way for his later military conquests. He gauged the potential impact of his commentaries to manipulate public opinion back in Rome, in order to both justify and ensure the extension of his command. Caesar peppered his commentaries with extensive ethnographic material and via specific narrative techniques, he both used and at times concealed or omitted knowledge of Gaul and Germania to further his political causes, most specifically with the way in which he positioned his campaigns in Germany and Britain.

Caesar‘s presentation and strategy in structuring the account of his northern European campaigns created for the reader back in Rome, a narrative map of Europe that justified those campaigns and positioned him in a place of glory – he was the first Roman to enter Britannia, the first to cross the Rhine into Germany thus passing beyond what constituted the known borders of the Roman world. Caesar’s very sparse style, his lack of rhetorical flourish deflected attention from any ambiguities that he injected into his narrative, which in turn gave him far more maneuverability in manipulating that narrative. Very early on he positioned Gaul as the central and primary peoples with whom he must engage. Amongst the many firsts to his credit, Caesar was also the first Roman to provide a direct, in–person account of the Druids, a powerful religious order indigenous to both Gaul and according to Caesar, Britain.

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