Course Syllabus


Latin 520: Caesar's Gallic Wars

Winter Quarter 2021 -- MW 3:30-5:20 (via Zoom) -- taught online


Professor A. M. Gowing
Office: Denny M262C
Phone: 543-2266 (Dept. of Classics)

Winter Quarter Office Hours: TTh 11-12 PM (PT) via Zoom or by appointment (email me to arrange that).  HERE (Links to an external site.) is the Zoom link you'll need for my regular office hours:


Please note that this graduate seminar requires an advanced reading knowledge of Latin.

For many decades, if not centuries, Caesar’s Bellum Gallicum was a central text in the canon of Latin writers, the product of an author whose style was considered the gold standard of Latin prose and thus the best writer with whom to begin one’s foray into the language. The subject of the Bellum Gallicum, on the other hand, has generally taken a backseat to his prose, favored mostly by hardcore Roman historians and occasionally by those interested in the cultural and social history of Roman Gaul. Some recent work on Caesar has sought to rescue him from the dustbin of irrelevance – most significantly and recently, 2017’s Cambridge Companion to the Writings of Julius Caesar -- but for the most part he has become a largely neglected author, read, if read at all, in AP Latin classes or at the college level in beginning to intermediate Latin classes and rarely after that. 

In this graduate seminar we will revisit Caesar’s Bellum Gallicum, reading select portions of Books 1-7 in Latin and the remainder in English. We will pursue two overarching goals: to acquire some appreciation for why Caesar was such a popular author and the nature of the scholarly tradition(s) that has evolved around this text; and, somewhat more provocatively, to consider this question: should we bother to read Caesar anymore? If yes, what might be some fruitful avenues for future scholarship on Caesar? If no, why not?  

In addition to reading the text (selections in Latin and the remainder in English) each week, we will read representative samples of the secondary scholarship on Caesar. Participants will be required to write a seminar paper (10-15 pages) on some aspect of the BG; preliminary thoughts on the paper will be presented to the seminar via short oral presentations.  There will be brief translation assignments.  Class time will be split between translating portions  of the assigned text and discussion.

 Required texts:

R. L. A. Du Pontet, ed. Commentarii.  Volume I: Bello Gallico.  Oxford Classical Texts 1968. [available electronically, though you will probably want the hardcopy]

C. Hammond, trans.  Caesar.  The Gallic War.  Oxford World Classics.  OUP 2008. [e-version available]

NB: Although I realize you could use other resources for both the Latin text of Caesar and translations, I choose these two for specific reasons, so please make every effort to acquire them in one form or another!


  • Please make every attempt to keep up with the weekly assignments and come to class prepared and ready to contribute.
  • A couple of short translation assignments -- I am being deliberately vague here, because I'll gauge the need for these as we progress.  In part I want to use these as a way to prepare those of you who have not yet taken or passed the Latin translation exam.
  • A seminar paper.  I'll provide details of this presently, but essentially I want you to write an 8-10 page seminar paper on the topic of your own choosing.  Each of you will make a 15 minute presentation on your paper in the final week of the quarter (this need be only a preliminary version of what you're working on).

Schedule of readings:

NB: Below is a simple list of the readings in the De Bello Gallico I intend to cover each week.  For each week, however, I will provide (in advance of that week) a detailed assignment with specific readings in the text (in Latin and in English translation), things to think about, etc.


  • Week 1 (4-8 Jan.): Introduction, Bk. 1.1-2

Assignment for Week 1 (4-8 Jan.)

  • Week 2 (11-15 Jan.): Finish Book 1 Please note that there is no class meeting on Monday, 1/11, to allow all of you to attend the Pandey roundtable.

Assignment for Week 2 (11-15 Jan.)

  • Week 3: (18-22 Jan.): Book 2.  Please note that there is no class meeting on Monday, 1/18 (MLK Day)

Assignment for Week 3 (18-22 Jan.)

  • Week 4 (25-29 Jan.): Book 3

Assignment for Week 4 (25-29 Jan.)

  • Week 5 (1-5 Feb.): Book 4

Assignment for Week 5 (1-5 Feb.)

  • Week 6 (8-12): Book 5

Assignment for Week 6 (8-12 Feb.)

  • Week 7 (15-19): Book 6. Please note that there is no class meeting on Monday, 2/15 (Presidents Day)

Assignment for Week 7 (15-19 Feb.)

  • Week 8 (22-26): Book 7.1-44

Assignment for Week 8 (22-26 Feb.)

  • Week 9 (1-5 March): Book 7.45-90

Assignment for Week 9 (1-5 March)

  • Week 10 (8-12 March): presentations of work on your seminar paper.  Click HERE for information about the presentations and paper.  I will post here the schedule of presentations as they are determined:
      • Monday, 3/8: Joseph (libertas), Mary (matres/women)
      • Wednesday, 3/10: Laura (soldurii), Jonathan (fortuna), Nicole (pedagogy)



Course Summary:

Date Details Due