Marble bust of Julius Caesar. Wikipedia
Marble bust of Julius Caesar. Wikipedia
Italian translation

“He felt alive with the thrill of the fight”: it is a typical discharge of adrenaline and the English expression “thrill of the fight” well depicts this sensation of feeling alive. Stress can in fact be one of the joys of life in that it can make us feel terribly vital.

A similar feeling can be experienced before (and while) facing an audience, something teachers and lecturers (or musicians and actors) know very well.

“Adrenaline (Epinephrine) is a fight or flight hormone which is released from the adrenal glands when danger threatens or in an emergency. When secreted into the bloodstream, it rapidly prepares the body for action in emergency situations…” (Wikipedia).


Talking again of fight (more than flight) I have always fantasised about how Julius Caesar might have felt at nearly 50, while, often at the head of his soldiers, he was attacking the fierce and brave Gallic tribes and actually conquering Gaul, a region a bit larger than modern France, comprising “Belgium, the German lands west of the Rhine, southern Holland, and much of Switzerland”.

I am sure he felt this tremendous thrill who made him like a young man in his twenties, hormones being highly effective drugs (as any teenager well knows.)

Caesar had greatness in all he did (see one of his busts above) no matter what we can think about him.

Even his most exciting literary work, De Bello Gallico

“is a genuine historical treasure. Rarely are we fortunate enough to have historical accounts written by eyewitnesses. Caesar was not only an eyewitness, but the lead player. It’s as though we had accounts of Alexander’s campaigns written by Alexander himself. Or Charlemagne‘s life in his own words. And, not only is it a first-hand account, but it is brilliantly written. Caesar’s commentaries, whether of the Gallic campaigns or of the Civil War that followed, are considered masterpieces of Latin prose. The writing is concise and straightforward. Caesar’s writings are still used today to teach Latin.”
[quote from the Amazon web site]

Let me just add that Caesar’s words were clear and ordinate and comprehensible”. I mean, they were as crystal-clear as his rational mind and conduct were, probably the best specimen of Roman rationality ever appeared, different from Greek rationality: the Greeks taught the world to think more efficiently, but strangely enough they were much less rational than one might think.


I will finish this post with the tragic picture of the sad surrender to Caesar of the Gallic hero Vercingetorix, by the French painter Lionel-Noel Royer (1852-1926).

Vercingetorix tried to collect sparse Gallic tribes in a fierce and desperate effort to both unify Gaul and to escape from the yoke of a technologically-superior, more civilized (and disciplined) superpower. To be noted that the Romans, in the painting, look barbarous and stupid, while Vercingetorix appears elegant and civilized, which seems typical of 19th century nationalism.

Vercingetorix though proved to have been an extremely noble knight and soul.

Vercingetorix surrenders to Caesar
Vercingetorix surrenders to Caesar. Public Domain image

Caesar had reasons for conquering Gaul that cannot be discussed here (see a list of related posts below).

What we can say, this tragedy having brought France into existence, we admit we enthusiastically adore the final result but we cannot forget all the sorrow and the atrocious price paid: 1 million people killed (according to Plutarch) – probably 1 out of 5 Gauls -, another million enslaved, 300 tribes subjugated and 800 cities destroyed (Plutarch;) last but not least, the quasi annihilation of the Gallic culture, to which we here pay our humble tribute.


Note 1. The terms Gaul (Latin: Gallia, thence Gallus) and Celt (Celtus, Κέλτης) stem more or less from the same root. I have always thought – a personal opinion – that Galli is possibly how the Romans mispronounced the Greek term Κέλται, although they also used the terms Celti or Celtae preferred by the Greeks and probably derived from a native Celtic name.

The discussion on these words (and other Celtic stuff) is in truth immense and can provide an idea of how the descendants of the Celti are trying to fathom the mysteries of a culture almost totally wiped out by the Romans and other nations.

Waterloo Helmet

Why the Celtic heritage – not only in France – left so scanty traces? French (hence ‘Gallic’) Braudel is blunt: when a culture is erased by another culture, it means it was not so great in (relative) comparison [see some long comments on this topic in French].

Reversely, it is not by chance that the Romans deeply shaped the North West areas of their empire (eg Western Europe) while they less affected the East (and South) regions of it.

Additional infos on both the Celti and on the etymology of the term can be found in the Wikipedia, here and here.

Note 2.
In Book 5, Chapter 44, de Bello Gallico “notably mentions Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, two Roman centurions of the 11th Legion. Vorenus and Pullo are dramatized as main characters in the 2005 HBO/BBC original television series Rome, a fictionalized account of Caesar’s rise and fall” (Wikipedia).


Related posts:

Vercingétorix, le dernier roi des Gaules

Julius Caesar’s Conquest Of Gaul. When West / North Europe & The Mediterranean ‘Embraced’ (1)
[at the foot of this post three other installments on the same theme are linked]

Permanences. Rome and Carthage
France, Italy and the Legacy of Rome
Caesar, Great Man (and Don Juan)

10 thoughts on “Stress and Joy. Conquest and Sorrow

  1. @indiamart2007

    Yes, unfortunately. Joy and sorrow are inescapable, in every person, masses, in the history of every country, at any level of prosperity.

    Joy is of course great. As for sorrow, it’s consoling it can sometimes make us wiser. I mean, even from deep scars (though not totally devastating) the best can sprout. Take Kipling – his genius and great character could also be explained by some wounds he experienced in his infancy.

    I have to find that passage, so beautiful. Maybe one of his poems?

    Welcome, friend


  2. @ Man of Roma
    Very Interesting post it is… Look like a lot of research went into it…
    More or lesseverything has been said into the comments…but there are two observation I made.

    >>the Greeks taught the world to think more efficiently, but weirdly enough were much less rational than one might think.

    Thinking need not be rational always. Moreover rational thinking might not be the solution always… I mean if everything eg: passwords were selected using rationality we would have a formula to break every code…and predict.. Randomization is just as necessarry as being rational… Being in IT field u must have been aware of random decisions IN AI.

    About Caesar:
    >>Let me just add that Caesar’s words were “so clear and ordinate and comprehensible”.
    It isn’t something atleast you shouldn’t have been surprised. A leader of such stature must be able to think clearly so as to make his followers follow it. You can’t except a positive result if the doers are not clear about their goals.Can you?

    Maybe I should learn something from the above statement…lol

    lastly, I appologise for the spelling/gramatical mistakes in my comment and request you to ignore them for thay are likely to continue…

    happy new year to you too Sir.


  3. @Falcon
    Thinking need not be rational always. Moreover rational thinking might not be the solution always… I mean if everything eg: passwords were selected using rationality we would have a formula to break every code…and predict.. Randomization is just as necessarry as being rational…

    I do agree. One flaw of ancient Western philosophies (which influenced later Western thought and science) is that they counted mainly on reason. As you say, thinking doesn’t need to be rational always and your example about randomization of passwords sheds some light on this topic. Of course this blog is about what is good in the old Greek-Roman ways, and a subject like Caesar’s mind fascinates me (entering his mind by reading his “De Bello Gallico” is an enthralling experience).

    Never the less even Western humanistic intellectuals that try to revitalize ancient thought (based as we said mostly on reason) think of integrating old rationality with the concepts of *will* and *imagination*.

    As far as science, which I think is still based here mainly on (modern) forms of rationality, researchers for example found out that scientific discoveries (inventions) most of the time do not occur rationally.

    Very exciting topics though one should do some previous research otherwise the risk of saying a bunch of stupidities is high. Simply said I however still believe that rationality can be a good advisor in many situations.

    Do not apologize for the spelling. I think you make yourself understood plus your comments provide good stimuli to the discussion.


  4. An interesting thread developed a few years later around *a post* on ‘France and the legacy of Rome’. It is in French. I’ll paste it here because it is much to the point.

    On February 19, 2012 at 11:03 am olbodala said:
    En fait, certain(e)s d’entre nous (et je fais parti du lot) reprochent à l’Italie son passé belliqueux, et ce que leurs ancêtres romains ont fait aux nôtres (celtes et germains). Les romains ont détruit notre culture (celtique et germanique) et civilisation, et l’on remplacé par la leur (greco-latine).

    C’est un drame d’avoir une apparence physique celtique et germanique, mais d’avoir une langue et une culture incompatible avec nos origines septentrionales.

    On February 20, 2012 at 5:33 pm Man of Roma said:

    Je comprends, and I am sorry. Pour votre commentaire, il faudrait un livre pour répondre!

    Les Romains étaient des vainqueurs. En plus, même si la culture celtique était plus complexe qu’on y pense, la Méditerranéen était généralement plus civilisée a cette époque la.

    Aux Italiens du nord (mon père était de là) est arrivé exactement la même chose: celtiques, ils ont perdu leur culture.

    Selon plusieurs savants (Braudel, Gramsci etc.), lorsque deux cultures se heurtent il y a deux éléments au moins qui jouent: la force et la séduction (= due à la complexité, à la richesse de la culture même etc.), la première n’étant pas suffisante.

    Un cas classique est celui des Romains et des Grecs. Les Romains ont gagné avec la force, mais les Grecs ont gagné sur eux avec la séduction de leur richesse culturelle.

    Cela n’a pas été le cas quand les Romains et les Celtes se sont heurtés. Si les Celtes ont perdu leur culture, cela veut quand même dire quelque chose.

    Et, inversement, si la civilisation gréco-romaine n’a presque pas laissé des traces en Afrique du Nord ou au Moyen Orient, cela veut aussi dire quelque chose.

    Ce qui ne veut pas dire que la quasi totale destruction de la civilisation celtique ne soit pas une tragédie.

    J’ai oublié les Francs, un peuple germanique qui conquit la Gaule ou France. Évidement, ils exerçant de la force mais pas assez de la séduction, ils sont étés latinisés. Et les Normands venues en Normandie? Ils ont perdu eux aussi leur culture nordique.

    On February 21, 2012 at 12:46 pm imagenmots said:
    Intéressant point de vue, Giovanni. Doit-on comprendre que les britanniques ont manqué de séduction pour les Québécois puisque la culture française reste florissante au Québec malgré notre immersion dans un océan anglophone?
    Paul Costopoulos

    On February 21, 2012 at 2:06 pm Man of Roma said:
    Oui, je crois que cela s’est passé de cette façon, Paul.


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