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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Caesar's strategy in the Civil War Cadman, Frederick William


The purpose of this study is to determine Caesar's strategy in the Civil War of Rome, 49 B, C. to 45 B. C. The Civil War with all its political intrigues has received less attention than the Gallic War but it is in many mays more interesting. Roman is pitted against Roman with an empire as the prize for the victor. Caesar is struggling for his life against forces in Italy and other parts of Europe who do not wish to see Rome ruled by a Dictator. The Civil War rings the death knell of the Republic and heralds the birth of the Empire. The basic works for this study are the three books of the Civil War (De Bello Civili) written by Caesar himself, the Alexandrine War (De Bello Alexandrino), the African War (De Bello Africo) and the Spanish War (De Bello Hispanienal), all of doubtful origin but nevertheless important and of great value to the student of military strategy. I have referred often to the Letters of Cicero, which reveal much information about the military scene at the time of Caesar's march through Italy. Cicero's work is the only contemporary account of Caesar's activities available to the scholar, but I have supplemented this by a study of later historians of Rome. Such writers as Cassius Dio and Appian provide the military historian with data on many of Caesar's movements and clarify his strategy. I have augmented the ancient accounts of Caesar's campaigns in the Civil War by modern studies, as is evident from the Bibliography. The analysis of all the campaigns of the Civil War produces a definite strategic pattern. The elements of surprise, manoeuvre, anticipation, and a general understanding of an enemy's mind, which are displayed by all skilful military leaders, were also part of Caesar's strategic equipment. Most often through skill but sometimes by luck he applied the above techniques where they were needed and, in all the major conflicts, these elements of strategy provided him with victory. Though tactics and strategy are closely linked on the battle field, no attempt has been made in this study to give much detail to tactics except where such information is necessary in explaining the strategic movement concerned. The field of tactics is beyond the scope of my study. Throughout the history of man, certain principles of war have been followed by great military leaders. Caesar was no exception. When Caesar is compared with generals today and his conditions of warfare with those that exist now he displays certain common principles: the selection and maintenance of the aim, the maintenance of morale, concentration of force, flexibility and offensive action. Caesar, in combining the principles of war with sound strategic methods, created for himself a name respected and feared in the annals of history.

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