Publication Date



Julius Caesar’s military achievements, described in his Gallic War, are monumental; so are the atrocities his army committed in slaughtering or enslaving entire nations. He stands accused of genocide. For today’s readers, including students and teachers, this poses problems. It raises questions, not least about Caesar’s place in the Latin curriculum. Applying modern definitions of “genocide,” is he guilty as accused? If so, is it justified to condemn him of a crime that was recognized as such only recently? Without condoning Caesar’s actions, this paper seeks fuller understanding by contextual analysis, placing them in the context of Roman—and ancient (if not almost universal)—customs of imperial warfare. It emphasizes the complexity of historical persons and events, juxtaposing Caesar the brutal conqueror to Caesar the clement victor, who established clemency among a ruler’s cardinal virtues.

First Page


Last Page



Caesar, The Gallic War, conquest of Gaul, war atrocities, genocide, Cicero, Rome’s brutal wars, clemency, teaching Caesar

Included in

Classics Commons