| Introduction | Goals and
Objectives | Grammar Highlights | Passage
| Handouts | Web Resources |
This passage describes a certain incident during the Alesian campaign at
the battle of Gergovia in the spring of 52 BC. In it, a certain centurion,
Marcus Petronius, disobeys an order to retreat and storms the gates of
the town. Despite an initial success, it becomes clear to Petronius
that his action was ill-considered and he chooses to sacrifice his own
life in order to buy time for his men to retreat.
Historically, the battle of Gergovia is significant in that it is Caesar's
only campaign in Gaul that fails. He never takes the town, the Aeduan
tribe that had previously been Caesar's ally rebels and joins Vercingetorix,
and the Gauls are inspired by the short-lived victory to continue the revolt
until their defeat at Alesia. Caesar takes great pains to convince
his audience at home that he had never planned to take the city and, in
fact, withdrew in order to tackle more important projects. The facts,
however, seem to indicate that Caesar did intend to take the town and was
unsuccessful in that attempt. In the assault described in the
selection, over 700 soldiers and 40 centurions perished.
In trying to soften his defeat at Gergovia, Caesar writes a compelling
narrative of Petronius' bravery and self-sacrifice in Gergovia's final
assault. The passage is more complex than this, however, since Caesar
questions Petronius' motives for the attack. Almost immediately after this
passage, for instance, Caesar condemns the men for lacking obedience and
self-restraint. Caesar also mentions in the 7.50 selection that Petronius
was led by a desire for glory. Glory was an ambiguous concept for
the Romans - to have it brought honor and fame, but to want it enough to
act in the hope of obtaining it was looked down upon. It is here,
therefore, that Petronius errs, even though he makes his mark as a hero.
Perhaps it is also significant that Petronius realizes his mistake and
sees it as his duty to save the men he put into danger. That duty
is what Caesar seems to praise most.
The activities and questionnaires provided with this passage are designed
to foster a thoughtful discussion on these issues between teacher and students.
To what extent, for instance, is Petronius a hero? Do modern eyes
have a different perception than Caesar? How are people "cupiditate
gloriae adducti" today and what moral judgments, if any, do we make
on them? Modern examples on which teachers may wish to focus include
the Oscars, military commanders from WWII and the Korean War, and political
election campaigns (especially with the recent Gore/Bush fiasco).
Goals and Objectives:
Also provided are some sample lesson plans:
read passage of Caesar (DbG 7.50)
learn/review ablative absolute
learn to paraphrase the ablative absolute (and participles in general)
to get a smoother English translation
compare ancient conceptions of glory with modern conceptions of glory
Read the passage (Student Handout A).
Do this together in class, as homework, or use a provided translation (Handout
Spend one or two days on the Ablative Absolute construction, using the
exercises in Handout C.
Work on Making a Polished Translation (Handout D).
Use either the provided translation (Handout E)
or their own previously made ones. See Polished
Translation for a sample.
Assign for homework Handout B; this provides focus
for class discussion.
Discuss the implications of the passage as outlined above in the Introduction.
The following is a list of the more interesting grammatical features of
the passage and where each is located. Teachers will also find here
a listing of the line numbers in which participles and absolutes appear.
Cum-circumstantial clauses ( 2 )
Gerund of purpose with postpostitive causa ( 2 )
cum ... pugnäretur, ... confïderent
cum ... cönätus esset (lines 8-9)
Participles and Absolutes ( 13 participles, present active and perfect
passive [ablative absolutes are starred] )
distinendae causä (line 3)
fallendï causä (line 6)
This passage has a wealth of participles and ablative absolutes (a total
of 9, tallied together) and can serve as a good review for them.
A worksheet on participles and the ablative absolute is provided for students
to work on. In addition, there is an exercise for interested teachers
on teaching students how to polish translations. With participles
and ablative absolutes especially , translations of students (and sometimes
teachers) often come out sounding stilted and unnatural. An accompanying
worksheet, therefore, invites students to re-evaluate a translation once
it has been made. Provided are two translations: the first in a "stilted"
style common to intermediate level students (see Handout
E) , the second in a more crisp, lucid style (see Polished
Translation). The second is provided as only one example of how
a translation can be polished while still maintaining Caesar's style and
meaning; students are likely (and encouraged) to come up with many more.
apertö (line 2)
exsertïs (line 4)
factum (line 6)
circumventï atque interfectï (line
oppressus ac sibi despërans (line 9)
multïs iam vulneribus acceptïs (lines
addüctus (line 12)
datä facultäte (line 12) *
duöbusque interfectïs (line 13) *
cönantibus (line 14)
pugnans (line 16)
This passage from De bello Gallico 7.50 is taken from the text at
the Perseus Project online
and formatted in a table with line numbers and macrons.
There are several activities to go along with the "Roman Heroics" selection.
They are made to be as printer-friendly as possible; you may wish to set
your browser not to print the date, page number, and web address (you can
set these options in Netscape under File->Page Setup in the menu bar).
You can also download a zipped version in Microsoft Word format of the
entire Unit here.
Handout B - a worksheet that helps students focus
in on key ideas in the passage; includes an additional English-only selection
from DbG 7.52 that might change student attitudes about Petronius.
Handout C - a graded worksheet on ablative absolutes,
using examples from the passage.
Handout D - tips and an activity for reviewing
and polishing ablative absolutes and other stodgy literalizations in a
Handout E - a literal translation, useful for "polishing",
or as a handout for a culture-only lesson
Questioning French archaeological beliefs:
Emile Mourey has a website discussing archaelogical difficulties in
locating Gallic towns, including Gergovia and Alesia. Much of it
is written in French, but there are some English translations. It
includes some maps of the battle and pictures of the neighboring modern
towns and geography.