Hear no Evil? The Manipulation of Words of Sounds and Rumours in Julius Caesar’s Commentaries

  • Ayelet Peer Tel Aviv University
Keywords: Latin literature, Julius Caesar, battle descriptions


In recent years, we have witnessed how scholars have re-read and re-examined Caesar’s commentaries on the Gallic and Civil wars, focusing more on the works’ literary merits. In this contribution to the discussion I aim to show how Caesar deploys the motif of hearing to develop his narrative of battle description. Therefore I single out specific words denoting sound such as shouting (clamor), voices (vox), and also the use of rumours (rumor, fama). Caesar probably wished to give his audience a fuller, engaging portrayal of the battlefield, along with its dangers and terrors, so that we, his readers, are able not only to see through the general’s eyes, but also to hear the sounds of war. Sounds are thus significant in conveying the tense atmosphere of war, especially since soldiers are naturally frightened by what they cannot see, but only hear. Yet in this chaos of shouts and voices Caesar would have us remember that only one voice can ease the fears of the soldiers and restore order: the voice of the commander, imperator Caesar.