c. 51 BC | Rome

When in Gaul

Julius Caesar on harsh Gallic child rearing techniques.

The Gauls claim that they are all descended from one father, Dis, and they say that this is the teaching of the Druids. For this reason they define the passage of time by nights rather than days: they observe birthdays and the start of months and years in this way, with day coming after night. As for their mode of life in other respects, they differ from other peoples in that they do not allow their own sons to approach them in public until they have grown up and can undertake military duties: they consider it a disgrace for a son who is still only a boy to place himself publicly in his father’s sight.

Men have the power of life and death over their wives as over their children. When the head of a noble family dies, his kinsmen assemble, and if there is any suspicious circumstance surrounding his death, they interrogate his wives as they would slaves. If anything is discovered, terrible tortures are inflicted, and then they are put to death.

© 1996 by Carolyn Hammond. Used with permission of Oxford University Press.

Contributor

Julius Caesar

From The Gallic Wars. Born into one of the original patrician families of Rome around 100 bc, Caesar married a daughter of Lucius Cornelius Cinna in 84 bc, served in the military two years later, acted as a prosecuting advocate in 78 bc, and was on his way to Rhodes when he was captured by pirates; he paid his ransom and crucified his captors. Caesar was elected consul in 58 bc and over the next eight years subjugated all of Gaul to Roman rule. He became dictator in 46 bc and was assassinated two years later.