Caesar primo et propter multitudinem hostium et propter eximiam opinionem virtutis proelio supersedere statuit: cotidie tamen equestribus proeliis, quid hostis virtute posset et quid nostri auderent, periclitabatur. Ubi nostros non esse inferiores intellexit, loco pro castris ad aciem instruendam natura opportuno atque idoneo, quod is collis, ubi castra posita erant, paululum ex planitie editus tantum adversus in latitudinem patebat quantum loci acies instructa occupare potera, atque ex utraque parte lateris deiectus habebat et in frontem leniter fastigatus paulatim ad planitiem redibat, ab utroque latere eius collis transversam fossam obducit circiter passuum quadringentorum, et ad extremas fossas castella constituit ibique tormenta collocavit, ne, cum aciem instruxisset, hostes, quod tantum multitudine poterant, ab leteribus pugnantes suos circumvenire possent. Hoc facto duabus legionibus quas proxime conscripserat in castris relictis, ut, si quo opus esset, subsidio duci possent, reliquas sex legiones pro castris in acie constituit. Hostes item suas copias ex castris eductas instruxerant.
At first Caesar determined, because of the vast numbers of the enemy and their excellent reputation for valour, to avoid an engagement. By cavalry combats, however, he sought daily to prove what the valour of the enemy could do and what our men could dare. Then, perceiving that our men were not inferior, he chose a ground before the camp naturally suitable and appropriate for forming line of battle; for the hill where the camp had been pitched, standing up but a little from the plain, offered to the front as broad a space as a line deployed could occupy; on either flank it fell away, while in front by a gentle slope it came down gradually to the level of the plain. On either flank of that hill he dug at right angles1 a protecting trench of about four hundred paces, and at the ends of the trenches he constructed forts and there posted his artillery, so that, when he had formed line, the enemy might not be able, because of their great superiority of numbers, to surround the Romans fighting on the flanks. This done, he left in camp the two legions he had last enrolled, that they might be brought up in support whenever needed, and he put the remaining six in line of battle before the camp. The enemy likewise had led their forces out of camp and drawn them up.
1i.e., to his line
Translation and notes by H.J. Edwards
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