It is not easy to understand the Gauls. Their ways are strange to us, despite their many years as Roman subjects. I think they are the handsomest of the world’s people. Both men and women are tall and fair-skinned, often with blue eyes and blond hair. They are forever washing their clothes and bodies. One can go from one end of the province to the other without seeing a man or woman in soiled or ragged clothes. Laundry hangs drying beside every hovel, no matter how poor.
But despite their beauty, they are remarkably quarrelsome. Both men and women speak with curiously loud voices, braying their vowels and sounding hard their consonants. Whenever I gave justice, I used to be deafened by the rival lawyers and claimants, all bellowing like wounded bulls.
They boast that in a fight one Gaul is worth ten Italians. I’m afraid this is true.
They love battle. They have both the strength and heart for it. And their women love fighting, too. It is not at all unusual for a Gaul in the heat of battle to call to his wife to aid him. When she does, his strength increases tenfold. With my own eyes I have seen Gallic women attack the enemy, teeth gnashing, necks corded with veins, large white arms revolving like the cross-piece of a windmill, while their feet kick like shots discharged by catapult. They are formidable.
The Gallic men take pride in military service, unlike the Italians, who think nothing of cutting off their own thumbs to thwart the state’s recruiting officers. Gauls, however, delight in blood-letting, and they would be the greatest of all soldiers but for two reasons: they do not take well to military discipline, and they are drunks. At the most inconvenient moments a commander of Gallic troops is apt to find his soldiers mad with drink, under the excuse that such and such a day is holy and must be marked with a little wine or one of those powerful drinks they brew from grain and vegetables.
I shall not describe my campaigns in Gaul, for I have already published an account of them which flatterers declare is the equal of Julius Caesar’s Commentaries. I will say that I put more care into writing about the Gallic wars than I did in fighting them! But I shall record some of the things which I could not reveal at the time.