“He felt alive with the thrill of the fight”: it is a typical discharge of adrenaline and the English expression “thrill of the fight” well depicts this sensation of feeling alive. Stress can in fact be one of the joys of life in that it can make us feel terribly vital.
A similar feeling can be experienced before (and while) facing an audience, something teachers and lecturers (or musicians and actors) know very well.
“Adrenaline (Epinephrine) is a fight or flight hormone which is released from the adrenal glands when danger threatens or in an emergency. When secreted into the bloodstream, it rapidly prepares the body for action in emergency situations…” (Wikipedia).
Talking again of fight (more than flight) I have always fantasised about how Julius Caesar might have felt at nearly 50 while, often at the head of his soldiers, he was attacking the fierce and brave Gallic tribes and actually conquering Gaul, a region a bit larger than modern France, comprising “Belgium, the German lands west of the Rhine, southern Holland, and much of Switzerland”.
I am sure he felt this tremendous thrill who made him like a young man in his twenties, hormones being highly effective drugs, as any teenager well knows.
Caesar had greatness in all he did (see one of his busts above) no matter what we can think about him (some of his actions being dubious, I’ll admit.) Even his most exciting literary work, De Bello Gallico, “is a genuine historical treasure. Rarely are we fortunate enough to have historical accounts written by eyewitnesses. Caesar was not only an eyewitness, but the lead player. It’s as though we had accounts of Alexander’s campaigns written by Alexander himself. Or Charlemagne‘s life in his own words. And, not only is it a first-hand account, but it is brilliantly written. Caesar’s commentaries, whether of the Gallic campaigns or of the Civil War that followed, are considered masterpieces of Latin prose. The writing is concise and straightforward. Caesar’s writings are still used today to teach Latin”.
Let me just add that Caesar’s words were “so clear and ordinate and comprehensible”. I mean, they were as crystal-clear as his totally rational mind and conduct were, probably the best specimen of Roman rationality ever appeared, different from the Greek rationality: the Greeks taught the world to think more efficiently, but weirdly enough were much less rational than one might think.
I will finish this post with a tragic picture of the sad surrender to Caesar of the Gallic hero Vercingetorix, by the French painter Lionel-Noel Royer (1852-1926: public domain, taken from here.) Vercingetorix tried to collect sparse Gallic tribes in a fierce and desperate effort to both unify Gaul and escape from the yoke of a technologically-superior and more civilized (and disciplined) superpower. To be noted that in the picture the Romans look stupid and barbarous, while Vercingetorix appears elegant and civilized, which of course is a bit ridiculous. Asterix on the contrary I think it’s great fun.
Caesar had reasons for conquering Gaul that cannot be discussed here. What we can say, this tragedy having brought France into existence, we admit we enthusiastically adore the final result but we cannot forget all the sorrow and the atrocious price paid: 1 million people died – probably 1 in 4 of the Gauls -, another million enslaved, 300 tribes subjugated and 800 cities destroyed (Wikipedia;) last but not least, the annihilation of the Gallic culture, to which we now pay our humble tribute.
Note 1. All quotes are taken from the Amazon web site. One only is a quote from my little poem on Magister.
Note 2. The terms Gaul (Latin: Gallia) and Celt are more or less the same. To make it simple (it is my view) it is how the Romans mispronounced the word, although they also used the other term Celti or Celtae, preferred by the Greeks who used Κέλτης pl. Κέλται. The discussion on these terms is immense and can provide an idea of how the descendants of the Celti are desperately trying to revitalize their culture, almost totally wiped out by the Romans and other nations. French (thence Gallic) Braudel is blunt: when a culture is wiped out by another, it means it was not such a great culture in comparison. Complex topic though, that cannot be discussed here. For some additional infos about both the Celti and its etymology see Wikipedia here and here.
Note 3. In Book 5, Chapter 44 de Bello Gallico “notably mentions Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, two Roman centurions of the 11th Legion. Vorenus and Pullo are dramatized as main characters in the 2005 HBO/BBC original television series Rome, a fictionalized account of Caesar’s rise and fall” (Wikipedia).
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