Todd Roman

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




This thesis descusses the use of the Rhine River by Julius Caesar in his commentaries, De Bello Gallico, covering the Gallic Wars of approximately 58 to 52 B.C., to identify the peoples and territories separated by its current. This thesis addresses the issue of how Caesar understood this division of space, what criteria he employed to support his use of the river, and his protrayal of these matters within his account. It seeks to clarify the foundation of a major national border of western history in the context of its initial involvement in the context of the Roman Late Republic.

This thesis approaches the question of Caesar's use of the Rhine from a literary perspective. It places an emphasis on contemporary sources and Caesar's own text, with the aim of understanding their rhetorical value as applied to the identification of unfamiliar groups and places. It adopts as its principal theoretical framework a model in which ideas of identity, civilized customs, and foreign relations operate to clearly demarcate areas and communities regardless of specific contacts or military campaigns.

This thesis concludes that, contrary to how such a border is thought of today, the Rhine was understood to be an ethnic border after the later campaigns of the Gallic War had discredited its original political aspect. First employed to separate those with whom Rome had close relations from those with whom it did not, the Rhine evolved both during the conflict and in the texts into a cultural divide between groups based on their possession of what the Romans considered civilized habits.

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