16 – The Gallo-Roman Apocalypse

16 – The Gallo-Roman Apocalypse

 
 
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52 BCE and Prince Vercingetorix unites Gaul in a war to the death with Caesar that will decide Rome and Gaul’s fates.

 

The year is 52 BCE. Crassus is dead and with him the Triumvirate, that balance of power that held the Roman world together. Italy understands it stands on a knife’s edge as the rule of law gives way to rule by power. Things were so bad that politicians began raising their own gangs to rule Rome by fear. One of these men was a tribune by the name of Publius Clodius Pulcher. Pulcher had been causing headaches for Caesar and Pompey, opposing their political agenda for years and even going so far as to call one of Caesar’s consulships illegal. This didn’t come to anything since the Triumvirate was more powerful, but Pulcher controlled a number of violent gangs in Rome that harassed lesser leaders, most notably Cicero. One of Pulcher’s rivals was another tribune Titus Annius Milo, whose rivals gangs clashed with Pulcher’s. Eventually their animosity became so pronounced that a chance passing of their retinues led to a fight. Injured and outnumbered, Milo decided to have Pulcher executed. The resulting chaos in Italy meant Pompey assumed sole consulship and was tasked with restoring order. Furthermore, all young men were required to take a military oath. This move was a clever one as troublesome men in gangs could be requisitioned for the army.

 

With more men available for war due to this new conscription law, Caesar returned to Italy to levy more soldiers. Meanwhile Caesar’s departure led to trouble in Gaul, as the Gauls bemoaned that they were now under the thumb of Rome. Caesar had so easily killed off Gallic kings and pillaged Gallic lands that the Gauls feared that any one of them could become Rome’s next victim. Thus a scheme was hatched to cut off Caesar from his armies while the legions hunkered down for the winter.

 

The Carnutes were the first tribe to strike and slaughtered Roman citizens at Genabum, or what is today Orléans, in the middle-north of Gaul. It was then that Vercingetorix of the Arverni tribe arose. Vercingetorix’s father at one point was the most powerful figure in Gaul, after the Aedui were defeated by a joint-Arverni and German alliance. Since then Rome had punished the Arverni. Vercingetorix, desiring vengeance for his father and his birthright as the supreme ruler of Gaul called together his dependencies and prepared for war. The nobles of Arverni were afraid that such a move would be foolish and banished him. But the upstart young man was not deterred. He raised an army and overthrew the old nobles, seizing sole power in Arverni lands. He then called up most Gallic tribes of Northern Gaul to join him, and he was named supreme commander. Those who didn’t join him willingly were forced to with torture. Those who hesitated had their ears cut off or an eye poked out, while those who refused were burned alive. This made the Gauls very rapidly join his side.

 

Caesar struggled with how to reach and coordinate his army. If he summoned them the provinces under their guard would be unprotected, if he went to them he would be in danger of attack. The Arverni planned an invasion of Narbonensis by marching on the capital of Narbo, today known as Narbonne, on the western Mediterranean Coast. Caesar marched there, which made the Gallic general Lucterius retreat. Since it was still winter and snow covered the mountain passes in that area, the Gauls thought they were safe. But the Romans, showing their historic tenacity and daring, shoveled the snow from the roads and surprised their enemies. When Vercingetorix heard Caesar was coming into the Arverni territory he moved his armies to meet him.

 

Caesar then left the company under the command of a lieutenant and snuck around the Arverni territory, to meet up with his legions scattered across Gaul, which he united and marched upon Gergovia, just south of the center of France, near modern-day Clermont-Ferrand. This caused Vercingetorix to retreat, leaving Caesar at a crossroads. If he attacked he would be braving the cold winter and fighting Vercingetorix in his own territory. However, if he didn’t attack Caesar would look weak, which might cause the other Gauls to revolt. Caesar had gone into lands never trod on by Romans, including Germania and Britannia so he wasn’t going to let himself look the coward and decided to attack.

 

Caesar took the city of Vellaunodunum with a show of arms, then marched on Genabum, a Carnute city. The Carnutes snuck out and Caesar burned it to the ground. Now it was upon Vercingetorix to stop Caesar from quashing his allies, so he marched to meet him. Caesar was in Noviodunum, in modern day western-Switzerland, and in the process of seizing the city when Vercingetorix’s cavalry appeared. Seeing the cavalry, the besieged Gauls, who were negotiating surrender, took up arms to fight the Romans. Caesar put down the uprising, and the Gallic leaders brought forth the ‘troublemakers’ for execution and submitted to Caesar.

 

It was then that the upstart prince and leader of the Gauls laid out his scorched earth tactics, which were meant to starve the Romans, pushing them into small groups, which could be killed with cavalry. Vercingetorix decreed that every field the Romans might come upon should be burned and every unfortified town in their path razed. When his fellow Gauls balked at this, he replied, “If these sacrifices should appear heavy or galling, that they ought to consider it much more distressing that their wives and children should be dragged off to slavery, and themselves slain; the evils which must necessarily befall the conquered.” Vercingetorix was fully committed to a complete removal of Roman power from Gaul as he saw no middle ground between Gallic independence and Roman slavery.

 

The princes of Gaul grudgingly agreed to his tactics and 20 towns of the Biturgies were burned in a single day. Only Avaricum, in north-central Gaul near modern-day Bourges, was spared because it was one of the most beautiful and easily fortified cities, and even still the Biturgies had to beg Vercingetorix not to burn it. As one of the last towns left, Caesar besieged the city. In response Vercingetorix pitched his camp fifteen Roman miles from the city and sent out cavalry to harass foraging Romans, leading to bitter losses on both sides.

 

The Romans were beginning to go hungry as food supplies ran short. Caesar chose not to hold a prolonged siege and when midnight came he moved his camp closer to Vercingetorix. Vercingetorix hid the baggage in the woods and he assembled his men on an open field to face the Romans. The Gauls held the high ground and the passes through the nearby marshes. While Caesar’s men wanted to fight the Gauls, Caesar understood how important the high ground was…maybe he was trained by Obi-Won Kenobi… and retreated to recommence the siege.

 

Meanwhile Vercingetorix had to handle a very delicate situation as some of the Gauls accused him of betraying them to Caesar since he had been running around with his cavalry and had left no one in charge of the main host. Vercingetorix deftly handled these allegations by claiming that he didn’t put anyone in charge because he didn’t want a vainglorious person to start an engagement. Moreover, he believed that the Romans were starving to death and that patience was the key. At this point he drew out a few Roman camp-followers who he had captured while foraging. These Romans told the Gauls that they were starving and that if Caesar couldn’t take Avaricum in 3 days he would make a desperate retreat. This was enough for Vercingetorix to win back the Gauls and save his own head.

 

With the Gauls firmly united behind their warrior king, Vercingetorix sent 10,000 soldiers to reinforce the city. By this point the Gauls had learned from the Romans, and constructed counter-siege weapons. They used nooses to catch and turn aside the grappling hooks and machines to pull them away from the Romans. When Roman sappers built tunnels under the city they found Gallic soldiers waiting to kill them in tunnels of their own making. The Gauls used boiling pitch and flaming arrows to set fire to Roman siege equipment while theirs was much harder to catch fire due to the animal skins covering the buildings. Under constant fire from the Gauls for twenty-five days, the Romans amazingly constructed an earthen mound three hundred and thirty feet abroad and eighty feet high that was nearly as high as the walls. Yet, Gallic sappers built a tunnel underneath the mound and set a fire underneath it, causing it to sink. Meanwhile the Gauls threw firewood and pitch onto the mound, while the Romans desperately tried to put out the fire. By now the Gauls realized that Roman engineering wasn’t magic and could be countered with a little ingenuity, which they possessed in spades.

 

Despite the Gauls’ tenacity and genius it was becoming clear to them that Avaricum couldn’t hold. So the Gallic soldiers tried to sneak away to Vercingetorix’s camp in the middle of the night. At this point the women begged the men not to leave them to the Romans. This caused a commotion that roused the Romans, and the Gauls knew they could no longer escape. With the Gauls still recovering form internal chaos the next morning, Caesar ordered a sudden charge on the walls. The Gauls regrouped in the middle of the town to prepare for a battle. Instead, the Romans moved along the walls, cutting off any retreat. Seeing this, the Gauls threw down their arms and ran. The Romans, who were driven mad with hunger, blood-lust and the sudden violence after a long siege, slaughtered every man, woman and child in the town. Avaricum was one of the largest cities in Gaul with 40,000 but only 800 survived and fled to Vercingetorix’s camp. Outraged, the Gallic king then vowed to unite all of Gaul in such a confederation that not even the whole earth could withstand it.

 

After the fall of Avaricum Vercingetorix rose in popularity among the Gauls because he reminded them that he originally wanted Avaraicum burned and its people evacuated and only allowed it to stand due to the protests of his princes. With nearly 40,000 Gauls slaughtered, among them elderly, women, children, priests and merchants, most Gauls believed that if only they had listened to Vercingetorix could this atrocity have been prevented. As such, Vercingetorix was quickly rising above his other generals from just the first among equals to the one true voice of the Gallic people. As the bodies grew cold at Avaricum, Vercingetorix sent emissaries out in all directions. He offered clemency to everyone who hadn’t supported him to that point if they would now. As a result most tribes joined him and he raised a massive army.

 

Meanwhile Caesar and his men rested and recovered inside the walls of Avaricum, eating and replenishing themselves besides the mounds of dead Gauls. Winter was ending and Caesar was planning to hunt down Vercingetorix when an Aedui emissary appeared, telling Caesar that the Aedui were on the brink of a civil war as two magistrates claimed power over the tribe. The two were Convictolitavis, a powerful and illustrious youth and Cotus, a man of very great influence and extensive connections who was part of an ancient noble family.

 

While Caesar didn’t want to give up the chase for Vercingetorix he feared the civil war might end up hurting a Roman ally, and even turn this large tribe over to the enemy. Caesar marched into the Aedui territory, called the government together and put Convictolitavis in charge. Caesar then raised 10,000 Aedui soldiers to hold garrisons across Gaul and reminded them that they would be handsomely rewarded when the war was over. After this he split up his forces. He gave Labienus four legions to lead into the country of the Senones and Parisii, and took 6 for himself to march into the Arverni territory. Caesar then chased after Vercingetorix, shadowing his army, until they reached the city of Gergovia. Caesar took a small hill between Vercingetorix’s camp and the city, and made a trench from the town to his camp to hold it against Vercingetorix’s forces. This kept the Gallic army from accessing the city’s supplies.

 

At this point, Convictolitavis, the man Caesar put in charge of the Aedui, held secret counsel with the other Aedui and told them how their tribe was the one thing keeping all of Gaul from uniting against Caesar. He gave a speech calling on the senators to remember, “they were free and born for empire; that the state of the Aedui was the only one which inhibited the most certain victory of the Gauls; that the rest were held in check by its authority; and, if it was brought over, the Romans would not have room to stand on in Gaul; that he had received some kindness from Caesar, only so far, however, as gaining a most just cause by his decision; but that he assigned more weight to the general freedom; for, why should the Aedui go to Caesar to decide concerning their rights and laws, rather than the Romans come to the Aedui?”

 

One of the chiefs, named Litavicus, then approached his own men who were among those marching with Caesar. Weeping, he exclaimed, “Soldiers, whither are we going? All our knights and all our nobles have perished. Eporedirix and Viridomarus, the principal men of the state, being accused of treason, have been slain by the Romans without any permission to plead their cause. Learn this intelligence from those who have escaped from the massacre; for I, since my brothers and all my relations have been slain, am prevented by grief from declaring what has taken place. Persons are brought forward whom he had instructed in what he would have them say, and make the same statements to the soldiery as Litavicus had made: that all the knights of the Aedui were slain because they were said to have held conferences with the Arverni; that they had concealed themselves among the multitude of soldiers, and had escaped from the midst of the slaughter. The Aedui shout aloud and conjure Litavicus to provide for their safety. As if, said he, it were a matter of deliberation, and not of necessity, for us to go to Gergovia and unite ourselves to the Arverni. Or have we any reasons to doubt that the Romans, after perpetrating the atrocious crime, are now hastening to slay us? Therefore, if there be any spirit in us, let us avenge the death of those who have perished in a most unworthy manner, and let us slay these robbers.” Then Litavicus, in a rage, seized the Romans that were with him, tortured and killed them, then sent out messengers to rally more Gauls to the cause.

 

Soon after Caesar was informed of the plot by another Gaul looking to move up in the ranks through the Roman army. Caesar surrounded the army of the Aedui, and Litavicus fled, alongside the rebels. With this potentially war-changing mutiny put to rest, Caesar returned to the siege of Gergovia, where his own position was vehemently attacked by Gallic troops and the Romans were sustaining heavy casualties. Many Aedui were still raiding Roman goods and skirmishing with small Roman bands as the legions were spread out across many hills. Chaos was breaking down the Roman army like a plague.

 

Caesar knew he had to do something to seize the high ground quickly. He used one legion as a decoy and moved the rest onto higher ground, catching three Gallic camps off guard. Then he ordered a general retreat to lure out Vercingetorix. In a rare occurrence, fate turned against Caesar as most of his troops did not hear the order and charged on towards Gergovia. As they did the Aedui arrived, but the Romans mistook them for enemies and nearly attacked them. The clamor of this charge warned Vercingetorix to the Roman presence, and he led a cavalry charge which burst through the Roman lines. Caesar ordered a retreat and pulled out of Arverni territory back into Aedui lands. This was Caesar’s first major defeat, and did as much to rally the Gauls to Vercingetorix as the slaughter at Avaricum. This battle proved to the Gauls that Caesar was not invincible.

 

Either fearing a trap or wanting to consolidate his forces, Vercingetorix remained where he was, which allowed Caesar to escape. Back in the Aedui territory, Caesar discovered that the mutinous Aedui Litavicus was raising an army to fight against Rome. Caesar didn’t want to appear as a dictator or show them he suspected mutiny. Instead he reminded the Aedui of the state they were in when he found them. At that time, the Aedui were vassals of the brutal Arverni, and now Litavicus wanted to lead the Aedui into submission to their most hated enemies, who burned their lands, stole their food and goods? Whether it was Caesar’s oratory, or the fact that the Aedui and Arverni hated each other, it was enough for them to decide to remain loyal to Rome. Even in this hour of Gallic unification, the old blood rivalries still existed and Caesar played on them perfectly, turning one of the largest tribes against Gallic independence.

 

Despite Caesar’s speech some of the leaders of the Aedui still joined the rebellion and successfully assaulted Noviodunum, which Caesar was using to hold his hostages, his food supplies and his gold. What could be carried was, while the city was burned to the ground. Any excess money was thrown into the river, to keep it from the Romans and as an offering to the river deities.

 

Caesar chased after these rebels, hoping to quash the rebellion before they could join up with other forces and spread chaos across the neighboring states. He force-marched his men, day and night, after the revolting Aedui. They approached the Loire river at a point where the river would come up to a man’s shoulders and Caesar, incredibly, put the horses of his cavalry in a line to control the current and his men crossed the river and marched into the country of the Senones. His lieutenant Labienus met up with Caesar and informed him that Lutetia had been burned to the ground.

 

As Caesar regathered his forces a number of prominent Aedui led the tribe to switch sides and join the rebellion. But they demanded that they be put in charge, claiming that the Aedui were the traditional leaders of Gaul. So a council was held at Bibracte and everyone unanimously voted for Vercingetorix. Tough break. The Aedui were dismayed, as Gaul fell under the power of an Arverni leader, but now that they had betrayed Rome they knew they had no options left but support Vercingetorix. Vercingetorix then led his armies to burn much of Gaul, as he stuck to his strategy of starving Caesar. While much of Gaul went up in flames, Vercingetorix marched south as he planned to unite all of Gaul by retaking the Roman provinces in the south.

 

Caesar, caught behind enemy lines and outnumbered did something truly shocking; he turned to Germania for help. He called for the aid of the Ubii, who he had previously made peace with, and they sent him some infantry. With a small army of German auxiliaries Caesar rode to Narbonensis, where Vercingetorix amassed his armies before him and camped ten Roman miles distance. Vercingetorix believed that Caesar had to be humiliated there, otherwise he would return to Gaul with a larger army, so he wanted to seize Caesar’s baggage and kill a great portion of the army using his superior cavalry. At that point his horsemen swore an oath “that no man should be received beneath a roof, nor have access to children, or to parents, or to wife, who had not twice ridden through the enemy’s column.”

 

Vercingetorix harassed Caesar with his cavalry and a battle ensued on three fronts and many were slaughtered on both sides. The Germans of Caesars’ right flank drove the Gauls back to a hill only to run into Vercingetorix’s footmen where many were slain and the rest fled back to Caesar’s camp. Thus the third battle between Caesar and his Gallic nemesis was a stalemate.

 

Then Vercingetorix retreated and dug in at Alesia. Caesar pursued him and even managed to slay three thousand in the retreat. Alesia was a fortress on a hill, thought to be impregnable except by massive siege weapons and had two rivers running on each side of the hill’s base. Hills surrounded Alesia on all sides, save for the west, where the plains opened up, making it even harder to assail. It was almost a Celtic version of Helm’s Deep, and yes, I am shocked it took this long for me to make a Lord of the Rings reference. Unlike the Uruk-Hai in the Lord of the Rings, Caesar was content to wait and starve Vercingetorix’s forces, which would not take long, considering he had a massive army. 80,000, if you believe Caesar and even if you don’t it was still a huge force.

 

Vercingetorix did everything he could to break the siege. He ordered his cavalry out to test his opponents, but the Romans and Germans were ready and slaughtered many of them. The Gallic king then ordered his horsemen to sneak away by night and go to their own countries and raise armies to aid them, fearing his own army would die and Gaul with it. He tallied his food supplies and estimated he could feed his men for thirty days, and no doubt offered a prayer for deliverance before that time came.

 

Caesar understood the situation and ordered his soldiers to build a fort that would surround Alesia. He had his men build trenches with sharpened tree trunks that would impale falling enemies. Behind the trenches were palisade walls. Behind that was the Roman camp, then another palisade wall, then more trenches facing outward to guard against any Gauls that might come to reinforce Vercingetorix.

 

At this point things looked grim for the Gallic king and his men. His army was almost out of food and debate was held whether to march out and give a desperate fight or surrender. At this point, a leader named Critognatus gave a speech bemoaning the cowardice of those Gauls calling for surrender.

According to the Commentary, Critognatus said “Of their opinion who call a most disgraceful slavery by the name of surrender I purpose to say nothing; I hold that they should not be treated as citizens nor invited to the council. Let my business be with those who approve a sortie; and in their design, by your general agreement, there seems to remain a memory of ancient courage. This is faint-heartedness of yours, not courage, to be unable to endure want for a short space. It is easier to find men to fling themselves recklessly on death than men to endure pain patiently. And yet I might now have approved this view if I saw therein the loss of nothing but our life; but in making our decision we should have regard to the whole of Gaul, which we have aroused to our assistance. What, think ye, will be the spirit of our friends and kindred, when eighty thousand men have been slain in one spot, if they are forced to fight out the issue almost over their very bodies? Refuse to rob of your support the men who for your deliverance have disregarded their own peril; forbear by folly, recklessness, or weak-mindedness of yours to lay prostrate, and subject to everlasting slavery, the whole of Gaul. Or do you doubt their faithfulness, their resolution, because they are not arrived to the day? What then? Do you think that the Romans are daily engaged in those outer trenches for mere amusement? If it may not be that your resolve should be strengthened by messages from your friends, since every approach is blocked, yet take the Romans here to your witnesses that their coming draws nigh; and it is in fear thereof that they are busy in their works day and night. What, then, is my counsel? To do what our forefathers did in the war, in no wise equal to this, with the Cimbri and the Teutones. They shut themselves into the towns, and under stress of a like scarcity sustained life on the bodies of those whose age showed them useless for war, and delivered not themselves to the enemy. And if we had not a precedent for this, I should still have judged it a most glorious thing for the sake of  liberty to set such a one and to hand it down to posterity. For wherein was that war like this? The Cimbri devastated Gaul, they brought great disaster upon us, yet they departed at length from our borders and sought other countries, leaving us our rights, laws, lands, liberty. But the Romans — what else do they seek or desire than to follow where envy leads, to settle in the lands and states of men whose noble report and martial strength they have learnt, and to bind upon them a perpetual slavery? ‘Tis in no other fashion they have waged wars. And if you know not what is afoot among distant nations, look now on Gaul close at hand, which has been reduced to a province, with utter change of rights and laws, and crushed beneath the axes in everlasting slavery.”

 

This and other counsel persuaded the Gauls to fight. The old and infirm were sent away while the rest decided to hold out for as long as their food would last. On that day a massive reinforcing Gallic army arrived. Caesar claims they numbered 250,000 footmen and 8,000 cavalry. Caesar is an incredible liar, but even still, the army was probably enormous. After all, Vercingetorix, probably the most popular Gaul, and most popular Celt in all of history, was facing possible death, and Gauls from hundreds of miles marched to his aid. Thus a strange situation took hold, as Vercingetorix and his army numbering maybe 40,000 was surrounded on all sides by Caesar’s encircling fortifications and his army, and outside that was another Gallic army trying to break through.

 

Caesar ordered his men to occupy all of the fortifications so that the reinforcing army couldn’t break through and connect with the forces at Alesia. Then he ordered his cavalry to harass the massive army, to buy him valuable time. When the Roman cavalry was repulsed the Gallic army charged and the army in Alesia burst forth against the Romans simultaneously. The battle lasted from noon to sunset and for a long time it was unclear who was winning, but then a cohort of German cavalry broke through the back of the reinforcing Gallic army’s lines and slaughtered their archers. The death and confusion forced the Gauls to retreat. Seeing their reinforcements in retreat, Vercingetorix led his own men back to Alesia.

 

Midnight fell and the reinforcing Gauls tried to overthrow part of the fortifications. As they did they cried out to alert the troops in Alesia. Vercingetorix heard them and had trumpets blown and ordered his men to charge out again. By torchlight the Romans and Germans slew the Gauls and much death occurred on each side, but the Romans held their lines. The reinforcing Gauls then discussed what must be done. They discovered that on the northern hill overlooking Alesia the fortifications were weak due to the sheer circumference and slope of the terrain. They sent a force to sneak around the hill and charged it at midday. For a third time Vercingetorix sent his men forth from Alesia. The Gauls struck from all sides and caught the relatively small Roman force off-guard. But climbing the high cliff tired the Gauls who proved ineffective against the Romans. From afar Caesar saw the hill being besieged and sent reinforcements, telling his men that all their work rested on this one final victory.

 

From the trenches a massive war-cry emerged from the northern side of the hill, which was answered by a cry from the southern trenches as their brothers urged each other on. The normally-stoic Romans cried out in return, as if to prove that beneath their silent discipline they possessed the same ferocity as their Celtic foes. The Gauls charged, filled with bloodlust and desperation, when the Roman cavalry appeared at their backs, slaughtering many and scattering the rest.

 

Vercingetorix knew it was over. In one final noble act, he offered himself to Caesar and begged for peace. The Aedui and Arverni had been perpetual enemies, but with their armies scattered, dead or hostages they both surrendered and offered many of their own family members as noble hostages, ensuring their loyalty to Rome. With most of Gaul in ruins, Caesar wintered in Bibracte. Meanwhile in Rome 20 days of thanksgiving were ordered.

 

Vercingetorix was perhaps 30 years old when he united a hundred tribes to fight against one of the greatest generals of all time, who stood at the head of the most powerful country in the world. He had once said that all of Gaul united could stand against the whole world, and under him that almost happened. If only the German cavalry had arrived at the right moment, if only the Aedui had switched sides before…there are many ‘if onlys’ that might have changed the story and had Vercingetorix liberate Gaul and end Roman rule, perhaps forever. After all, the year before Crassus had lost 50,000 men in Persia and started a war that would last half a millennium. With two Roman armies numbering around 50,000 each dead in the west and the east, Pompey might have been left with a crippled Roman world, incapable of any future large-scale expansion.

 

But that’s not what happened. Caesar weathered his ill fortunes and capitalized on his lucky breaks to deliver a total defeat of the Gauls; and it was a total defeat. Vercingetorix had ordered hundreds of square miles of farmland and dozens of fortified oppidums burned. Their armies destroyed, their food supply ravaged, many of their fortified cities turned to ruin, a million of their people sold into slavery and the noble houses offering their family members as prisoners to Rome to ensure loyalty, Gaul was utterly defeated.

 

Few are the enemies of Rome who lose and live happy lives. Vercingetorix was not one of them. Caesar had him transported to the Tullianum, that ancient Roman prison, to await his return for a triumph. However, the next time Caesar was in Rome, he had launched a civil war and for the next six years he was too busy fighting Pompey for mastery of the Mediterranean world to bother with the former Gallic king. In 46 BCE, with Pompey dead and the Civil War winding down, Caesar staged his triumph. Vercingetorix and a number of Gallic prisoners were marched in chains through the streets of Rome. The triumph ended with the 36 year old king being strangled to death.

 

Today, Vercingetorix is a folk hero in much of France, especially in Clermont-Ferrand, the closest major city to where he was born. During the 1800s Romanticism swept through Europe and Vercingetorix’s legend gained new life as he was imagined as an indigenous warrior of the ancient Celtic race that had stood against the invading Mediterraneans. In 1865 Napoleon III ordered a 7-meter, or 23-foot tall, statue of him at Alesia, with a plaque that paraphrases his famous saying that a united Gaul could stand against the world.

 

In our next episode the Gallic Wars will finally end as a handful of tribes, inspired by the great rebellion of Vercingetorix, turn to guerilla tactics against the occupying Romans. We’ll cover this and wrap up this great war and what it all means, next time.

 

Sources:

Commentary on the Gallic Wars by Julius Caesar

Various historical critiques of the Commentary on the Gallic Wars.

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