The Battle of Alesia: Caesar vs Vercingetorix –

The history of Rome is full of emperors, betrayals, great conquests and great battles. But few personalities were as important as Julius Caesar and few battles were as well remembered in history as the one the Roman emperor carried out in Alesia versus Vercingetorixmain leader of the Gaul resistance and another military genius who has gone down in history.

The battle of Alesia: the protagonists

Before starting to see how the battle was and what it meant at the time, let’s first talk about the two historical figures who faced each other in it: Julius Caesar and Vercingetorix.

Julius Caesar

Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman emperor of the late period of the republic. He was born in 100 BC and died in 44 BC. He was the son of a minor politician also named Julius Caesar, and a commoner noblewoman named Aurelia. Despite his humble origin compared to others (he grew up in Subura, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city), he became one of the most important emperors of Rome, standing out for his political ambition, his military prowess and also for his oratorical ability and for his writings. He was also a consummate seducer.

His political rise was quite rapid. In the year 63 BC he already managed to be named Pontifex Máximus, which was the highest religious order of the empire. Already during this appointment there were numerous rumors of a possible betrayal that could end his life. In fact, his mandate was not exempt from scandals, such as when he asked his wife Pompeya for a divorce after it was discovered that a man named Clodius had disguised himself as a woman and had entered the rooms of Julius Caesar’s wife, with the intention of lie with her Despite having been discovered and the fact that his wife had nothing to do with it, Julius Caesar asked for a divorce, arguing that «Caesar’s wife must not only be honest, but also appear so«.

Julius Caesar proclaimed himself consul of Rome in 59 BC. moment in which he also knew that he would need support to counteract the opposing positions of some sectors of the Senate. It is then that he formed the Triumvirate with Crassus and Pompey. He stood out during this time for his military victories and for being the first Roman general to penetrate territories like Germany. He became famous for the superiority and haughtiness that he showed towards his enemies and for his great and rapid military victories, which he summed up with the famous phrase «Come, see, see» (I came, I saw and I won).

During his time as emperor and dictator Julius Caesar launched agrarian and economic reforms that limited the power of the richest, introduced profound social reforms and included numerous celebrations and festivities.

However, the great power that Julius Caesar accumulated caused misgivings among the members of the Senate, who feared that he would proclaim himself King and thus give the last straw to the already twilight Republic. That was how 60 Roman senators came together for the Julius Caesar assassination conspiracy.

On March 15 Julius Caesar went to the Senate despite his wife’s pleas that he not do so since he had had premonitory dreams the night before. Once in the Senate, Marcus Antony, Julius Caesar’s lieutenant, was held at the entrance. When Julius Caesar was found seated in the Senate, the senators surrounded him and dug their daggers and daggers into him. He received a total of 23 stab wounds. Among his murderers was Brutus, the result of a relationship with one of his lovers and who had been welcomed by Julius Caesar as an adopted son. Historians say that when Brutus stabbed him with his dagger, the emperor said the famous phrase about him: «You too, my son?.

Vercingetorix

For his part, Vercingetorix (80 BC – 46 BC) was a leader of the Gauls who stood out as a soldier, managing to gather a large part of the Gallic nation to face the troops of Julius Caesar, even defeating him before having to surrender and be captured at the Battle of Alesia.

He managed to reduce the forces of Julius Caesar’s army thanks to the support of the Gallic peoples and his military tactics, based on fighting from high positions and carrying out the tactic of burned war, to limit the supplies of his rivals.

It is known that he was imprisoned after his army’s defeat at Alesia. It is believed that Julius Caesar considered him as a kind of personal trophy for his victory after the long battle (more than 40 days of siege) and that he kept him prisoner for 6 years before executing him. There are currently no official sculptures or paintings of Vercingetorix in French official history, although there are representations made, especially from the 19th century.

Now that we know more about the two protagonists of the battle of Alesia, let’s see what their background is, their triggers and how the battle itself unfolded.

The Battle of Alesia: Julius Caesar vs Vercingetorix

During years, Julius Caesar He had to face the Gauls, defeating them again and again until he achieved the pacification of Gaul after the battle of Alesia. It was in 59 BC, when as a result of the triumvirate with Crassus and Pompey, Caesar received the government of the two Gauls, Cisalpina and Transalpina. But the Gauls were not willing to submit to the yoke of Rome, and in just two years, Julius Caesar had to defeat first the Helvetii and the Germans, and later the Belgian people, whom he practically exterminated.

In the year 56 BC Caesar had achieved the practical pacification of Gaul, but small tribes continued to devastate the area: the Carnutes, the Belgae, the Eburones, and above all, the Senones whose chief, Acon, was executed by Caesar. This was perhaps the trigger that led to a new general rebellion of the Gauls in the year 52 BCThe rebellion began in early February, in Cenabumthe present city of Orleans. The Arverni, however, meeting in their capital, Gergovia, decide not to join the rebellion. But among them, there is one, vercingetorix, who with rebellion and fierceness defends the fight against the Romans. But at the meeting of chiefs of the Arverni he failed to make himself heard, and he was expelled. Banished and enraged, Vercingetorix gathered a group of worshipers and charged into the city, taking it. In a short time, he became the leader of all the Gauls, the one who would face the Romans with his gallantry and his patriotic passion, and thus, united, the Gallic army headed towards the central region. It didn’t take long for Julius Caesar to lead his armies to cut off the Gauls, and so, in Avaricum, got a resounding and bloody victory. Of the forty thousand inhabitants of the city, only eight hundred managed to escape alive and join Vercingetorix.

It was March of the year 52 BC, and late in the spring, Caesar decided a new step: to go out in search of the great hero, the leader. Gergovia, the capital of the Arverni was his destination and objective, with the certainty that Vercingetorix would rush to his aid. Face to face are the two leaders, each on a bank of the Elvaer River. When he charges against the Gauls, Caesar is resoundingly defeated. The knowledge of the place, the highest position of the Gauls, the strength, the passion, the pride of defending the land from him… It was the first Roman defeat in Gaul. As a logical consequence, Vercingetorix became the great hero and was confirmed as the chief general of the Gauls.

Barely two months later, when the Romans recovered, the final battle took place. The Gallic leader goes towards Alesia, a city that was very high, so that it was impregnable, unless it was besieged. And so Julius Caesar decided. In the city, Vercingetorix amassed eighty thousand men and fifteen thousand horses. Around him, the Roman detachments forced a complete siege around the city, even opening a moat six meters wide by six deep and a second slightly smaller one filled with water. In the outermost part of both moats, there is a large palisade with towers, each one 120 meters apart from the next one. In this way, five traps separated the Gauls from the Romans and prevented their escape: the towers, the first V-shaped moat, a ditch with sharp and intertwined stakes, a second area with semi-buried stakes and coultas and iron spikes, and finally, the second pit filled with water.

However, when supplies were running out in the city, Vercingetorix received the reinforcement he expected, a contingent of Gauls so spectacular that they quadrupled the number of Romans. Caesar went from being a besieger to being besieged, since he found himself among the Gauls of the city, and the newcomers who were placed behind him. They were 240,000 Gauls against 60,000 Romans. When after four attempts, the Gauls from the city and from the hills attack in unison, Caesar finds himself in a big bind. But once again, he demonstrated his military genius, promptly responding to the attack with brilliant tactics. As he with twelve thousand legionnaires met the massive attack of the Gauls, he commanded his cavalry to surround the Gauls and attack them from behind. These, unsuspecting, were surprised, and finally, some of them had to flee, and return to the city, the besieged.

The one that finally was the surrender of the great Gallic hero, Vercingetorix, arranging his armor at the feet of Caesar, haughty, is one of the great images that have been represented in French painting. Not for that reason, the great Gallic hero has been esteemed, since then, as a symbol of all that the Gauls carry inside when they are harassed by foreigners. Vercingetorix has become the role model, because of his passion, because of his patriotism, and because of his courage. A statue of him stands on Mont Auxois, on the site of the alleged Alesia citadel.

Vercingetorix was confined in dungeons for six years in Rome, where in 46 BC he was strangled. The Gallic leader offered his life to Julius Caesar in exchange for the 53,000 soldiers who were still alive after the surrender at Alesia. The unarmed soldiers ended up being captured by the legions on the outskirts of the city. Vercingetorix’s sons, who were raised as Roman citizens, were also captured.

We hope that the article has been interesting for you and that you know much more about this important battle. To finish, we leave you with a video and some links that you might find interesting to complement the information in the article.

Video about Julius Caesar

In the following video you can see a documentary about the life of Julius Caesar, one of the most famous and important emperors of the Roman Empire period.

Links of interest
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