- Natural Fortification
- Iron Discipline
- Scorched Earth
Vercingetorix ( 82-46 BCE) was a Gallic chieftain who defied the might of Rome under Julius Caesar fighting for his people. His name means “Victor of a Hundred Battles”. Tall and handsome, he was a charismatic leader and public speaker who rallied people to his cause through the power of his words as well as actions. He is considered the first national hero of France (known as Gaul in his time) and his defense of the land against the Roman legions made him legendary even in his own time.
When Caesar invaded Gaul, Vercingetorix led his people in resistance. He sent messengers on the fastest horses througout Gaul to spread the word of his victory and raise the revolt. Most tribes heeded his call and the country erupted in violent rebellion. Caesar quickly moved to put down the uprising. Vercingetorix, hearing of Caesar’s approach, ordered his men to burn everything the Romans could use to advantage: farms, fields, villages, and even cities.
The Siege of AvaricumEdit
The people of the city of Avaricum, however, begged him to spare their city and allow them to defend it against the Romans and Vercingetorix grudgingly obliged them. Caesar arrived with his forces, laid seige to Avaricum, and took it; slaughtering most of the inhabitants. Out of a population of 40,000 only 800 escaped the massacre.
The carnage at Avaricum rallied the country against the Romans and Vercingetorix’s army swelled with new recruits. Vercingetorix defeated Caesar at Gergovia and kept him from making any headway in the war through guerilla tactics of striking swiftly at his supply lines with skilled cavalry units. These tactics were effective until Caesar brought in even more highly skilled German horsemen who defeated Vercingetorix’s men and forced him to retreat to the city of Alesia.
Caesar followed him to the city and laid siege to it, surrounding it with trenches, traps, and siege towers. Vercingetorix had dispersed his cavalry before entering the city and sent them for reinforcements. When help finally came, they tried to break Caesar’s lines by attacking a point in the perimeter from the rear at the same time that Vercingetorix led his men from the city to strike the Romans from the front. The Roman lines wavered but Caesar rallied his men by personally entering the battle and taking command; the Gauls were defeated and fell back.
The people in Alesia were starving due to the siege and Vercingetorix understood there was no way to break free and relieve them. Dressing himself in his finest armor, he rode to Caesar’s camp where, silently, he took his armor off and then knelt at Caesar’s feet, hoping that by his sacrifice he could save his people. Ceasar, however, refused to show mercy. Vercingetorix was taken in chains to Rome where he was thrown into prison while Alesia was destroyed and the people massacred or taken away as slaves.
When Caesar had completed his conquest of Gaul and returned to Rome, Vercingetorix was dragged out of his prison in chains to lead Caesar’s triumphal parade; afterwards, he was executed. His name lives on, however, for his dedication to the freedom of his people and he continues to be admired for his courage and sacrifice.