The Warrior's of Tribal Europe: Vercingetorix
The Gaulish war leader Vercingetorix stood with purpose and bravery along side his fellow warriors, Vercingetorix and his allies dared to stand against the might of the Roman war machine. Had Vercingetorix succeeded in halting Caesar in his Gaulish campaign, the face on ancient Europe would have been unrecognisable. Had Julius Caesar failed in his invasion against the Gaulish tribes of modern day France, it is entirely likely that one of the most well known historical figures would have faded into relative historical obscurity.
Vercingetorix was able to rally a diverse and fragmented Gallic nation and gave them a sense of a shared identity and a united future. History tells us that Vercingetorix ultimately failed in repelling the Roman Legion's, but he was the first Gaulish leader to rally his people to fight back with any sense of a united front.
Ancient Gaul was a nation very much divided by natural border's, historic infighting and the petty greedy rivalries of the tribal faction's. Gaul was never a united country like France is today, and it was this fact that allowed the Roman Empire to make great inroad's into the Gaulish homeland. Julius Caesar was able to exploit the petty differences and used lesser but skilled tribal warrior's to augment the Roman Legion's in annihilating their enemies. The tribes who throw their loyalty in with the Roman's were interested in what Julius Caesar had promised them, greater power and wealth in a new Roman Gaul. These tribes who acted as auxiliaires to the Roman's in attacking their Celtic brothers were to become the client people's of the future Roman provinces of Gaul.
The name Vercingetorix means "King of Great Warrior's", we know that Vercingetorix father was king of the Arverni tribe. We also know his father was put to death after attempting to unify the Gauls as it's High King, in a time before Caesar attempted to conquer Gaul. Vercingetorix became the ruler of the Arverni city of Gergovia ,( which is now the modern day French village of Gergovie.) he came to power after he rallied the poorer member's of the area to his cause in opposition to his uncle Gobanitio.
After Vercingetorix was made leader of the Arverni, the fight back against Caesar was to begin in early 52 BC. Vercingetorix decided that this was the ideal time to strike, Caesar was attempting to raise more troops in Gaul. And with the assassination of Publius Clodius Pulcher in Rome, Caesar's position in Roman political structure was weakened. The renegade Gaul's used the uncertainty within the political turmoil to strike at and slaughter the Roman colonists who had settled in their territory. Vercingetorix urged his fellow Gaulish tribe's to join his crusade to rid the region of Roman influence.
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Vercingetorix was able to do what other Gaulish leader's failed to do previously, he was able to form beneficial alliances with other tribes.Vercingetorix was given overall of the Gaulish resistance, he installed discipline and unity into the federation of warriors. Vercingrtorix used the same type of strategy and tactics that the French resistance used against the occupying forces of Nazi Germany. Vercingetorix deprived the Roman legion's of fresh supplies by destroying crops and slaying livestock. Vercingetorix also took hostages from among the Roman citizens that his men captured.
Vercingetorix and his warriors won some minor battles and skirmishes with the Roman Legion's. And Vercingetroix denied the Roman Legion's from fighting in a pitched military battle, Vercingetroix made good use of the Gaul's natural defence's. The hit and run tactic's initially faired quite well. When the Roman Legion's began to take punitive action against those tribes who rejected Roman rule, it forced the Gaul's to fight in either a siege or in a formation. The murder of anything between 40,000 to 100,000 citizens by the Roman Legion's at Avaricum. ( near the site of the modern day city of Bourges. ) This was designed to take revenge for the Gaul's previous slaughter of new Roman settlers, and to draw Vercingetorix into a final battle.
The Romans caught up with the Gaul's and engaged them in battle at Gergovia , Vercingetorix defeated Caesar's troops and sent a message of defiance. However Vercingetorix also lost many warrior's and also lost some of his elite Gaulish noblemen who helped solidify the Gaulish alliance.. Because of these losses Vercingetorix retreated and moved to another Gaulish stronghold called Alesia ., the garrison town of Alesia i s thought to now lie around the modern day French town of Alise-Sainte-Reine .
Alesia was the fortified capital of the Mandubii tribe, and when the Roman legion's encircled it and laid seige to it, some 80,000 fighting Gauls were within it's walls.We know from Caesar himself that the Roman's were outnumbered Four to One. Caesar was resolved to beat Vercingetorix at Alesia, and he was willing to do so at all cost. Caesar knew if he could beat the alliance, he would gain great power and prestige back in the political arena of Rome.
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Was Vercringetorix destined to fail against Rome's might?
Vercingetorix now holed up in the garrison town of Alesia , was waiting on his relief forces to come aid him in smashing the Roman troops of Julius Caesar. Vercingetorix and his generals where now playing a game of tactics against the master strategist's. In an attempt to reduce the drain on the resources of Alesia and to maybe open up the siege line's, Vercingetorix released the women and children to escape the inevitable carnage. Caesar knew that to leave the woman and children outside the walls would weaken the moral of Alesia's defenders.
Vecringetorix's reserve's arrived shortly after and boosted the morale of the defender's, Caesar now had to lay siege to one group of opponent's while defending his entrenched position against another. Vecringetorix had the advantage in number's but tactically he did not have the measure of Caesar. Vecringetorix was unable to direct the defense of his position and direct the assault on the Roman flank, due to lack of communication. Caesar was able to defeat the combined Gaulish forces at Alesia, as his troops were well trained and knew what they were doing. Vercingetorix did not have troops who were drilled in siege warfare and was unable to react to Caesar's tactical supremacy. Vercringetorix had no choice but to surrender to Caesar as he knew he was beaten. Vercringetorix was taken back to Rome with the triumphant Caesar and was held prisoner for nearly five years. Vercringetorix was strangled in his prison cell, but by then Gaul was lost to the Celtic people's of Europe. And Caesar ushered in a new Roman supremacy over Europe.
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