Introduction to Vercingetorix: Celtic Warrior against Rome

Introduction to Vercingetorix

The ancient world of Europe and the Near East in the century before Christ was dominated by two main groups: Romans and the Celts. These two rivals could, and did at times, co-exist with a mutualistic symbiosis and a grudging admiration for the other. But like two friends who suddenly break apart, the two cultures clashed with a personal fury when times went sour.

The time was 50 B.C. (BCE) and the place was Gaul -- modern day France. Many Gallic tribes had been in association with Rome for quite some time. In many, a state of Pax Romana and existed,as small kinglets loyal to Rome. To some extent this was true for many of the Celtic tribes in Gaul. It splintered only when Rome experienced political instability due to differences that broke out between Caesar and Pompey.

A Brief Background

One of the confusing aspects of studying, and writing about ancient Rome and the Gallic Wars is the vast array of names of Celtic tribes, places and Roman leaders. One can easily become quickly lost in a myriad of Latin and Celtic names in a short time if too much of a history of Gaul is given with improper background. Therefore, we will look very briefly at the political and martial situation of Gaul enough to understand the two opponents motives, without getting lost in the names.

In 59 B.C, Gaius Julius Caesar, a frightfully ambitious and very able politician and later commander, was named Consul, and later governor, of Gallia Cisalpina (northern Italy) and Illyricum in the Roman-held Balkans. As Caesar was about to depart for Illyricum, the governor-designate of Southern Gaul (a Roman occupied area) died, and this territory was given to Caesar's control.

At this time there was a part of Gaul that was still unruled by Rome. It was called free Gaul. Rome, as they had masterfully carried out elsewhere in their Empire, had been 'inteferring' in Gallic affairs constantly. Unfortunaly, the Celtic history is full of examples of Celtic people being successfully used against each others to serve the ends of more ambitious and devious Kings and Empires.

Rome (expecially Caesar) had been a master of this and the Celts of 1st century BC were no exception to the Celtic rule of self-destruct.

Caesar had proven his military ability against the Celtiberians and the Lusatians several years before (61-60 BC). He was no stranger to fighting the wild battle frenzy of the Celtic warrior, and this experience was to serve him well. A conquest of free Gaul would bring riches (badly needed for Caesar) and fame to the haughty Roman conqueror. Caesar needed those riches for he had been in deep debt due to military and political over-extension in his previous excursions. Gaul was about to be Romes' next conquest.

  • Ch.1, Vercingetorix: Gallic Warrior defies Rome

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