Part 1, Vercingetorix! Gallic Warrior Defies Rome

Vercingetorix, Pt.1: Gallic Warrior who defied Rome



by Robert M Gunnİ
All Rights Reserved, by all international copyright law exclusively to the author and İSkye-Net, RM Gunn


Chapter One


Vercingetorix: Celtic Resistance Leader

Romans In Gaul

[Roman infantrynam] At the start of the lst century BC, Gaul was becoming increasingly Romanised. The events were to follow much the same pattern as in Spain a century earlier, as the Romans followed the same pattern by entering into alliances with some Celtic chiefs and then intervened in local disputes. Having moved in, they simply refused to go away, as chief after chief found out to his cost. The whole process is detailed for us with remarkable candour, if not Roman bias, by Julius Caesar who spent eight years campaigning in central and northern Gaul, which he eventually secured for Rome. He was a man of extraordinary energy and ambition whose Commentaries on the Gallic War are of considerable interest. They are probably based upon despatches sent to the Roman senate at the time and subsequently reformed into a journal or diary by Caesar himself. His authorship of this text, probably, is not a solitary one.

They are a political document, written as self-advertisement by a man who would be king, but they are probably reasonably truthful: Caesar had too many enemies in Rome to tell outright lies. But, having said that, there is little doubt that the text is reworked and is of no doubt a Roman perspective only.

Rome's principal allies in Gaul, outside the Provincia, were the Aedui, whose oppidum, Bibracte, was a famous seat of learning for druidical teaching. Its ambassador to Rome was a man called Divitiacus, possibly a druid, or so Cicero describes him:

"I myself knew one of [the Druids], Divitiacus of the Aedui, your guest and eulogist, who declared that he was acquainted with the system of nature which the Greeks call natural philosophy and he used to predict the future by both augury and inference. (De Divinatione, 1,41)"

[Vercingetorix coin] Divitiacus was not viewed as particularly barbaric or outlandish by the Romans as has been suggested by later Roman historians; such views of the druids were not held until after the conquest when they became the commonplace abuse which all conquerors heap upon the conquered, in order to justify their earlier brutal actions.

Dumnorix, a prince of the Aedui and a successful financier in free Gaul, assembled a large following. His brother Divitiacus, the tribal leader, opposed his rise and fled to Rome in 60 B.C. where he met and befriended Cicero.

Divitiacus claimed that Dumnorix planned to take over the Aedui, then all of Gaul. It would appear from later history that this was simply an excuse, willingly supplied by the envious Divitiacus, to a receptive Rome. Rome needed a reason to want to invade Gaul; Caesar needed only the slightest exaggeration to justify it.

Caesar liked Divitiacus and trusted him, but disliked the Gauls in general: he found them treacherous, cowardly and unable to see beyond tribal loyalties. In context it must be said that by treacherous and cowardly he meant two specific things: petty tribal fighting and 'hit-and-run' tactics.

Celtic warrior at post

[Vercingetorix] The Celts had adopted a method of 'hit-and-run' tactics to spoil the advantage given to their very numerous enemies. They could not face the enemy, as they once did - and became famous for - in an open field for a pitched battle. The Romans were too advanced as a military machine to make many mistakes on the battlefield. That, along with Roman machinations and logistic support, made them the most formidable army ever gathered. The Celtic tradition of preferring indiviual combat over regimented organisation made the Celts look for alternative ways to resist. Guerilla tactics, resistance and even outright retreat, when outnumbered, gave Caesar the impression the Celts were "cowards"; but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Celtic leaders had trouble keeping their warriors from attacking Romans strong points head-on. It would take an exceptional leader to organise discipline; an appeal to the prideful and reactionary Celts to stay unified would be needed.

The Gauls 'hit-and-run' tactics, and 'treachery', the most commonly leveled accusation, has its roots in the universal Celtic practise of shifting allegiances. This practise was at the heart of Celtic society and was frequently displayed throughout Celtic history. In Gaul, as earlier as in Spain, and later in Britain, the Celtic groups were disinclined to unite on any permanent basis, and never compreheneded or understood that a new danger needed entirely new strategies. These shifting alliances and tribal squabblings, would be the eventual downfall of most Celtic peoples.

Despite Caesar needing olny a small excuse to invade, Dumnorix did ally himself and his Gallic tribe with an of enemy of the Celts - a German tribe called the Suevi. It was carried out in order to secure military aid from the German tribe; to assist in the taking of lands in Alsace. This action supplied Rome and Divitiacus with the rebellion it was seeking. By the end of the sixth century BC, the influx of German tribesman began a pattern of westward migration which offered Caesar his opportunity to become militarily involved in Gaul.

With the aid of his Celtic ally, Divitiacus, Caesar pleaded to the apathetic Roman Senate for aid. Citing Divitiacus as the rightful leader of the Aedui, instead of his brother Dumnorix, Caesar was able to persuade the Senate to accept him as "Protector of the Gauls" whilst he literally waged total war against Celtic France with assistance from pro-Roman Celts in Gaul.

When combined Germans and Celtic tribesmen attacked the Celtic Helvetti, Caesar got his reinforcements from Northern Italy and from the Roman Senate by portraying the invaders as murders, rapists and land-grabbers. At Bibracte (Autun) he defeated them inflicting many losses.

Around that time, the Gauls appear to have decided that the threat to themselves was from both Rome and the Germans tribes; concluding to equally resist both. The decision to resist both couldn't have been more ill-timed, but such seems to be nature of Celtic decisions -- especially involving more powerful enemies.

The situation could have better managed, possibly, if the Germans had been used as allies, not enemies. However the decison was academic; Caesar invaded.

Vercingetorix Statue
[Vercingetorix] Only one man saw what was going on: Vercingetorix of the Arverni (modern Auvergne) tried desperately to unite the Gauls against the common enemy. His defeat was inevitable, for the Gauls could not make common cause, after centuries of tribal independence. In any case the Romans already held too much territory and no amount of rhetoric or courage could overcome that massive presence. But Vercingetorix had a choice: he could have temporised, sought alliance with Caesar, as others had done, or even allied himself with one of Caesar's many enemies. He chose not to do any of these things and instead fought on to an ignominious defeat, which led not to heroic death in battle, but to shameful capture, years of captivity and a casual execution. The whole tragedy of Vercingetorix is symbolised by the coin in his name: it is a standard Roman depiction, with nothing Celtic about it. This small object shows just how far Celticity had been lost by the time Caesar conquered Gaul.


Next, in chapter 2 of Vercingetorix vs Caesar: Battle of Alesia,

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