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A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times|
Gaul Conquered By Julius Caesar.
by Guizot, M.
|Historians, ancient and modern, have attributed to the Roman Senate, from the time of the establishment of the Roman province in Gaul, a long-premeditated design of conquering Gaul altogether. Others have said that when Julius Caesar, in the year of Rome 696, (58 B C.) got himself appointed proconsul in Gaul, his single aim was to form for himself there an army devoted to his person, of which he might avail himself to satisfy his ambition and make himself master of Rome. We should not be too ready to believe in these far-reaching and precise plans, conceived and settled so long beforehand, whether by a senate or a single man. Prevision and exact calculation do not count for so much in the lives of governments and of peoples. It is unexpected events, inevitable situations, the imperious necessities of successive epochs, which most often decide the conduct of the greatest powers and the most able politicians. It is after the fair, when the course of facts and their consequences has received full development, that, amidst their tranquil meditations, annalists and historians, in their learned way, attribute everything to systematic plans and personal calculations on the part of the chief actors. There is much less of combination than of momentary inspiration, derived from circumstances, in the resolutions and conduct of political chiefs, kings, senators, or great men. From the time that discord and corruption had turned the Roman Republic into a bloody and tyrannical anarchy, the Roman Senate no longer meditated grand designs, and its members were preoccupied only with the question of escaping or avenging proscriptions. When Caesar procured for himself the government for five years of the Gauls, the fact was, that, not desiring to be a sanguinary dictator like Scylla, or a gala chieftain like Pompey, he went and sought abroad, for his own glory and fortune's sake, in a war of general Roman interest, the means and chances of success which were not furnished to him in Rome itself by the dogged and monotonous struggle of the factions.
In spite of the victories of Marius, and the destruction or dispersion of the Teutons and Cimbrians, the whole of Gaul remained seriously disturbed and threatened. At the north-east, in Belgica, some bands of other Teutons, who had begun to be called Germans (men of war), had passed over the left bank of the Rhine, and were settling or wandering there without definite purpose. In eastern and central Gaul, in the valleys of the Jura and Auvergne, on the banks of the Saone, the Allier, and the Doubs, the two great Gallic confederations, that of the AEduans and that of the Arvernians, were disputing the preponderance, and making war one upon another, seeking the aid, respectively, of the Romans and of the Germans. At the foot of the Alps, the little nation of Allobrogians, having fallen a prey to civil dissension, had given up its independence to Rome. Even in southern and western Gaul the populations of Agnitania were rising, vexing the Roman province, and rendering necessary, on both sides of the Pyrenees, the intervention of Roman legions. Everywhere floods of barbaric populations were pressing upon Gaul, were carrying disgnietude even where they had not themselves yet penetrated, and causing presentiments of a general commotion. The danger burst before long upon particular places and in connection with particular names which have remained historical. In the war with the confederation of the AEduans, that of the Arvernians called to their aid the German Ariovistus, chieftain of a confederation of tribes which, under the name of Suevians, were roving over the right bank of the Rhine, ready at any time to cross the river. Ariovistus, with fifteen thousand warriors at his back, was not slow in responding to the appeal. The AEdaans were beaten; and Ariovistus settled amongst the Gauls who had been thoughtless enough to appeal to him. Numerous bands of Suevians came and rejoined him; and in two or three years after his victory he had about him, it was said, one hundred and twenty thousand warriors. He had appropriated to them a third of the territory of his Gallic allies, and he imperiously demanded another third to satisfy other twenty-five thousand of his old German comrades, who asked to share his booty and his new country. One of the foremost AEduans, Divitiacus by name, went and invoked the succor of the Roman people, the patrons of his confederation. He was admitted to the presence of the Senate, and invited to be seated; but he modestly declined, and standing, leaning upon his shield, he set forth the sufferings and the claims of his country. He received kindly promises, which at first remained without fruit. He, however, remained at Rome, persistent in his solicitations, and carrying on intercourse with several Romans of consideration, notably with Cicero, who says of him, "I knew Divitiacus, the AEduan, who claimed proficiency in that natural science which the Greeks call physiology, and he predicted the future, either by augury or his own conjecture." The Roman Senate, with the indecision and indolence of all declining powers, hesitated to engage, for the AEduans' sake, in a war against the invaders of a corner of Gallic territory. At the same time that they gave a cordial welcome to Divitiacus, they entered into negotiations with Ariovistus himself; they gave him beautiful presents, the title of King, and even of friend; the only demand they made was, that he should live peaceably in his new settlement, and not lend his support to the fresh invasions of which there were symptoms in Gaul, and which were becoming too serious for resolutions not to be taken to repel them.
A people of Gallic race, the Helvetians, who inhabited present Switzerland, where the old name still abides beside the modern, found themselves incessantly threatened, ravaged, and invaded by the German tribes which pressed upon their frontiers. After some years of perplexity and internal discord, the whole Helvetic nation decided upon abandoning its territory, and going to seek in Gaul, westward, it is said, on the borders of the ocean, a more tranquil settlement. Being informed of this design, the Roman Senate and Caesar, at that time consul, resolved to protect the Roman province and their Gallic allies, the AEduans, against this inundation of roving neighbors. The Helvetians none the less persisted in their plan; and in the spring of the year of Rome 696 (58 B C.) they committed to the flames, in the country they were about to leave, twelve towns, four hundred villages, and all their houses; loaded their cars with provisions for three months, and agreed to meet at the southern point of the Lake of Geneva. They found on their reunion, says Caesar, a total of three hundred and sixty-eight thousand emigrants, including ninety-two thousand men-at-arms. The Switzerland which they abandoned numbers now two million five hundred thousand inhabitants. But when the Helvetians would have entered Gaul, they found there Caesar, who, after having got himself appointed proconsul for five years, had arrived suddenly at Geneva, prepared to forbid their passage. They sent to him a deputation, to ask leave, they said, merely to traverse the Roman province without causing the least damage. Caesar knew as well how to gain time as not to lose any: he was not ready; so he put off the Helvetians to a second conference. In the interval he employed his legionaries, who could work as well as fight, in erecting upon the left bank of the Rhone a wall sixteen feet high and ten miles long, which rendered the passage of the river very difficult, and, on the return of the Helvetian envoys, he formally forbade them to pass by the road they had proposed to follow. They attempted to take another, and to cross not the Rhone but the Saone, and march thence towards western Gaul. But whilst they were arranging for the execution of this movement, Caesar, who had up to that time only four legions at his disposal, returned to Italy, brought away five fresh legions, and arrived on the left bank of the Saone at the moment when the rear-guard of the Helvetians was embarking to rejoin the main body which had already pitched its camp on the right bank. Caesar cut to pieces this rear-guard, crossed the river, in his turn, with his legions, pursued the emigrants without relaxation, came in contact with them on several occasions, at one time attacking them or repelling their attacks, at another receiving and giving audience to their envoys without ever consenting to treat with them, and before the end of the year he had so completely beaten, decimated, dispersed and driven them back, that of three hundred and sixty-eight thousand Helvetians who had entered Gaul, but one hundred and ten thousand escaped from the Romans, and were enabled, by flight, to regain their country.
AEduans, Sequanians, or Arvernians, all the Gauls interested in the struggle thus terminated, were eager to congratulate Caesar upon his victory; but if they were delivered from the invasion of the Helvetians, another scourge fell heavily upon them; Ariovistus and the Germans, who were settled upon their territory, oppressed them cruelly, and day by day fresh bands were continually coming to aggravate the evil and the danger. They adjured Caesar to protect them from these swarms of barbarians. "In a few years," said they, "all the Germans will have crossed the Rhine, and all the Gauls will be driven from Gaul, for the soil of Germany cannot compare with that of Gaul, any more than the mode of life. If Caesar and the Roman people refuse to aid us, there is nothing left for us but to abandon our lands, as the Helvetians would have done in their case, and go seek, afar from the Germans, another dwelling-place." Caesar, touched by so prompt an appeal to the power of his name and fame gave ear to the prayer of the Gauls. But he was for trying negotiation before war. He proposed to Ariovistus an interview "at which they aright treat in common of affairs of importance for both." Ariovistus replied that "if he wanted anything of Caesar, he would go in search of him; if Caesar had business with him, it was for Caesar to come." Caesar thereupon conveyed to him by messenger his express injunctions, "not to summon any more from the borders of the Rhine fresh multitudes of men, and to cease from vexing the AEduans and making war on them, them and their allies. Otherwise, Caesar would not fail to avenge their wrongs." Ariovistus replied that "he had conquered the AEduans. The Roman people were in the habit of treating the vanquished after their own pleasure, and not the advice of another; he too, himself, had the same right. Caesar said he would avenge the wrongs of the AEduans; but no one had ever attacked him with impunity. If Caesar would like to try it, let him come; he would learn what could be done by the bravery of the Germans, who were as yet unbeaten, who were trained to arms, who for fourteen years had not slept beneath a roof." At the moment he received this answer, Caesar had just heard that fresh bands of Suevians were encamped on the right bank of the Rhine, ready to cross, and that Ariovistus with all his forces was making towards Vesontio (Besancon), the chief town of the Sequanians. Caesar forthwith put himself in motion, occupied Vesontio, established there a strong garrison, and made his arrangements for issuing from it with his legions to go and anticipate the attack of Ariovistus. Then came to him word that no little disquietude was showing itself among the Roman troops; that many soldiers and even officers appeared anxious about the struggle with the Germans, their ferocity, the vast forests that must be traversed to reach them, the difficult roads, and the transport of provisions; there was an apprehension of broken courage, and perchance of numerous desertions. Caesar summoned a great council of war, to which he called the chief officers of his legions; he complained bitterly of their alarm, recalled to their memory their recent success against the Helvetians, and scoffed at the rumors spread about the Germans, and at the doubts with which there was an attempt to inspire him about the fidelity and obedience of his troops. "An army," said he, "disobeys only the commander who leads them badly and has no good fortune, or is found guilty of cupidity and malversation. My whole life shows my integrity, and the war against the Helvetians my good fortune. I shall order forthwith the departure I had intended to put off. I shall strike the camp the very next night, at the fourth watch; I wish to see as soon as possible whether honor and duty or fear prevail in your ranks. If there be any refusal to follow me, I shall march with only the tenth legion, of which I have no doubt; that shall be my praetorian cohort."
The cheers of the troops, officers and men, were the answer given to the reproaches and hopes of their general: all hesitation passed away; and Caesar set out with his army. He fetched a considerable compass, to spare them the passage of thick forests, and, after a seven days' march, arrived at a short distance from the camp of Ariovistus. On learning that Caesar was already so near, the German sent to him a messenger with proposals for the interview which was but lately demanded, and to which there was no longer any obstacle, since Caesar had himself arrived upon the spot. And the interview really took place, with mutual precautions for safety and warlike dignity. Caesar repeated all the demands he had made upon Ariovistus, who, in his turn, maintained his refusal, asking, "What was wanted? Why had foot been set upon his lands? That part of Gaul was his province, just as the other was the Roman province. If Caesar did not retire, and withdraw his troops, he should consider him no more a friend, but an enemy. He knew that if he were to slay Caesar, he would recommend himself to many nobles and chiefs amongst the Roman people; he had learned as much from their own envoys. But if Caesar retired and left him, Ariovistus, in free possession of Gaul, he would pay liberally in return, and would wage on Caesar's behalf, without trouble or danger to him, any wars he might desire." During this interview it is probable that Caesar smiled more than once at the boldness and shrewdness of the barbarian. Ultimately some horsemen in the escort of Ariovistus began to caracole towards the Romans, and to hurl at them stones and darts. Caesar ordered his men to make no reprisals, and broke off the conference. The next day but one Ariovistus proposed a renewal; but Caesar refused, having decided to bring the quarrel to an issue. Several days in succession he led out his legions from their camp, and offered battle; but Ariovistus remained within his lines. Caesar then took the resolution of assailing the German camp. At his approach, the Germans at length moved out from their intrenchments, arrayed by peoplets, and defiling in front of cars filled with their women, who implored them with tears not to deliver them in slavery to the Romans. The struggle was obstinate, and not without moments of anxiety and partial check for the Romans; but the genius of Caesar and strict discipline of the legions carried the day. The rout of the Germans was complete; they fled towards the Rhine, which was only a few leagues from the field of battle. Ariovistus himself was amongst the fugitives; he found a boat by the river side, and recrossed into Germany, where he died shortly afterwards, "to the great grief of the Germans," says Caesar. The Suevian bands, who were awaiting on the right bank the result of the struggle, plunged back again within their own territory. And so the invasion of the Germans was stopped as the emigration of the Helvetians had been; and Caesar had only to conquer Gaul.
It is uncertain whether he had from the very first determined the whole plan; but so soon as he set seriously to work, he felt all the difficulties. The expulsion of the Helvetian emigrants and of the German invaders left the Romans and Gauls alone face to face; and from that moment the Romans were, in the eyes of the Gauls, foreigners, conquerors, oppressors. Their deeds aggravated day by day the feelings excited by the situation; they did not ravage the country, as the Germans had done; they did not appropriate such and such a piece of land; but everywhere they assumed the mastery: they laid heavy burdens upon the population; they removed the rightful chieftains who were opposed to them, and forcibly placed or maintained in power those only who were subservient to them. Independently of the Roman empire, Caesar established everywhere his own personal influence; by turns gentle or severe, caressing or threatening, he sought and created for himself partisans amongst the Gauls, as he had amongst his army, showing favor to those only whose devotion was assured to him. To national antipathy towards foreigners must be added the intrigues and personal rivalry of the conquered in their relations with the conqueror. Conspiracies were hatched, insurrections soon broke out in nearly every part of Gaul, in the heart even of the peoplets most subject to Roman dominion. Every movement of the kind was for Caesar a provocation, a temptation, almost an obligation to conquest. He accepted them and profited by them, with that promptitude in resolution, boldness and address in execution, and cool indifference as to the means employed, which were characteristic of his genius. During nine years, from A. U. C. 696 to 705, and in eight successive campaigns, he carried his troops, his lieutenants, himself, and, ere long, war or negotiation, corruption, discord, or destruction in his path, amongst the different nations and confederations of Gaul, Celtic, Kymric, Germanic, Iberian or Hybrid, northward and eastward, in Belgica, between the Seine and the Rhine; westward, in Armorica, on the borders of the ocean; south-westward, in Aquitania; centre-ward, amongst the peoplets established between the Seine, the Loire, and the Saone. He was nearly always victorious, and then at one time he pushed his victory to the bitter end, at another stopped at the right moment, that it might not be compromised. When he experienced reverses, he bore them without repining, and repaired them with inexhaustible ability and courage. More than once, to revive the sinking spirits of his men, he was rashly lavish of his person; and on one of those occasions, at the raising of the siege of Gergovia, he was all but taken by some Arvernian horsemen, and left his sword in their hands. It was found a while afterwards, when the war was over, in a temple in which the Gauls had hung it. Caesar's soldiers would have torn it down and returned it to him; but "let it be," said he; "'tis sanctified." In good or evil fortune, the hero of a triumph at Rome or a prisoner in the hands of Mediterranean pirates, he was unrivalled in striking the imaginations of men and growing great in their eyes. He did not confine himself to conquering and subjecting the Gauls in Gaul; his ideas were ever outstripping his deeds, and he knew how to make his power felt even where he had made no attempt to establish it. Twice he crossed the Rhine to hurl back the Germans beyond their river, and to strike to the very hearts of their forests the terror of the Roman name (A. U. C. 699, 700). He equipped two fleets, made two descents on Great Britain (A. U. C. 699, 700), several times defeated the Britons and their principal chieftain Caswallon (Cassivellaunus), and set up across the channel, the first landmarks of Roman conquest. He thus became more and more famous and terrible, both in Gaul, whence he sometimes departed for a moment to go and look after his political prospects in Italy, and in more distant lands, where he was but an apparition.
But the greatest minds are far from foreseeing all the consequences of their deeds, and all the perils proceeding from their successes. Caesar was by nature neither violent nor cruel; but he did not trouble himself about justice or humanity, and the success of his enterprises, no matter by what means or at what price, was his sole law of conduct. He could show, on occasion, moderation and mercy; but when he had to put down an obstinate resistance, or when a long and arduous effort had irritated him, he had no hesitation in employing atrocious severity and perfidious promises. During his first campaign in Belgica, (A. U. C. 697 and 57 B.C.), two peoplets, the Nervians and the Aduaticans, had gallantly struggled, with brief moments of success, against the Roman legions. The Nervians were conquered and almost annihilated. Their last remnants, huddled for refuge in the midst of their morasses, sent a deputation to Caesar, to make submission, saying, "Of six hundred senators three only are left, and of sixty thousand men that bore arms scarce five hundred have escaped." Caesar received them kindly, returned to them their lands, and warned their neighbors to do them no harm. The Aduaticans, on the contrary, defended them selves to the last extremity. Caesar, having slain four thousand, had all that remained sold by auction; and fifty-six thousand human beings, according to his own statement, passed as slaves into the hands of their purchasers. Some years later another Belgian peoplet, the Eburons, settled between the Meuse and the Rhine, rose and inflicted great losses upon the Roman legions. Caesar put them beyond the pale of military and human law, and had all the neighboring peoplets and all the roving bands invited to come and pillage and destroy "that accursed race," promising to whoever would join in the work the friendship of the Roman people. A little later still, some insurgents in the centre of Gaul had concentrated in a place to the south-west, called Urellocdunum (nowadays, it is said, Puy d'Issola, in the department of the Lot, between Vayrac and Martel). After a long resistance they were obliged to surrender, and Caesar had all the combatants' hands cut off, and sent them, thus mutilated, to live and rove throughout Gaul, as a spectacle to all the country that was, or was to be, brought to submission. Nor were the rigors of administration less than those of warfare. Caesar wanted a great deal of money, not only to maintain satisfactorily his troops in Gaul, but to defray the enormous expenses he was at in Italy, for the purpose of enriching his partisans, or securing the favor of the Roman people. It was with the produce of imposts and plunder in Gaul that he undertook the reconstruction at Rome of the basilica of the Forum, the site whereof, extending to the temple of Liberty, was valued, it is said, at more than twenty million five hundred thousand francs. Cicero, who took the direction of the works, wrote to his friend Atticus, "We shall make it the most glorious thing in the world." Cato was less satisfied; three years previously despatches from Caesar had announced to the Senate his victories over the Belgian and German insurgents. The senators had voted a general thanksgiving, but, "Thanksgiving!" cried Cato, "rather expiation! Pray the gods not to visit upon our armies the sin of a guilty general. Give up Caesar to the Germans, and let the foreigner know that Rome does not enjoin perjury, and rejects with horror the fruit thereof!"
Caesar had all the gifts, all the means of success and empire, that can be possessed by man. He was great in politics and in war; as active and as full of resource amidst the intrigues of the Forum as amidst the combinations and surprises of the battle-field, equally able to please and to terrify. He had a double pride, which gave him double confidence in himself, the pride of a great noble and the pride of a great man. He was fond of saying, "My aunt Julia is, maternally, the daughter of kings; paternally, she is descended from the immortal gods; my family unites, to the sacred character of kings who are the most powerful amongst men, the awful majesty of the gods who have even kings in their keeping." Thus, by birth as well as nature, Caesar felt called to dominion; and at the same time he was perfectly aware of the decadence of the Roman patriciate, and of the necessity for being popular in order to become master. With this double instinct he undertook the conquest of the Gauls as the surest means of achieving conquest at Rome. But owing either to his own vices or to the difficulties of the situation, he displayed in his conduct and his work in Gaul so much violence and oppression, so much iniquity and cruel indifference, that, even at that time, in the midst of Roman harshness, pagan corruption, and Gallic or German barbarism, so great an infliction of moral and material harm could not but be followed by a formidable reaction. Where there are strength and ability, the want of foresight, the fears, the weaknesses, the dissensions of men, whether individuals or peoples, may be for a long while calculated upon; but it may be carried too far. After six years' struggling Caesar was victor; he had successively dealt with all the different populations of Gaul; he had passed through and subjected them all, either by his own strong arm, or thanks to their rivalries. In the year of Rome 702 he was suddenly informed in Italy, whither he had gone on his Roman business, that most of the Gallic nations, united under a chieftain hitherto unknown, were rising with one common impulse, and recommencing war.
The same perils and the same reverses, the same sufferings and the same resentments, had stirred up amongst the Gauls, without distinction of race and name, a sentiment to which they had hitherto been almost strangers, the sentiment of Gallic nationality and the passion for independence, not local any longer, but national. This sentiment was first manifested amongst the populace and under obscure chieftains; a band of Carnutian peasants (people of Chartrain) rushed upon the town of Genabum (Gies), roused the inhabitants, and massacred the Italian traders and a Roman knight, C. Fusius Cita, whom Caesar had commissioned to buy corn there. In less than twenty-four hours the signal of insurrection against Rome was borne across the country as far as the Arvernians, amongst whom conspiracy had long ago been waiting and paving the way for insurrection. Amongst them lived a young Gaul whose real name has remained unknown, and whom history has called Vercingetorix, that is, chief over a hundred heads, chief-in-general. He came of an ancient and powerful family of Arvernians, and his father had been put to death in his own city for attempting to make himself king. Caesar knew him, and had taken some pains to attach him to himself. It does not appear that the Arvernian aristocrat had absolutely declined the overtures; but when the hope of national independence was aroused, Vercingetorix was its representative and chief. He descended with his followers from the mountain, and seized Gergovia, the capital of his nation. Thence his messengers spread over the centre, north-west, and west of Gaul; the greater part of the peoplets and cities of those regions pronounced from the first moment for insurrection; the same sentiment was working amongst others more compromised with Rome, who waited only for a breath of success to break out. Vercingetorix was immediately invested with the chief command, and he made use of it with all the passion engendered by patriotism and the possession of power; he regulated the movement, demanded hostages, fixed the contingents of troops, imposed taxes, inflicted summary punishment on the traitors, the dastards, and the indifferent, and subjected those who turned a deaf ear to the appeal of their common country to the same pains and the same mutilations that Caesar inflicted on those who obstinately resisted the Roman yoke.
At the news of this great movement Caesar immediately left Italy, and returned to Gaul. He had one quality, rare even amongst the greatest men: he remained cool amidst the very hottest alarms; necessity never hurried him into precipitation, and he prepared for the struggle as if he were always sure of arriving on the spot in time to sustain it. He was always quick, but never hasty; and his activity and patience were equally admirable and efficacious. Starting from Italy at the beginning of 702 A. U. C., he passed two months in traversing within Gaul the Roman province and its neighborhood, in visiting the points threatened by the insurrection, and the openings by which he might get at it, in assembling his troops, in confirming his wavering allies; and it was not before the early part of March that he moved with his whole army to Agendicum (Sens), the very centre of revolt, and started thence to push on the war with vigor. In less than three months he had spread devastation throughout the insurgent country; he had attacked and taken its principal cities, Vellaunodunum (Trigueres), Genabum (Gien), Noviodunum (Sancerre), and Avaricum (Bourges), delivering up everywhere country and city, lands and inhabitants, to the rage of the Roman soldiery, maddened at having again to conquer enemies so often conquered. To strike a decisive blow, he penetrated at last to the heart of the country of the Arvernians, and laid siege to Gergovia, their capital and the birthplace of Vercingetorix.
The firmness and the ability of the Gallic chieftain were not inferior to such a struggle. He understood from the outset that he could not cope in the open field with Caesar and the Roman legions; he therefore exerted himself in getting together a body of cavalry numerous enough to harass the Romans during their movements, to attack their scattered detachments, to bear his orders swiftly to all quarters, and to keep up the excitement amongst the different peoplets with some hope of success. His plan of campaign, his repeated instructions, his passionate entreaties to the confederates were to avoid any general action, to anticipate by their own ravages those of the Romans, to destroy everywhere, at the approach of the enemy, stores, springs, bridges, trees, and habitations: he wanted Caesar to find in his front nothing but ruins and clouds of warriors relentless in pursuing him without getting within reach. Frequently he succeeded in obtaining from the people those painful sacrifices in the interest of the common safety; as when the Biturigians (inhabitants of the district of Bourges) burned in one day twenty of their towns or villages. Vercingetorix adjured them also to burn Avaricum (Bourges), their capital; but they refused, and the capture of Avaricum, though gallantly defended, justified the urgency of Vercingetorix, seeing that it was an important success for Caesar and a serious blow for the Gauls. Out of forty thousand combatants within the walls, it is said, scarcely eight hundred escaped the slaughter and succeeded in joining Vercingetorix, who had hovered continually in the neighborhood without being able to offer the besieged any effectual assistance. Nor was it only against the Romans that he had to struggle; he had to fight amongst his own people, against rivalry, mistrust, impatience, and discouragement; he was accused of desiring, beyond everything, the mastery; he was even suspected of keeping up, with the view of assuring his own future, secret relations with Caesar; he was called upon to attack the enemy in front, and so bring the war to a decisive issue. It is all very fine to be summoned by the popular voice to accomplish a great and arduous work; but you cannot be, with impunity, the most far-sighted, the most able, and the most in danger, because the most devoted. Vercingetorix was bearing the burden of his superiority and influence, until he should suffer the penalty and pay with his life for his patriotism and his glory. He was approaching the happiest moment of his enterprise and his destiny. In spite of reverses, in spite of Caesar's presence and activity, the insurrection was gaining ground and strength; in the north, west, south-west, on the banks of the Rhine, the Seine, and the Loire, the idea of Gallic nationality and the hope of independence were spreading amongst people far removed from the centre of the movement, and were bringing to Vercingetorix declarations of sympathy or material re-enforcements. An event of more importance took place in the centre itself. The AEduans, the most ancient allies and clients the Romans had in Gaul, being divided amongst themselves, and feeling, besides, the national instinct, ended, after much hesitation, by taking part in the uprising. Caesar, for all his care, could neither prevent nor stifle this defection, which threatened to become contagious, and detach from Rome the neighboring peoplets that were still faithful. Caesar, engaged upon the siege of Gergovia, encountered an obstinate resistance; whilst Vercingetorix, encamped on the heights which surrounded his birthplace, everywhere embarrassed, sometimes attacked, and incessantly threatened the Romans. The eighth legion, drawn on one day to make an imprudent assault, was repulsed, and lost forty-six of its bravest centurions. Caesar determined to raise the siege, and to transfer the struggle to places where the population could be more safely depended upon. It was the first decisive check he had experienced in Gaul, the first Gallic town he had been unable to take, the first retrograde movement he had executed in the face of the Gallic insurgents and their chieftain. Vercingetorix could not and would not restrain his joy; it seemed to him that the day had dawned and an excellent chance arrived for attempting a decisive blow. He had under his orders, it is said, eighty thousand men, mostly his own Arvernians, and a numerous cavalry furnished by the different peoplets his allies. He followed all Caesar's movements in retreat towards the Saone, and, on arriving at Longeau not far from Langres, near a little river called the Vingeanne, he halted, pitched his camp about nine miles from the Romans, and assembling the chiefs of his cavalry, said, "Now is the hour of victory; the Romans are flying to their province and leaving Gaul; that is enough for our liberty to-day, but too little for the peace and repose of the future; for they will return with greater armies, and the war will be without end. Attack we them amid the difficulties of their march; if their foot support the cavalry, they will not be able to pursue their route; if, as I fully trust, they leave their baggage, to provide for their safety, they will lose both their honor and the supplies whereof they have need. None of the enemy's horse will dare to come forth from their lines. To give ye courage and aid, I will order forth from the camp and place in battle array all our troops, and they will strike the enemy with terror." The Gallic horsemen cried out that they must all bind themselves by the most sacred of oaths, and swear that none of them would come again under roof, or see again wife, or children, or parent, unless he had twice pierced through the ranks of the enemy. And all did take this oath, and so prepared for the attack. Vercingetorix knew not that Caesar, with his usual foresight, had summoned and joined to his legions a great number of horsemen from the German tribes roving over the banks of the Rhine, with which he had taken care to keep up friendly relations. Not only had he promised them pay, plunder, and lands, but, finding their horses ill-trained, he had taken those of his officers, even those of the Roman knights and veterans, and distributed them amongst his barbaric auxiliaries. The action began between the cavalry on both sides; a portion of the Gallic had taken up position on the road followed by the Roman army, to bar its passage; but whilst the fighting at this point was getting more and more obstinate, the German horse in Caesar's service gained a neighboring height, drove off the Gallic horse that were in occupation, and pursued them as far as the river, near which was Vercingetorix with his infantry. Disorder took place amongst this infantry so unexpectedly attacked. Caesar launched his legions at them, and there was a general panic and rout among the Gauls. Vercingetorix had great trouble in rallying them, and he rallied them only to order a general retreat, for which they clamored. Hurriedly striking his camp, he made for Alesia (Semur in Auxois), a neighboring town and the capital of the Mandubians, a peoplet in clientship to the AEduans. Caesar immediately went in pursuit of the Gauls; killed, he says, three thousand, made important prisoners, and encamped with his legions before Alesia the day but one after Vercingetorix, with his fugitive army, had occupied the place as well as the neighboring hills, and was hard at work intrenching himself, probably without any clear idea as yet of what he should do to continue the struggle.
Caesar at once took a resolution as unexpected as it was discreetly bold. Here was the whole Gallic insurrection, chieftain and soldiery, united together within or beneath the walls of a town of moderate extent. He undertook to keep it there and destroy it on the spot, instead of having to pursue it everywhere without ever being sure of getting at it. He had at his disposal eleven legions, about fifty thousand strong, and five or six thousand cavalry, of which two thousand were Germans. He placed them round about Alesia and the Gallic camp, caused to be dug a circuit of deep ditches, some filled with water, others bristling with palisades and snares, and added, from interval to interval, twenty-three little forts, occupied or guarded night and day by detachments. The result was a line of investment about ten miles in extent. To the rear of the Roman camp, and for defence against attacks from without, Caesar caused to be dug similar intrenchments, which formed a line of circumvallation of about thirteen miles. The troops had provisions and forage for thirty days. Vercingetorix made frequent sallies to stop or destroy these works; but they were repulsed, and only resulted in getting his army more closely cooped up within the place. Eighty thousand Gallic insurgents were, as it were, in prison, guarded by fifty thousand Roman soldiers. Vercingetorix was one of those who persevere and act in the days of distress just as in the spring-tide of their hopes. Before the works of the Romans were finished, he assembled his horsemen, and ordered them to sally briskly from Alesia, return each to his own land, and summon the whole population to arms. He was obeyed; the Gallic horsemen made their way, during the night, through the intervals left by the Romans' still imperfect lines of investment, and dispersed themselves amongst their various peoplets. Nearly everywhere irritation and zeal were at their height. An assemblage of delegates met at Bibracte (Autun), and fixed the amount of the contingent to be furnished by each nation, and a point was assigned at which all those contingents should unite for the purpose of marching together towards Alesia, and attacking the besiegers. The total of the contingents thus levied on forty-three Gallic peoplets amounted, according to Caesar, to two hundred and eighty-three thousand men; and two hundred and forty thousand men, it is said, did actually hurry up to the appointed place. Mistrust of such enormous numbers has already been expressed by one who has lived through the greatest European wars, and has heard the ablest generals reduce to their real strength the largest armies. We find in M. Thiers' History of the Consulate and Empire, that at Austerlitz, on the 2d of December, 1805, Napoleon had but from sixty-five to seventy thousand men, and the combined Austrians and Russians but ninety thousand. At Leipzig, the biggest of modern battles, when all the French forces on the one side, and the Austrian, Prussian, Russian, and Swedish on the other, were face to face on the 18th of October, 1813, they made all together about five hundred thousand men. How can we believe, then, that nineteen centuries ago, Gaul, so weakly populated and so slightly organized, suddenly sent two hundred and forty thousand men to the assistance of eighty thousand Gauls besieged in the little town of Alesia by fifty or sixty thousand Romans? But whatever may be the case with the figures, it is certain that at the very first moment the national impulse answered the appeal of Vercingetorix, and that the besiegers of Alesia, Caesar and his legions, found that they were themselves all at once besieged in their intrenchments by a cloud of Gauls hurrying up to the defence of their compatriots. The struggle was fierce, but short. Every time that the fresh Gallic army attacked the besiegers, Vercingetorix and the Gauls of Alesia sallied forth, and joined in the attack. Caesar and his legions, on their side, at one time repulsed these double attacks, at another themselves took the initiative, and assailed at one and the same time the besieged and the auxiliaries Gaul had sent them. The feeling was passionate on both sides: Roman pride was pitted against Gallic patriotism. But in four or five days the strong organization, the disciplined valor of the Roman legions, and the genius of Caesar carried the day. The Gallic re-enforcements, beaten and slaughtered without mercy, dispersed; and Vercingetorix and the besieged were crowded back within their walls without hope of escape. We have two accounts of the last moments of this great Gallic insurrection and its chief; one, written by Caesar himself, plain, cold, and harsh as its author; the other, by two later historians, who were neither statesmen nor warriors, Plutarch and Dion Cassius, has more detail and more ornament, following either popular tradition or the imagination of the writers. It may be well to give both. "The day after the defeat," says Caesar, "Vercingetorix convokes the assembly, and shows that he did not undertake the war for his own personal advantage, but for the general freedom. Since submission must be made to fortune, he offers to satisfy the Romans either by instant death or by being delivered to them alive. A deputation there anent is sent to Caesar, who orders the arms to be given up and the chiefs brought to him. He seats himself on his tribunal, in the front of his camp. The chiefs are brought, Vercingetorix is delivered over; the arms are cast at Caesar's feet. Except the AEduans and Arvernians, whom Caesar kept for the purpose of trying to regain their people, he had the prisoners distributed, head by head, to his army as booty of war."
The account of Dion Cassius is more varied and dramatic. "After the defeat," says he, "Vercingetorix, who was neither captured nor wounded, might have fled; but, hoping that the friendship that had once bound him to Caesar might gain him grace, he repaired to the Roman without previous demand of peace by the voice of a herald, and appeared suddenly in his presence, just as Caesar was seating himself upon his tribunal. The apparition of the Gallic chieftain inspired no little terror, for he was of lofty stature, and had an imposing appearance in arms. There was a deep silence. Vercingetorix fell at Caesar's feet, and made supplication by touch of hand without speaking a word. The scene moved those present with pity, remembering the ancient fortunes of Vercingetorix and comparing them with his present disaster. Caesar, on the contrary, found proof of criminality in the very memories relied upon for salvation, contrasted the late struggle with the friendship appealed to by Vercingetorix, and so put in a more hideous light the odiousness of his conduct. And thus, far from being moved by his misfortunes at the moment, he threw him in chains forthwith, and subsequently had him put to death, after keeping him to adorn his triumph."
Another historian, contemporary with Plutarch, Florus, attributes to Vercingetorix, as he fell down and cast his arms at Caesar's feet, these words: "Bravest of men, thou hast conquered a brave man." It is not necessary to have faith in the rhetorical compliment, or to likewise reject the mixture of pride and weakness attributed to Vercingetorix in the account of Dion Cassius. It would not be the only example of a hero seeking yet some chance of safety in the extremity of defeat, and abasing himself for the sake of preserving at any price a life on which fortune might still smile. However it be, Vercingetorix vanquished, dragged out, after ten years' imprisonment, to grace Caesar's triumph, and put to death immediately afterwards, lives as a glorious patriot in the pages of that history in which Caesar appears, on this occasion, as a peevish conqueror who took pleasure in crushing, with cruel disdain, the enemy he had been at so much pains to conquer.
Alesia taken, and Vercingetorix a prisoner, Gaul was subdued. Caesar, however, had in the following year (A. U. C. 703) a campaign to make to subjugate some peoplets who tried to maintain their local independence. A year afterwards, again, attempts at insurrection took place in Belgica, and towards the mouth of the Loire; but they were easily repressed; they had no national or formidable characteristics; Caesar and his lieutenants willingly contented themselves with an apparent submission, and in the year 705 A. U. C. the Roman legions, after nine years' occupation in the conquest of Gaul, were able to depart therefrom to Italy and the East for a plunge into civil war.