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Overview on the Gallic Wars
Alésia - the battle against the Romans (1)
Aug. 52 B.C.E. - Oct. 52 B.C.E.
Location: Alise Ste. Reine, France.
Outcome: Roman victory over Vercingetorix, decisive battle,
Principal commanders: Romans: Gaius Julius Caesar, Gauls: Vercingetorix
Overview: The last major conflict of the Gallic War, Alésia was the last stand of Vercingetorix. Vercingetorix defeated the Romans at Gergovia September 52 B.C.E., Vercingetorix attacked the Romans with his cavalry near Divio (modern Dijon), but afterwards had to flee towards Alésia. Caesar laid siege on Alésia and Vercingetorix with about a force of 70,000. In addition to the 50,000 men inside the fortress, Vercingetorix gathered a large relieving force to assist in a breakout (estimates of this relieving force vary from 100,000 to 250,000 men.) After a number of failed attempts to relieve the fortress from both outside and from within, Vercingetorix surrendered. He was taken to Rome and executed six years later.
The Gaulish city Alésia has been the place where the final battle between the Romans and the Gauls ended.
Vercingetorix, bronze statue in Alésia. Note that his moustache is absent on many other images, like on the coin below right.
The "Archéodrome de Bourgondie"
has made a 100 m. wide reconstruction of a part of the contravallation, based on Caesar's "The Gallic War".
The small stakes on the foreground were not just stakes but the precursors of the present mines.
They were sharpened and put in a small ditch which was covered with leafs; horses couldn't see and therefore not avoid them.
An overview on the upright stakes conceiled with branches (top)
Arial view over the reconstructions.
Another view which shows the depth of the ditches.
A View from the side of the defenders, Vercingetorix on the foreground, on the last day of the siege. After the disastrous attacks that were made by the "security army", the defenders lost all hope. This attitude appeared to be typical Celtic; to fight with lots of courage but to loose all hope when things start to go wrong.
Caesar - Gallic War- Book VII, 68 - Alésia (Alise-Sainte Reine)
After defeating our [the Roman /Teutonic] cavalry, Vercingetorix withdrew his men that he had placed in front of the camp, and started to march towards Alésia, which is the capital of the Mandubii, and ordered his soldiers to transport the luggages out of the camp and to follow him swiftly. After the luggages were taken to a nearby hill and given in custody of two legions, I [Caesar] chased the enemy as long as the duration of the day allowed to and killed about 3.000 people of the back of their army; the following day I set the camp near Alésia. After examining the location of the city and after terrifying the enemies, as cavalry, which was the sector they trusted most, had fled away, I [Caesar] exorted the soldiers to work and started to build a trench around the city.
Caesar - Gallic War- Book VII, 69 - Alésia (Alise-Sainte Reine)
The actual stronghold of Alésia was set atop of a hill, in a very lofty situation, apparently impregnable save by blockade. The bases of the hill were washed on two separate sides by rivers. In the front of the town a plain extended for a length of about three miles; on all the other sides hills were surrounding the town at a short distance, and equal to it in height. Under the wall, on the side which looked eastward, the forces of the Gauls had entirely occupied all this intervening space, and had made a ditch in the front and a rough wall six feet high. The perimeter of the siege works which we [the Romans] were beginning had a length of eleven miles. Camps had been pitched at convenient spots, and twenty-three forts had been constructed on the line. In these picketts guards were posted by day to prevent any sudden attempt for an escape; by night the same stations were held by sentries and strong garrisons.
Caesar - De bello Gallico - Liber VII, 68 Alésia (Alise-Sainte Reine)
Fugato omni equitatu Vercingetorix copias, ut pro castris collocaverat, reduxit protinusque Alesiam, quod est oppidum Mandubiorum, iter facere coepit celeriterque impedimenta ex castris educi et se subsequi iussit. Caesar, impedimentis in proximum collem deductis, duabus legionibus praesidio relictis, secutus quantum diei tempus est passum, circiter tribus milibus hostium ex novissimo agmine interfectis, altero die ad Alesiam castra fecit. Perspecto urbis situ perterritisque hostibus, quod equitatu, qua maxime parte exercitus confidebant, erant pulsi, adhortatus ad laborem milites circumvallare instituit.