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The Eburones surprise the Romans

TONGEREN / KASTER, October 54 B.C.E.
Led by Ambiorix and Catavolcus (Catuvolcus? ed.) the Eburones revolted against the Romans. Shortly after Caesar made a camp for the winter, his camp at Aduaci (probably near Tongeren, Belgium), was attacked suddenly and completely destroyed. The Roman losses have been estimated on one and a half legion (about 9000 men). The attack was preceded by a cunning plan.

The Gaul leader Ambiorix convinced the two Roman commanders Cotta and Sabinus that all Roman army camps in Gaul were to be attacked on the same day. The Romans therefore decided to go to Gaul to help the legions. Ambiorix promised them that they were allowed to leave for Gaul without being attacked by his army. But Ambiorix broke that promise. 

As soon as the Romans left, they were attacked by the Eburones who, as usual, avoided men-to-men combats but used slingweapons. Sabinus was killed after he tried to surrender to Ambiorix with a delegation; Cotta died in the combat. The resulting Romans decided to a joint suicide.

The victory made a large impression in Gaul but it didn't lead to a joint revolt. Still, the Aduatics and the Nervii jointed Ambiorix. An attack on the wintercamp of Quintus Cicero at the Sambre was repulsed by Caesar who helped Cicero.

The revolt proved that the Romans didn't defeat the tribes on this side of the Rhine. The tribes in Gaul lost many battles against Caesar, but the chance for a local uprising kept existing. After his victory in AlÚsia 52 B.C.E. against Vercingetorix (-a joint armeÚ de secours of Eburones and other tribes there tried to break the siege by Caesar- ed.) Caesar had to fight his way through uprisings and revolts several times. Three years later the Tencteri and the Usipeti tried to cross the Rhine (they were also defeated) and Caesar repeatedly had to organise punishing expeditions against the Menapii and the Morini, who lived in the Flemish coastal area.

The Morini were besieged in 55 B.C.E., but the Menapii knew how to avoid battles by withdrawing in the woods. Despite these revolts and the fact that the north of Gaul remained an uncertain factor, Caesar didn't stop. In the same year he crossed the Rhine and he crossed the waters to Brittannia twice, where he besieged a few tribes in the south.

Commentary: The text has been written from the view of the Romans. Please refer to Malorix by B. Bus for a view of point of the Frisii local population on the presence of the Romans. It shows how the Romans robbed the newly conquered areas via their taxes (it shows that nothing changed during the past 2000 years). The Romans apparently didn't take into account that the cows (and therefore the cows' skins) of the native population weren't yet as large as those from the Romans. So when they paid taxes by delivering to small skins, the Romans accused the natives for treason.

The location of the battle was probably south of Tongeren, an area with a large forest. The bow, made of taxus ("eburos"!) is far more effective for the medium distances in a forest than the stoneslinger, for which one needs an open terrain. Besides, the berries of the taxus are poisonous, which sometimes might come in handy ....

Commentarii de bello Gallico, 58 - 52 B.C.E.

This book, written by Caesar, is a report of his campaigns. The Roman citizens were influenced  by the way in which Caesar describes himself as a very competent general. The foreign conquests of Roman generals were mostly meant to influence the Roman politics.

The Roman armies weren't allowed to cross the river Rubicon to approach Rome, hence the saying "allia iacta est" (there is no return) when Ceasar crossed the river anyway, trying to influence the Roman politics to become a leader with more influence.

The generals that won decisive battles, were allowed to return to Rome with their loot to buy political support. Caesar knew how to bind some groups in the Roman society to his support by conquering Gaul, like the traders, who suddenly find a large new market for their products, and the 'publicani', the taxmen, who can buy new areas to colelct the taxes for Rome. 

The most important is the support of the legions that is obtained by the conquests and which is necessary in case a civil war starts.

Soldiers are most of the time civilians without land who served in the army for many years; 25 or until they are killed.

During that period they depend on their leaders for the amount of the loot and later for the promise of a piece of (newly conquered!) land which they can work on after their "retirement". Many conquests mean a strong tie to their "own" legions, which support their leader in a civil war.

In Gaul, Caesar appeared to be a master in obtaining political support. With the pacification/occupation of Gaul between 54-53 B.C.E., when he had to defeat a revolt of the Eburones led by Ambiorix, Caesar showed his generousity towards the defeated Gauls.

In return, the Gauls showed their loyalty towards him during the battle against Pompejus and the 'optimates'.

Caesar didn't organise Gaul as the province of the empire, but placed it under the governor of the southern Gallia Narbonensis. He also ordered that the Gauls had to pay tribute and to deliver troops. After his 'I came, I saw and I conquered' Caesar has made a strongholt for himself in Gaul, Which gives him a strong position in his fight against Pompejus and the Roman Senate.

The statue of Ambiorix, leader of the Eburones is placed in Tongeren, Belgium. 
The statue of Vercingetorix is located on top of the mountain of AlÚsia  
(near Dijon, France)

Remarks: This article shows that the writer places the Eburones under the Gauls. The writer doesn't mention that Caesar wrote himself that he had massacred the Eburones, of which no evidence has been found until today.

The complete article comes from: Kroniek van Nederland, A. Aarsbergen, 1987.
With remarks by the editor.

Location of the Eburones, before the Roman conquest of Gaul

Information about the writer / editor