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Travel - May 28, 2021

The Battle of Alesia



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Transcript

Within the yr 52 BC, the Roman Basic Julius Caesar fought the final main battle within the conquest of Gaul. 

The implications of the battle have reverberated all through historical past and might nonetheless be felt on the planet in the present day. 

However the true story isn’t the implications of the battle, however the way it was received. It was some of the audacious gambles in army historical past, and it labored.

Be taught extra concerning the Battle of Alesia, one of many best feats of tactical army genius in historical past, on this episode of Every thing All over the place Every day.

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Throughout the interval of the Roman Republic, the realm we now know as France was referred to as Gaul.

The Gauls held a particular place within the Roman psyche. Over 300 years earlier, in 390 BC, a tribe of Gauls entered Italy and sacked Rome. 

The Sack of Rome by the Gauls created a deep-seated concern of Gaul amongst Romans. Apart from a skinny strip of land alongside the Mediterranean coast, the Romans left most of Gaul alone for a lot of the Republic. 

Within the years after the Sack of Rome, periodic raids by Gauls into Italy prompted the Romans to resort to human sacrifice, which was one thing they in any other case by no means engaged in. 

It was on this surroundings that Julius Caesar after he was completed in his time period as consul, was despatched to be the proconsul of the Roman provinces of Cisalpine Gaul, which was in Northern Italy, and Transalpine Gaul, which was the Roman-controlled a part of Southern France.

Caesar got here into the place extremely in debt, having spent lavishly to achieve the consulship. It was now that his time in workplace was over, that he was going to money in. 

Most proconsuls would go to a province and generate income off of run-of-the-mill corruption and squeezing folks with excessive taxes. 

Caesar, nevertheless, was way more bold. Way more bold. 

He started waging an unauthorized conflict with all of the tribes in Gaul. He used a number of trumped-up expenses to justify his wars. He raised legions, developed logistical trains to help his items, performed completely different Gaulic tribes in opposition to one another, and mainly took benefit of their extremely ununified tribal system.

Caesar additionally used his victories in opposition to the Gauls for large propaganda functions. Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic Wars was written by himself within the third particular person. They have been periodically despatched to Rome the place they served as information updates for the citizenry. The outcome was that they made Caesar extremely fashionable. 

After a number of years of fixed losses to the Romans, the Gauls ultimately wised up and began to unify. They elected a single one who would lead them in battle: Vercingetorix. 

The Gauls truly had a big numerical benefit. They have been combating on their residence turf and so they didn’t want a protracted provide prepare.

After the number of Vercingetorix as their chief, the Gauls went on a rampage killing Roman retailers, settlers, and smaller army items.

Phrase took time to achieve Caesar who was wintering in Cisalpine Gaul, however when he heard concerning the tribes uniting, he headed again into Gaul.

He had provide points, and he decisively misplaced a battle at Gergovia. In Gergovia, Vercingetorix was holed up in a fortified city, and he beat Caesar again when Caesar tried to take the city. 

Vercingetorix then went to the fortified city of Alesia, which is the place this story actually begins. 

Alesia was constructed on a hilltop and like Gergovia was closely fortified. Vercingetorix hoped that Caesar was going to make the identical mistake he did at Gergovia.

Caesar had someplace between 60,000 and 75,000 males which included Roman Legions in addition to allies from Germanic Tribes. 

Vercingetorix had roughly 80,000 males besieged in Alesia. 

Caesar didn’t assault Alesia. As a substitute, Caesar set to work constructing fortifications. Loads of fortifications. 

Roman legions weren’t simply extremely disciplined fighters but additionally have been very expert at engineering. The truth is, they spent much more time constructing camps and fortifications than they ever did combating. 

They constructed over 25 miles price of fortifications, fully surrounding the hill metropolis of Alesia. They constructed a picket fence, 23 towers, trenches, anti-calvary traps, in addition to trenches for the infantry. It was a well-built construction that may be very troublesome to breakthrough, and all the pieces was aimed toward forces contained in the city.

This was a large effort and required chopping down a big a part of the forest round Alesia. 

Your complete effort took a month. Vercingetorix tried to disrupt building by sending out sorties on horseback, but it surely wasn’t ample. 

Caesar wished to starve out Vercingetorix. Along with the 80,000 males he had in Alesia, there have been additionally ladies and kids within the city as properly. All of them needed to be fed and provides have been restricted. 

Vercingetorix had despatched out messengers earlier than the siege began to assemble all of the tribes and to have them come to Alesia to alleviate the city and crush the Romans. 

It was a ready sport. It was a matter of if the meals in Alesia might maintain out lengthy sufficient for the reinforcements to reach. 

The Gauls knew that they didn’t have sufficient meals for everybody, in order that they held a council the place they determined to expel the previous and the sick. The townspeople additionally agreed to ship out their ladies and kids. They wished to save lots of as a lot meals as doable for the fighters, and so they additionally  hoped that Caesar would take within the exiles as prisoners, which might then exhaust his meals provides.

Nonetheless, Caesar didn’t take the bait. He didn’t let the Gauls expelled from Alesia to enter, in order that they sat caught between the partitions of the town and Caesar’s partitions, the place they starved to loss of life. 

Caesar turned conscious that Gaulic reinforcements have been on the best way. The truth is, the variety of troops coming was far bigger than his forces, which have been already engaged in a siege. 

Up till this level, this was a fairly customary siege. The wall and fortifications have been giant to make sure, however to date this wasn’t one thing that may stand out within the historical past books. 

What occurred subsequent is what made this battle well-known, and what established Caesar as one of many best generals in historic historical past. 

If Caesar broke off the siege to confront the reinforcements, then 80,000 troops from the city would spill out to assault certainly one of his flanks. If he didn’t break off the siege, then 250,000 males can be attacking him whereas he was besieging the city. 

Most generals when put in Caesar’s place would do the prudent factor and retreat. Take your forces, get away, regroup and battle once more one other day.

What Caesar did was one of many craziest issues any basic did within the historical past of warfare. 

He constructed one other wall. 

He took all his males and constructed a fair longer wall that encircled his different wall. 

He mainly created a fortified army donut. 

The Romans and their allies have been now sandwiched between two partitions, serving because the dough within the donut. Vercingetorix and his 80,000 males have been contained in the donut, and a quarter-million aid forces can be outdoors the donut. 

You don’t must be a army genius to understand that this was worse than being surrounded. Caesar was not solely going to be completely surrounded by a superior pressure, however he additionally had a bigger pressure in the midst of his fortress. 

It’s exhausting to provide you with a worse tactical place than being surrounded, however Caesar managed to search out himself in a single. 

When the reinforcements arrived, they camped a couple of mile from the fortifications. They thought they noticed what was a weak point within the Roman fortifications and the subsequent morning they marched over 60,000 males to assault at that time. 

Whereas that was occurring, Vercingetorix and his males got here out of the city and started attacking the wall wherever they thought it was weak. 

Caesar despatched certainly one of his main officers, Labienus, and 6 cohorts of calvary to the outer wall to cease the Gallic reinforcements. 

He then despatched Brutus, sure that Brutus, to carry off Vercingetorix on the interior wall. 

The Romans have been consistently placing out fires having to hurry from one a part of the wall to the opposite. 

The Romans have been stretched extremely skinny and each single particular person sandwiched contained in the partitions was put to serving to maintain the Gauls again. 

Ultimately, simply as the outside wall was getting weak, Caesar personally assembled the remaining cavalry contained in the partitions and broke by to the skin in a last-ditch effort. He wheeled round and started attacking the reinforcing Gauls from behind. 

The calvary and his males on the wall managed to encompass and destroy numerous the Galic forces outdoors the wall, inflicting the remainder of them to flee. 

Vercingetorix and his males by no means broke by the interior wall and after the enforcements fled, he knew it was over. 

Caesar had in some way managed to win regardless of being surrounded from inside and with out, by a considerably bigger pressure. 

Vercingetorix, near hunger inside Alesia, surrendered. He can be held prisoner by the Romans for 5 years earlier than being ritually strangled at Caesar’s triumph. 

This was the final nice battle in opposition to the Gauls. They by no means severely united once more to problem the Romans. Gaul was included into the Roman Republic. 

Rome went nuts once they heard the information of the victory at Alesia. 20 days of celebrations have been held. 

Caesar was now the richest and strongest particular person in the complete Roman Republic. 

From right here, you in all probability know the story. Caesar matches again to Rome, crosses the Rubicon, the die is solid, Rome has a civil conflict, Caesar wins one other superb victory at Pharsalus, will get named dictator, and will get assasinatied. 

A lot of what we all know of Alesia got here from Caesar himself. He’s an especially biased supply. By Caesar’s personal estimate, he killed one million Gauls and enslaved one million extra, all in a conflict which Caesar provoked. 

Julius Caesar actually wasn’t a very good man. 

From a strictly army standpoint, nevertheless, was Julius Caesar the best basic in antiquity? In all probability not. However he was a terrific basic, perhaps the best in Roman historical past, and his efficiency at Alesia was presumably the best, most improbably victory in army historical past. 



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