Monday, January 27, 2014

Julius Caesar and the Celtic Connection

     On my webpage I tell everyone to watch for tales of Vercingetorix and here he is, photo by Brigitte Rebollar (really nice job with the clouds Brigitte - good angle too - good photo!).     
     Vercingetorix is the ancestor, perhaps genetically and certainly culturally, of my great Irish heroes Fionn Mac Cumhail and CuChulainn, but Vercingetorix was an actual, historical person and leader of unified Gaul against Julius Caesar.  The Gauls were the Celtic tribes of France.
Photo by Brigitte Rebollar
     Vercingetorix took a disjointed collection of Gallic (Celtic) tribes, united them, learned and copied Roman military techniques, created Gallic guerilla techniques, and very nearly managed to stop Caesar.  In the end, on an oppidum (ancient Gallic hill fortress) in Alesia (now Alise Sainte Reine), Vercingetorix and the Gauls were defeated, because Caesar built both a circumvallation and a contravallation around the hill, walling the Gauls in and preventing anyone else from coming to their aid.  Vercingetorix surrendered to Caesar, who paraded him around Gaul, threw him into a Roman prison and waited for years to execute this proud warrior. 
      Recently, I taught a course in Rome on Vercingetorix and the Gallic tribes of France, who were the subject of Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic War. The difference engine is that I taught the course from the perspective of the Gauls, who did nothing to merit that war, and who were run over by the prodigious Roman war machine, led by Caesar, who was nothing if not a brilliant military tactician, albeit one who killed a million Gauls and sold another million into slavery. I believe that my students came to love and admire Vercingetorix as much as I do, but they will have to weigh in on that issue.  For me, he is a symbol of bravery, intelligence, strong leadership, self-sacrifice, and freedom.  I have already begun to write the book in which he features.

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating! The Fionn Mac Cumhail stories figure into my own writing, but I hadn't heard of Vercingetorix. Great stuff. Looking forward to more on him. In the meantime, I'll get a bead on your newest book.