Vercingetorix
Gaulish: "King Over Warriors"

The chieftain of the Arverni, and leader of the Gallic rebellion against Rome in 52 BCE, which is chronicled in Julius Caesar's De Bello Gallico. Unlike other chieftains of his time, Vercingetorix understood that the Gauls could only be free if they united, instead of fighting individual rebellions and switching allegiances. Unfortunately, this was not enough.

Vercingetorix's strategy was to burn to countryside and hide in forts. To keep the Romans from surviving, he commanded the Gauls to burn every town to deprive the Romans of food and shelter. The tribes around Avaricum (Bourges) refused, and so Vercingetorix relented, and instead defended the town from the Romans, who knew of its large supply of grain. However, the Romans broke the defenses and slaughtered the entire city of forty thousand; only eight hundred survived and were able to reach Vercingetorix and tell him of the events.

The chieftan escalated the war, but Caesar's warriors blockaded him in Alesia, where he was eventually surrendered. There are two stories about his surrendur: Caesar says that Vercingetorix met with his fellow cheiftains and said, "I did not undertake the war for private ends, but in the cause of national liberty. And since I must now accept my fate, I place myself at your disposal. Make amends to the Romans by killing me or surrender me alive as you think best." He was then handed over to Caesar the next morning. However, Plutarch says that Vercingetorix rose early in the morning, wore his best clothes and armor, and rode out to meet Caesar. He rode around the general, then dismounted his horse and proceeded to strip off his armor.

Vercingetorix was then kept prisoner in the Tullianum for six years, put on display, and in 46 BCE was ritually strangled as part of Caesar's triumphal procession.


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Mary Jones 2004