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The Conquest of Gaul

Now Caesar was free to pursue honour and glory for another five years. The conquest of Gaul, during the Gallic Wars celebrated in Caesar's own treatise on the subject, does not appear to have been planned, but in 58 BCE an intrusion into Roman controlled territory of the Helvetii from the area of Switzerland gave Caesar an excuse to go on the offensive.

Later Caesar used a request for help from some of the Gallic tribes to intervene in internal Gallic conflicts, and he defeated one tribe after another. By the end of 57 BCE most of the tribes were defeated and forced to accept Roman supremacy.

The Capitoline 'Dying Gaul'
The Capitoline 'Dying Gaul'

In 56 BCE the alliance of Caesar, Crassus and Pompey met fierce opposition in the senate in Rome and one candidate for the consulship in 55 BCE promised to call back Caesar and prosecute him if he won the election. Caesar, who had spent the winter in Illyricum, met with Pompey and Crassus in Italy to sort out the situation. The agree to prolong their private agreement for another five years. Caesar would support the election of Pompey and Crassus for the consulship of 55 BCE, and Caesar's pro-consular command in Gaul would be prolonged for another five-year period, giving him another respite from prosecution. Their plan succeed, Pompey and Crassus became consuls and Caesar's command prolonged.

With his back covered Caesar returned to Gaul. In the following years (55 and 54 BCE) he fought Germanic tribes that had crossed the Rhine into Gaul, with a brutality and ruthlessness that caused much opposition in Rome, and he crossed the British Channel and made a short, victorious campaign in Britain, but with no lasting consequences.

Caesar's troops camped for the winter in various places in Belgium, but in the spring of 53 BCE some of these camps were attacked by the local tribes and suffered serious losses. Caesar spend most of that year fighting these tribes, and effectively annihilated some of them, men, women and children. The next year an alliance of many Gallic tribes, under the leadership of Vercingetorix, rose against the Romans. They tried to starve out the Romans, burning many of their own towns and collected all their forces and supplies in a few heavily fortified strongholds. Caesar's forces took some of these towns, but failed to take others. In the end all the Roman forces was concentrated around the city of Alesia, but failed to take it by storm. Caesar decided to starve the Gallic forces out, and after a prolonged siege Vercingetorix and the Gauls surrendered.

It is estimated that one million persons died in the wars and another million was sold into slavery, draining Gaul of approximately one third of the entire population. Caesar had effected an unprecedented genocide (in modern terms we would talk about war crimes, genocide and crimes against the humanity), all in the name of honour and glory.

This article has been split into 11 separate sections. Use the menu below to jump to another section.

  1. Introduction
  2. Caesar's Political Career
  3. The Alliance with Crassus and Pompey
  4. The Conquest of Gaul
  5. The Civil War
  6. Dictator and God
  7. The Assassination
  8. Caesar's Legacy
  9. The Julian Calendar
  10. Literature and Links
  11. Photographs of Julius Caesar

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Copyright © 2003 René Seindal, last changed 2003-08-28

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