Revolt in Gaul
As Caesar returned from his second expedition to Britain in 54 BC, there was already trouble looming in Gaul and in his personal life. He received word that his daughter Julia, wife of Pompey, had died in childbirth. This event was assuredly difficult for Caesar on a personal level, but it carried monumental political ramifications as well.
While Julia lived, Pompey remained at least partially allied to Caesar, but with her death, he drifted ever closer to Caesar's enemies, the boni. Caesar attempted to confirm the alliance by offering his grandniece Octavia as a new bride to Pompey, while also offering to divorce his own wife and marry Pompey's daughter. Pompey's refusal, though an indication of his own personal grief, was also a clear signal that the triumvirate was slowly breaking apart.
With the death of Crassus at Carrhae two years later, the coming civil war seemed inevitable. Shortly after word of Julia's death, Caesar also received the news of the death of his mother Aurelia.
With the Gallic revolt on the horizon, and the recent tragic news, 54 BC was shaping into a terrible year for Caesar.
For now though, despite his personal and political losses, Caesar had to deal with revolts in Gaul and renewed trouble with Germanic tribes. Legions were scattered throughout Gaul for the winter camps, to not only quell trouble, but to spread the burden of supply throughout the province. One camp in particular, that of Cotta and Sabinus, was sent to cover the Rhine area in the territory of the Eburones.
A surprise ambush dealt Caesar's legions its first major defeat and opened the door for widespread revolution. The battle, conducted by Ambiorix, was a prolonged affair in which the Romans fought valiantly to nearly the last man. 15 cohorts were slaughtered, totaling nearly 7,200 men or just under a quarter of Caesar's total force. Only a few scattered remains of the army were able to escape to the camp of Labienus some distance away, and if not for these men, the story of the lost cohorts may have been a complete mystery.
The Gauls and Ambiorix found it easy to recruit after this victory, and their army swelled to as many as 60,000 warriors. They next moved on the camp of Quintus Cicero, brother of the great orator, and laid siege. Caesar, with a much smaller force of some 7,000 men was able to defeat the poorly equipped and trained Gallic mob, but found Cicero and his men near utter disaster. Nine in every ten men under Cicero's command had been reported as wounded, and Caesar procured them with great military honors for their service.
Caesar and Cicero moved to Samarobriva in December to finally settle in to winter quarters. At the camp of Labienus, he was under constant pressure from Eburones, Nervii and Treveri cavalry. Word of Caesar's victory, and the killing of the Treveri leader Indutiomarus in a Roman raid led by Labienus relieved the pressure, but the situation remained unclear for the entire winter of 54 to 53 BC.
At the offset of 53 BC, Caesar trained two new legions and borrowed a third from Pompey. Clearly Pompey and Caesar hadn't completely fallen out yet, but this could have been done to force Caesar into Pompey's debt. Regardless, Caesar now had ten full legions under his command, and he would begin to put them to use as early as March.
Caesar first punished the Nervii for their involvement in the revolt and identified other opposing tribes as the Senones, Carnutes, Treviri, Eburones and Menapii. He secured a headquarters in central Gaul at Lutetia and marched against the Senones, Carnutes and Menapii. Winning victory easily, Caesar reinforced Labienus in facing the Treviri and their Germanic allies whom had been crossing the Rhine. Labienus soundly defeated this opposition, bringing northeastern Gaul under Roman dominion once again, and Caesar was able to focus his attention on the source of many Gallic disruptions, the Rhine.
In the summer of 53 BC, Caesar once again bridged the Rhine to pursue Ambiorix and the Eburones. In a few short weeks, the land of the Eburones was decimated, though Ambiorix escaped Caesar's grasp. Caesar's Germanic allies, the Ubii, punished the Suevi on his behalf for aiding the Treviri against Labienus, and for just being a general source of trouble. At the end of this short trip, despite some harrowing moments for Qunitus Cicero who was once again besieged as his small force guarded the Rhine bridge, the expedition resulted in Caesar's favor.
At the end of the campaign year of 53 BC, general peace seemed to have returned to Gaul, and Caesar was able to revisit Cisalpine Gaul to attend to political and administrative matters. By this time however, word had arrived of Crassus' great defeat to the Parthians at Carrhae, and coupled with the death of Julia, it was obvious that the political situation would begin to unravel. Immeasurable bribery was taking place in Rome along with lawsuits and trials of all sorts. The mob violence between Clodius and Milo continued, and elections for 53 BC had been delayed until summer; just about the time that Caesar made his second crossing of the Rhine.
By early 52 BC the situation in Rome was no better, and in fact had grown much worse. Mob violence prevailed and elections were delayed once again. The violence between Clodius and Milo eventually resulted in the murder of Clodius and the trial of Milo, resulting in his exile.
In the emergency, Pompey wanted the dictatorship, but the optimates or 'boni', were still concerned over Pompey's motivation. Instead, he was offered effectively the same position without the title. He was made sole Consul for the year, so was able to rule more effectively than with a potential rival, but still wasn't graced with the power of the Tribunes.
Pompey then married into the boni clan marrying Claudia, the daughter of Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio. Metellus was eventually made joint Consul to ease fears over Pompey's power, but by now Pompey was clearly leaning with Caesar's enemies.
A law was passed to prevent the great amount of electoral bribery that was running rampant, and in it, magistrates were once again forced to run for office only if they were present in Rome. Pompey had previously told Caesar that an exception would be made for him to protect him from his enemies, and allow him to regain imperium through public office at the end of his Gallic term.
As the boni were anxiously awaiting his term to run out, which would force him to return to Rome without the protection of his legions, this clause was of paramount importance to Caesar. However, the exception was 'accidentally' left out of the final draft, and it was becoming painfully clear that the boni intended to cut down Caesar's career at any cost.
In the winter of 53 BC, after Caesar had crossed the Alps for Cisalpine Gaul, new discontent was brewing amongst the tribes of southern central Gaul. With the absence of legions in their territories, and certainly resisting the Roman yoke, the Carnutes rose up and wreaked havoc on a small Roman settlement called Cenabum, near modern Orleans, France. The small town of Roman traders was slaughtered by the Gauls, and word quickly spread throughout the region of the uprising.
Amongst those tribes who heard the word, and the call for solidarity against Rome, were the neighboring Arverni. Initially hesitant, a young chieftan named Vercingetorix (or in Gallic possibly Fearcuincedorigh - "Man who is chief of a hundred heads"), came to forefront to rally the Gauls. He was the son of Celtillus, a former chieftan who was executed for attempting to unite the tribe under a single king.
His son seemed to be following in the father's footsteps, but times were changing, and desperation was setting in. Vercingetorix was expelled from the capital of the Arverni by his own uncle, who protested against revolt, but the young man was resilient and recruited like minded tribesmen from the countryside. He was able to regain entry to the city, and with his small growing army in tow, was named chief of all the Arverni.
Other neighboring tribes soon joined the growing revolt, especially in the absence of the legions who occupied the northern and eastern portions of Gaul. According to Caesar, the Senones, Parisii, Pictones, Cadurci, Turones, Aulerci, Lemovice and the tribes of Aquitania all joined in the general revolt.
The real danger came when this new coalition began making inroads into the Aedui, the most formidable and oldest of the Roman allied tribes. Caesar had to make haste from Cisalpine Gaul and back across the Alps to his army, but the mountains were still buried in snow from the winter. Caesar reports that his men dug six feet of snow from their path in order to make the crossing, and he was able to do so at an alarming speed.
Finally joining his army in the late winter/early spring of 52 BC, Caesar had no choice but to consolidate his forces against the formidable revolt. The danger here was that it reduced garrisons, allowing other tribes to rise up, and the difficult situation of trying to feed such a large force. Vercingetorix wisely adopted a plan to slash and burn what food stores would be readily available to Caesar, and the tribes mostly complied. However, one town, Avaricum, with its great food stores, was spared as the owning tribe had already burned 20 of their own towns.
Caesar, joined by Germanic Ubii cavalry and a poorly fed army, made haste for Avaricum, and delaying tactics by the Gauls were mostly fended off by the Ubii. Caesar arrived at the fortified city in early spring and began displaying his tactical brilliance in siege warfare. Despite incessant rain, two wheeled towers, eighty feet high, with 330 foot ramps were constructed to penetrate the defenses.
Despite desperate fighting to prevent the Romans from overtaking the walls, Caesar, after 27 days, entered the town. The population in its entirety was put to the sword. The Romans, frustrated and half-starved, spared very few, and of 40,000 reported inhabitants, only 800 supposedly escaped to inform Vercingetorix. Well fed and encouraged by victory, Caesar could now plan on attacking the main body of his Gallic opponent directly.
Vercingetorix won more support through the Roman victory, however. Seeing the wisdom of his plan to destroy the food supply, more tribes united under the Arverni King. He was slowly becoming, if not a King, then at a minimum, the commander in chief of all the combined Gallic tribes.
Battle of Gergovia
After taking Avaricum and supplying his legions with badly needed sustenance, Caesar began to move against the main body of Gallic resistance. In the early summer Labienus was sent with four legions against the Senones and Parisii, and Caesar pursued Vercingetorix with the six remaining legions, accompanied by Aedui auxilia and Germanic cavalry. Following the Allier River, Vercingetorix marched ahead of the Roman host, destroying bridges as they went to delay the pursuit. Near the hill fort of Gergovia, with favorable ground for a defensive stand, Vercingetorix stopped and prepared to meet Caesar.
After a five day march, the Romans engaged the Gallic cavalry just outside Gergovia. Pushing them back, Caesar moved into position against the enemy infantry. In surveying the field it was obvious that Vercingetorix was well positioned on favorable ground, but a hill adjacent to the main fort was only lightly guarded. During the night, the Romans took the lightly held hill with two legions and fortified their position. Rather than risk a full frontal assault, Caesar once again relied on his superior siege tactics. This time he ordered a double trench, 12 feet wide, to be constructed between the newly captured hill and his main camp. Intending to completely encircle Gergovia and starve the Gauls inside, Caesar was interrupted by trouble with his Gallic allies the Aedui.
Through the treachery of a chieftan by name of Litavicus, the Aedui were spurred to join the revolt by being told that Caesar had slaughtered Aedui hostages previously given up to him as a condition of peace. Caesar broke off the attempted siege of Gergovia with four legions, leaving two to hold the defenses against Vercingetorix. He met the Aedui some 25 miles away, and with the presence of his legions, the Aedui submitted once again to Roman authority. Litavicus managed to flee to join Vercingetorix at Gergovia, but the Aedui were again in the Roman fold, albeit temporarily.
Whilst in the process of securing Aedui loyalty, however, Caesar received word from Gaius Fabius who was left in command at Gergovia that his two legions were under heavy attack. Fearful that he might lose the legions and his camp, Caesar ordered a hasty march, displaying his famous knack for uncanny speed on campaign. His four legions marched backed to Gergovia in just several hours overnight to relieve the pressure on Fabius.
Upon returning, the Gauls had put themselves into a better position to resist Caesar's encirclement plan. He knew that the siege would be a failure, and the only way to win the battle would be to get Vercingetorix to come down from the high ground. Caesar ordered a legion to move into some woods below the town, seemingly as a decoy. The main Gallic force moved itself out of position from their camp on the high ground, leaving it exposed, and Caesar moved the bulk of his force to take advantage.
The remaining defenders were pushed from their positions on favorable ground and Caesar, having accomplished his goal, ordered a general retreat, likely to reform for battle in a better situation. Caesar reports however, that the bulk of his force either ignored or didn't hear the order, and with the defenders cleared, the Romans began to storm the walls of Gergovia. Encouraged by the potential for plunder and glory, the men attacked, oblivious to the danger.
The main body of Gauls that had moved to watch the single legion that Caesar ordered into the woods returned to protect Gergovia. Joining the attack, and gaining favorable position once again, they pushed the Romans from the hill and sent them into flight. Caesar's vaunted X legion and parts of the XIII were positioned on level ground to intercept the pursuing Gauls and stem off a potential route. Seeing the Romans in a position to their advantage, Vercingetorix called off the pursuit and moved back up the hill.
At the end of the battle, Caesar wrote that 46 centurions and 700 legionaries were missing (presumed killed). Angry with his men for disregarding his retreat order, he chastised them for arrogance, but ordered them back into position to offer battle again.
The next day, the Roman lines were drawn again, daring Vercingetorix to attack. Apart from some cavalry skirmishes, the Gauls were not budging. Realizing that Gergovia would just have to end in his first humiliating defeat, Caesar built a bridge across the Allier, and retreated out of reach of the enemy.
Meanwhile, Labienus was busy against the Parisii and Senones. Also finding himself in precarious positions similar to that of Caesar, he was at first hard pressed to offer battle favorable to Roman tactics.
Eventually, near Lutetia, the Gauls attacked Labienus, but he smashed the Gallic right wing, outflanking and chasing them off the field. In the battle, the Gallic commander Camulogenus was killed and the north central part of Gaul was largely subdued. The Romans secured supplies from Agendicum and marched swiftly to rejoin Caesar to consolidate their forces.
Caesar hoped that a single large force would be better suited to defeat Vercingetorix and crush the rebellion in a single effort. However, by this time, the Aedui, likely inspired by the Gallic victory at Gergovia, threw their full support in with the revolt, offering as many as 15,000 cavalry to Vercingetorix. At an official meeting of Gallic tribes, he was elected as overall commander of all the combined tribes, essentially making him the first King of Gaul.
Having fully united the Roman forces in the whole of Gaul, save for those of Lucius Caesar with 22 newly recruited cohorts assigned to the defense of various perimeter tribes, Caesar next called upon the Germanics for more support. Arriving quickly with a large force of cavalry, Caesar found their horses in poor shape and replaced them with horses from his own army.
Caesar's army however, as it was recently combined and on the march, was heavily laden with its baggage train. Vercingetorix saw this as his best opportunity to attack a vulnerable Roman army on the march and in need to protect its baggage train, rather than in battle formation. Sometime in early September 52 BC, Vercingetorix attacked the Romans with his cavalry near Divio (modern Dijon, France) from both the front and rear of the Roman column. Caesar countered the Gauls with his Germanic cavalry and shattered them, sending them racing back to their own infantry lines. Caesar moved in hot pursuit, scattering resistance and the Gauls, having lost the bulk of their cavalry retreating. Vercingetorix moved his army into the heart of central Gaul, in Mandubii territory and they regrouped at the well fortified town of Alesia, preparing to meet Caesar's coming siege.
Siege of Alesia
After defeating the Gallic forces of Vercingetorix near Divio, Caesar followed his retreating army to the fortified town of Alesia. With an alleged army of some 80,000 men, Vercingetorix and his Gauls were in shock from Caesar's Germanic cavalry allies, and were in no condition to meet the 60,000 Roman legionaries on the battlefield. In the seasonal summer of 52 BC (late September by the calendar of the time), Caesar approached Alesia with the Gauls holed up inside, and was well aware of his army's failures at Gergovia just a short time before.
Deciding to wisely forego a direct attack, Caesar knew that to hem the Gauls inside the fort would eventually starve them out, as food was scarce prior to the fall harvest. Caesar, in his commentaries, suggests that the Gauls had only as much as 30 days worth of food to feed their army, even on limited rations. He ordered the complete circumvallation of the Alesian plateau, which would not only enclose the Gauls, but keep his large army occupied during the siege. Walls, ditches and forts of various sizes stretched the entire circle for a total length of 10 miles. A wide ditch was dug out in front of the works, with a second water filled trench behind it, separating the open 3 mile field between Alesia and the Roman wall. As one commentator said of Caesar:
"he dug a trench twenty feet deep, with perpendicular sides, in such a manner that the base of this trench should extend so far as the edges were apart at the top. He raised all his other works at a distance of four hundred feet from that ditch. Having left this interval, he drew two trenches fifteen feet broad, and of the same depth; the innermost of them, being in low and level ground, he filled with water conveyed from the river. Behind these he raised a rampart and wall twelve feet high; to this he added a parapet and battlements, with large stakes cut like stags' horns, projecting from the junction of the parapet and battlements, to prevent the enemy from scaling it, and surrounded the entire work with turrets, which were eighty feet distant from one another."
Though the construction went well, as would be expected with 60,000 laborers, Vercingetorix didn't sit back and watch his army become encircled. Regular raids attempted to interrupt the Romans, but the legions, accompanied by the fearsome Germanic cavalry, outmatched the attackers and sent them scattering back to their own fort. To cut down the number of attacks, and likely escape attempts, Caesar next ordered an elaborate system of traps and additional wall defenses. Continuing to explain:
"It was necessary, at one and the same time, to procure timber. Having, therefore, cut down the trunks of trees or very thick branches, and having stripped their tops of the bark, and sharpened them into a point, he drew a continued trench every where five feet deep. These stakes being sunk into this trench, and fastened firmly at the bottom, to prevent the possibility of their being torn up, had their branches only projecting from the ground. There were five rows in connection with, and intersecting each other; and whoever entered within them were likely to impale themselves on very sharp stakes. The soldiers called these "cippi." Before these, which were arranged in oblique rows in the form of a quincunx, pits three feet deep were dug, which gradually diminished in depth to the bottom. In these pits tapering stakes, of the thickness of a man's thigh; sharpened at the top and hardened in the fire, were sunk in such a manner as to project from the ground not more than four inches; at the same time for the purpose of giving them strength and stability, they were each filled with trampled clay to the height of one foot from the bottom: the rest of the pit was covered over with osiers and twigs, to conceal the deceit. Eight rows of this kind were dug, and were three feet distant from each other. They called this a lily from its resemblance to that flower. Stakes a foot long, with iron hooks attached to them, were entirely sunk in the ground before these, and were planted in every place at small intervals; these they called spurs."
As the Romans approached completion of the enclosure - which took them only three weeks - Vercingetorix ordered some of cavalry to attempt a break out under cover of darkness. With some gaps still in unfinished fortifications, some cavalry were able to escape to nearby tribes and call upon them to help lift the siege. Caesar, however, because of desertions and captured cavalry, was well aware of the plan and realized that his enclosure of Alesia would not help against a relief army.
In one of the most brilliant siege tactics in the history of warfare, and a testament to the skill of Roman engineering, Caesar ordered a second wall to be built on the outside of the first. This wall, nearly identical to the first in construction and type, extended as much as 15 miles around the inner wall and left enough of a gap in between to fortify the entire Roman army. Protected from sally attempts by Vercingetorix and the relief army that was sure to come, the Romans waited for the relief force.
The cavalry that escaped did manage to rally support for Vercingetorix, and a massive army, especially by 'barbarian' standards was raised. According to Caesar, nearly 250,000 Gauls came in support of their besieged 'King', but most modern historians estimate this number at a less daunting number of around 100,000. Even so, this force marched from the territory of the Aedui to crush the Romans between two forces larger than that of their target. Inside Alesia, however, conditions were terrible, with an estimated 180,000 people (including non-combatant women and children) running out of food and supplies. The resident tribe, the Mandubii, sent out their women and children as a delay tactic, hoping that Caesar would let them pass to safety, but the Romans let them starve at the inner Roman wall to show the Gauls the error of their ways, and to prevent foul play.
By the time the relief force arrived, Vercingetorix and his army were in dire straights, with many of his men likely on the verge of surrender. The relief force arrived just in time however, heartening the resolve of the besieged, and setting the stage for the battle that would make or break Caesar's fortunes in Gaul.
In late Spetember of 52 BC, the battle began with a charge from the Gauls on the exterior of the Roman fortifications. A hard fought engagement from noon to sunset ensued, with neither side having a clear advantage. Both Romans and Gauls fought with equal valor and, inspired by the fight, Vercingetorix led his men out of Alesia towards the inner Roman wall. Unable to penetrate the defenses, he was not able to lend support to his countrymen, and eventually Caesar's Germanic cavalry turned the Gallic flank and sent them back to their camps.
The next day, the Gauls outside the Roman works prepared ladders, hooks and equipment for scaling the walls. Around midnight, they put their equipment to use, launching an all out night attack. The initial battle went very well for the Gauls, and many Roman defenders were killed. At the hardest fought points in the defenses, Marcus Antonius and Caius Trebonius saved the day for the Romans, by abandoning those posts that were free from attack and moving these reinforcements into the heaviest action. Eventually, Roman artillery prevailed and the outer Gauls were forced to retreat.
On the inner wall, meanwhile, Vercingetorix had launched a simultaneous attack, but because of the Roman trenches, which the Gauls had to fill, the attack was delayed too long. As dawn began to break, Vercingetorix was forced to retreat as well, since his compatriots on the outer wall had to retire.
The next day, around October 2nd, would prove to be the final battle for Alesia. Sometime around midday, a force of 60,000 Gauls under Vergasillaunus discovered a weakness in the Roman lines. Because of natural obstructions, there were areas in the defense works where walls simply couldn't be built. The Gauls on both the outside and inside launched a simultaneous attack on all quarters of the Roman works. Vergasillaunus pressed hard on the weak part of the wall, while Vercingetorix occupied the Romans all over the inner wall. The Gauls pushed the Romans back all over and the battle was on the brink of disaster for Caesar.
Only the vaunted Roman discipline seems to have prevented a complete rout. Caesar himself rode all over along the Roman lines, lending support and encouragement to his men to hold the lines. Reserves were moved wherever the situation seemed the most dire, and the orders were simply to hold their positions. Labienus was sent to relieve two legions of defenders against the large outer Gallic army of 60,000 with only six cohorts of 3,000 men. Overall, the Romans may have been outnumbered by as many as 6 to 1.
Pressure was mounting all over and Caesar was forced to lead an assault on the inner wall attackers, driving them back and temporarily granting a reprieve. Labienus, meanwhile, was in terrible trouble and reported that his lines were about to break. Unable to hold the defense, he would have to launch an attack in order to attempt driving the Gauls back, rather than stand back and wait for the slaughter to come.
Caesar rode hard to aid Labienus and took a terrible risk in order to inspire his men. With 13 cohorts, Caesar left the relative safety of the walls and rode outside to attack the Gauls from the rear. Inspired by the sight of Caesar fighting on the outside, the Romans under Labienus launched a full attack with brilliant success. Sandwiched between Caesar's army at the rear and by Labienus in the front, the Gauls began to buckle and soon fell into an all out retreat.
The battle that was once very close to the possible end of Caesar, turned into an all out rout and the Gauls outside the Roman walls were slaughtered. Caesar commented that if not for the complete exhaustion of his men, he might have destroyed the entire Gallic army. Even so, by the end of the action, the Germanic cavalry would virtually wipe out the retreating Gauls, leaving only Vercingetorix on the inside.
Forced back into Alesia after the defeat of his relief force, with no hope of additional reinforcements, and only with the starving remnants of his own army, Vercingetorix was forced to surrender. Caesar sat at the head of his lines and waited for the approach of the Gallic chieftans. Vercingetorix and his fellow leaders laid down their arms and surrendered quietly, where he was eventually led away to Rome.
There he would sit and rot in a Roman prison for five miserable years, awaiting the day when Caesar could have his triumph, to be followed by the ritual execution of the enemy leader. As a reward, Caesar's men each received one Gallic slave in addition to monetary spoils of war, but the war wasn't over just yet.
Mopping up in Gaul
After the battle of Alesia and the subsequent surrender of Vercingetorix, little changed in Gaul for Caesar, save for one important circumstance. A great number of tribes remained in revolt, but there was no longer a coalition of tribes working together against the Roman presence.
Caesar now had the luxury of dealing with these Gallic tribes on an individual basis. Immediately after Alesia, Caesar marched south into Aedui territory and reaffirmed their allegiance to Rome. The Arverni, Vercingetorix's own tribe, submitted as well and both, despite their leading the revolt and betraying the Roman alliance respectively, were treated with honor.
As two major tribes within central Gaul, it was to Caesar's benefit to treat them favorably. After taking advantage of the fall harvest, Caesar scattered his legions throughout Gaul in an attempt to minimize the continuing revolt, and the Senate voted another 20 day festival (the third in total) of thanks in Caesar's honor.
While wintering in Gaul at Bibracte, the revolt started in full effect once again. Caesar marched to the territory of the Bituriges and brought them to submission within 40 days. Caesar returned to Bibracte by February 51 BC and offered his men 200 sesterces per legionary and 2,000 per centurion as a reward for their continuing sacrifice and hardship.
Soon after returning however, the beaten Bituriges were under assault from the Carnutes, and Caesar marched back to their lands again. Decisively routing the Carnutes, the Bellovaci were the next source of trouble. In mid winter, Caesar's allies the Remi were under pressure from these Bellovaci, and Caesar marched to the lands of the Seussiones to meet them.
With four legions, Caesar met the Gallic army but was unable to lure them into an open battle. Small cavalry engagements weren't decisive either way, and the Gauls did a good job of using guerrilla tactics against Roman foragers.
Caesar ordered more of his men to join him in what might seem to be the last major enemy of the long war. Fending off ambush attempts and fighting the cold of winter, the Romans never seemed in serious trouble, but weren't able to bring the issue to a close. Finally, sometime in mid February 51 BC, the Romans met the rebellious Gauls in a major battle. The Gauls tried to ambush a foraging column, but were soundly defeated, and by now Caesar had become merciless. Most remaining tribes now sent hostages to Caesar in a show of loyalty, but a few brave tribes remained at odds.
The lands of former enemy Ambiorix along the Rhine were burnt and pillaged, while Labienus was sent to destroy the Treveri for their involvement in the revolt. Caius Caninius and Caius Fabius were sent to destroy an enemy force near Limonum, killing 12,000 Gauls and capturing a great deal of spoils in the process. The remaining forces retreated to a fort in southwest Gaul called Uxellodunum, and Caesar's legates invested the town in an Alesia-like siege.
Caesar meanwhile was traveling throughout Gaul with his victorious army as a show of force, securing loyalty from the numerous tribes. When word reached him of the situation at Uxellodunum, he marched quickly to make a final example of this last hold out against Roman authority.
The Romans cut off the water supply of the town and let the people die of thirst and starvation. Caesar's great successes left the remaining Gauls believing that their defeat was the will of the gods, and they eventually capitulated. Caesar administered his most ruthless punishment yet, cutting off the hands of all those men who bore arms against Rome. Any remaining resistance within Gaul quickly ended, and Caesar spent the rest of the year 51 BC assuring the loyalty of the tribes. The legions were once again spread throughout Gaul to prevent further uprisings, but this time all of Gaul was exhausted and had lost the will to fight.
After 8 long years and countless campaigns, the Gallic Wars had finally come to an end. Caesar had proven himself as one of the greatest and most brutal conquerors of the ancient world, whilst also conducting some of the most brilliant siege tactics witnessed by history.
He conquered over 350,000 sq. miles of territory, killing over 1 million Gauls and enslaving a likely equal number in the process. Of the original estimated population of 3 to 6 million Gauls (depending on which numbers are accurate), at best an entire third of the population was wiped out and at worst only one third remained after the wars of Caesar. He bridged the Rhine not once but twice, and crossed the channel to Britain in an equal manner, becoming the first Roman to accomplish both things.
No Roman had ever accomplished so much, and yet been so brutal to an enemy. Vast amounts of wealth and slaves were brought back to Rome, and Gaul remained from that time onwards a loyal and generally Romanized province of the growing empire.