Guns and Gear

Guns & Politics: Vercingetorix

Susan Smith Columnist
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Sometimes the odds of winning are so overwhelmingly against you it seems futile to even try.

With the relentless onslaught of the left in the form of every Democrat, in lockstep as never before, the media, also in lockstep as before only in their adoration of St. Barack, and the Never-Trump Establishment Trump-haters, with their unified goal of getting rid of Trump in favor of whomever (that’s not so important – old Hills was just fine, and the next such unsatisfactory offering will be equally as fine to them), it does in fact seem overwhelming at times.

Has anyone before in history triumphed over odds these overwhelming?  One needs only to look at history to see if this is the case.

Vercingetorix was a Frenchman, though you may not have been able to discern that from his name.  This is because he was a Frenchman, perhaps the most famous such fellow, from a time long ago and far away, in a land known as Gaul, which is the forerunner to modern France, and included parts of what is now Germany, as well, at the time that the area was colonized by the Romans.  Vercingetorix was a great warrior, and his chief opponent in his defense of his homeland was none other than the greatest of all the Romans, Julius Caesar.

Vercingetorix was born in 75 BC, and was the son of Celtillus, an Arvernian (one of the strongest of the ancient tribes of Gaul) nobleman who, according to Caesar, had once ‘held the supremacy of entire Gaul.’  It was said of Celtillus, however, that he had been killed by his fellow Gauls when they discovered that he wanted to become king of a united Gaul, the lack of which was in fact regretted by the Gallic tribes when the Romans appeared on the scene.

The various tribes of Gaul, in defiance of the orders of Julius Caesar and his formidable troops, declined to accept the Roman invitation of total subjugation to their rule, and a typically (for the barbarian hordes at the time) disorganized revolt was attempted.  Vercingetorix, clearly a natural leader from a young age, tried to begin unification by banding together his own tribe, the Arverni, but a resisting uncle of his, Gobanitio, opposed his efforts and managed to have the young man banished from the tribe’s capital city, Gergorvia.  Undeterred, Vercingetorix gathered together enough non-Arvernian Gauls to overthrow his uncle and his cohort of noblemen, and Vercingetorix was then acclaimed as King.

Thus empowered, Vercingetorix appealed to neighboring tribes to band together to fight the Romans, and he was soon “appointed the supreme commander of the newly unified Gallic army.”

Despite his obvious strengths, Vercingetorix could not be in all places at once, and as a result, the Gallic chieftain, fighting against perhaps the most brilliant military leader in Roman history, saw different parts of the land he was defending fall to the Romans at different times, thus fatally weakening his newly unified band of Gallic tribesmen.   In a move typical of Caesar’s brilliance, not only militarily but seemingly being able to see into the minds of his opponents, the Roman leader invaded Vercingetorix’ actual homeland.  Here is what happened next:

“Vercingetorix was forced to move south to counter Caesar, who then slipped away to the east, collected more troops and then crossed Aeduan (a section of ancient Gaul) territory to reach his legions in the north.”

The Gallic leader’s next move was to attack a significant nearby town which had been under Caesar’s protection, thus thwarting Caesar, albeit temporarily.  Caesar then ordered his troops to advance south towards Cenadum (Orleans, in modern France), forcing the surrender not only the populace of that significant city, but also of all cities, towns and people along the route.  Thus emboldened, the Romans were on the move.  Vercingetorix, trying to save the whole at the expense of the partial, ordered that a scorched earth policy be employed, and everything between Cenadum and Avaricum was levelled.  His Gallic generals, however, prevailed upon Vercingetorix to let them try to defend Avaricum, a particularly strategic town at that time.

Again Caesar’s military brilliance came to the fore – he ordered siege works to be constructed, (as only he could), offered battle to the Gauls while the construction was ongoing, the response to which proved to Caesar that the Gauls were leaderless, as Vercingetorix had indeed scarpered off to enlist more tribes’ involvement in this fight to the death for Gaul.

Upon his return, Vercingetorix was accused of treason by his very upset fellow tribesmen and, in a direct reaction to the disaster that awaited them, they accused their leader of “deliberately (moving) the Gauls into a vulnerable position and then (leaving) them without a leader.”  Here is what happened:

“Vercingetorix demonstrated his unusual ability to maintain a coalition of different Gallic tribes, making a speech that completely restored his authority.”

How Trumpian of him.

Needless to say, Caesar triumphed, and the vital town of Avaricum was completed destroyed by the Romans.  Then Caesar split his army in two, sending half north while “he led six legions to attack (the more southern town of) Gergovia.”  By this point, Vercingetorix had actually persuaded another particularly fearsome tribe to finally join his effort, and with their participation, Caesar had to admit defeat for the first time in his efforts to subjugate Gaul.  He took his troops north to join their fellow legionnaires, at which point he immediately led his newly reunified army against Vercingetorix and his forces, in a battle known as the Battle of the Vingeanne, and which ended in a clear Roman victory.  The next encounter between the two, the siege of Alesia, turned out to be “the decisive battle of the war,” and a Roman victory, thanks yet again to the genius of one man, Julius Caesar.

There were Gauls in the city of Alesia, and there were Gauls outside the city, though ordered by Vercingetorix to stay concealed behind the Roman troops who were surrounding the city. Despite the fact that the Romans then found themselves “attacked from both sides at once,” the forces of Julius Caesar prevailed, and Vercingetorix “felt he had to surrender.”  According to the great Roman historian Plutarch, the Gallic leader “put on his best armor, rode around Caesar, then got off his horse, took off his armor and sat at Caesar’s feet until he was led away.”

The rest of the story of this amazing “barbarian” leader of the Gauls who under his leadership almost defeated the might of Rome is not so satisfying.  Vercingetorix was taken to Rome for his display there as the star of Caesar’s triumph, and ended up being imprisoned in the city for seven years before he was finally executed.

He was forever known as the “leader of the most powerful alliance of Gallic tribes that Caesar ever faced.”  Though ultimately defeated by the Romans, I offer Vercingetorix as a particular example of triumphing over extraordinary odds because he did, in fact, do the impossible.

Vercingetorix not only did the impossible by unifying the Gallic tribes, he also performed the miraculous feat of holding off the greatest fighting force the world had ever seen for many years; indeed, he almost conquered the supreme fighting forces of the great, and unconquerable, Julius Caesar.

Caesar was not alone, in his time and for all time, in his admiration of this great Gallic hero.

Susan Smith brings an international perspective to her writing by having lived primarily in western Europe, mainly in Paris, France, and the U.S., primarily in Washington, D.C. She authored a weekly column for Human Events on politics with historical aspects. She also served as the Staff Director of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Children, Family, Drugs and Alcoholism, and Special Assistant to the first Ambassador of Afghanistan following the initial fall of the Taliban. Ms. Smith is a graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University and Georgetown University, as well as the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris, France, where she obtained her French language certification. Ms. Smith now makes her home in McLean, Va

Susan Smith