Vercingetorix (died 46 BC), chieftain of the Arverni, led the great Gallic revolt against the Romans in 53 and 52 BC. His name in Gaulish means “over-king” (ver-rix) of warriors (cingetos).

As described in Julius Caesar’s Gallic_Wars, Rome had secured domination over the Celtic tribes beyond the Provincia Narbonensis (modern day Provence) through a careful strategy of divide and conquer. Vercingetorix ably unified the tribes, adopted the policy of retreating to natural fortifications, and undertook an early example of scorched_earth methods by burning the towns to prevent the Roman legions from living off the land.

Caesar and his chief lieutenant Labienus lost the initial minor engagements, but captured the tribal capital at Avaricum (Bourges), and then overtook and encircled Vercingetorix at Alesia. Vercintegorix summoned his Gallic allies to attack the besieging Romans, prompting Caesar to build a legendary doughnut-shaped fortification: an inner wall and siegecraft to attack the Arvernian garrison, and an outer defensive perimeter to protect against the attempted relief.

Caesar decisively defeated both forces. Vercingetorix was captured and imprisoned in the Tullianum in Rome for five years, before being publicly displayed and beheaded as part of Caesar’s triumph in 46 BC.

 

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