Vercingetorix (-72 - -46)
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Alise-Sainte-Reine, Côte-d'Or © hemis.fr
Sarthe and Calvados. © RMN-Grand Palais (musée d'Archéologie nationale) / Hervé Lewandowski
Vercingetorix, Chief of the Arvernes and legendary hero of the Gallic Wars, was, as his Celtic name tells us, the "great warrior King". He assembled around him most of the peoples of Gaul, who had thus far been divided into rival peoples, and resisted Caesar's legions, even though they were the world's biggest army, for ten months due to this unity, inflicting a searing defeat on Caesar at Gergovie, before being vanquished at Alesia.
When Caesar invaded Gaul in 58 BC, the father of Vercingétorix, Celtill, who was already preparing to lead Gaul against the Romans, was put to death by the Arverne aristocracy, who suspected him of wanting the crown. On his death, Vercingétorix followed Caesar's armies as an ally for six years, before returning to his people at the start of the first Gallic Rebellion at Cenabum (Orléans) in 52 BC, a general uprising that he succeeded in leading.
His strategy was to avoid direct confrontation with Caesar's legions and to exhaust the Roman army with a scorched earth policy. But when Caesar, failing before Gergovie, decided to withdraw to the Narbonnaise, the Gauls made the error of attacking the Roman army as it marched near Dijon. Vercingétorix had to retreat to Alesia, where, ambushed and after two months of siege, he threw down his arms at Caesar's feet. He died six years later, strangled in the underground prison at Tullianum in Rome.