Front Matter France Long Ago The Gauls In France The Priests of the Gauls Sailor Stories Conquests of the Gauls Two Great Battles Caesar in Gaul Gaul under the Romans First Christian Martyrs Patron Saint of France Franks Come to Gaul The First Kings Conquests of Clovis Clotaire and His Relatives Two Rival Queens Good King Dagobert The Saracens Checked End of the Merovingians Charlemagne's Wars Charlemagne's Manners Charlemagne, Emperor Feudalism Troublesome Sons The Strassburg Oath Normans Besiege Paris Last of the Carolingians The Year One Thousand Robert's Two Wives Wealth of the Clergy The First Crusade A Love Story The Second Crusade More Crusades The Battle of Bouvines Blanche of Castile The Sixth Crusade The Reign of Louis IX Effect of the Crusades The Battle of the Spurs End of Knights Templar The Hundred Years' War The Siege of Calais The Battle of Poitiers Seven Years of Misery The Brave du Guesclin Achievements of Charles V Charles VI Misrule in France The Disgraceful Treaty Joan to the Rescue Orleans and Rheims Joan's Martyrdom Charles's Successes The Crafty King Louis XI Louis XI's Reign Achievements of Louis XI Charles VIII The Second Italian War Death of Louis XII Francis I Rivalry of Kings Achievements of Francis I End of Francis's Reign Reign of Henry II A Young King and Queen Catherine's Regency The Forced Wedding Massacre of the Huguenots Death of Charles IX An Effeminate King he Battle of Coutras The Murder of the Guises Winning a Crown Conversion of Henry IV Henry IV's Second Marriage Death of Henry IV The Minority of Louis XIII Rule of the Favorites Richelieu and Louis XIII End of Louis XIII's Reign Beginning of a Great Reign Wars of the Fronde Death of Mazarin Versailles The Iron Mask Louis XIV's Campaigns Madame de Maintenon Later Wars of Louis XIV The Spanish Succession The Age of Louis XIV

Story of Old France - Helene Guerber

Caesar in Gaul

In 58 B.C. news came to Rome that the Helvetians—a people living in the country now called Switzerland—were about to leave their homes in a body, and cross Gaul to settle near the Atlantic Ocean. As these people were far from civilized, the Gauls dreaded their passage, and therefore implored the Romans to prevent their leaving home.

In answer to this appeal, Julius Caesar went northward with a Roman army. He won a battle and forced the Helvetians to return to their old homes, to which they had set fire on leaving. He then asked for an interview with a German chief, Ariovistus, who had invaded Gaul and had camped with his warriors near the river Saone (son). The barbarian haughtily answered: "If I needed Caesar, I would go to him; if Caesar needs me, let him come to me."

This proud answer greatly displeased the messengers, who informed Ariovistus that he had better take care lest he rouse their anger; but he fearlessly replied: "No one has ever attacked me yet without repenting of it. We will measure our strength whenever Caesar pleases, and he will then learn what it is to face warriors who have not slept under a roof for the past fourteen years."

This defiant message so frightened the Roman soldiers that they refused to go a step farther until Caesar cried: "If all others forsake me, I will go on alone with the tenth legion; that one will not desert me!" Ashamed of their cowardice, the other soldiers now obeyed, but they were so sure they were going to die that they all made their wills before they went into battle.

Caesar pressed on with his army and beat Ariovistus. His first campaign in Gaul thus made the Romans masters of all the valley of the Rhone and Saone rivers.

In his second and third campaigns, Caesar fought in what is now Belgium, and the western part of France, and nearly completed the conquest of all Gaul. But the people were not yet ready to obey Rome tamely, so in later campaigns Caesar had to put down several revolts of different tribes, and was even obliged to cross the Rhine to awe the Germans, who encouraged the Gauls in their efforts to drive the hated Romans out of their country.

Caesar was not only a brave general but a well-educated man, and he wrote an account of his Gallic wars, which is the best history of what he did. In that book, part of which all the Latin pupils read in school, he cleverly described the people he met, who were the ancestors of three of the leading nations in Europe—the French, the Germans, and the British.

The most serious of all the revolts in Gaul was planned by the chief of a central tribe, named Vercingetorix. He was tall, strong, and very brave, and had so great an influence over his people that they swore never to see their wives and children again until they had passed twice through the ranks of their enemies.

But the Gauls were still barbarians, and unfortunately they did not obey this chief perfectly. When he commanded those near Caesar's army to destroy all their stores, they coolly decided to save their principal fortified city (now Bourges), where they had large supplies. Caesar took this town and thus secured plentiful supplies for his legions, which might otherwise have starved there in the winter season.

Caesar then attacked and defeated several tribes separately before besieging Alesia, a place where Vercingetorix and the main part of his warriors had taken refuge. Alesia was perched on a high hill, and was well fortified. Not being able to reach it, Caesar built earthworks all around it, so that none of the Gauls could pass in or out, and mounted guard so vigilantly that he battled all the warriors who tried to break through his blockade to reach their besieged countrymen.



The Gauls held out until no food of any kind was left, and then the starved garrison, having suffered untold agonies, had to surrender (52 B.C). Vercingetorix, hoping to secure better terms for his people, rode down alone into Caesar's camp, in full battle array, galloped up to the spot where the general was seated, proudly flung his arms down at his feet, and dismounting, sat down in the dust before him, silently holding out his hands for the chains which he knew were awaiting him. Vercingetorix was bound and taken to Rome, where a few years later he appeared a captive in Caesar's triumph. When that last humiliation was over, he was taken back to prison and beheaded by a slave, while his conqueror was making his thanksgiving offering in the Roman Capitol.

The attempt of Vercingetorix to free his country from the yoke of the Romans was so brave and so noble that he is considered a great hero and the first French champion of liberty. His statue has therefore been placed on the very spot where he once made his hopeless stand against the Roman legions under Caesar, and his name is well known and dearly loved by all French children.