Julius Caesar in Gaul during 55 -50 BC

During the winter between 55 and 56 BC, Gaius Julius Caesar waged war with the Germanic tribes. Germanic tribes crossed the Rhine river because they intended to strengthen their position in Gaul. Firstly Caesar entered into negotiations with Germans and suddenly he attacked them. Most of the Germanic tribes were destroyed and only Germanic cavalry managed to get across the Rhine. Caesar was the first Roman commander of the army that crosses the Rhine and spent 18 days on its right bank.

Caesar’s campaign in Britain during 55 BC

Britain was inhabited by Celts who were bound with the continental compatriots by a common religion, customs and language. Britons often helped them in the fight against the Romans. Caesar landed on the coast of Britain with two legions. He conquered all the tribes that came in his way, but due to inclement weather conditions he was forced to return and make peace. The next year, 54 BC Caesar crossed again to Britain. After vigorous preparations (his army was strengthen by Gaul cavalry), he penetrated deep into the island and crossed the River Thames. His achievements in the end were of little significance.

During the British campaign, the anti-roman movement in Gaul became stronger. Sometimes Galic troops had to fight on the side of Rome. The Romans intervene in the internal affairs of the Gaul tribes. Dissatisfaction of Gaul and a desire to expel the Romans from Gaul united all the layers of Gaul society. The movement started among Belgae. One Roman garrison was completely destroyed and killed, while the Roman camp in which was legate – Cicero’s brother Quintus Tulius Cicero was kept under siege until Caesar came to help.

Vercingetorix uprising

Map of Gaul territory
Map of Gaul territory

All previous events in Gaul was a prelude to a major uprising that was led by Vercingetorix in 52 BC. At that time Caesar was in Gaul Cisalpina, where he kept track of the tumultuous events in Rome. The uprising against the Romans started the Germanic tribe Arverni. At the head of uprising was a young, talented leader Vercingetorix. Some tribes which used to be on the side of the Romans decided to join in the rebels against the Romans. Vercingetorix plan was to separate Caesar from his northern troops. Vercingetorix partly succeeded in this. Caesar seemed very determined, when he fought with the rebels with extraordinary cruelty. After a long siege of Avaricum, Romans killed over 40 000 people (women and children). Caesar’s attack on the Gergovia ended with complete failure and rebellion of Gaul became universal.

Romans were in danger of being cut off completely from Gaul Cisalpina. Caesar joined his troops with an army of his legate Titus Labienus. Then Caesar headed to the south, where he had to withstand attacks of Vercingetorix, which he managed to fight off thanks to the Germanic cavalry in Roman army. Caesar managed to cut off Vercingetorix army from the rest of the Gaul army and that is how Caesar using hunger managed to force Gauls to surrender. Vercingetorix was taken in chains to Rome. All the way till Caesar’s triumph, Vercingetorix was held in prison and then he was killed.

The unique organization of the uprising has fallen apart, however many Gaul tribes still continued to fight with Rome. In contrast, Caesar was very different than he was in the first year when rebel began. He started to show his gentle side (clementia) towards the tribes that crossed on the side of Rome.

Gaul under Roman rule

Gaul territory all the way to the Rhine became a Roman possession, but it never became the province. The Gauls were formally considered as Roman allies and were under the supervision of the Narbonne Gaul (which was a province). Gauls were required to pay a toll of 40 million sesterces a year, which unlike other Roman areas were not collected by Roman publicans but by representatives of some tribes.

Gallic wars is one of the most important events of Roman history, which speed up a disintegration of the Republic and the formation of Empire. Caesar gained huge war loot, as well as to many of his friends and comrades, which allowed him to develop a wide demagogic politics in Rome through performances, holidays, distribution, gifts and bribes.
Specific Gallo-Roman culture which was developed in Romanized Gaul settlements was characterized by the specificity and it played a major role in the genesis of Western European civilization.