Lambs to the Slaughter
Even with the traps in place, the Roman soldiers must have been nervous at the sight of hundreds of thousands of Gauls getting ready to attack. However, they had total faith in Caesar, and this belief in their leader played a major role in their victory. Once the Gauls in Alesia saw their brethren, they left the city and attacked the inner Roman fortification as the reinforcements attacked the outer one. The Romans fended them off as Caesar successfully divided his forces into two separate units to cope with the combined assault.
The Gauls found a significant weakness in the Roman fortification and planned an assault on the weakly defended north side of the hill. After spending many hours creating hurdles, ladders, and hooks, the Gauls on the outside attacked once more with a force of 60,000, this time in the middle of the night. Vercingetorix and his men heard the war cry and stormed out of the city to launch another vicious attack.
The Romans were in dire straits, but once again, they remained cool under pressure and retaliated by throwing leaden balls and a shower of darts at the enemy. As it was dark, countless Gauls succumbed to the carefully laid Roman traps. Meanwhile, Vercingetorix desperately attacked any part of the inner fortification that seemed weak. Titus Labienus was sent to combat Vercingetorix with six cohorts of cavalry to support the weak area. Brutus was entrusted with six cohorts while Caius Fabius was given seven.
Although the attack was repelled, Labienus was almost beaten as his men were unable to fend off the marauding Gauls for much longer. Caesar saw the danger and rode to the rescue with four cohorts, and he sent some of his cavalry to the Gallic rear. The Romans were lifted by the arrival of Caesar and redoubled their efforts. The Gauls were beaten back, and the Roman cavalry arrived to slaughter the enemy.
A Decisive Conclusion
On Vercingetorix’s side, the Gauls saw the annihilation of their reinforcements and retreated back to Alesia. According to Caesar, the Romans could have utterly destroyed the panicked Gauls if they weren’t so exhausted from all the fighting. Vercingetorix called a council and agreed to surrender to the Romans the following day.
Although the Gallic Wars lasted for a little over a year longer, the rest of the conflict consisted of little more than âmopping up’ operations. After being so close to defeat and death, victory at Alesia was one of Caesar’s greatest military and political successes. Although the Roman Senate declared 20 days’ thanksgiving for Caesar’s overall victory in Gaul, the commander refused the honor and escalated tensions between himself and powerful people in Rome.
Within a couple of years, the Roman Civil War began which was ultimately won by Caesar. He did not live long enough to enjoy his status as Rome’s #1 because he was murdered on March 15, 44 BC. When looking back at Caesar’s military career, there is much to marvel at, but his win at Alesia was probably his masterpiece.