The Gallic Wars was a series of campaigns that would make Julius Caesar famous and hone the fighting skills that would serve him well in the Roman Civil War. The Gallic Wars lasted from 58 B.C. to 51 B.C. starting with the conquest of the Helvetii and ending with the suppression of Vercingetorix’s rebellion.
The Gallic Wars began in 58 B.C. when the Helvetii, who were being attacked by the Germanic Sequani tribe led by Ariovistus, attempted to move to a new home in southeastern Gaul. Caesar now saw an opportunity to gain prestige and he told the Helvetii they could not go through Roman territory. When the Helvetii did not turn around, Caesar took his legions and in a long campaign culminating in the battle of Tulon beat the Helvetii. Following the defeat to the Helvetii, Caesar began to receive numerous requests for help form his Gallic allies against the Sequani and their leader Ariovistus. Caesar then embarked upon a campaign to crush the Sequaniculminating in battle near want is now Besancon.
In 57 B.C. Caesar moved north to confront and beat the Belgae in battle. After arrival in the area Caesar learned that the Belgic Remi tribe was willing to help him and that 15 other Belgic tribes led by the fierce Nerviiwere against him. Initially the Nervii and their allies attacked the Remi towns, however Caesar soon managed to draw the Nervii and their allies in open battle near the river Sambre and defeated them.
In 56 B.C. Caesar moved against the Venti as part of his plan to invade Britain. The campaign began with Caesar dividing his forces (an unusual move) using most of his legions as garrison troops. This campaign was to be decided on the sea. The sea campaign opened with the Venti launching their ships and heading to confront the heavier and thus slower Roman fleet under Decimus Brutus (one of Caesar’s future assassins). The Romans had some marines on their ships and huge grappling hooks on board, using archers the Romans managed to kill enough of the Venti crew to hook their ships together and either board it or pull away form the hooked ship, breaking the mast. The naval battle was a huge success for Caesar and gave him the facilities to build his invasion fleet.
In 55 B.C. Caesar learned that the Belgae had invited two Germanic tribes into Gaul, the Usipetes and Tencteri. Caesar then rushed to the front to confront the two tribes, he soon learned that they had been forced to attack against their will. When Caesar ordered the two tribes to turn back they did so, however they still sent some cavalry against the Romans. This act gave Caesar the excuse to use extraordinary cunning and treachery against his enemies. When the leadership of the Usipetes and Tencteri came to Caesar to apologize for the attack, he had them locked up. Caesar then marched to confront the main Germanic and beat them easily, chasing them over the Rhine River and beyond. When Caesar returned 18 days later he ordered the invasion fleet to sail. On August 26 at Deal Beach the 10th and 7th legions landed on Britain and beat the British tribes waiting for them and advanced inland, turning back to Gaul only because of the condition of the invasion fleet. As soon as they returned Caesar ordered the shipbuilders to build a better fleet.
In the spring of 54 B.C. Caesar began preparations for his second invasion of Britain, however the Treveri were (with Germanic help) terrorizing northern Gaul. Caesar marched to the Ardennes and put down the revolt with out much trouble. The second invasion of Britain now finally got under way with 5 legions and 2,000 cavalry onboard 800 ships. When the British saw this fleet they panicked and fled allowing Caesar to land unopposed. After this Caesar marched inland and met the tactic that nearly beat him, guerrilla warfare. A freak storm nearly sank the invasion fleet but Caesar refused to give up and pushed toward the Thames River beating every British army sent against him. Caesar nearly conquered Britain right there and then but matters in Gaul forced him to return, as a result Britain would not be conquered for another century. Back in Gaul the Belgae underAmbiorix had destroyed an entire legion by the time Caesar arrived with his relief force from Samarot(Amiens).
In 53 B.C. Ambiorix again threatened Roman Gaul with a series attacks against the Romans. Caesar responded by systematically finding and destroying Amborix’s allies. Unfortunately Amborix had learned about the Roman weakness to guerrilla warfare and used it to its greatest extent thus far. Caesar was frustrated that he could not find Amborix and issued a reward for his head, this unfortunately caused the Germanic Sugambri to fall upon Cicero and the Roman baggage train. After chasing the Sugambri back to Germania Caesar turned onAmborix’s own people, the Eburones without mercy. Ambiorix was never found and supposed dead.
In the winter 53-52 B.C. Caesar learned that Carnutes had killed all Roman citizen-traders, this was not a separate move but a signal to something larger. In the land of the Senones constant guerrilla raids began to take their toll on the six legions stationed there. When Caesar heard of this he began to gather his forces around the city of Agedincum. To deal with this revolt Caesar divided his forces: Caesar himself would take six legions in the direction of Gergovia the capital of the Averni, while Titus Labienus would take another four legions and march towards the Senones and Parisii. Meanwhile the leader of the revolt, Vercingetorix had managed to convince the Romans longtime ally the Aedui to ally with him, the Romans were unaware of this until the massacre of Roman troops by 10,000 supposedly loyal Aedui horsemen. This combined with other events would be as close as Caesar ever was to a defeat. Caesar began to withdraw while Roman control fell all around him, as he withdrew more and more Gallic tribes began to flock to Vercingetorix’s banner supposedly up to 45 tribes at the height of the revolt. Once Caesar reached the Loire River he united with Labienus and his legions, he also managed to recruit some Germanic cavalry. In the summer of 52 B.C. the Gauls electedVercingetorix as King of all Gaul, however the confederacy of Gallic tribes was swollen and Vercingetorix’s power was diminishing more and more, furthermore his ideals conflicted with Gallic tradition. WhenVercingetorix moved his capital to Alesia, Caesar gave chase, using his cavalry superiority he managed to beatVercingetorix and surround Alesia in the most extraordinary siege in Roman history. Finally Vercingetorixsurrendered and Gallic resistance was broken, Caesar would spend the next two years hunting down the remnants of the revolt.
In 51 B.C. Caesar began to chase after the remnants of the Gallic Confederacy, however he seemed more kind towards his foes now. In late 52 B.C. early 51 B.C. Caesar helped the Suessiones and Bituriges in their war against the Bellovaci and Carnutes. After this war Caesar learned that Ambiorix was alive, reverting back to his old ways Caesar marched up to the lands of the Eburones and stripped the country of whatever they had left, making the people hate Ambiorix. Caesar then chased some stragglers toward the fortress of Uxellodunum. Once there he tricked the people inside into believing he was building siege fortifications, while he was really diverting the nearby river. Without water the town soon surrendered to Caesar, who in one of the most brutal acts of ancient times allowed the people inside the town to live but cut off their hands so that they could not raise up in revolt anymore.