The Battle Of Alesia
In The Shadow of the Gladiator
one gets a glimpse of how badly men were treated by those who had power over
them during the first half of the Roman Empire's existence. Not only were millions of men killed,
maimed or enslaved during this period, but a consul such as Crassus had 10% of the soldiers in one
of his very own legions beaten to death simply because they had followed their
commanders into a battle which Crassus had not authorised.
And when it came to political power,
throughout most of history, in all places and at all times, it was violence such
pure and simple, that gave rise to it.
And is was mostly violence against men.
Women did not have much observable
political power throughout history because, quite simply, they could not fight
as well as men, they could not lead men into battle, they could not endure the
stresses and strains of long marches - which sometimes lasted years - and, of course, because their ability to
bear children made them particularly worth preserving.
As such, the feminist propaganda which claims
that women did not have much in the way of political power throughout history
because they were 'discriminated against' by men is nothing more than immature,
Women were not 'discriminated against'. They
were simply not endowed with the physical abilities required to gain power or to
hold on to it. And, of course, the same was true of 99% of men.
Furthermore, in recent times, one only has to
look at the way in which politicians have continually bent over backwards in the
UK simply to try to encourage more women to enter the political process - even
restricting the number of hours allowed for debates in Parliament so that women
MPs can rush off home to watch Eastenders - and yet still, statistically speaking, they show no real
interest in national politics.
Apart from the ability to inflict heavy
violence on others, the only other major prerequisite for gaining political
power throughout history was to be born into the right family. Throughout the
world, the accorded status of your ancestors mattered.
If these ancestors were not members
of the recognised aristocracy, then you had precious little chance of wielding
any political power. And if you were an ordinary man, the chances were high that you would end
up being treated quite appallingly unless you were very careful and/or very
In the case of Julius Caesar, not only was he
a superb commander who spent a decade successfully conquering and bringing under
Rome's rule vast amounts of territory, he was also descended from a very long
line of aristocrats - and, so it was claimed, even from a God.
He was also ruthless.
The battle of Alesia took place in 52 BC.
It was the culmination of Caesar's successful campaigns to bring Gaul (modern
France) into the empire. For many years he had marched his legions up and down
the country slaughtering all members of those tribes that resisted Roman rule,
while offering those that accepted it (and the joys of paying 'taxes' to Rome)
the chance to pillage their neighbours.
In other words, apart from killing
hundreds of thousands of these Celtic 'barbarians' in order to impose his rule,
Caesar also used the technique of 'divide and conquer'.
Needless to say, many of these Gallic
tribes were rather unhappy at the way in which they were all being treated and,
eventually, it came to pass that under the leadership of a very powerful tribal
leader called Vercingetorix, about one hundred or so of these tribes managed to
bury their differences and their warriors joined together to take on Caesar's
legions - with some success.
Eventually, however, these warriors found
themselves entrapped in the town of Alesia. They were surrounded by Roman
legions, and Caesar managed to barricade the town so that no food could enter
it. His strategy was to starve his adversaries before moving in for the kill.
Realising their hopeless situation, the
'barbarians' eventually decided to evacuate the town of its women and children,
believing that they were likely to be fed by the Romans and, probably, enslaved.
After all, soldiers did not unnecessarily kill women and children.
This was the general rule of war - even
for the barbarians. And it is a rule that has been obeyed, for the most part,
In this particular case, however, Caesar
had other ideas. ...
... an extract from Rubicon (Amazon USA,
by Tom Holland (whose books I love) ...
... That winter and the following summer danger came from various tribal
uprisings, isolated bush fires of rebellion. The garrison of one legionary camp
was ambushed and wiped out - almost seven thousand men were lost. Another was
laid under siege and only rescued by Caesar himself in the nick of time. The
proconsul, nervous that the flames of rebellion might spread, was everywhere,
crisscrossing the country, stamping out the sparks. Sometimes he would leave the
Gauls themselves to do the fire-fighting, handing over the territory of
rebellious tribes to their neighbours to plunder as they pleased. Divide and
rule - the policy still held good. Summer 53 BC passed and still there had been
no general conflagration. Caesar began to relax. The previous year he had been
forced to campaign throughout the winter, but not now. The new year found him in
Ravenna planning for the end of his governorship and a glorious return to Rome.
To his anxious fellow citizens, he announced - yet again - the pacification of
That January of 52 BC the snow never stopped falling. In the mountain passes
it lay especially thick. Caesar's legions, stationed in the far north of the
country, were cut off from their general. But bad weather was soon to be the
least of their problems. Despite the snow, the Gauls were perfectly able to make
contact with one another. Across the lowlands of the country war bands were
massing. Seemingly against the odds, a great horde of tribes in northern and
central Gaul had begun to negotiate a compact, burying their differences in the
face of the common foe. The organiser of this alliance, and its undisputed
leader, was an imposing nobleman by the name of Vercingetorix. 'As a commander,
he displayed the utmost attention to detail and discipline, for he was
determined to whip waverers into shape.' These were qualities that even Caesar
could respect, as well he might - for they were the qualities of a Roman.
Vercingetorix hated the invaders, but he had studied them assiduously,
determined to master the secrets of their success. When he ordered every tribe
to send him a specified quota of troops, he was emulating the methods of Roman
administrators and tax collectors, the agents of an order that spanned Gaul and
far beyond. The world was shrinking. Win or lose, the Gauls could not hope to
alter that. Their new unity was bred of both desperation and the global reach of
Rome. It was Caesar who had taught the Gauls what it meant to be a nation. Now
that achievement threatened to destroy him.
Or so it seemed.
In fact, although an alliance of Gallic tribes was precisely what Caesar had
spent six years desperately working to avoid, it also offered him a tantalising
opportunity - a chance to crush resistance once and for all.
As he always preferred to do, he went directly for the jugular. With
Vercingetorix's army massing on the border of the old Roman province,
threatening the Republic's rule over the whole of Gaul beyond the Alps, Caesar
sped towards the centre of the revolt. To do this, he had to breast passes
covered in two metres of snow, and gallop with only the smallest escort through
the wilds of enemy territory. His daring was rewarded. He succeeded in joining
with his legions.
But now Caesar too was cut off from Italy. The Romans were starving, for
Vercingetorix had persuaded his allies to burn their supplies rather than allow
the hated enemy to seize them. Desperate for food, Caesar succeeded in storming
one city but was repulsed from another, his first defeat in open combat after
six years as proconsul.
The news encouraged even more tribes to throw in their lots with
Some of Caesar's lieutenants began to despair: they advised their general to
try to fight his way back to safety, to preserve what he could from the ruin -
to abandon Gaul. Caesar refused. 'It would have been shameful and humiliating'
and therefore unthinkable. Whatever his own doubt and weariness, his outward
show of confidence remained as sovereign as ever. In Caesar's energy there was
something demonic and sublime. Touched by boldness, perseverance and a yearning
to be the best, it was the spirit of the Republic at its most inspiring and
No wonder that his men worshipped him, for they too were Roman, and felt
privileged to be sharing in their general's great adventure.
Battle-hardened by years of campaigning, they were in no mood to panic now at
the peril of their situation. Their faith in Caesar and their own invincibility
When Vercingetorix, presuming otherwise, attempted to finish them off,
Caesar's troops inflicted heavy losses on his cavalry and forced them to
withdraw. Deciding to wait for reinforcements, Vercingetorix withdrew to the
town of Alesia - a stronghold north of modern-day Dijon, and so impregnable that
it had never before been captured. Caesar, rarely one to be impressed by
precedent, straight away put it under siege. A huge line of earthworks, almost
fifteen miles long, imprisoned Vercingetorix and his men within the town.
Alesia had food sufficient for thirty days, but thirty days passed, and still
the siege held firm. The Gauls began to starve. Vercingetorix, determined at all
costs to maintain the strength of his warriors, settled on the grim expedient of
expelling from Alesia anyone unable to fight. Women and children, the old and
the sick, all were driven from the town walls.
Caesar, however, refused to let them pass, or even, although they begged him,
to take them as slaves. Instead, determined to shame Vercingetorix into letting
the refugees back into Alesia, he left them huddled in the open, where they ate
grass, and slowly died of sickness or the cold. Then at last came the news for
which Caesar had been bracing himself. Two hundred thousand Gauls were hurrying
to their leader's rescue.
Immediately, Caesar ordered a second line of fortifications to be built, this
time facing outwards. Wave after wave of screaming, sword-slashing warriors
broke against the defences. All day, the Roman ramparts held.
Dusk brought a respite - but not the end of the ordeal. The Gauls had been
testing the Roman blockade, searching out its weakest point - and they had found
it. To the north of the town, where two legions had established their camp, a
hill directly overlooked the fortifications, and it was from here, at dawn, that
the war bands pressed their attack.
Filling in the trenches, they swarmed over the palisades, while ahead of
them, in the Romans' rear, came the answering war-cries of Vercingetorix's men.
The legionaries, trapped between this pincer, fought back with desperate
ferocity. Both sides knew that the decisive moment was at hand. The Romans just
managed to hold their lines. Even as the Gauls, seeking to pull down the
palisade with hooks, heaved and cheered at the splintering of watch towers, so,
from the legionaries manning the gaps, there rose an answering cheer. In the
distance, at the top of the hill overlooking their position, they had caught a
flash of scarlet: their general's cloak.
Caesar, who had spent all the day galloping along the line of fortifications,
yelling encouragements to his men and following the rhythms of the desperate
struggle, had finally decided to commit his last reserves. Having slipped out
unnoticed from the fortifications, and taking the Gauls utterly by surprise, the
Roman cavalry charged down the hill.
The legionaries, swords stabbing, advanced from the ramparts to meet them.
Now it was the turn of the Gauls to be caught in a pincer movement. The
slaughter was terrible, the Roman triumph total. Vercingetorix's men, hearing
the death-screams of their countrymen, withdrew back into Alesia. Outnumbered by
the army he was besieging, and vastly outnumbered by the army that had been
besieging him in turn, Caesar had defeated both. It was the greatest, the most
astonishing, victory of his career.
The next morning Vercingetorix rode out from Alesia in glittering armour and
knelt at his conqueror's feet. Caesar, in no mood to be merciful, had him loaded
with chains and thrown into prison. The war was not yet over, but it was already
won. The victory had come at a terrible cost. Between the walls of Alesia and
the Roman palisade lay the emaciated corpses of women and children. Above them
were the bodies of warriors cut down by the legions, and beyond them, piled
around the outer fortifications, stretching away from Alesia for miles, were
innumerable corpses, the limbs of horses and humans horribly tangled, their
bellies swollen, their blood fertilising the muddy fields, the slaughter-ground
of Gallic liberty.
And yet Alesia had been only a single battle. In all, the conquest of Gaul
had cost a million dead, a million more enslaved, eight hundred cities taken by
storm - or so the ancients claimed. These are near-genocidal figures. Whatever
their accuracy ~ and there are historians prepared to accept them as plausible -
they reflected a perception among Caesar's contemporaries that his war against
the Gauls had been something exceptional, at once terrible and splendid beyond
compare. To the Romans, no truer measure of a man could be found than his
capacity to withstand grim ordeals of exhaustion and blood. By such a reckoning,
Caesar had proved himself the foremost man in the Republic. He had held firm to
the sternest duty of a citizen: never to surrender, never to back down.
If the cost of doing so had been warfare on a scale and of a terror rarely
before experienced, then so much more the honour, for both himself and
In 51 BC, the year after Alesia, when Caesar resolved to make an example of
another rebellious city by chopping off the hands of everyone who had borne arms
against him, he could take it for granted that 'his clemency was so well known
that no one would mistake such a severe measure for wanton cruelty'.
Harry Has Lost His Marbles
Normally I enjoy reading your site but can't make out what is the relevance
of Alesia and gladiators to the issues you normally address. Graeful for an
Well, one of the reasons that I have embarked on these short historical
interludes is because I get fed up with hearing about how short-changed,
allegedly, were women when it came to wielding political power throughout all of
And you will see today's women complaining about this ad-infinitum. (For
example, "women were denied the vote, etc etc".) And based upon
ubiquitous but fraudulent claims such as this, it is then argued by them that
they were cheated by men in some way - throughout the whole of history; until,
of course, the feminists came along.
This nonsense imbues millions of women with feelings of
resentment towards men.
This nonsense imbues millions of women with feelings of resentment towards
men. You can see this all over the place. And associated with this there is some
naive belief that men throughout history were all having a jolly good time -
when the truth is that men were treated appallingly in comparison to
Furthermore, in order to wield political power, men had to make positively
enormous sacrifices and to take huge risks and, in the process, they also often
sacrificed the lives and limbs of millions of other men who were often forced
to fight on their behalf - or, of course, against them.
And it is clearly the case that modern-day women - and men - seem to have
precious little idea about this. There almost seems to be a general acceptance
that men, throughout history, were always treated well in comparison to women -
but the truth is the complete opposite.
For example, the other day I was reading about the Russian attempt to prevent
the Japanese from invading China (1905, I think) and in just two days, 50,000
Russian sailors were killed.
When do you ever hear about this sort of thing when it comes to gender
issues from a historical perspective?
Do you think that if it was women who were being continually
slaughtered by the tens of thousands that the feminists would not make mention
Many years ago I was in the company of the female editor of a very popular UK
woman's magazine called Women's Own
Many years ago I was in the company of the female editor of a very popular UK
woman's magazine called Women's Own, and the topic of violence against
women reared its ugly head. At some stage I pointed out that during wars, men
had been sent to their deaths by the million and that, generally speaking,
violence against women was trivial in comparison.
She was actually quite taken
aback by this very obvious fact, and she actually had the decency to admit that
she had never thought about this sort of thing in connection with the general
issue of 'violence'. In her mind, it was women who suffered the
most from violence. And this was the editor of a very popular
The teaching of history these days has been so heavily
censored and politically-corrected
The teaching of history these days has been so heavily censored and
politically-corrected that most people seem relatively unaware of just how
enormous has been the disparity in the treatment of men and women throughout the
past. Men have been treated far worse throughout - but this is usually hidden,
e.g. by referring to them as 'sailors', 'soldiers', 'warriors', 'prisoners' etc
etc etc. And I think that MRAs not only need to be aware of this worse
treatment, but they need to be able to lay their hands on various types of
evidence in order to counter the usual propaganda that suggests that women were
always treated worse than men, when the complete opposite is true.
the Romans were also a greedy and murderous lot
who slaughtered, subjugated and enslaved millions of people
In the case of the Romans, we are usually led to believe that they were a
particularly enlightened group of individuals who spent most of their time
civilising much of the world. And the only major complaint about them being
heard nowadays is that they did not accord women much in the way of status or power
(neither of which is true). And yet the truth is that the Romans were also a
greedy and murderous lot who slaughtered, subjugated and enslaved millions of
people. And the men were treated far worse than were the women.
In short, my historical interludes should be read with the issue of 'gender'
at the forefront of one's mind. And this should help when it comes to scuppering
the immature nonsense that typically - and continually - emanates from the mouths of
feminist-indoctrinated wimmin who are forever desperately trying to give the
impression that, in comparison to men, women were particularly hard done by in