Tag Archives: Vercingetorix

Good and bad polytheists (part 8): Vercingetorix and Brennus

VERCINGETORIX

Coin_VercingetorixThe Celts were a large ethnic group of peoples that inhabited what is today France, Britain, Western Spain, Austria, Bohemia, South Germany, North Italy, Belgium, Slovenia and parts of Croatia and Serbia. They were a warlike and fertile people who increased their numbers, expanded and migrated from time to time in search of land to accommodate them. Their culture, already beautiful, also benefited from trade and exchange with the south, and therefore by the 1st century BCE, we hear of large and prosperous cities in Gaul (the ancient word for France). By that time, they had already clashed several times with Rome in the north of Italy, because of pressure from expanding Germanic tribes to the north, and the Germans were also interested in expanding beyond the Rhine river. Unfortunately for them, not only the Germans were interested in expansion, but also the Romans, who had defeated the Carthaginian empire 100 years before and taken all their lands. The Celts thus fell between two powers and pressures. To make matters even worse, Rome in 59 BCE was under the power of two ambitious men of different parties: Pompey, who had lately returned from conquests in the east, stood with the senatorial faction, and Caesar, jealous of his victories, opposed him on the plebian side. Pompey was rich from conquests and new provinces, but Caesar was in debt from his consulship, because (among other reasons) he spent vast sums of money to feed the poor to increase his popularity. At first, Caesar, who was governor in North Italy, considered conquering Dacia (today Romania) in order to get out of debt and get into fame, but he found a better opportunity with the Celts to the North. In 58 BCE, the Helvetii, a confederation of five Celtic tribes inhabiting modern Switzerland, prepared for a migration to the west in order to avoid pressure from the Germans. There was news that their leader Orgetorix intended to rule all Gaul, but this may have been a rumor from Caesar to justify war. When the Helvetii requested peaceful passage through Roman territory in south Gaul, Caesar (the governor of the province) deliberately refused, knowing this would provoke war.

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