Battle of Gergovia

Battle of Gergovia

Infobox Military Conflict

caption=Ancient Gergovia was located on the plateau in the background. The main battlefield was the area in the image's center right
conflict=Battle of Gergovia
partof=the Gallic Wars
date=September 52 BC
place= Gergovia (probably modern Gergovie),
Gaul (France)
result=Gallic victory
combatant1=Roman Republic
combatant2=Gallic tribes
commander1=Julius Caesar
The Battle of Gergovia took place in 52 BC in Gaul at Gergovia, the chief town of the Arverni. [This site is identified with Merdogne, now called Gergovie, a village located on a hill in the Auvergne, near modern Clermont-Ferrand, France. There, some walls and earthworks still survive from the pre-Roman Iron Age.] The battle was fought between a Roman Republic army, led by proconsul Julius Caesar, and Gallic forces led by Vercingetorix. The Gauls won the battle.


Vercingetorix had earlier been expelled from Gergovia ["De Bello Gallico", ] , and Caesar had settled the Boii in the town after defeating them in the Helvetian War, as subordinates to the loyally pro-Roman Aedui. In winter 53 BC, whilst Caesar was gathering his forces for a strike against the Gauls, Vercingetorix attacked Gergovia. ["De Bello Gallico", ] Caesar states that this left him a difficult decision, between keeping his forces safe over the winter but showing Roman weakness in defending her allies the Aedui and thus losing their support, or bringing Vercingetorix to open battle but risking running out of supplies - he chose the latter. ["De Bello Gallico", ]

Leaving two legions and all his baggage train behind in Agedincum, Caesar led the remaining legions to Gergovia's aid. His sieges of Vellaunodunum, Genabum and Noviodunum on route caused Vercingetorix to lift his siege and march to meet Caesar in open battle at Noviodunum, which Caesar won. ["De Bello Gallico", ] Caesar then besieged and captured Avaricum and resupplied there.

The battle

With the winter almost over, Caesar went in person to win back Aedui support and backing, and then detached a force of four legions under Titus Labienus to advance into Senones and Parisii territory, taking the remaining 6 legions, Aedui auxilia and Germanic cavalry to Gergovia himself. [De Bello Gallico, -] In response, Vercingetorix broke down all the bridges over the river Allier and began to march along its opposite bank. This did not prevent Caesar from crossing, but Vercingetorix continued to advance his force faster than Caesar's, so that the choice of when and where to give battle remained his.

Five days later Caesar reached Gergovia and, realising its mountainous location made a full frontal assault risky, relied on his superior siege tactics. [The overall account of the battle may be found in "De Bello Gallico", - ] He ordered a double trench, 12 feet wide, to be constructed between a captured hill and his main camp. Intending to completely encircle Gergovia and starve the Gauls inside, Caesar was interrupted by betrayal from his Gallic allies the Aedui whom he combatted and defeated after a desperate struggle.

Then realising his siege was in danger he came back to Gergovia and realised his idea for a siege would fail. His only chance now of victory was to get Vercingetorix off the high ground. He used a legion as a decoy and moved onto the better ground. He then ordered a general retreat to fool Vercingetorix and pull him off the high ground but Vercingetorix saw through the ploy and fell back into the town, with most of Caesar's force missing his signal to retreat due to being too far away and pressing home a direct assault on the town's defences. This led to the loss of 46 centurions and 700 legionaries and over 6,000 wounded on the Roman side, compared to the several hundred Gauls killed and wounded, and to Caesar's raising his siege and advancing instead into Aedui territory.

In popular culture

The battle is referenced several times in the "Asterix" series of comic books, particularly by the elderly Geriatrix.The battle is also recalled by Mascius in "HBO's ROME" when Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus are interrogating him. He claims to have taken an arrow saving the lives of his comrades.



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