Posted 15th November 2014
The La Tène and the Romans fought incessantly over centuries. As previously discussed, the Romans tired of seeing Barbarians sack their capital city again and again, so they found a way to corrupt their Druids and weaken them to the point where they could be conquered. But that doesn’t mean the La Tène made it easy. It took Julius Caesar – yes, that Julius Caesar – to finish the job.
By 59 BCE, relations between the Romans and the La Tène Gauls had somewhat normalized. Roman corruption of the Gallic spiritual leaders had done its job, and hostilities had decreased in favor of trade. Still, a sizable number of La Tène warriors looked south with distrust. They were not wrong to do so.
As corrupt regimes have been doing since time immemorial, Julius Caesar sold his Roman brethren on the need to invade the La Tène lands as an issue of pre-emptive security. In reality, Caesar was in great debt from financing his political career, and needed a new source of wealth. Caesar’s pitch was for a quick raid on the La Tène lands, who could not hope to stand in the way of the might of his legions. His quick conquering expedition ended up taking almost a decade.
The Gallic Wars have an enormous amount of scholarship around them - feel free to read as much of it as you can stomach, but always remember that the history we have is from Caesar’s own pen, and therefore suspect. Much of what Caesar and subsequent Roman apologists wrote is certainly self-serving and inaccurate. But what cannot be disputed is that by 50 BCE, Caesar’s armies had laid waste to much of Europe in their quest to subjugate the La Tène.
However, Caesar’s depredations succeeded in doing something that had not been accomplished in centuries - the La Tène had become so fragmented and corrupted that they spent as much time fighting each other as they did against Rome. But Caesar changed all that. For the first time in longer than anyone could remember, the Gallic tribes put their feuds aside and united to fight back. It was, however, too little too late.
After waging a scorched earth campaign where they burned their own lands rather than let its spoils fall into Roman hands, a confederacy of La Tène tribes united under the leadership of Vercingetorix in a last ditch effort to turn the Romans back. But Caesar’s army trapped them in the city of Alesia, and after a long and terrible siege, Vercingetorix was forced to surrender. The Romans held dominion over La Tène lands for centuries afterwards, turning them into official provinces of the Roman Empire. Vercingetorix was paraded through the street of Rome as a humiliated enemy captive.
Only a few short years later, Caesar's corruption and treachery rebounded upon him in one of history’s most famous – and well-deserved – assassinations. One can only speculate how the remaining La Tène celebrated when they heard the news from the Ides of March.
La Tène students - learn the lessons of those conquered Gauls. It may seem like you are defeated and have no hope, do not turn away from your Truth. And trust that the corruption of your enemies will eventually turn and destroy them from within.
Photo credit: "London - British Museum - 2453" by Jorge Royan - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.