Welcome to part 2 of my little discussion on History’s Great Leaders. Previously, I wrote an article on the great Hannibal and his impact on Rome’s future and the rest of the Western World. He set in motion a future of Roman expansion and suspicion of outsiders, especially the barbarian tribes of Northern Gaul(now France). Enter Gaius Julius Caesar. This legendary figure is known for being the first dictator in Roman history and, more positively, the man who conquered Gaul. Roma Invictus!(For Rome!)
Gaius Julius Caesar was born a noble. Even as a teenager he displayed courage, cunning and ferocity. He was kidnapped by pirates as a boy but turned the tables on his captors and captured them, forcing them to return to land where they were arrested and crucified.
Caesar rose through the ranks quickly. His charisma, fiery speeches, and battle pedigree made him especially popular with the plebs(Roman citizens). He showed his intelligence by forming an alliance with both the rich Crassus and the politically influential Pompey. This was remarkable as Pompey and Crassus were bitter enemies. The trio formed one of the strongest Roman alliances of all time, known as the Triumvirate. This alliance benefited all three of them – Caesar, who had great ambitions to win glory, Pompey ,who married Caesar’s daughter and Crassus, who sought personal fame.
Using their support, Caesar began a campaign to ‘tame’ the Gaulish tribes to the north after convincing the Senate of their threat. The individual tribes were no match for Caesar’s tactics and the disciplined Roman army until the charismatic barbarian Vercingetorix of the Arverni tribe united them under one banner. He resorted to guerrilla tactics. This seemed to work when Caesar feigned a retreat to Rome. However, when Vercingetorix returned to his fortress of Alesia, Caesar marched back full force to surrounding the fortress.
This battle, the battle of Alesia, revealed Caesar’s unique intelligence. Unlike other commanders who would launch a straightforward seige, Caesar built a wall around Alesia. He respected his opponent’s superior position. He successfully starved the barbarians out and Vercingetorix was forced to meet the Romans in open combat. Even then, Caesar was outnumbered but fought right beside his soldiers. He kept shouting out orders and encouragement and dragged fleeing Romans back into the battle. One man made the difference. Vercingetorix surrendered and was executed in Rome.
With his accomplishments in Gaul, together with his other achievements and popular support, Caesar became the first dictator/emperor of Rome. He would meet his tragic end soon but that is a story for another day.