XV. PROGRESS OF THE GREAT POMPEY.
In the sixth year of Cæsar's campaigns in Gaul, it seemed as if all was to be lost to the Romans. There arose a young general named Vercingetorix, who was much abler than any leader the Gauls had ever opposed to their enemies, and he united them as they had never been united before. This man persuaded his countrymen to lay their own country waste, in order that it might not afford any abiding place for the Romans, but contrary to his intentions one town that was strongly fortified was left, and to that Cæsar laid siege, finally taking it and butchering all the men, women, and children that it contained. Vercingetorix then fortified himself at Alesia (southeast of Paris), where he was, of course, besieged by the Romans, but soon Cæsar found his own forces attacked in the rear, and surrounded by a vast army of Gauls, who had come to the relief of their leader. In the face of such odds, he succeeded in vanquishing the enemy, and took the place, achieving the most wonderful act of his genius. The conquered chief was reserved to grace a Roman triumph, and to die by the hand of a Roman executioner. [Footnote: The historian Mommsen says of this unfortunate "barbarian": "As after a day of gloom the sun breaks through the clouds at its setting, so destiny bestows on nations in their decline a last great man. Thus Hannibal stands at the close of the Phoenician history and Vercingetorix at the close of the Celtic. They were not all to save the nations to which they belonged from a foreign yoke, but they spared them the last remaining disgrace - an ignominious fall.... The whole ancient world presents no more genuine knight [than Vercingetorix], whether as regards his essential character or his outward appearance."] The fate of Gaul was now certain, and Cæsar found comparatively little difficulty in subduing the remaining states, the last of which was Aquitania, the flat and uninteresting region in the southwest of modern France, watered by the Garonne and washed by the Atlantic. The conqueror treated the Gauls with mildness, and endeavored in every way to make them adopt Roman habits and customs. As they had lost all hope of resisting him, they calmly accepted the situation, and the foundation of the subsequent Romanizing of the west of Europe was laid. Three million Gauls had been conquered, a million had been butchered, and another million taken captive, while eight hundred cities, centres of active life and places of the enjoyment of those social virtues for which the rough inhabitants of the region were noted, had been destroyed. Legions of Roman soldiers had been cut to pieces in accomplishing this result, the influence of which upon the history of Europe can hardly be over-estimated Cæsar had completely eclipsed the military prestige of his rival, Pompey the Great.