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Vercingetorix Memorial in Alesia (Alise-Sainte-Reine)

Alesia was the capital of the Mandubii, one of the Gaulish tribes allied with the mighty Aedui, and after Julius Caesar's conquest a Roman town (oppidum) in Gaul. There have been archeological excavations since the time of Napoléon III in Alise-Sainte-Reine in Côte d'Or near Dijon, which have claimed that the historical Alesia is located there. New discoveries are constantly being made about this Gallo-Roman settlement on the plateau of Mont-Auxois. As a result of the latest excavation, a find was presented to the museum there with the inscription: IN ALISIIA, which finally dispelled the doubts of some archeologists on the town's identity.

Early doubts

Earlier there were other, less academically valid theories about Alesia's location that claimed it was in Franche-Comté or around Salins-les-Bains in Jura. The uncertainty surrounding Alesia's location is humorously parodied in the Asterix volume Asterix and the Chieftain's Shield, in which, in this case because of Gaulish pride, characters repeatedly deny that they know its location ("I don't know where Alesia is! No one knows where Alesia is!").

Caesar's battle

The fortifications built by Caesar in Alesia
Inset: cross shows location of Alesia in Gaul (modern France). The circle shows the weakness in the north-western section of the fortifications

Around 52 BC, Alesia was the site of the decisive battle between the Romans under Julius Caesar and the Gauls under Vercingetorix. The battle's outcome determined the fate of all of Gaul: in winning the battle, the Romans won both the Gallic War and dominion over Gaul. The fight is described in detail by Caesar in his Commentarii de Bello Gallico (Book 7, 68-69). The latest analysis at Alise-Sainte-Reine can corroborate the described siege in detail. The enormous measures taken there are impressive: in only six weeks a 15 km long fortification ring (circumvallation) around Alesia and an additional 21 km long ring (contravallation) around that to stop reinforcements (around 250,000 men according to Caesar) from reaching the Gauls. These have been identified by archeologists using aerial photography.

References

  • The information in this article is based on a translation of its German equivalent.
  • The Siege of Alesia

Coordinates: 47°32′14″N 4°30′01″E / 47.53722°N 4.50028°E / 47.53722; 4.50028

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