Submitted by oga_ogbeni t3_zvzzj4 in history

I understand that the parading of ones enemies and ritual strangulation was part of a Roman triumph, but it was not allows followed. After the destruction of Carthage in 146 BC and his being led through the streets of Rome in Scipio's triumph, Hasdrubal was permitted to live a life of luxury in Italy. Zenobia was similarly allowed to retire peacefully to Italy. The name of another, perhaps a Gallic chieftain who fought Rome, escapes me, but he too retired to the Italian countryside after I believe giving a speech on the Senate floor. So why was Vercingetorix, who surrendered peaceably (after a time) strangled, and by the so often magnanimous Caesar no less?



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emcdunna t1_j1s7yf0 wrote

Probably because Caesar wanted to use his defeat as a political tool to help him retain the consulship and get even more popularity with the lower classes.


Planetary_Nebula t1_j1s8gv7 wrote

Not that I'm 100% confident of this, but part of it is probably Roman culture/bigotry. The Romans considered Gauls to be the ancient enemies of Rome and utterly barbaric to boot. According to traditional Roman history, the Gauls sacked Rome ~390BC. A prominent Gaulic war leader that had some successes against the legions like Vercingetorix did would probably have caused uproar if he'd been allowed to live among the Romans.


Mischief_Makers t1_j1s9les wrote

> The name of another, perhaps a Gallic chieftain who fought Rome, escapes me, but he too retired to the Italian countryside after I believe giving a speech on the Senate floor

Caratacus, who took up the reign when Togodumnus was killed. He was sentenced to death and basically told the senate "I had it all, is it any wonder I fought to keep it. And If I hadn't fought so hard, you wouldn't have as much glory in my defeat. Kill me now and I will be just another fallen to Rome that time will soon forget, but let me live and I will forever be a symbol of your mercy";


>If the degree of my nobility and fortune had been matched by moderation in success, I would have come to this City as a friend rather than a captive, nor would you have disdained to receive with a treaty of peace one sprung from brilliant ancestors and commanding a great many nations. But my present lot, disfiguring as it is for me, is magnificent for you. I had horses, men, arms, and wealth: what wonder if I was unwilling to lose them? If you wish to command everyone, does it really follow that everyone should accept your slavery? If I were now being handed over as one who had surrendered immediately, neither my fortune nor your glory would have achieved brilliance. It is also true that in my case any reprisal will be followed by oblivion. On the other hand, if you preserve me safe and sound, I shall be an eternal example of your clemency.


DeadFyre t1_j1sabnq wrote

It's also my understanding that the Gauls had been particularly treacherous, with many erstwhile Gallic allies to the Romans luring the Romans in by asking for protective garrisons and then murdering them.


who519 t1_j1sai1n wrote

Because he almost won, no way Caesar could let such a dangerous opponent survive.


otclogic t1_j1scbk6 wrote

Ceasar’s first Triumph was the Gallic campaign. The calculation of whether to spare Vercingetorix or not was probably having something to do with that fact. Also remember that in Ceasar’s dispatches to Rome Vercingetorix was portrayed as his nemesis of sorts. Killing him sent a different message within that context.


criket2016 t1_j1seexx wrote

Just gonna go ahead and insert a plug for the Historia Civilis YouTube channel. There are videos dedicated to how Vercingetorix was defeated by Caesar, Caesars triumphs, and Roman triumphs in general (and lots more!). Outstanding channel and videos.


DarthDregan t1_j1shuh8 wrote

Caesar knew the value of drama. Which is a bigger impact on the common people: parading a guy around for a few hours then giving him a house to chill in for the rest of his life, or killing him in front of the citizens who were told stories about his tenacity for years?


finndego t1_j1sisnj wrote

He was held for 5 years and then strangled in his cell. That's a very low key manner to gain more popularity. Caesar for sure would have made more of a spectacle if that was the case.


LisaToreMeApart t1_j1sj5ay wrote

The Gauls during the Late Republic truly frightened the Romans. Partly why Gaius Marius was named the First Man of Rome was because he repelled a very existential threat to Rome (Cimbrian War)

No wonder that only a generation or two later, Caesar felt it was necessary to kill Vercingetorix—to let him live was to show weakness against a very strong enemy


JGrizz0011 t1_j1sjtsm wrote

Also the Hardcore History podcast (Dan Carlin) and the Celtic Holocaust episode. His prolog of not "what would you be willing to die for" but "what would you be willing to fight for if it meant risking not only your life but also your wife, children, and culture" gives me chills everytime I listen to it.


drunkcarcass t1_j1smema wrote

Because Vercingetorix was too badass to be allowed mercy


provocative_bear t1_j1smsay wrote

Vercingetorix led the Galls in the Second Gallic War. The word Second is critical here. Julius Caesar had a general policy of showing some mercy against a defeated foe once, but if he had to go back again to fight, all manner of brutality was on the table. Caesar was pissed that he was wasting time and resources knocking down the Galls again in the Second Gallic War, and he slaughtered whole cities, sold captured women and children en-mass into slavery, and denied their military leader the customary Roman mercy.


clubfoot55 t1_j1soli6 wrote

Not a historian, but I feel like it probably played a role that Vercingetorix was defeated in a rebellion against Rome that involved a significant amount of conspiracy and betrayal by Roman "allies"


Mnm0602 t1_j1sovwn wrote

I know this is well known but just wanted to point out Brennus and his boss move (according to Livy) after sacking Rome in 390:

“At last the Gauls consented to accept a ransom of a thousand pounds of gold. As it was being weighed out, the Roman tribune complained of some unfairness. Brennus at once threw his heavy sword into the scale; and when asked the meaning of the act, replied that it meant Vae victis (" woe to the conquered").”


oga_ogbeni OP t1_j1spop1 wrote

Vercingetorix and his Arverni weren't roman subjects so I think it's incorrect to describe Caesar's war of obvious aggression as a rebellion. Semantics perhaps, but I think the word rebellion carries the notion of betrayal when they were in fact defending their homeland from a foreign expansionist invader.


gassito t1_j1ssus7 wrote

It was said that Caesar would forgive those who he defeated, but only once. If you rose up in arms against him a second time then he was not so capable of forgiveness.


AWholeMessOfTacos t1_j1stttd wrote

Also the Thor's Angels podcast that talks about what happened in Europe as the Western Roman Empire receded. "If you we're a Briton in 300, you had it made. If you were a Briton in 500, you were in trouble." lol


LonelyMachines t1_j1suoro wrote

> Zenobia was similarly allowed to retire peacefully to Italy.

I can speak to this particular point.

As mentioned, Vercingetorix was perceived as a savage and a bandit.

Zenobia, on the other hand, was the wife of Odenathus, the governor of Palmyra. It's hard to overstate just how important Palmyra was to the empire. It was the western terminus of the Silk Road and a huge source of reliable tax revenue. One didn't become governor of that particular province by failing upwards or biding time. Odenathus would have been a fascinating guy. He must have been fluent in numerous languages, a skilled negotiator, and a decent military leader.

Then things went all kablooey. The Emperor of Rome was defeated and captured by the Persians. He'd never see the west again. His son Gallienus (who was quite capable, screw you Gibbon) inherited the biggest crap sandwich ever. The western empire saw invasions from the Goths in Gaul, the Franks in the north, and a Persian king who was oh so very pleased with himself.

Gallienus pretty much did everything by the book, but he only had resources to fight a war on one front. Spoiler: that means Italy. Gaul and Palmyra would have to deal. It appears Odenathus said, "hey, I know some guys. I'll make some calls." He assembled an army and defended Palmyra. Against the same Persian king who'd taken the Emperor hostage. He reclaimed most of the lands the Persians had taken in the war, and he even invaded Persia.

Guess who never had to pay for his own drinks again. Yep, this guy.

Odenathus then declared himself King of Palmyra. Gallienus had his hands full. so...OK, at least Palymra's safe for now while he takes care of things at home. Everything's hunky dory just as long as...oh, crap. Gallienus just got killed by his soldiers.

Odenathus was also assassinated. Stories vary, but his wife Zenobia stepped in. Unlike the Romans, the "barbarians" were generally smart enough to know putting boys on the throne was a bad move. Odenathus' son was far too young, so Zenobia took the title of regent. Then she declared herself Empress of the Palmyrene Empire and went conquering.

Problem is, subsequent Emperors were tied up in western Europe, so there was little they could do. It wasn't until Aurelian came in with a plan (and the mobile cavalry Gallienus invented) to put the pieces back together. The whole Aurelian/Zenobia fight would make a heck of a movie, but suffice it to say, they were both really sharp and had loyal armies behind them.

Aurelian won, Palmyra was back in the band with a warning not to play long drum solos without permission, and Zenobia was taken back to Rome to be abased in a triumph. Then, like all usurpers, she was...wait. She wasn't executed? In fact, it looks like Aurelian gave her a house within commuting distance of Rome and let her live out her life.

Why? Here's my hypothesis: Aurelian was a frontiersman. He'd been born outside the Empire, and like many provincials who'd worked their way out of poverty and barbarism through military service, he believed more strongly in Roman principles than many people born within the central Empire. Among those principals were a recognition of merit and a desire to make the best use of resources. Zenobia would have had a network. She knew people from China to Spain, and she ran a split Hellenic/Semitic empire with no real recorded dissent. Her talents were apparent, and I'm guessing Aurelian kept her close for consultation from time to time.


TheBoozehammer t1_j1svcqh wrote

Rome was an empire ("a major political unit having a territory of great extent or a number of territories or peoples under a single sovereign authority") long before it had an emperor. Even just Italy had enough distinct peoples to qualify.


Tiako t1_j1sxuwn wrote

This is often asserted but I think a simple glance at a timeline provides a real challenge to it. The Roman empire's expansion was more or less ended by about halfway through Augustus' reign (so roughly "year zero"), and while there were a few border expansions after that they tended to be fairly specific and "one off"--the conquest of Britain by Claudius and the conquest of Dacia about sixty years later by Trajan being the main examples. Exceptions aside, there is not a steady, constant expansion of Rome's borders by military conquest. And yet, these two hundred years are by most measures the period of the height of Rome's prosperity. Which becomes difficult to explain if Rome's prosperity depended on a constant stream of new conquests.

Ed: to clarify a bit I'm not saying the Roman empire functioned on hugs and teddy bears, it was certainly a creation of an extremely intense period of military conquest and was maintained by the threat of military force, but its actual functioning was not dependent on continuous border expansion.


Xciccor t1_j1syqo8 wrote

He instigated the war, and Vercingetorix was the signage that it wasn't over. It could be that Cæsar continued the war fearing the newfound Gallic forces would follow him right back to Rome. Or worse, grow and reclaim all of Cæsars conquest.

Either way, Gaul was a place of turmoil. It would unlikely simply be peaceful and not react had Cæsar left.


oga_ogbeni OP t1_j1t0epf wrote

The fact that Caesar reached the terminus of continental Europe, then crossed the channel and invaded Britain is clear evidence that he wasn't planning on leaving Gaul without having taken it all. I think you're framing it as Caesar being in a position where he had to fight, when history shows us that he continually pushed further despite absolutely not needing to do so.


[deleted] t1_j1t3fgo wrote

The Gauls were not treacherous. Julius Caesar led an unjustified invasion of Gaul without senate approval, and by his own account committed genocide of both Celtic and Germanic peoples. He was truly a horrid man, and his assassins were too kind to him


PDV87 t1_j1tayal wrote

Caesar had a mountain of ruinous debts, a growing number of enemies in Rome, and little at his disposal aside from his governorship and the legions that came with it. Pompey Magnus feared he would be outshone and displaced by Caesar, just as he had outshone and displaced Sulla.

Caesar's war was certainly not a necessity, of course, but an illegal/unauthorized campaign, the aims of which were to fill Caesar's coffers and enhance his popularity with the people. However, I think he was compelled to action by his circumstances.

Over the course of Caesar's life, there are numerous examples of a desperate gamble that should have ended in disaster, but somehow, he just kept getting dealt a royal flush: the Cilician pirate incident, the Gallic wars and Alesia in particular, his invasion of Italy, the Battle of Pharsalus, the siege of Alexandria. The man's entire career was a string of calculated risks that came up in his favor, until they didn't -- i.e. the calculated risk of trusting his former enemies and showing them clemency.

In Caesar's mind, I believe the Gallic wars were more than simply a means to an end. They were a gambit for political (and literal) survival. This wanton slaughter was palatable to the people of Rome because of their deep-seeded hatred for the Gauls; in the Roman psyche, the Gauls were their most fearsome and ancient enemy, rivaled only by Carthage in terms of cultural animosity.


AgoraiosBum t1_j1tfff7 wrote

Caesar was very clear about this in his own writing on the Gallic War - a great "first person" source answer to your question. In his 10 years, he sometimes fought tribes three or four times. He always talked about mercy first, then being tougher, and then being real tough. Tribes who rebelled too many times often ended with executions and mass sales into slavery.

The Averni tribe actually did receive mercy, because they mostly tried to work with Caesar; Vercingetorix went against the cautious nobles in the tribe (who expelled him) and then raised his own army and went back and conquered. So he was a personal threat to the potential internal Gallic allies of Rome.


no8airbag t1_j1trbj7 wrote

defeated dacia king Decebal cut his own throat rather to be taken alive.


ffandyy t1_j1ttg5t wrote

I also wonder if Caesar allowed Vercingetorix to live he might have ended up letting go of some stories that might have conflicted with Caesar’s personal accounts of how the campaign played out.


tevors t1_j1ui46m wrote

I don't remember were i read or saw it, but i remember being said that Roman Empire had a lot of politics destined to incorporate the conquered nations into the empire, not just by force, making the conquered nations actually fight for the empire just as much as anyone else, and was not by force or threat, as i recall they didn't go killing everyone that said no to them.

Movies tend to be very nonchalant about that facet of history, people tend to like war, deaths and plot, not actual facts.


HyperbolicSoup t1_j1v140i wrote

In regards to Hasdrubal, which one are you referring to? Hannibal’s brother? There are many, just as there are many Scipio’s. Gets confusing.


Tiako t1_j1v6uww wrote

While this can sometimes be taken too far, yes, Roman imperialism and the maintenance of the Roman empire was always a combination of force, co-option, and diplomacy. In particular, one of the greatest tools in its toolbox was a fairly open handed approach to bestowing citizenship to allies and later participants in the administrative system.


Xciccor t1_j1w6yet wrote

Let me clarify by saying that, it is not my own opinion that he should have kept going or that he needed to continue the wars. My comment above is instead suggesting what he felt he had to do.

Ceasar was in a hole of his own doing. This tends to be the case with those who push their luck with war, walls start coming in from all sides and leaving Gaul certainly wouldn't just stop the conflict he had begun. My point above was simply suggesting that Ceasar FELT he needed conclude the war, leaving no ghosts to haunt him.

Aas /r/PDV87 noted below, Ceasar was in many ways running on bought time. He was already operating far out of regular roman juristiction and who knows what he actually felt about being in Gaul--perhaps he felt it was not safe to return to Rome until he had settled what he had started in Gaul.

It had in many ways become his war, and that is reflected in his rejection of adhering to the senate.


cthulusbestmate t1_j1wssao wrote

Because Caesar was frustrated that a small village of indomitable Gauls refused to surrender


AHorseNamedPhil t1_j1xl1lj wrote

Julius Caesar's reputation for being magnanimous is somewhat overblown.

He could certainly be magnanimous when the enemies were fellow Romans, and there was a political benefit to be mined from it, but if the enemies were foreign and there was no political benefit from showing mercy, or he instead benefitted from being ruthless...he was ruthless.

There are plenty of examples of Caesar being brutal with his Gallic enemies. Avaricum for example, where a city of some 40,000 was put entirely to the sword, or the aftermath of Uxellodunum where Caesar ordered the hands of all the Gallic prisoners lopped off, before scattering those prisoners throughout Gaul, so they would be a demonstration of the price of raising one's sword against Rome. Going father back in his career, he also was quite ruthless in his retaliation against the pirates who had held him for ransom. Execution for pirates was not necessarily a given, as Pompey for example famously spared many of the Cilician pirates following his suppression of them, pardonining those who had turned to piracy out of desperation due to poverty, and resettled them in cities. In short the execution of Vercingetorix was not really out of character for Caesar.

It's impossible to say of course what motivated the decision not to show clemency, as his thoughts on the matter were never recorded. I do recall watching a BBC documentary about Alesia ages ago where one of the historians on the programme speculated that Caesar probably knew Vercingetorix personally prior to the rebellion, as Caesar frequently met with tribal leaders during his campaigns & Vercingetorix was an important figure among the Arverni, who were also one of Gaul's most powerful tribes. He posited that the reason for Vercingetorix's execution my have been personal rather than political - that Caesar was angered that Vercingetorix had pulled the wool over his eyes. Again though, that was just speculation.