In most texts of Caesar's Gallic War (B. G.
7.9) there is mention made of “Gergovia, a town of the Boii, whom Caesar planted there after their defeat in the Helvetic War, and made dependent on the Aedui.” But the name of the town in this passage of Caesar is uncertain, though it may be something like Gergovia, And if Gergovia is the right name, we do not know where the place was.
The Gergovia which Caesar tried to take was a city of the Arverni (B. G.
7.34), the position of which may be determined with tolerable accuracy from Caesar's narrative.
After the capture of Avaricum,,Caesar went to Decetia (Décise
) on the Loire
to settle the differences of the Aedui, after which, taking six legions and some of his cavalry, he set out for the country of the Arverni, and of course he must march southward. His course was along the river Elaver (Allier
But before he could reach Gergovia he had to cross the Allier.
Gergovia, therefore, is south of Decetia, and west of the Allier.
Vercingetorix, who was on the west side of the Allier,
broke down all the bridges on the river; and, while Caesar was marching along the east bank, he marched along the left, and, kept him in sight. Caesar could not make a bridge over the river in face of his enemy; and the Allier,
he observes (B. G.
7.35), is generally not fordable before the autumn. Caesar got out of the difficulty in this way.
He encamped in a wooded place opposite to one of the bridges which Vercingetorix had broken down, and on the following day he remained there with two legions.
He sent forward the other four legions with all his heavy material,distributing these troops in such a way as to present to Vercingetorix the appearance of six complete legions.
The four legions had orders to make a long march; and when Caesar judged from the time of the day that they were at their camping ground, he began to repair the broken bridge, of which the lower part of the piles remained entire.
This was soon done; the two legions were taken over, and orders sent to the four legions to return. Vercingetorix, discovering what had happened, and not choosing to risk fighting a battle against his will, marched ahead of Caesar as hard as he could, and reached Gergovia (B. G.
7.35). From the place where he crossed the Allier
Caesar reached Gergovia in five days' march. We neither know where he crossed the river, nor the length of his marches, nor the precise direction; but it was south.
He describes Gergovia as situated on a very high mountain, difficult of access on all sides. (B. G.
The camp of Vercingetorix was near the town on the mountain, and around him were encamped, at moderate distances and separately, the forces of the several states under his command. The Gallic troops occupied all the heights which commanded a view into the plain below, and presented a terrible appearance. Opposite to the town and close to the foot of the mountain was a hill, excellent for defence, and with a steep face all round.
This hill was held by the Galli, but Caesar saw that if he could take it, his men would be able to cut off the enemy from a large part of their water and prevent them from foraging so freely.
The force that the Galli had on this hill was not very great; and Caesar, attacking it in the dead of the night, before any aid could come from the town, got the place and put two legions in it.
He also cut two ditches, twelve feet wide, from this hill to his principal encampment, which was in the plain.
The road between the two ditches was the communication between the two camps.
The mountain of Gergovia is marked a, a
in the view; the hill in front of it, marked b, b,
is the small hill which Caesar took, now called Puy de. Jussat.
This view is from Scrope's Central France.
|PANORAMIC VIEW OF THE GERGOVIAN HILLS.|
From this hill that he had occupied, the Puy de Jussat,
Caesar attempted to surprise Gergovia.
He moved his men, a few at a time, from the large camp to the Puy de Jussat,
while lie diverted the attention of the enemy by a feint of attacking the mountain of Gergovia on the north-west side. When all was ready, he ordered his allies, the Aedui, to get up the mountain of Gergovia on the south-east side, while he with his men climbed up the steep side of the mountain which is opposite to the Puy de Jussat.
The movement was successful, and he got on the plateau of Gergovia and took three of the Gallic camps.
But the impetuosity of the Roman soldiers marred all.
They pursued the enemy up to the town wall and the gates, in full confidence that they should take the place at once. One of the centurions with the help of three of his men climbed up the wall, and helped them up after him.
The noise brought up the rest of the Galli, who were busy in fortifying that part of the approaches to the city on which they supposed that Caesar had a design, and a fierce fight took place under the walls, to the great disadvantage of the Romans, who were not a match for the enemy in numbers, were on unfavourable ground, and were also exhausted by running and fighting. Caesar sent to T. Sextius, whom he had left on the Puy de Jussat,
to bring up some cohorts and place them at the foot of the hill on the enemy's right, that, if the Romans were driven down the mountain, he might check the pursuit. While the fight was going on the Aedui made their appearance, whom Caesar had ordered to climb the mountain on the right, that is, on Caesar's right, or the south-east side of the mountain.
The resemblance of their armour to that of the enemy made the Romans take them for the troops of Vercingetorix, though the Aedui gave [p. 1.991]
the usual signal of being friends. The Romans being now hard pressed, and, having lost forty-six centurions, were driven down the mountain.
The tenth, Caesar's favourite legion, checked the hot pursuit of the enemy, and the cohorts of T. Sextius also came to the relief. When the Romans got down to the plain they faced about, and stood ready to renew the fight; but Vercingetorix led his men back to their entrenchments. Caesar lost near 700 men in this affair. Shortly after he left the place for the country of the Aedui, and again crossed the Allier,
which confirms the fact, if it needs confirmation, that Gergovia was in the hill country on the west side of the Allier.
There is nothing to be got from the other ancient writers who mention Gergovia. (Strab. p. 191; D. C. 40.35
.) D'Anville (Notice, &.
) gave some good reasons for fixing on this part as the site of Gergovia.
The place still keeps its name Gergoie.
It is about 4 miles south of Clermont,
in the Auvergne.
The summit of the mountain is a fiat, somewhat more than an English mile in length from east to west, and about one-third of a mile in width. Excavations have laid open the foundations of walls strongly built, wells lined with cement, and pavements. Broken utensils, medals, and red pottery have also been found. Gallic medals, some gold and silver, but most of bronze, are picked up there, when the earth is stirred for cultivation. Undoubtedly there was once a town here, and it was probably inhabited after the Roman conquest; though Augustonemetum, or Clermont,
was the capital of the Arverni in the Roman period. [AUGUSTONEMETUM
The plan of Gergovia is from Caylus (Recueil d'Antiquités, tom.
v. pl. 101).
There is also a plan of the place in Pasumot (Mésmoires Géog. sur quelques Antiquités de la Gaule,
i. p. 216). Walekenaer (Géog., &c.
vol. i. p. 341, note) says that the plan of Pasumot is copied from that of Caylus, but with the addition of two or three names.
|PLAN OF TIHE MOUNTAIN OF GERGOVIA AND ITS ENVIRONS.|
Plateau of Gergovia.
Puy de Jussat.
A stream north of Gergovia.
Montagne de la Serre.
Puty de Monton.
that the commentary of Caylus and that of Pasumot on the plan of Gergovia are both very good; but the researches, and probably the opinions contained in them, are the property of Masson, prior of St. Andre, who read a Ménoire
on this subject to the literary society of Clermont.
The plan shows the Puy de Jussat,
separated from the hill of Gergovia by a depression.
The hill to the west of the Puy de Jussat
is that from which Scrope's view is taken. On the south is a stream which flows into the Allier,
and Caesar's camp must have been near it. Another stream flows on the north side of the Puy de Jussat
and of the mountain of Gergovia; which will explain Caesar's remark about the chance of cutting off part of the enemy's water.
The plan shows a descent from the mountain of Gergovia on the NW., near Romagnat,
and another on the SE., near Merdogne.
The high ground above Romagnat
seems to be the point of Caesar's feigned attack. D'Anville says that the mountain of Gergovia is called Podium Mardoniae in a document of the fourteenth century, and there is now a place called Merdogne
at the foot of the mountain of Gergovia, between it and La Roche.
He takes the Puy de Monton,
due south of Gergovia, to be the hill which Caesar got possession of before he attempted to surprise Gergovia.
p. 399) concluded that Gergovia was SW. of the Allier;
but that is all that he has done.
It would hardly be worth while noticing Reichard's absurd attempt to fix the position of Gergovia, if it had not been accepted by one editor of Caesar (Herzog), who, knowing nothing of geography, has added to his edition of Caesar's Gallic War a map by Reichard, in which Gergovia is placed on the Loire,
east of Orléans.