THE SIEGE OF GERGOVIA. SPRING, 52 B. C.
THE height of Gergovia stands twelve hundred feet above the plain, and has at the summit a plateau over a mile long. It could be attacked most easily from the south. Vercingetorix had drawn up his forces on this slope. So soon as the Romans arrived, cavalry skirmishes became common, but the Gallic infantry remained behind the defenses. Cæsar camped southeast of the town and later seized a hill on its south, intrenched a second camp, and joined the two camps by works. This cut the Gergovians off from the river, and made their water supply uncertain. The Ædui, Cæsar's chief allies, had been giving him anxiety; rebellion now broke out in their army, which was on its way to join him. Caesar left Fabius in command at Gergovia, made a speedy march to the rear, brought the rebels to terms, and returned. In twenty-four hours, his column of four legions had marched fifty miles. After due consideration, Cæsar determined to assault Gergovia. He laid his plans skillfully. Sending a force to make a demonstration against the west front, which the Gauls felt was not very strong, he drew all the Gallic troops to that quarter. He then suddenly threw forward his legions, which gallantly advanced and reached the very walls of the town. But they had not been furnished with scaling-ladders; few only mounted the top of the walls; the Gauls returned from the western front; Cæsar was driven back with heavy loss. He essays to gloss over this defeat in the Commentaries, but the facts are plain. The Ædui now broke out into open revolt, and Cæsar had to give over the siege. He had been roundly defeated.
IN five days' march, the first one being short on account of the fatigue of the column which moved up the river and back, and the last one short because he reached Gergovia early in the day, Cæsar arrived at the capital of the Arverni. The enemy opposed him only by a slight cavalry skirmish, and then retired to the upper slope of the very high hill on which the town was built, where, outside the wall of the oppidum, they camped.