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A Lesson on War, Courtesy of Caesar
The Legionnaire was like a Vietcong fighter equipped with the best weapons the United States military could offer.
The professional Roman legions, first put together by the uncle of Julius Caesar, Gaius Marius, were a force of nature in the ancient world. Marius put into action the reforms that turned Rome from republic to empire. The biggest problem facing the Romans was remembering the lessons learned from prior battles. Before Marius, warriors were recruited for war and then sent home, taking with them all the lessons and tricks the legions learned. Marius opened up recruitment into the legions as well as made them professional soldiers for a period of some twenty five years. What did this do for the Roman legions?
The Roman legions picked up tricks their barbarian counterparts couldn’t dream of. The Romans during the time of Caesar were a class all their own. They represented the superior firepower of say a United States mixed in with the ingenuity and will to fight of the Vietcong. Their logistics were on a different level. They could wait out barbarian armies. As their enemies starved and took to the hills, the Calvary would run them down.
The typical Roman legionnaire was half warrior, half construction warrior. Celtic barbarians would see Romans showing up to the battlefield and when they rose the next day to do battle, the Romans had dug trenches, built walls, and fortifications in the night. As they advanced, they found hidden spikes and boobytraps waiting for them along the way. When the barbarians did get a fair shot at a Roman legion, they’d find out quick that the Romans knew what to do.
The most ferocious aspect of Celtic armies was the initial charge. Most have heard of berserkers, right?Imagine rampaging barbarians rushing a Roman legion. There’s a reason the Roman legionaries carried big shields. They found when you resist the initial charge, the barbarians tire, lose morale, and crumble. Furthermore, they did what no other army at the time did, they used reserve troops to reinforce breaking points in their lines.
Now — the longer the Celts fought the Romans, they started to pick up these tricks, but it was too little too late for them. The Celtic tribes became victim to a stratagem we know the Romans for today: divide and conquer. The Romans turned tribes on one another, recruited others to help them out in tight spots, keeping the enemy off balance.
The Roman Siege of Alesia
Toward the end of the Celtic struggle in Gual, before Caesar would cross the rubicon, there was one last chance for the Celtic tribes to defeat the Romans. The Celtic alliance retreated to a hilltop fortress they called Alesia. Caesar wasn’t going to try to raid Alesia — he instead set up for a siege. What did a Roman siege entail?
A wall was built around Alesia. But before you could even get to the wall, the Romans dug out an eight foot trench in front of the wall. Inside these trenches were all sorts of traps. Spikes made from wood and the like were planted on the bottom of the trench, sometimes hidden. At one point, they diverted a river to flood the trench. The Romans at this point are like Kevin McAllister protecting his house from Harry and Marv. The barbarians must advance Kevin’s house to even reach Roman lines.
Don’t forget, day by day, the Celts are starving. They have women, children, and old people with them as well. Lucky for them, all of Gual hears their cry for aid and amasses an army to break them out. But Caesar finds out they’re coming. The Romans numbered some 80,000 and were supported by a German Calvary. The force coming to bust out the barbarians was well over two hundred thousand. How did the Romans react to this?
They built another wall, and another trench with another host of boobytraps lying in wait. Hope seemed to return to the Celts stuck in Alesia when their allies appeared on the horizon. Was it something like Gandalf arriving at Helm’s Deep with the Rohirrim? Caesar tells us they coordinate their attack, to hit the Romans on both sides. By all the commentary on the battle, the Celts had a chance. But before they could even hit the Roman lines, they’re falling on spikes and drowning in the trenches.
The barbarian commanders however, find a weak spot in the defenses and breach. The Celts begin to cheer — only too soon. The German Calvary cuts down the allies from one side while Caesar and his legions beat back the barbarians. Their surrender is forced. Gual is pacified, as Caesar would say. There’s powerful lesson to be learned from Caesar and the Romans.
The War is Yours to Win or Lose
The Romans legions operated on a level above any other army in the ancient world. They didn’t just rely on their physical prowess to win wars. They couldn’t. The barbarians are all tall, massive, and blonde compared to their small Roman counterparts. In many of their battles during this time, they’re outnumbered. It’s by their wit and their will to win that they conquered the barbarians. As I said before, imagine the Roman legionnaire as being a Vietcong fighter armed with US military weaponry.
They couldn’t fight the way the barbarians fought because they would lose. They were outmatched physically, so they developed better tactics and became smart in the ways the barbarians were not. They figured out how to supply the army so it wasn’t trapped or starved out. They used a stratagems like divide and conquer to overcome numerical disadvantages and keep the enemy from uniting against them. The legions had a habit of laying down fortifications wherever they made camp as they were terrible at scouting out an area.
And when they were in a tight spot, they fought like the Vietcong did in Vietnam. They did everything they could to win. Their implanted their own forms of guerrilla warfare. They had at the best technology at the time in the form of catapults that launched rocks, scorpions that fired large arrows — these alone by the sounds they made going through the air sent barbarians fleeing in fear. All the way down to wooden spikes buried in traps under the ground. The professional army allowed them to remember all these tricks and employ them at the right moments to achieve victory.
Reading about Caesar and Gual is sobering. The Celtic tribes were fighting for values we Americans could understand: freedom and liberty. They were the “Native Americans” of Ancient Europe and the Romans the American colonizers. We like to think our side — the right — is the side that will win this struggle of ours because our cause is just. But right now, the right is being led by charlatans and clowns, whom are the means of our division and conquest.
It’s said modern politicians are used by the real men of power as mouthpieces to hide their hidden hands. To control these mouthpieces, the elite pick men or women with skeletons in their closet or they create the skeletons to blackmail with. I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t the same for all the “thought leaders” on the right today(given recent revelations). You have to start thinking like a Roman or Vietcong fighter. Your physical prowess alone won’t save you in this fight. You must have the wit, the ingenuity, and will to pull out all the stops in pursuit of victory.
Think on the Siege of Alesia. The Romans powered through a battle they could have easily lost, being attacked on both sides. Who would have anticipated the Romans building another wall behind them to hold back the storm? These were professionals playing to win. It’s about time you start playing to win.
The lessons of Alesia are manyfold. Strength of numbers mean little against a professional army. An army that has at its disposal both superior technology and ingenuity. The Romans possessed a killer instinct born from their experiences. They knew exactly how to throw the barbarians off balance and how to make their lines crumble. You don’t have to be bigger or stronger than your opponent to win, but you have to possess that killer instinct, the will to win. More then that, you must specialize in breaking the wills of your enemies.
You can’t shy away from technology that might help you, not too good to get down in the dirt and leave surprises for your enemies. All the stops must be pulled. Are you willing to breathe through bamboo stick in rice patty to achieve victory? Are you not above digging holes and planting hidden spikes? You must expand your mind and look for any path to victory.
Only victory matters.