The Conquest of Gaul

“Leadership is a constant theme and emphasis at CMC. In fact, one of the ways we describe CMC students is “Leaders in the Making.” Identify and discuss a person, fictional or nonfictional, who has helped shape culture and thought. You may select someone from any field: literature, the arts, science, politics. history, ahtletics, business, education, ect.

It was early morning in Alesia. Gleaming rays of red-orange light danced on the wheat fields of southeastern France. Suddenly, three hundred thousand Gallic soldiers blotted out the horizon. Vercingeterix’s reinforcements had arrived to fight against Caesar’s paltry forty thousand men. The days following the enemy’s arrival saw one of the greatest battles in European history-a battle that defined the fate of Western Europe. Caesar reacted gracefully when faced with the determined Gallic opposition, and fought bravely to defend against advances on two fronts. His performance displayed marked qualities of leadership, most notably those of reliance and battle strategy. To understand Caesar’s plan is to understand Alesia, the heavily fortified Gallic stronghold perched atop a French hilltop. Caesar had never intended to attack this zenith directly-doing so would lead only to defeat and the loss of Caesar’s entire Gallic campaign. Rather, Caesar dug his-and his troops’-heels into the brittle French soil surrounding Vercingeterix, severing Vercingeterix supply lines and effectively forcing him into open battle. Vercingeterix, himself a man of great cunning, knew to resist initial temptation of glory and await solid reinforcements first. On one early March morning, reinforcements finally arrived and outnumbered Caesar’s men nearly ten to one. Caesar knew he could not hold the lines alone. In order to secure a twenty-five miles stretch of land, he had to rely on his staff. Marc Anthony and Junius Brutus provided the necessary support for the early part of the battle. Caesar’s leadership touched other areas as well. His ability to delegate jobs and rely on others for solutions was essential to running an effective campaign, whether on the battlefield or in Rome. However, these were not the sole factors leading to Caesar’s success: his keen battle strategy and personal leadership skill also contributed to his eventual victory. The Gallic opposition Caesar faced was comprised largely of untrained peasant farmers. Although they greatly outnumbered the Romans, the Gallic soldiers’ lack of skill in the end presented little challenge for the Roman blades. That morning, the first onslaughts of Gallic forces proved detrimental to Roman foot soldiers, debasing morale. Eventually, even the most hardened Romans grew wary after hours of battle-despite their military prowess. Brutus reported to Caesar that his legions were facing heavy losses. The seemingly impossible looked to prove true-Caesar might lose the battle and, as a result, his entire Gallic campaign. Under pressure, Caesar responded resourcefully. He quickly donned his crimson battle robes and mounted his noble white horse. Caesar knew what all great leaders of history have known: although great strategy and a reliable staff help, they do not ensure success. No strategy compares to personal intervention in a time of crisis. By leading a cavalry charge at the height of the Gallic battle, Caesar simultaneously raised the morale of his men and struck fear into the hearts of his enemies. His charge proved decisive in the battle for Alesia, and cemented Caesar’s success for the remainder of the Gallic campaign. Caesar secured Gaul thanks to his marked skills as a leader. These same skills would prove ever valuable to the leaders that would come after Caesar, two millennia later.

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