Gallic Wars

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The Gallic Wars were a series of military campaigns waged by the Roman proconsul Julius Caesar against several Gallic tribes, lasting from 58 BC to 51 BC. The Romans would also raid Britannia and Germania, but these expeditions never developed into full-scale invasions. The Gallic Wars culminated in the decisive Battle of Alesia in 52 BC, in which a complete Roman victory resulted in the expansion of the Roman Republic over the whole of Gaul. The wars paved the way for Julius Caesar to become the sole ruler of the Roman Republic.

Although Caesar portrayed this invasion as being a defensive pre-emptive action, most historians agree that the wars were fought primarily to boost Caesar's political career and to pay off his massive debts. Still, Gaul was of significant military importance to the Romans, as they had been attacked several times by native tribes both indigenous to Gaul and further to the north. Conquering Gaul allowed Rome to secure the natural border of the river Rhine.

This military campaign is described by Julius Caesar himself in his book Commentarii de Bello Gallico, which is the most important historical source of the conflict. This book is also a masterwork of political propaganda, as Caesar was keenly interested in manipulating his readers in Rome to support him.


Political background

In 58 BC, Gaius Julius Caesar ended his consulship in Rome, and was heavily indebted. However, being a member of the First Triumvirate – the political alliance composed of himself, Marcus Licinius Crassus, and Pompey – he had secured for himself the governorship of two provinces, Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum. As the governor of Transalpine Gaul, Metellus Celer, died unexpectedly, this province was also awarded to Caesar. Caesar's governorships were extended to an outstanding five-year period.

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