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Julius Caesar

The Romans Dug Tunnels Under the Spring That Supplied Water to the Gallic Fort During Julius Caesar’s Seige

Julius Caesar was a Roman statesman and a member of the First Triumvirate. He led the Roman armies in the Gallic wards before ultimately defeating his rival, Pompey. But did you know how the Roman army accessed the Gallic Fort?

During Julius Caesar’s siege of a Gallic fort, the Romans dug tunnels beneath the fort’s water supply spring. The defenders surrendered, believing that the spring’s drying up was a sign from the gods. Caesar spared their lives but severed their hands.

The History Behind the Wars

Caesar was born into a royal family. He rose to the pinnacle of Roman power in his adulthood. However, he competed with two other men at the top: the Roman generals Pompey and Marcus Licinius Crassus.

Caesar knew he must have a resume that the Roman people could rally behind if he was the last man standing. At the time, there was only one sure way to secure it: war and conquest.

He understood that if he could conquer new lands for Rome, the Roman people would hail him as a conqueror. So Caesar arranged to do just that, conquering a large swath of territory known as Gaul. Gaul was a region of Western Europe that included what is now France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy.

Caesar and his army marched methodically across Gaul, conquering it piece by piece. He also famously wrote a memoir of his battles in Gaul in which he spoke of himself in the third person. His decisive victory came at the Battle of Alesia, which he won by combining deft military strategy with cutting off the food supply.

During Caesar’s Gallic War, the Gauls’ last attempt to defend a fortified town against a Roman onslaught was the siege of Uxellodunum in the spring of 51 BC. (Source: History of War)

What Happened During the Seige?

When Caesar and his army arrived in Uxellodunum, they discovered that the townspeople had already gathered a plentiful food supply. He devised yet another plan to force the people of Uxellodunum to surrender: 

Caesar and his army noticed that the people of Uxellodunum were gathering water from a spring. Caesar directed his men to construct a massive ramp to attack the townspeople who came out to collect water and cut off their water supply. The residents began to panic and set fire to the ramp to burn it down.

Seeing an opportunity, Caesar directed his men to raise a shout all around to frighten and confuse the townspeople into believing that an attack on their walls was imminent. The men of Uxellodunum withdrew, giving Caesar and his army just enough time to cut off the town’s water supply.

The townspeople were in despair because they mistook it for an act of God. With their water supply cut off, the people of Uxellodunum had no choice but to surrender.

Caesar and his army had triumphed. He decided that the men of Uxellodunum, and thus all of Gaul, needed to be deterred by exemplary punishment, and he then meted out an extreme punishment:

While granting them their lives, he cut off the hands of all who had borne arms to testify the more openly the penalty of evildoers.

All of the men who had fought in Uxellodunum had their hands severed as a warning to all of Gaul about what would happen if they dared to rebel against Caesar.

It was successful. Caesar completed his campaign in Gaul and returned to Rome as a revered conqueror. (Source: History of War)

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