Gallic Wars
Siege of Avaricum
52 BCE May 1

Siege of Avaricum

Bourges, France

Originally, Vercingetorix had been opposed to defending Avaricum, but the Bituriges Cubi had persuaded him otherwise. The Gallic army was camped outside the settlement. Even while defending, Vercingetorix wished to abandon the siege and outrun the Romans. But the warriors of Avaricum were unwilling to leave it. Upon his arrival, Caesar promptly began construction of a defensive fortification. The Gauls continuously harassed the Romans and their foraging parties while they built their camp and attempted to burn it down. But not even the fierce winter weather could stop the Romans, and they built a very sturdy camp in just 25 days. The Romans built siege engines, and Caesar waited for an opportunity to attack the heavily fortified oppidum. He chose to attack during a rainstorm when the sentries were distracted. Siege towers were used to assault the fort, and ballista artillery battered the walls. Eventually, the artillery broke a hole in a wall, and the Gauls could not stop the Romans from taking the settlement. The Romans then looted and pillaged Avaricum; Caesar took no prisoners and claims the Romans slew 40,000. That the Gallic coalition did not fall apart after this defeat is a testament to the leadership of Vercingetorix. Even after losing Avaricum, the Aedui were willing to revolt and join the coalition. This was yet another setback to Caesar's supply lines, as he could no longer get supplies through the Aedui (though the taking of Avaricum had supplied the army for the moment).