Gallic Wars

Siege of Uxellodunum
Roman sappers ©Image Attribution forthcoming. Image belongs to the respective owner(s).
51 BCE Feb 1

Siege of Uxellodunum

Vayrac, France

Lucterius, the chief of the Carduci, and Drapes, chief of the Senones, had retired to the hill fort of Uxellodunum to remain in the relative safety of the fortifications until the governorship of Gaius Julius Caesar ended in Gaul. The group had apparently planned to then begin a new rebellion against their Roman conquerors.

While these actions had been ongoing, Gaius Julius Caesar was in the territory of the Belgae in Gaul. There he was informed by courier of the revolt of the Carduci and Senones. Determined to ensure that there would be no more rebellions in Gaul after the expiration of his tenure as governor, Caesar set out immediately for Uxellodunum with his cavalry, leaving behind his legions, even though his two legates had the situation under control. Indeed, Caesar made his way so quickly to Uxellodunum that he surprised his two legates.

Caesar decided that the city could not be carried by force. Caesar noticed the difficulty the Gauls had collecting the water, having to come down a very steep slope to reach the riverbank. Exploiting this potential flaw in the defences, Caesar stationed archers and ballista near the river to cover any attempt to gather water from this main source. More troublesome for Caesar however, a secondary water source flowed down from the mountain directly underneath the walls of the fort. It seemed to be almost impossible to block access to this second source. The terrain was extremely rugged and it would not have been feasible to take the ground by force. Before long, Caesar was informed of the location of the source of the spring. With this knowledge, he ordered his engineers to build a ramp of earth and rock that could support a ten-story siege tower, which he used to bombard the spring source. Concurrently, he had another group of engineers build a tunnel system that finished at the source of the same spring. Shortly thereafter, the sappers tunnelled through to the water source and finished the job of cutting the Gauls off from their water sources, forcing the Gauls to surrender their unfavourable position.

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