Tues. 3rd May: If in France, visit Alesia!

For those of you who read Asterix, you might remember the oft-mentioned phrase: “Don’t mention Alesia! Why does no one talk about Gergovia?” Alesia is of course the site of one of Caesar’s, and indeed all of military history’s, greatest vicwtories. Perhaps 50,000 legionaries besieged a town with about 80,000 Gaulish warriors inside, investing it with a series of fortifications approx. 15 miles long, with towers everywhere and 3 sets of ditches and mantraps in front of it. When news came of 200,000 Gauls coming to the rescue of their comrades, Caesar didn’t retreat. Oh no! Instead, he and his men built another set of fortifications to complete the circumvallation. They withstood three days of battle, and remarkably, the Romans prevailed. The Gaulish dead were in the most incredible numbers, and there were so many prisoners that Caesar rewarded every soldier with a slave.

Anyway, the site where the battle took places is well worth a visit. I saw it as a child, and can still vividly remember the reconstructed fortifications. The good news is that a brand new museum is opening there this summer. So if you happen to be in the area of eastern France, make sure to take it in.

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  1. John Salter
    Posted 3 May 2011 at 09:05 | Permalink

    Hi Ben, I think the story of Alesia is vastly underrated but in reality showed why Caesar was so brilliant a military Commander and adored by his men. The visitor centre and museum will help bring the story to many who are unaware of what was one of the greatest battles ever fought against the odds. The dvd, Siege of Alesia gives a great insight on the story for those who are interested.

    Finished Tribune of Rome last, another great book!

  2. benkane
    Posted 3 May 2011 at 09:11 | Permalink

    @John: a brilliant commander, most definitely, but also a very lucky one! That DVD is good, yes. Shame it’s got reenactors in Imperial great, though…

    Your reading puts mine to shame. Haven’t even received my copy of Fortress of Spears yet, never mind Tribune of Rome 🙁

  3. John Salter
    Posted 3 May 2011 at 12:33 | Permalink

    Crikey, maybe they’ve sold out! I’ll be starting Fortress of Spears later, there are three good reviews on Amazon already and one for Vespasian (mine).

    Yes I noticed that about the re-enactors, it’s the only daft thing about it, totally out of place. Have you used your new shield boss on anyone yet? 🙂

  4. benkane
    Posted 3 May 2011 at 12:45 | Permalink

    @John: well, I went and checked my Amazon account, and Fortress of Spears is only ‘due’ to reach me tomorrow. Really annoying, given that I ordered it in February! Grrr. I could use my shield boss on whoever is responsible for that. It had better be a first edition when it does arrive!

  5. John Salter
    Posted 3 May 2011 at 14:30 | Permalink

    Ben, that’s very odd! I ended up with two copies in the end because the Amazon copy came with another courier and I got the Waterstones one because I didn’t think it would come on time, typical. You could have had one of them if I’d known.

    I hope Hannibal arrives on time because I’ve just pre-ordered it! 🙂

  6. benkane
    Posted 3 May 2011 at 15:16 | Permalink

    @John: it is odd, isn’t it? They’re normally very good at getting books out on time. The post has been and gone today too, without a sign of it. Thanks for the kind offer of your second book – very generous of you.

    And I hope that Hannibal: Enemy of Rome arrives on time for you too! I’ll be going down to Clay’s in St. Ives next week to see the first ones roll off the presses. That’ll be properly cool! 🙂

  7. Posted 3 May 2011 at 16:06 | Permalink

    I got my Signed Limited of Fortress today….but im lucky i got a sneaky advance read some time back, splendid book, not my fav of the series but Tony has a way with words that is very down to earth and really works for me.

    My Vespasian has not arrived yet…because he has not been in to sign them yet…boo.

    has anyone ever written a fictional account of alesia ?

  8. benkane
    Posted 3 May 2011 at 16:10 | Permalink

    @Parmenion: not that I know of – but I’m sure someone has. If not, there’s a book in there somewhere!

  9. John Salter
    Posted 4 May 2011 at 09:22 | Permalink

    Talking of things not turning up or you not receiving them; the centurion helmet I ordered arrived yesterday and was instantly taken away again because no-one was home! 🙁 good old Interlink Express. They don’t deliver at weekends and I can’t change the delivery address on their website 🙁 so I’ll have to ring them and get it delivered to work. Ugh!

    I started Fortress last night, I won’t go into any specifics but Anthony Riches doesn’t waste any time getting the bone crunching and action going! If yours doesn’t arrive Ben, seriously, I’ll send you my other copy! I thoroughly enjoyed Vespasian…especially the first part oddly before he even joins the legions.

  10. benkane
    Posted 4 May 2011 at 10:05 | Permalink

    @John: argh – how annoying! I hate when that happens. Fortunately, I now work from home, so I’m usually here to receive such goodies, but I can vividly remember when I worked as a vet and I’d get one of those little cards with a map. The offices to pick up the parcels are always in some godforsaken industrial estate 25 miles away too, aren’t they? Who did you order the helmet from? What period is it?

    Not surprised that Tony’s new book is good. Cheers for the offer of the book – I’m optimistic, however, that it will arrive today. Vespasian is on its way too…

  11. John Salter
    Posted 4 May 2011 at 11:52 | Permalink

    Haha, yep your right, the delivery company is in Bicester, okay if they were open at the weekend but they’re not and it’s a bit far away to go at lunchtime. They’ve assured me it will be here (work) tomorrow.

    It’s from Planet Trading Company – planettrading.co.uk in Birmingham. I haven’t bought anything from there before but the prices are very reasonable to say the least. It’s for the office so I won’t be getting bashed over the swede wearing it.

    It’s a Gallic Centurions Helmet with a red plume, looks great. I’ll let you know!

  12. John Salter
    Posted 4 May 2011 at 15:19 | Permalink

    Before I forget there’s a Time Team on tonight at 9pm Channel four about Boudica! 😉

  13. benkane
    Posted 4 May 2011 at 16:31 | Permalink

    @John: Thanks for the heads up, Id’ forgotten about it. I’ll try to catch it – if I’ve hit my word count. These dratted bank holidays play hell with it.

    (I see you’ve enrolled on the HWA site – welcome!) 😉

  14. Posted 4 May 2011 at 17:24 | Permalink

    Parmenion, Colleen McCullough has written about Alesia in the 5th book of her Rome series, the one usually going by the title of ‘Caesar’ (sometimes also ‘Let the Dice Fly’). She’s not a miliary writer though, and the series is more an epic narrative where one battle is only a small strand in the tapestry. So don’t expect a Kane or Jackson take on it. 🙂

    Dunno if Iggulden covers that one; I’ve not read more than the first chapters of the first Caesar book. If I want Superman, I can read Marvel comics. 😛

  15. Posted 4 May 2011 at 19:26 | Permalink

    John…where are you from if you’re close to Bicester? Oxford is my old home town, and my brother used to live in Bicester.

  16. John Salter
    Posted 5 May 2011 at 09:24 | Permalink

    Ben – Amazingly I got home from work last night and there was another note from Interlink Express saying there was a package for me next door! Despite re-arranging the delivery of the helmet for today at work, there it was!

    I’m astonished it’s so good in detail and quality/weight for the price and nicely covered in a thin smear of oil to preserve the little fella as well, great addition to the collection, highly recommended web site – planettrading.co.uk

    HWA – Yes it’s a great site, for some reason my name on there is Jack1874.

    Parmenion – I’m the Bicester side of Aylesbury on what was the edge of the town but due to the new railway station it’s not anymore!Still lot’s of countryside to walk the dogs though and an ancient village along the river to explore! 🙂

    Time Team Special – Boudica! What an excellent episode, some of the torcs that have been found are truly amazing. Good old Baldrick did a good job! 😉

  17. annis
    Posted 5 May 2011 at 10:30 | Permalink

    Norman Spinrad’s novel “Druid King” is a good portrayal of Caesar’s campaign against Vercingetorix, ending with the siege of Alesia.

    Good to see the HWA is getting off to a good start. Is it my imagination or have quite a few more authors appeared on the HWA listing?

  18. benkane
    Posted 5 May 2011 at 10:33 | Permalink

    @Annis: that’s the book I was thinking of! Thank you. It was made into a film with the chap who starred in Highlander, wasn’t it?

    Re the HWA: it was just a matter of getting all the authors who’d paid to be members to give us all their details – then their name is entered on the members listing. Otherwise, there’s nothing to click on. The membership is now about 99, and rising every day or two…

  19. Posted 5 May 2011 at 11:30 | Permalink

    OOh i have that book Druid King…just never read it…must dig it out.

  20. annis
    Posted 5 May 2011 at 21:36 | Permalink

    “Druid King” does a good job of showing Caesar’s coolly ruthless tenacity. Caesar wasn’t doing too well while Vercingetorx and the Gauls pursued a campaign of guerilla warfare, so over months patiently manoeuvred the Gauls into a situation where he could conduct a siege which he knew he could win.

    And of course Vercingetorix had the Celtic curse to deal with- an inability for different tribal groups to remain united as a cohesive force. What was it Tacitus said about the Britons? “Nothing has been more useful to us against powerful tribes than the fact that they do not act together…So, fighting separately, all are conquered”. Have to confess I cheated on that one and hunted out my copy of Ruth Downie’s “Caveat Emptor” – I remembered that she’d used the Tacitus quote as the epigraph for her book (another excellent read from RD btw).

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