Opponents and Allies – Rome and the Celts
Europe had been settled by a number of waves of Nordic Indo-Europeans, sweeping out of their homeland between the Black and Caspian seas, from about 4000 BC onwards. There were any number of tribes: some long since forgotten or amalgamated with the bigger tribes—others significant enough to have created regions or states later to be named after them: these included the Britanni, Slavs, Balts, Germans and others.
Despite their differing tribal names, they all shared a common Nordic sub-racial root. Depending on the nature of the original European populations they encountered in the various parts of Europe, they either retained their Nordic characteristics or they were diluted amongst the Alpine or Mediterranean populations.
In this way the population of northern and large parts of Western Europe became more Nordic, while parts of France, Spain, Italy and central Europe became less so.
[After writing about the Balts, the Celts in France; how Gauls founded Milan and attacked the Romans, Kemp recounts a vicious Roman revenge that nobody taught me at school:]
The Romans bided their time and built up their strength. After a series of minor clashes, Roman armies under general Caesar rolled into Gaul in 54 BC and smashed the Celts, enslaving virtually the entire population, over three million by Roman counts.
The cruelty with which the Romans suppressed the Gauls was to trigger one last great uprising. Began by a tribe in central France, the rebellion spread out and carried on for two years, eventually being led by the king of the Arverni tribe, one Vercingetorix.
Spurred on by fresh Roman outrages—when Caesar occupied the Gaulish town of Avaricum, for example, he ordered all 40,000 inhabitants put to death—Vercingetorix and his Gaulish allies very nearly defeated the Roman armies.
For a while the Roman expedition nearly foundered, but eventually superior Roman organization won the day. Vercingetorix and 80,000 of his men were finally cornered in the fortified town of Alesia on the Seine river. Caesar’s army settled down to a siege, preparing their defenses well enough to ward off attacks by Vercingetorix’s allies outside.
Finally, in an attempt to save his people from extermination, Vercingetorix personally surrendered to Caesar in 52 BC.
Caesar had the Celtic King sent to Rome in chains, where he was kept prisoner for six years, before being publicly strangled and beheaded.
[Kemp proceeds to recount the history of the Celts in Britain and the history of the Romans; three roman invasions, Caesar’s conquest of Spain, Celtic rebellion under Boadicea and her humiliating defeat, and how finally Romans lost control circa 400 AD. Reading about these tragic events should radically change our idealized image about Caesar, especially considering that the Celts were whiter than the Romans, who by that time had started to miscegenate.]