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Caesar’s Conquest of Gaul

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Monday, December 11, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2294
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This online program is presented on Zoom.
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Vercingetorix Throws Down His Arms at the Feet of Julius Caesar by Lionel Noel Royer, 1899

How and why did Julius Caesar conquer Gaul? The famous formulation that all Gaul was divided into three parts came from the self-serving pen of Caesar himself, whose conquest of Gaul served as the springboard for a quest for power that ended fatally on the Ides of March in 44 B.C.E., five years after he had famously crossed the Rubicon River en route to Rome from Gaul in defiance of the Roman Senate.

Historian Jennifer Paxton tells the complex and fascinating story of how Rome gradually acquired commercial and military interests in southern Gaul that provided the pretext for Roman intervention in the complicated politics of the region. Caesar then exploited internal divisions within Gaul to bring about the largest single acquisition of territory for Rome north of the Alps, a project that he conducted largely on his own initiative with only the grudging approval of the Senate.

Paxton examines Caesar’s abortive invasion of Britain, which was a sideshow to the campaign in Gaul, and the last stand of the Gauls under the chieftain Vercingetorix, who was finally defeated at the Battle of Alesia in 52 B.C.E. and “saved up” to be paraded in Caesar’s triumph six years later. Paxton also looks at how the legacy of the Gauls has featured in the French national consciousness, from Louis Napoleon’s obsession with Vercingetorix to the comics of Astérix the Gaul.

Paxton is a clinical associate professor of history and director of the University Honors Program at The Catholic University of America.

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