France Alesia Interpretation Center
History of Alesia
Alesia is where, in 52 BC, the famous confrontation took place between Julius Caesar’s Roman army and the Gallic tribes led by Vercingetorix.
The summer is drawing to a close and it’s already been six years since Caesar conquered the Gallic territories (the Gallic Wars). Vercingetorix, heading up the Gallic coalition, is trying to halt the advance of the Roman general. After an attack to no avail, Vercingetorix seeks refuge in the oppidum of Alesia, the stronghold of the Mandubii people. The Romans pursue them and launch the siege of the stronghold. They set up their camps on the hillsides around and build two fortification lines with ramparts, towers and traps. The first fortification line, 15 kilometres long, surrounds the oppidum, making it impossible for the Gauls to leave. The second one, 21 kilometres long, protects the Roman camps from the imminent arrival of an immense Gallic relief force. After a long wait, battle is eventually waged on the plain. The Romans are caught between two lines of fire. Projectiles rain down from their war machines and Caesar calls on his legionaries and auxiliary forces, archers, slingers and German cavalry– who deliver the final victory into his hands. Vercingetorix is taken prisoner and carted off to Rome. A year later, in 51 BC, the Gallic War is over, and the Gauls set to become Gallo-Romans.
Travel back in time to see History as it happens! The Interpretation Center of the MuseoParc Alesia immerses you completely in History : the conquest of Gaul by the Romans, the siege of Alésia in 52 BC, Caesar and Vercingétorix pitted against one another. Artefacts and facsimiles, diorama, films, models, multimedia terminals and reproductions of war machines plunge you into the thick of the battle.
The Roman fortifications have been rebuilt to their actual height stretching along some one hundred metres. Drawing on its know-how, a re-enactment cast will take delight in showing you what daily life was really like in a Roman camp and inviting you to watch the legionaries in training (demonstrations of battles and manoeuvres). You’ll also have the chance to see the reproduction of Roman war machines used during the Siege of Alesia.
On the terrace of the Interpretation Center planted with oaks and silver birches, enjoy a 360° panoramic view over the Mont-Auxois and the surrounding hillsides where the Roman army camps were set up.
A full visit usually takes around 3 hours.
Remains of the gallo-roman town
Atop Mont-Auxois, once the stronghold of the Gallic troops, can be found the remains of the Gallo-Roman town that developed over the first few centuries AD. Several thousand people once made their homes there. Come and admire the monumental center (theatre, temple, civilian basilica, etc.) and the craft-making and living quarters.
The statue of Vercingetorix
Conclude your visit by walking round to the western side of Mont-Auxois. Here, where the oppidum overlooks the final battlefield between the Gauls and the Romans, you will find the famous statue of Vercingetorix.
To commemorate the successful completion of the archaeological digs at Alesia, Napoleon III commissioned a gigantic statue of Vercingetorix from the sculptor Aimé Millet. The statue, made of sheet copper and standing 6.60 metres tall, was erected in 1865. The stone pedestal is seven metres tall and was designed by the architect Viollet-le-Duc.
Vercingetorix’s face, inspired by the young Napoleon III, and his attitude express resignation after the defeat. The portrayal is awash with anachronisms, for the pearl necklace is pure fantasy, and the breastplate, sword and straps clasping the breeches belong to other eras ... The end result fits the stereotype disseminated in the 19th and 20th centuries by popular prints and school textbooks: mustachioed Gauls with long hair, wearing winged or horned helmets, with a penchant for war and hunting and living in huts. All misconceptions now brought to light by archaeological finds and analyses of ancient texts.
Further information: www.alesia.com