May 16, 2017

Vercingetorix - The Revolutionary Celt

Vercingetorix (82-46 BC) was a Gallic chieftain who rallied the tribes of Gaul (modern-day France) to repel the Roman invasion of Julius Caesarin 52 BCE.  His name means "Victor of a Hundred Battles" and was not his birth name but a title and the only name he is known by.

Little is known of Vercingetorix prior to his rebellion of 52 BC except that he was the son of an aristocratic Gallic chief and a respected member of his tribe. Vercingetorix's father, Celtillus, was an aristocrat and leader of one of the strongest tribes in Gaul, the Averni, who commanded the allegiance of some lesser tribes. The Averni maintained a long-standing feud with another Gallic tribe, the Aedui, who had their own allies to help maintain the balance of power. Although the tribes had united to attack and loot Rome in the 4th century BC, they did not much concern themselves with matters outside their region.

Statue of Vercingetorix in Alesia, France.
vercingetorix statue celt roman caesar juliusHaving been appointed governor of the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis (modern Provence) in 58 BC, Julius Caesar proceeded to conquer the Gallic tribes beyond over the next few years, maintaining control through a careful divide and rule strategy. He made use of the factionalism among the Gallic elites, favoring certain noblemen over others with political support and Roman luxuries such as wine.  

 

Certain tribes of the Gauls refused to accept this new status as a conquered nation, especially because they had been so instrumental in driving out the Germans. A Gallic leader named Ambiorix of the Eburones tribe raised his people to revolt, claiming their right to freedom in their own country. Caesar took command of the Roman forces himself, instead of trusting the mission to one of his generals, and attacked the Gauls without hesitation or mercy. The Eburone tribe was massacred as an example to any others who might dare raise a force against Rome and, to underscore his message, any survivors were sold into slavery and the tribe's lands burned.

celts romans map gauls italia history caesar vercingetorix

Map of the land occupied by the Gauls and Roman Republic in 58 BC

 

The revolt that Vercingetorix came to lead began in early 52 BC while Caesar was raising troops in Cisalpine Gaul. Believing that Caesar would be distracted by the turmoil in Rome following the death of Publius Clodius Pulcher, the Carnutes, under Cotuatus and Conetodunus, made the first move, slaughtering the Romans who had settled in their territory.

He made alliances with other tribes, and having been unanimously given supreme command of their armies, imposed his authority through harsh discipline and the taking of hostages. He adopted the policy of retreating to natural fortifications, and undertook an early example of a scorched earth strategy by burning towns to prevent the Roman legions from living off the land.

A major battle took place at Gergovia, capital city of the Arverni and Vercingetorix. During that battle, Vercingetorix and his warriors crushed Caesar's legions and allies, inflicting heavy losses. Vercingetorix then decided to follow Caesar but suffered heavy losses (as did the Romans and allies) during a cavalry battle and he retreated and moved to their stronghold, Alesia.

At the Battle of Alesia, the Romans besieged and defeated his forces. In order to save as many of his men as possible he gave himself to the Romans. Dressed in his finest armor, Vercingetorix was an imposing figure, even in defeat, many in Caesar's camp were startled; though not, it seems, Caesar himself. Without saying a word, Vercingetorix slowly removed his armor and then fell to his knees at Caesar's feet.

siege alesia vercingetorix caesar celts romans history

The surrender of Vercingetorix following the Siege of Alesia

 

The defenders of Alesia were massacred, sold as slaves, or given as slaves to the soldiers for their service during the siege. When Caesar had completed the last details of his conquest of Gaul, Vercingetorix was dragged from his prison to appear in Caesar's triumphal parade through the Roman streets; then he was executed.

vercingetorix caesar celts gaul rome romans historyIn this painting, Vercingetorix can be seen wearing the very characteristic torc (neck ring) that was common among the Celts. Here at Brian de Staic, we specialise in recreating these Celtic artifacts in the form of beautiful jewellery. Check this pieces out here.
June 21, 2016

Summer Solstice 2016

Yesterday, 20th June 2016, marked the Summer Solstice. This was a special celebration during the Celtic period in Europe. Below is a fantastic info-graphic by CelticCrossOnline.com, explaining the solstice and Celtic traditions.

 

 

May 31, 2016

Star Wars in Dingle

One of the major stories so far this year for Dingle, and Ireland as a whole, is that of the blockbuster film series - Star Wars, filming in West Kerry. Star Wars: Episode VIII was filmed on a set created at Ceann Sibeal in Ballyferriter recently, with the scenes being shot over the course of a week roughly. The set which was built for the last two months, has drawn great attraction to the local area. This is not the first time where the crew of this series have filmed at this part of the world either. Star Wars: The Force Awakens, was shot last summer on Skellig Michael for the ending scene. The movie smashed box office records around the world when it opened last December.

With many stars such as Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver staying in Dingle, and stating their admiration for the area, the events are sure to have great repercussions for the town in Kerry. 

February 20, 2016

The wedding of the Easter Rising.

Joseph Plunkett and Grace Gifford

Joseph Plunkett and Grace Gifford’s marriage was one of the many personal tragedies of 1916 

The 1916 rising changed the course of Irish history. While pundits and historians reflect on what it was all for one hundred years on, it has always been seen in Ireland as the sacrifice of a few for many.

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February 20, 2016

The Women of the 1916 Rising

The Women of the 1916 Rising

On the first day of the rising, Pádraig Pierce stood on the steps of the General Post Office and read out the proclamation of the Irish Republic. The verse ‘Ireland has organised and trained her manhood’ has always stuck out as odd from that revolutionary document, not least because many women had a huge part in the rising.

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February 20, 2016

Aoife and Strongbow

Aoife and Strongbow

With the 1916 centenary celebrations close at hand, the country is focused on that Easter week which marked the last years of English Dominion over Ireland. How did we end up under British rule in the first place? Well, just in time for Valentine's Day, that's a tale of love and war (all the best tales are).

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February 20, 2016

A People's Rebellion. Easter 1916

 A People's Rebellion., Easter 1916 The Irish state has never been old enough to mark centenaries. It is not yet one hundred years old. But this year marks the hundredth since the 1916 Easter Rising, a cataclysmic event that not only paved the way for an Irish Republic, but heralded the end of colonialism...

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February 20, 2016

The Lady's Charm of Luck and Protection

St. BrigidWhen it comes to patron Saints, Patrick gets most of the glory. From dyeing the Hudson River in Chicago to putting green lights on Tokyo Tower, St. Patrick's day makes a celebrity of our Saint.

Less well known, outside of Ireland of course, is our other patron, Brigid.

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February 20, 2016

Kerry Versus the World

The battle of Ventry

Cath Finntrágha, 
The battle of Ventry

You probably aren’t aware, but one of the greatest battles in history took place not far from Dingle...

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February 20, 2016

The lonely life of a monk



There is little left standing of the monastic site of Riasc, save for the Riasc Ogham Stone. The early 7th Century settlement is off the beaten track even by today’s standards, but fourteen hundred years ago it would have felt truly isolated.That is after all what the monks wanted. Living in little clocháns: solemn, empty beehive shaped stone huts, they devoted their lives to prayer and study.

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