Alesia is an archaeological site on Mount Auxois in the Côte-d’Or and the place where Roman emperor Julius Caesar won his decisive victory over the Gauls in 52 BC.
By this time, much of southern France was already within the Roman Empire, having been annexed in around the 2nd Century BC, but other regions were still holding out.
At Alesia, Caesar met and defeated one of his most formidable adversaries, the Gaulish Chieftain, Vercingetorix, leader of the Gauls’ uprising against the Romans. Yet, whilst Caesar was successful, he only won after a long siege, known as the Siege of Alesia.
The enormous measures taken during the battle were impressive. In only six weeks, Caesar’s troops built a ring of fortifications 15 kilometre long (circumvallation) around Alesia and an additional ring 21 kilometre long around that to stop reinforcements (around 250,000 men according to Caesar) from reaching the Gauls.
The remains which have been uncovered in Alesia show that it became a prosperous Gallo-Roman city by the first century AD. Visitors to the Alesia archaeological site can see the ruins of several houses as well as public buildings and areas such as a theatre, a Roman administrative centre (basilica) and shops, all centred on a forum. It is worth noting that there have been debates as to whether Alesia is the true site of this battle, with some historians claiming it occurred elsewhere.
Also part of the Alesia site is the statue of Vercingetorix erected under the orders of Napoleon III in 1865, showing how this leader perceived this historic figure.
Today, an impressive interpretative centre and archaeological museum has recently opened on the site of the siege in antiquity. The museum is built of stones, similar in look to the town buildings, but with contemporary technology, and is buried partially into the hill so that from above it appears as an extension of the landscape. Visitors may go to the roof to view the surrounding landscape from the position that the Gauls did two thousand years ago.
Two kilometres from the interpretation centre, not far from the remains of the Gallo-Roman town, a gigantic statue of Vercingetorix by the sculptor Aimé Millet stands at the top of Mount Auxois. From up there, you can see stunning views of the surrounding landscape!
Getting to Alesia
Alesia is located in Burgundy, France. The address of the site is 1 Route des trois Ormeaux, 21150 Alise-Sainte-Reine, France. The closest town to Alesia is Dijon (roughly 55 kilometres away). If travelling from here, take the D971 northbound and exit onto the D104 just before Darois. Continue on this route (merges into D10) until you reach Alise-Sainte-Reine.
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