I am prompted to write this series of 3 articles by the cancellation of the Texas Bowl due to COVID-19. When I heard the news, I thought, “What would our ancestors say?”. My education and upbringing did not teach me “when the going gets tough, QUIT”; rather “DON’T QUIT”. My mind continues to review all that I was taught growing up. Quitting is the antithesis to all I was trained to believe in.
During my undergraduate studies, I was told, “we are here to stand on the shoulders of giants”. The meaning is that we have a heritage to fallback on, spanning a history of nearly 10,000 years of Western Civilization. Some of those giants include Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides, Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Livy, Ovid, Plutarch, Archimedes, Newton, Pascal, Descartes, etc. It does not matter what country any particular “giant” came from because we are all part of a shared culture.
The first example that comes to mind of our past greatness is Caesar’s conquest of Gaul. Gaul is present day France, and the people were primarily Celtic. In the book by Caesar, Gallic Wars, he describes the final showdown which entailed the Siege of Alesia, 52 BC. The leader of the Gallic coalition is a fellow named Vercingetorix. Caesar had managed to encircle Vercingetorix while the Celtic leader was in Alesia. Caesar’s plan was to starve him out.
The only problem is that Vercingetorix had sent out messages to the coalition and help was on the way. Caesar was in a “pickle”. Caesar had already built a wall around the city, but now he was about to be attacked in the rear. His solution was to build a second wall, essentially creating an annular space.
The real key to this problem is that Vercingetorix had about 80,000 troops trapped in the inner circle, while the Celtic coalition had about 250,000 troops attacking the outer wall. Caesar’s forces numbered about 50,000. What would you do? Personally, I would run for cover. “I will not fight an impossible battle and die for nothing”.
Caesar did not feel like I do. The Roman annular space was attacked from the inner wall and the outer wall, at the same time. Caesar ultimately defeated the coalition. He then decided to starve Vercingetorix out of Alesia, and it worked. Vercingetorix was taken back to Rome, paraded around like a clown, and after a few years, executed.
I just have one point left to clear up. Most modern historians agree that Julius Caesar is a war criminal. He did some pretty nasty things in his conquest of Gaul, so many that it is pointless to number them all. This is often the case when studying history – heroes never come as a pristine portrait. Often, they come as a tormented and scrambled mess of contradictions. Nonetheless, the lesson I get from Caesar is, “DON’T QUIT”.