Orgetorix, d.61-60 BC

Orgetorix was a Helvetii nobleman who was largely responsible for the migration that began the Gallic War. The Helvetii lived in the area of modern Switzerland, and felt themselves to be trapped between the Rhine, the Alps, the Rhine and the Jura. They were also coming under increasing pressure from German tribes to their north. Orgetorix was one of the wealthiest and influential members of the tribe, and had a large personal following.

Battles and Sieges of the Gallic War (58-51 B.C)
Battles and Sieges
of the Gallic War
(58-51 B.C)

In 61 BC Orgetorix convinced the Helvetii that the answer to their problems was a mass migration across Gaul to the west coast, where they would conquer a new kingdom. He was put in charge of the preparations for the migration, but he didn't survive for long enough to actually take part in it. Like most Gallic tribes the Helvetii were ruled by a number of magistrates, but Orgetorix wanted to replace them and become king. He also convinced Casticus of the Sequani and Dumnorix of the Aedui to attempt to overthrown the established rulers of their tribes. He also married his daughter to Dumnorix.

News of this plot soon reached the magistrates and Orgetorix was ordered to stand trial. If he had been found guilty he would have been burnt to death, but on the day set for his trial Orgetorix gathered together 10,000 of his supports and prepared to fight. The magistrates began to gather their own forces, but before the fighting began Orgetorix died, probably at his own hands.

When this news reached the Romans they seem to have assumed that the migration would no longer take place, but in 58 BC the Helvetii destroyed their towns and villages and began to move west. Julius Caesar, who at the time was governor of both Cisalpine and Transalpine Gaul, was forced to dash from the Italian part of his province to Geneva, starting seven years of near-constant warfare in Gaul.

The Gallic War , Julius Caesar. One of the great works of western civilisation. Caesar was an almost unique example of a great general who was also a great writer. The Gallic War is a first hand account of Caesar's conquest of Gaul, written at the time to explain and justify his actions.
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (27 March 2009), Orgetorix, d.61-60 BC , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_orgetorix.html

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