Museo Parc Alesia

The MuséoParc Alésia (Parc Museum Alesia) is an history museum and archaeological site located in the Côte-d’Or, Burgundy, France. Opened in 2012, the center is situated in the place where, in 55 BC, Julius Caesar defeated the Gallic tribes led by Vercingetorix in the famous Battle of Alesia, therefore opening the conquest of Gaul by the Roman legions.


MuséoParc Alésia lets you explore three sites : the Interprétation Centre, the Gallo-Roman ruins and the statue of Vercingétorix

The Interpretation Centre

Built on the plain of Alésia, this building with symbolic architecture was designed by famous architect Bernard Tschumi. Its circular form evokes the siege of Alésia, the netting that clads the building provides a nod to the wooden fortifications used by the Romans, whilst the oblique columns of its atrium recall the chaos of the battle itself.

Inside, an educational trail built around archaeological discoveries and hypotheses that have been confirmed by scientists places Alésia firmly within the context of the War of the Gauls (from 58 to 51 B.C).

The Gallo-Roman ruins

The Gallo-Roman ruins, situated just 3km from the Interpretation Centre, allow visitors to imagine what daily life was like for the people that settled here following the battle between Vercingétorix and Caesar. Strolling through the ancient streets thanks to a trail with commentary (in French, English, German and Dutch), you can explore the monumental centre made up of a sanctuary, a theatre and a forum enclosed by a basilica, a building known as the Ucuetis monument, an area of residential dwellings…

The statue of Vercingétorix

A hundred metres of so from the Gallo-Roman ruins, accessible on foot or by car, you can admire the monumental statue of Vercingétorix dating from 1865. 6.60 metres tall, this work in copper was commissioned by Napoleon III to mark the successful conclusion of the archaeological excavations undertaken at Alésia.

Contemporary analysis of this statue has revealed numerous anachronistic elements and a representation of the Gauls that has now been debunked by recent archaeological discoveries and a rereading of texts from Antiquity

The history of the site

The exact location of the Battle of Alésia was debated for many years. In the XIX century, under the orders of Napoleon III, colossal excavations were carried out at Alise-Sainte-Reine from 1861 until late 1865. These brought to light a huge quantity of weapons, coins belonging to the Gauls and Romans and military items. What is more, the methodology employed (cross referring the discoveries with texts written by Caesar, which was truly experimental archaeology at the time) allowed for a life-sized reconstitution of sections of the battle lines and of Roman war machines.

Despite the significance of these findings, the debate raged on and the scientific community remained divided.

In the 1990s, a Franco-German team of archaeologists unearthed new evidence. They were able to confirm that the « oppidum of Mont-Auxois in Alise-Sainte-Reine and the military siege of the first century B.C that was uncovered by archaeological digs corresponded with the Battle of Alésia ».

Today, the French and international scientific community considers Alise-Sainte-Reine as the historic site of the battle.

Quite naturally, it is on this site that the MuséoParc Alésia now stands.

Revisiting the events of 52 B.C

For 6 years, Caesar had been a redoubtable war general whose power was growing and was now ready to lead the War of the Gauls. In order to check his progress, the chieftains of Gaul formed an alliance in 52 B.C under the leadership of Vercingétorix, a young king of the Arverne people. In Gergovie they defeated Caesar, who decided to withdraw to the Roman province to the south of Gaul. On the journey there, his army was attacked in northern Burgundy by the armies of Vercingétorix who relied on the customary superiority of its cavalry. The Romans however, thanks to the assistance of the German cavalry, routed them.

Vercingétorix therefore decided to station his troops (80,000 men, according to Caesar) at the oppidum of Alésia. Facing them was between ten and twelve Roman legions (around 40 to 45,000 men) and several thousand auxiliaries and German cavalrymen.

Caesar took the opportunity to encircle the chieftains of Gaul and lay siege to the oppidum. He ordered the construction of a double line of fortifications and a whole ensemble of very elaborate traps in front of each line.

Of course the Gauls did not just simply watch the Romans; they set out to attack them. The first sortie made by Vercingétorix’s cavalry resulted in defeat and he decided to send them out to bring reinforcements from all across Gaul.

But as the days passed the Roman fortifications were visibly growing stronger and reinforcement did not arrive. The besieged Gauls were ravaged by hunger. What could they do? Surrender? Attempt another sortie? «Following discussions, it was decided that those who were too sick or elderly to be of use would leave the town» De Bello Gallico, VII, 77-78. These exiles, wandering in between the two fortified lines, died of starvation or were massacred.

Help finally arrived: 240,000 infantry and 8,000 cavalry, according to Caesar. Twice more the Gauls attempted to escape and were pushed back on both occasions. When they tried for a third time, for many hours the outcome of the battle was uncertain. However, once again fortune smiled on Caesar. Under pressure from the Romans, who were supported by the Germans, the Gauls from the relief army fled.

Vercingétorix retreated back inside the oppidum and elected to surrender in order to save his men.

Although referred to as a “battle”, the siege of Alésia probably lasted between a month and a half and two months. The experience, discipline, resilience and organisation of the Roman troops, allied with an exceptional knowledge of the art of siege warfare, guaranteed that Caesar enjoyed a definitive advantage.