"Any fool can make history, but it takes a genius to write it."
Oscar Wilde

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Inception Deception

Unfortunately, this blog post will not be about the movie Inception, as I have not seen it. However, it will be about an equally exciting topic: deception.
From the earliest of times, deception has been used to defeat the strongest of enemies. From biblical times to modern day, the generals have deceived their enemies to achieve a victory. However, one of the most interesting examples, to me, is that of Julius Caesar's actions during a particular battle of the Gallic Wars. Now, many people think of Julius Caesar as the statesmen assassinated by his friends, or maybe even the canned dog food featuring a pristine white dog on the cover, but, Julius had an extensive and successful career before he got into politics, or the dog food industry.
Julius Caesar was marching with his legion somewhere in France enjoying the lovely weather, tasty wine, and fanatical tribesmen... fanatical tribesmen? Indeed, he was constantly attacked by armies of Gauls, but this particular army was much bigger than any of those he had faced before. However, Caesar did not lose hope, instead, he selected the most advantageous position for a camp he could find, and began scheming. His first move was to shrink the size of his camp. He made men share tents and he reduced the widths of the roads within, causing the Gauls to believe he commanded a much smaller army then he actually had. After he did this, he ordered all of his men to feign confusion and disorder. When the Gallic army arrived, they found a tiny camp populated by seemingly terrified soldiers. Once they observed this, they held Caesar and his army in contempt. So arrogant were they, that they sent one division of cavalry out to confront the fort. Caesar replied by sending out cavalry who were specifically told to break and flee in terror after a minute's worth of combat. This done, Caesar made an extravagant show of bracing all of his walls with earth, including, so the Gauls thought, the gates. The Gauls, thinking that Caesar had piled earth against his gates, by doing so hemming himself in, began to act very reckless, assuming that Caesar was trapped within his fort. They took up a disadvantageous position and began to stroll about without their weapons. Finally, they attacked with a portion of their army, thinking that Caesar's army was very small, and very demoralized. Instead, they met with brutal resistance, and as they attempted to scale the walls, Caesar and most of his camp burst out of the supposedly blockaded gates. Caught by surprise, the Gauls were mowed down before Caesar's army. After a short battle, the entire Gallic army fled into the forests.
As you can see, this episode of deception was carried out with such skill so as to trick an entire army and eventually defeat them. This, while not the inception of deception is still one of the best early examples of a small army deceiving a much larger one, and by doing so obtaining victory.

    This is a photo of the town of Sancerre, in central France, taken by me when I went to study French there.
As you can see, the geography of the area involves extensive forests, and if any of my readers are wondering why Caesar let any of this large Gallic army escape, you now know why. Thanks for reading!


  1. Excellent description of how deception worked in the early times. Deception was a major part of the Allied invasion on D-Day as the Germans tried to determine where the actual invasion took place. Thanks to deception, many Germans were not in Normandy but in other locations north of the actual invasion location.

  2. Pretty slick move. I bet Caesar would be a great chess player! Very interesting story!