Book 5: The Veii and the Destruction of Rome by the Gauls
[5.1]Whilst peace prevailed elsewhere, Rome and Veii were confronting each other in arms, animated by such fury and hatred that utter ruin clearly awaited the vanquished. Each elected their magistrates, but on totally different principles. The Romans increased the number of their consular tribunes to eight - a larger number than had ever been elected before. They were Manius Aemilius Mamercus - for the second time - L. Valerius Potitus - for the third time - Appius Claudius Crassus, M. Quinctilius Varus, L. Julius Julus, M. Postumius, M. Furius Camillus, and M. Postumius Albinus. The Veientines, on the other hand, tired of the annual canvassing for office, elected a king. This gave great offence to the Etruscan cantons, owing to their hatred of monarchy and their personal aversion to the one who was elected. He was already obnoxious to the nation through his pride of wealth and overbearing temper, for he had put a violent stop to the festival of the Games, the interruption of which is an act of impiety. His candidature for the priesthood had been unsuccessful, another being preferred by the vote of the twelve cantons, and in revenge he suddenly withdrew the performers, most of whom were his own slaves, in the middle of the Games. The Etruscans as a nation were distinguished above all others by their devotion to religious observances, because they excelled in the knowledge and conduct of them, and they decided, in consequence, that no assistance should be given to the Veientines as long as they were under a king. The report of this decision was suppressed at Veii through fear of the king; he treated those who mentioned anything of the kind, not as authors of an idle tale, but as ringleaders of sedition. Although the Romans had received intelligence that there was no movement on the part of the Etruscans, still, as it was reported that the matter was being discussed in all their councils, they so constructed their lines as to present a double face, the one fronting Veii to prevent sorties from the city, the other looking towards Etruria to intercept any succour from that side.
[5.2]As the Roman generals placed more reliance on a blockade than on an assault, they began to build huts for winter quarters, a novelty to the Roman soldier. Their plan was to keep up the war through the winter. The tribunes of the plebs had for a long time been unable to find any pretext for creating a revolt. When, however, news of this was brought to Rome, they dashed off to the Assembly and produced great excitement by declaring that this was the reason why it had been settled to pay the troops. They, the tribunes, had not been blind to the fact that this gift from their adversaries would prove to be tainted with poison. The liberties of the plebs had been bartered away, their able-bodied men had been permanently sent away, banished from the City and the State, without any regard to winter or indeed to any season of the year, or to the possibility of their visiting their homes or looking after their property. What did they think was the reason for this continuous campaigning? They would most assuredly find it to be nothing else but the fear that if a large body of these men, who formed the whole strength of the plebs, were present, it would be possible to discuss reforms in favour of the plebeians. Besides, they were suffering much more hardship and oppression than the Veientines, for these passed the winter under their own roofs in a city protected by its magnificent walls and the natural strength of its position, whilst the Romans, amidst labour and toil, buried in frost and snow, were roughing it patiently under their skin-covered tents, and could not lay aside their arms even in the season of winter, when there is a respite from all wars, whether by land or sea. This form of slavery, making military service perpetual, was never imposed either by the kings, or by the consuls who were so domineering before the institution of the tribuneship, or during the stern rule of the Dictator, or by the unscrupulous decemvirs - it was the consular tribunes who were exercising this regal despotism over the Roman plebs. What would these men have done had they been consuls or Dictators, seeing that they have made their proconsular authority, which is only a shadow of the other, so outrageously cruel? But the commons had got what they had deserved. Amongst all the eight consular tribunes not a single plebeian had found a place. Hitherto, with their utmost efforts, the patricians had usually filled only three places at a time; now a team of eight were bent on maintaining their power. Even in such a crowd not a single plebeian could get a footing, to warn his colleagues, if he could do nothing else, that those who were serving as soldiers were free men, their own fellow-citizens, and not slaves, and that they ought to be brought back, at all events in the winter, to their houses and their homes, and during some part of the year visit their parents and wives and children, and exercise their rights as free citizens in electing the magistrates.
[5.3]Whilst indulging in declamations of this sort, they found an opponent who was quite a match for them in Appius Claudius. He had from early manhood taken his part in the contests with the plebs, and as stated above, had some years previously recommended the senate to break down the power of the tribunes by securing the intervention of their colleagues. He was not only a man of ready and versatile mind, but by this time an experienced debater. He delivered the following speech on this occasion: - "If, Quirites, there has ever been any doubt as to whether it was in your interest or their own that the tribunes have always been the advocates of sedition, I feel quite certain that this year all doubt has ceased to exist. Whilst I rejoice that an end has at last been put to a long-standing delusion, I congratulate you, and on your behalf the whole State, that its removal has been effected just at the time when your circumstances are most prosperous. Is there any one who doubts that whatever wrongs you may have at any time suffered, they never annoyed and provoked the tribunes so much as the generous treatment of the plebs by the senate, in establishing the system of pay for the soldiers? What else do you suppose it was that they were afraid of at that time, and would today gladly upset, except the harmony of the two orders, which they look upon as most of all calculated to destroy their power? They are, really, like so many quack doctors looking for work, always anxious to find some diseased spot in the republic that there may be something which you can call them in to cure." Then, turning to the tribunes, "Are you defending or attacking the plebs? Are you trying to injure the men on service or are you pleading their cause? Or perhaps this is what you are saying, 'Whatever the senate does, whether in the interest of the plebs or against them, we object to.' Just as masters forbid strangers to hold any communication with their slaves, and think it right that they should abstain from showing them either kindness or unkindness, so you interdict the patricians from all dealings with the plebs, lest we should appeal to their feelings by our graciousness and generosity and secure their loyalty and obedience. How much more dutiful it would have been in you, if you had had a spark - I will not say of patriotism, but - of common humanity, to have viewed with favour, and as far as in you lay, to have fostered the kindly feelings of the patricians and the grateful goodwill of the plebeians! And if this harmony should prove to be lasting, who would not be bold enough to guarantee that this empire will in a short time be the greatest among the neighbouring States?
[5.4]"I shall subsequently show not only the expediency but even the necessity of the policy which my colleagues have adopted of refusing to withdraw the army from Veii until their object was effected. For the present I prefer to speak of the actual conditions under which it is serving, and if I were speaking not before you only but in the camp as well, I think that what I say would appear just and fair in the judgment of the soldiers themselves. Even if no arguments presented themselves to my mind, I should find those of my opponents quite sufficient for my purpose. They were saying lately that pay ought not to be given to the soldiers because it never had been given. How then can they now profess indignation at those who have gained additional benefits being required to undergo additional exertion in proportion? Nowhere do we find labour without its reward, nor, as a rule, reward without some expenditure of labour. Toil and pleasure, utterly dissimilar by nature, have been brought by nature into a kind of partnership with each other. Formerly, the soldier felt it a grievance that he gave his services to the State at his own cost, he had the satisfaction, however, of cultivating his land for a part of the year, and acquiring the means of supporting himself and his family whether he were at home or on service. Now he has the pleasure of knowing that the State is a source of income to him, and he is glad to receive his pay. Let him therefore take it patiently that he is a little longer absent from his home and his property, on which no heavy expense now falls. If the State were to call him to an exact reckoning, would it not be justified in saying, 'You receive a year's pay, put in a year's work. Do you think it fair to receive a whole twelve-month's pay for six months' service?' It is with reluctance, Quirites, that I dwell on this topic, for it is those who employ mercenaries who ought to deal thus with them, but we want to deal with you as with fellow-citizens, and we think it only fair that you should deal with us as with your fatherland.
"Either the war ought not to have been undertaken, or it ought to be conducted as befits the dignity of Rome and brought to a close as soon as possible. It will certainly be brought to a close if we press on the siege, but not if we retire before we have fulfilled our hopes by the capture of Veii. Why, good heavens! if there were no other reason, the very discredit of the thing ought to inspire us with perseverance. A city was once besieged by the whole of Greece for ten years, for the sake of one woman, and at what a distance from home, how many lands and seas lay between! Are we growing tired of keeping up a siege for one year, not twenty miles off, almost within sight of the City? I suppose you think the reason for the war is a trivial one, and we do not feel enough just resentment to urge us to persevere. Seven times have they recommenced war against us; they have never loyally kept to the terms of peace; they have ravaged our fields a thousand times; they forced the Fidenates to revolt; they slew the colonists whom we settled there; they instigated the impious murder of our ambassadors in violation of the law of nations; they wanted to raise the whole of Etruria against us, and they are trying to do so today; when we sent ambassadors to demand satisfaction, they very nearly outraged them.
[5.5]"Are these the men with whom war ought to be carried on in a half-hearted and dilatory fashion? If such just reasons for resentment have no force with us, do not the following considerations, I pray you, possess any weight? The city is hemmed in by immense siege-works which confine the enemy within his walls. He has not tilled his land, and what was tilled before has been devastated by war. If we bring our army back again, has anybody the slightest doubt that they will invade our territory not only from a thirst for revenge, but also through the sheer necessity they are under of plundering other people's property since they have lost their own? If we adopt your policy we do not postpone the war, we simply carry it within our own frontiers. Well, now, what about the soldiers in whom these worthy tribunes have suddenly become interested after vainly endeavouring to rob them of their pay; what about them? They have carried a rampart and a fosse - each requiring enormous labour - over all that extent of ground; they have built forts, few at first, but after the army was increased, very numerous; they have raised defences not only against the city, but also as a barrier against Etruria in case any succours came from there. What need to describe the towers, the vineae, the testudines, and the other engines used in storming cities? Now that so much labour has been spent and the work of investment at last completed, do you think that they ought to be abandoned in order that by next summer we may be again exhausted by the toil of constructing them all afresh ? How much less trouble to defend the works already constructed, to press on and persevere, and so bring our cares and labours to an end! For assuredly the undertaking is not a lengthy one, if it is carried through by one continuous effort, if we do not by our own interruptions and stoppages delay the fulfilment of our hopes.
"I have been speaking of the work and the loss of time. Now there are frequent meetings of the national council of Etruria to discuss the question of sending succours to Veii. Do these allow us to forget the danger we incur by prolonging the war? As matters now stand, they are angry, resentful, and say that they will not send any - Veii may be captured, as far as they are concerned. But who will guarantee that if the war is prolonged they will continue in the same mind? For if you give the Veientines a respite they will send a more numerous and influential embassy, and what now gives such displeasure to the Etruscans, namely, the election of a king, may after a time be annulled either by the unanimous act of the citizens in order to win the sympathies of Etruria, or by voluntary abdication on the part of the king himself, through his unwillingness to allow his crown to endanger the safety of his people. "See how many disastrous consequences follow from the policy you recommend - the sacrifice of works constructed with so much trouble; the threatening devastation of our borders; a war with the whole of Etruria instead of one with Veii alone. This, tribunes, is what your proposals amount to; very much, upon my word, as if any one were to tempt a sick person, who by submitting to strict treatment could speedily recover, to indulge in eating and drinking, and so lengthen his illness and perhaps make it incurable.
[5.6]"Though it might not affect this present war, it would, you may depend upon it, be of the utmost importance to our military training that our soldiers should be habituated not only to enjoy a victory when they have won one, but also, when a campaign progresses slowly, to put up with its tediousness and await the fulfilment of their hopes though deferred. If a war has not been finished in the summer they must learn to go through the winter, and not, like birds of passage, look out for roofs to shelter them the moment autumn comes. The passion and delight of hunting carries men through frost and snow to the forests and the mountains. Pray tell me, shall we not bring to the exigencies of war the same powers of endurance which are generally called out by sport or pleasure? Are we to suppose that the bodies of our soldiers are so effeminate and their spirits so enfeebled that they cannot hold out in camp or stay away from their homes for a single winter? Are we to believe that like those engaged in naval warfare, who have to watch the seasons and catch the favourable weather, so these men cannot endure times of heat and cold? They would indeed blush if any one laid this to their charge, and would stoutly maintain that both in mind and body they were capable of manly endurance, and could go through a campaign in winter as well as in summer. They would tell you that they had not commissioned their tribunes to act as protectors of the effeminate and the indolent, nor was it in cool shade or under sheltering roofs that their ancestors had instituted this very tribunitian power. The valour of your soldiers, the dignity of Rome, demand that we should not limit our view to Veii and this present war, but seek for reputation in time to come in respect of other wars and amongst all other nations.
"Do you imagine that the opinion men form of us in this crisis is a matter of slight importance? Is it a matter of indifference whether our neighbours regard Rome in such a light that when any city has sustained her first momentary attack it has nothing more to fear from her, or whether on the other hand, the terror of our name is such that no weariness of a protracted siege, no severity of winter, can dislodge a Roman army from any city which it has once invested, that it knows no close to a war but victory, and that it conducts its campaigns by perseverance as much as by dash? Perseverance is necessary in every kind of military operation, but especially in the conduct of sieges, for the majority of cities are impregnable, owing to the strength of their fortifications and their position, and time itself conquers them with hunger and thirst, and captures them as it will capture Veii unless the tribunes of the plebs extend their protection to the enemy and the Veientines find in Rome the support which they are vainly seeking in Etruria. Can anything happen to the Veientines more in accordance with their wishes than that the City of Rome should be filled with sedition and the contagion of it spread to the camp? But amongst the enemy there is actually so much respect for law and order that they have not been goaded into revolution either by weariness of the siege or even aversion to absolute monarchy, nor have they shown exasperation at the refusal of succours by Etruria. The man who advocates sedition will be put to death on the spot, and no one will be allowed to say the things which are uttered amongst you with impunity. With us the man who deserts his standard or abandons his post is liable to be cudgelled to death, but those who urge the men to abandon the standards and desert from the camp are listened to, not by one or two only; they have the whole army for an audience. To such an extent have you habituated yourselves to listen calmly to whatever a tribune of the plebs may say, even if it means the betrayal of your country and the destruction of the republic. Captivated by the attraction which that office has for you, you allow all sorts of mischief to lurk under its shadow. The one thing left for them is to bring forward in the camp, before the soldiers, the same arguments which they have so loudly urged here, and so corrupt the army that they will not allow it to obey its commanders. For evidently liberty in Rome simply means that the soldiers cease to feel any reverence for either the senate, or the magistrates, or the laws, or the traditions of their ancestors, or the institutions of their fathers, or military discipline."
[5.7]Appius was already quite a match for the tribunes even on the platform, and now his victory over them was assured by the sudden intelligence of a most unexpected disaster, the effect of which was to unite all classes in an ardent resolve to prosecute the siege of Veii more vigorously. A raised way had been carried up to the city, and the vineae had almost been placed in contact with the walls, but more attention had been devoted to their construction by day than to their protection by night. Suddenly the gates were flung open and an enormous multitude, armed mostly with torches, flung the flaming missiles on to the works, and in one short hour the flames consumed both the raised way and the vineae, the work of so many days. Many poor fellows who vainly tried to render assistance perished either in the flames or by the sword. When the news of this reached Rome there was universal mourning, and the senate were filled with apprehension lest disturbances should break out in the City and the camp beyond their power to repress, and the tribunes of the plebs exult over the vanquished republic. Suddenly, however, a number of men who, though assessed as knights, had not been provided with horses, after concerting a common plan of action, went to the Senate-house, and on permission being given to address the senate, they engaged to serve as cavalry on their own horses. The senate thanked them in the most complimentary terms. When the news of this incident had circulated through the Forum and the City, the plebeians hastily assembled at the Senate-house and declared that they were now part of the infantry force, and though it was not their turn to serve, they promised to give their services to the republic to march to Veii or wherever else they were led. If, they said, they were led to Veii they would not return till the city was taken.
On hearing this it was with difficulty that the senate restrained their delight. They did not, as in the case of the knights, pass a resolution of thanks to be conveyed through the presiding magistrates, nor were any summoned into the House to receive their reply, nor did they themselves remain within the precincts of their House. They came out on the raised space in front and each independently signified by voice and gesture to the people standing in the comitium the joy they all felt, and expressed their confidence that this unanimity of feeling would make Rome a blessed City, invincible and eternal. They applauded the knights, they applauded the commons, they showered encomiums on the very day itself, and frankly admitted that the senate had been outdone in courtesy and kindness. Senators and plebeians alike shed tears of joy. At last the sitting was resumed, and a resolution was carried that the consular tribunes should convene a public meeting and return thanks to the infantry and the knights, and say that the senate would never forget this proof of their affection for their country. They further decided that pay should be reckoned from that day for those who, though not called out, had volunteered to serve. A fixed sum was assigned to each knight; this was the first occasion on which the knights received military pay. The army of volunteers marched to Veii, and not only reconstructed the works that had been lost, but constructed new ones. More care was taken in bringing up supplies from the City, that nothing might be wanting for the use of an army that had behaved so well.
[5.8]The consular tribunes for the following year were C. Servilius Ahala - for the third time - Q. Servilius, Lucius Verginius, Q. Sulpicius, Aulus Manlius - for the second time - and Manius Sergius - also for the second time. During their term of office, whilst every one was preoccupied with the Veientine war, Anxur was lost. The garrison had become weakened through the absence of men on furlough, and Volscian traders were admitted indiscriminately, with the result that the guard before the gates were surprised and the fortified post taken. The loss in men was slight, as with the exception of the sick, they were all scattered about the fields and neighbouring towns, driving bargains like so many camp-followers. At Veii, the chief point of interest, things went no better. Not only were the Roman commanders opposing one another more vigorously than they opposed the enemy, but the war was rendered more serious by the sudden arrival of the Capenates and the Faliscans. As these two States were nearest in point of distance, they believed that if Veii fell they would be the next on whom Rome would make war. The Faliscans had their own reasons for fearing hostilities, since they were mixed up in the previous war against Fidenae. So both States, after mutually despatching commissioners for the purpose, swore alliance with each other, and their two armies arrived unexpectedly at Veii. It so happened that they attacked the entrenchments on the side where Manius Sergius was in command, and they created great alarm, for the Romans were convinced that all Etruria had risen and was present in great force. The same conviction roused the Veientines in the city to action, so the Roman lines of investment were attacked from within and from without. Rushing from side to side to meet first the one attack, then the other, they were unable to confine the Veientines sufficiently within their fortifications or repel the assault from their own works and defend themselves from the enemy outside. Their only hope was if help came from the main camp so that the legions might fight back to back, some against the Capenates and Faliscans, and others against the sortie from the town. But Verginius was in command of that camp, and he and Sergius mutually detested each other. When it was reported to him that most of the forts had been attacked and the connecting lines surmounted, and that the enemy were forcing their way in from both sides, he kept his men halted under arms, and repeatedly declared that if his colleague needed assistance he would send to him. This selfishness on his part was matched by the other's obstinacy, for Sergius, to avoid the appearance of having sought help from a personal foe, preferred defeat at the hands of the enemy rather than owe success to a fellow-countryman. For some time the soldiers were being slaughtered between the two attacking forces; at last a very small number abandoned their lines and reached the main camp; Sergius himself, with the greatest part of his force, made his way to Rome. Here he threw all the blame on his colleague, and it was decided that Verginius should be summoned from the camp and his lieutenants put in command during his absence. The case was then discussed in the senate; few studied the interests of the republic, most of the senators supported one or other of the disputants as their party feeling or private sympathy prompted them.
[5.9]The leaders of the senate gave it as their opinion that whether it was through the fault or the misfortune of the commanders that such a disgraceful defeat had been incurred, they ought not to wait until the regular time for the elections, but proceed at once to appoint new consular tribunes, to enter office on October 1. On their proceeding to vote on this proposal, the other consular tribunes offered no opposition, but strange to say, Sergius and Verginius - the very men on whose account obviously the senate were dissatisfied with the magistrates for that year - after protesting against such humiliation, vetoed the resolution. They declared that they would not resign office before December 13, the usual day for new magistrates to take office. On hearing this, the tribunes of the plebs, who had maintained a reluctant silence while the State was enjoying concord and prosperity, now made a sudden attack upon the consular tribunes, and threatened, if they did not bow to the authority of the senate, to order them to be imprisoned. There upon C. Servilius Ahala, the consular tribune, replied: "As for you and your menaces, tribunes of the plebs, I should very much like to put it to the proof how your threats possess as little legality as you possess courage to carry them out, but it is wrong to storm against the authority of the senate. Cease, therefore, to look for a chance of making mischief by meddling in our disputes; either my colleagues will act upon the senate's resolution, or if they persist in their obstinacy, I shall at once nominate a Dictator that he may compel them to resign." This speech was received with universal approval, and the senate were glad to find that without bringing in the bugbear of the plebeian tribunes' power, another and a more effectual method existed for bringing pressure to bear on the magistrates. In deference to the universal feeling, the two recalcitrant tribunes held an election for consular tribunes who entered office on October 1, they themselves having previously resigned office.
[5.10]The newly elected tribunes were L. Valerius Potitus - for the fourth time - M. Furius Camillus - for the second time - Manius Aemilius Mamercus - for the third time - Cnaeus Cornelius Cossus - for the second time - Kaeso Fabius Ambustus, and L. Julius Julus. Their year of office was marked by many incidents at home and abroad. There was a multiplicity of wars going on at once - at Veii, at Capena, at Falerii, and against the Volscians for the recovery of Anxur. In Rome the simultaneous demands of the levy and the war-tax created distress; there was a dispute about the co-opting of tribunes of the plebs, and the trial of two men who had recently held consular power caused great excitement. The consular tribunes made it their first business to raise a levy. Not only were the "juniors" enrolled, but the "seniors" were also compelled to give in their names that they might act as City guards. But the increase in the number of soldiers necessitated a corresponding increase in the amount required for their pay, and those who remained at home were unwilling to contribute their share because, in addition, they were to be harassed by military duties in defence of the City, as servants of the State. This was in itself a serious grievance, but it was made to appear more so by the seditious harangues of the tribunes of the plebs, who asserted that the reason why military pay had been established was that one half of the plebs might be crushed by the war-tax, and the other by military service. One single war was now dragging along into its third year, and it was being badly managed deliberately in order that they might have it the longer to manage. Then, again, armies had been enrolled for four separate wars in one levy, and even boys and old men had been torn from their homes. There was no difference made now between summer and winter, in order that the wretched plebeians might never have any respite. And now, to crown all, they even had to pay a war-tax, so that when they returned, worn out by toil and wounds, and last of all by age, and found all their land untilled through want of the owner's care, they had to meet this demand out of their wasted property and return to the State their pay as soldiers many times over, as though they had borrowed it on usury. What with the levy and the war-tax and the preoccupation of men's minds with still graver anxieties, it was found impossible to get the full number of plebeian tribunes elected. Then a struggle began to secure the co-optation of patricians into the vacant places. This proved to be impossible, but in order to weaken the authority of the Trebonian Law, it was arranged, doubtless through the influence of the patricians, that C. Lucerius and M. Acutius should be co-opted as tribunes of the plebs.
[5.11]As chance would have it, Cnaeus Trebonius was tribune of the plebs that year, and he came forward as a champion of the Trebonian Law, as a duty apparently to his family and the name he bore. He declared in excited tones that the position which the senate had assailed, though they had been repulsed in their first attack, had been at last carried by the consular tribunes. The Trebonian Law had been set aside and the tribunes of the plebs had not been elected by the vote of the people, but co-opted at the command of the patricians, matters had now come to this pass, that they must have either patricians or the hangers-on to patricians as tribunes of the plebs. The Sacred Laws were being wrested from them, the power and authority of their tribunes was being torn away. This, he contended, was done through the craft and cunning of the patricians and the treacherous villainy of his colleagues. The flame of popular indignation was now beginning to scorch not only the senate, but even the tribunes of the plebs, co-opted and co-opters alike, when three members of the tribunitian college - P. Curatius, M. Metilius, and M. Minucius - trembling for their own safety, instituted proceedings against Sergius and Verginius, the consular tribunes of the preceding year. By fixing a day for their trial, they diverted from themselves on to these men the rage and resentment of the plebs. They reminded the people that those who had felt the burden of the levy, the war-tax, and the long duration of the war, those who were distressed at the defeat sustained at Veii, those whose homes were in mourning for the loss of children, brothers, and relations, had every one of them the right and the power to visit upon two guilty heads their own personal grief and that of the whole State. The responsibility for all their misfortunes rested on Sergius and Verginius; this was not more clearly proved by the prosecutor than admitted by the defendants, for whilst both were guilty, each threw the blame on the other, Verginius denouncing the flight of Sergius, and Sergius the treachery of Verginius. They had behaved with such incredible madness that it was in all probability a concerted plan earned out with the general connivance of the patricians. These men had previously given the Veientines an opening for firing the siege works, now they had betrayed the army and delivered a Roman camp up to the Faliscans. Everything was being done to compel their young men to grow old at Veii, and to make it impossible for their tribunes to secure the support of a full Assembly in the City either in their resistance to the concerted action of the senate, or for their proposals regarding the distribution of land and other measures in the interest of the plebs. Judgment had already been passed upon the accused by the senate, the Roman people, and their own colleagues, for it was a vote of the senate which removed them from office, it was their own colleagues who upon their refusal to resign, compelled them to do so by the threat of a Dictator, whilst it was the people who had elected consular tribunes to enter upon office, not on the usual day, December 13, but immediately after their election, on October 1, for the republic could no longer be safe if these men remained in office. And yet, shattered as they were by so many adverse verdicts, and condemned beforehand, they were presenting themselves for trial, and fancying that they had purged their offence and suffered an adequate punishment because they had been relegated to private life two months before the time. They did not understand that this was not the infliction of a penalty, but simply the depriving them of power to do further mischief, since their colleagues also had to resign, and they, at all events, had committed no offence. The tribunes continued. "Recall the feelings, Quirites, with which you heard of the disaster which we sustained and watched the army staggering through the gates, panic-stricken fugitives, covered with wounds, accusing not Fortune or any of the gods, but these generals of theirs. We are confident that there is not a man in this Assembly who did not on that day call down curses on the persons and homes and fortunes of L. Verginius and Manius Sergius. It would be utterly inconsistent for you not to use your power, when it is your right and duty to do so, against the men on whom each of you has called down the wrath of heaven. The gods never lay hands themselves on the guilty it is enough when they arm the injured with the opportunity for vengeance.
[5.12]The passions of the plebs were roused by these speeches, and they sentenced the accused to a fine of 10,000 "ases" each, in spite of Sergius' attempt to throw the blame on Fortune and the chances of war, and Verginius' appeal that he might not be more unfortunate at home than he had been in the field. The turning of the popular indignation in this direction threw into the shade the memories of the co-optation of tribunes and the evasion of the Trebonian Law. As a reward to the plebeians for the sentence they had passed, the victorious tribunes at once gave notice of an agrarian measure. They also prevented contributions being paid in for the war-tax, though pay was required for all those armies, and such successes as had been gained only served to prevent any of the wars from being brought to a close. The camp at Veii which had been lost was recaptured and strengthened with forts and men to hold them. The consular tribunes, Manius Aemilius and Kaeso Fabius, were in command. M. Furius in the Faliscan territory and Cnaeus Cornelius in that of Capenae found no enemy outside his walls; booty was carried off and the territories were ravaged, the farms and crops being burnt. The towns were attacked, but not invested; Anxur, however, in the Volscian territory, and situated on high ground, defied all assaults, and after direct attack had proved fruitless, a regular investment by rampart and fosse was commenced. The conduct of the Volscian campaign had fallen to Valerius Potitus.
Whilst military affairs were in this position, internal troubles were more difficult to manage than the foreign wars. Owing to the tribunes, the war-tax could not be collected, nor the necessary funds remitted to the commanders; the soldiers clamoured for their pay, and it seemed as though the camp would be polluted by the contagion of the seditious spirit which prevailed in the City. Taking advantage of the exasperation of the plebs against the senate, the tribunes told them that the long wished for time had come for securing their liberties and transferring the highest office in the State from people like Sergius and Verginius to strong and energetic plebeians. They did not, however, get further in the exercise of their rights than to secure the election of one member of the plebs as consular tribune, viz., P. Licinius Calvus - the rest were patricians - P. Manlius, L. Titinus, P. Maelius, L. Furius Medullinus, and L. Popilius Volscus. The plebeians were no less surprised at such a success than the tribune-elect himself; he had not previously filled any high office of State, and was only a senator of long standing, and now advanced in years. Our authorities are not agreed as to the reason why he was selected first and foremost to taste the sweets of this new dignity. Some believe that he was thrust forward to so high a position through the popularity of his brother, Cnaeus Cornelius, who had been consular tribune the previous year, and had given triple pay to the "knights." Others attribute it to a well-timed speech he delivered on the agreement of the two orders, which was welcomed by both patricians and plebeians. In their exultation over this electoral victory, the tribunes of the plebs gave way over the war-tax, and so removed the greatest political difficulty. It was paid in without a murmur and remitted to the army.
[5.13]The Volscian Anxur was recaptured owing to the laxity of the guard during a festival. The year was remarkable for such a cold and snowy winter that the roads were blocked and the Tiber rendered unnavigable. There was no change in the price of corn, owing to a previous accumulation of supplies. P. Licinius had won his position without exciting any disturbance, more to the delight of the people than to the annoyance of the senate, and he discharged his office in such a way that there was a general desire to choose the consular tribunes out of the plebeians at the next election. The only patrician candidate who secured a place was M. Veturius. The rest, who were plebeians, received the support of nearly all the centuries. Their names were M. Pomponius, Cnaeus Duilius, Volero Publilius, and Cnaeus Genucius. In consequence either of the unhealthy weather occasioned by the sudden change from cold to heat, or from some other cause, the severe winter was followed by a pestilential summer, which proved fatal to man and beast. As neither a cause nor a cure could be found for its fatal ravages, the senate ordered the Sibylline Books to be consulted. The priests who had charge of them appointed for the first time in Rome a lectisternium. Apollo and Latona, Diana and Hercules, Mercury and Neptune were for eight days propitiated on three couches decked with the most magnificent coverlets that could be obtained. Solemnities were conducted also in private houses. It is stated that throughout the City the front gates of the houses were thrown open and all sorts of things placed for general use in the open courts, all comers, whether acquaintances or strangers, being brought in to share the hospitality. Men who had been enemies held friendly and sociable conversations with each other and abstained from all litigation, the manacles even were removed from prisoners during this period, and afterwards it seemed an act of impiety that men to whom the gods had brought such relief should be put in chains again. In the meanwhile, at Veii there was increased alarm, created by the three wars being combined in one. For the men of Capenae and Falerii had suddenly arrived to relieve the city, and as on the former occasion, the Romans had to fight a back to back battle round the entrenchments against three armies. What helped them most of all was the recollection of the condemnation of Sergius and Verginius. From the main camp, where on the former occasion there had been inaction, forces were rapidly brought round and attacked the Capenates in the rear while their attention was concentrated on the Roman lines. The fighting which ensued created panic in the Faliscan ranks also, and whilst they were wavering, a well-timed charge from the camp routed them, and the victors, following them up, caused immense losses amongst them. Not long afterwards the troops who were devastating the territory of Capenae came upon them whilst straggling in disorder as though safe from attack, and those whom the battle had spared were annihilated. Of the Veientines also, many who were fleeing to the city were killed in front of the gates, which were closed to prevent the Romans from breaking in, and so the hindmost of the fugitives were shut out.
[5.14]These were the occurrences of the year. And now the time for the election of consular tribunes was approaching. The senate was almost more anxious about this than about the war, for they recognised that they were not simply sharing the supreme power with the plebs, but had almost completely lost it. An understanding was come to by which their most distinguished members were to come forward as candidates; they believed that for very shame they would not be passed over. Besides this, they resorted to every expedient, just as if they were every one of them candidates, and called to their aid not men alone, but even the gods. They made a religious question of the last two elections. In the former year, they said, an intolerably severe winter had occurred which seemed to be a divine warning; in the last year they had not warnings only but the judgments themselves. The pestilence which had visited the country districts and the City was undoubtedly a mark of the divine displeasure, for it had been found in the Books of Fate that to avert that scourge the gods must be appeased. The auspices were taken before an election, and the gods deemed it an insult that the highest offices should be made common and the distinction of classes thrown into confusion. Men were awestruck not only by the dignity and rank of the candidates, but by the religious aspect of the question, and they elected all the consular tribunes from the patricians, the great majority being all men of high distinction. Those elected were L. Valerius Potitus - for the fifth time - M. Valerius Maximus, M. Furius Camillus - for the second time - L. Furius Medullinus - for the third time - Q. Servilius Fidenates - for the second time - and Q. Sulpicius Camerinus - for the second time. During their year of office nothing of any importance was done at Veii; their whole activity was confined to raids. Two of the commanders-in-chief carried off an enormous quantity of plunder - Potitus from Falerii and Camillus from Capenae. They left nothing behind which fire or sword could destroy.
[5.15]During this period many portents were announced, but as they rested on the testimony of single individuals, and there were no soothsayers to consult as to how to expiate them, owing to the hostile attitude of the Etruscans, these reports were generally disbelieved and disregarded. One incident, however, caused universal anxiety. The Alban Lake rose to an unusual height, without any rainfall or other cause which could prevent the phenomenon from appearing supernatural. Envoys were sent to the oracle of Delphi to ascertain why the gods sent the portent. But an explanation was afforded nearer at hand. An aged Veientine was impelled by destiny to announce, amidst the jeers of the Roman and Etruscan outposts, in prophetic strain, that the Romans would never get possession of Veii until the water had been drawn off from the Alban Lake. This was at first treated as a wild utterance, but afterwards it began to be talked about. Owing to the length of the war, there were frequent conversations between the troops on both sides, and a Roman on outpost duty asked one of the townsmen who was nearest to him who the man was who was throwing out such dark hints about the Alban Lake. When he heard that he was a soothsayer, being himself a man not devoid of religious fears, he invited the prophet to an interview on the pretext of wishing to consult him, if he had time, about a portent which demanded his own personal expiation. When the two had gone some distance from their respective lines, unarmed, apprehending no danger, the Roman, a young man of immense strength, seized the feeble old man in the sight of all, and in spite of the outcry of the Etruscans, carried him off to his own side. He was brought before the commander-in-chief and then sent to the senate in Rome. In reply to inquiries as to what he wanted people to understand by his remark about the Alban Lake, he said that the gods must certainly have been wroth with the people of Veii on the day when they inspired him with the resolve to disclose the ruin which the Fates had prepared for his native city. What he had then predicted under divine inspiration he could not now recall or unsay, and perhaps he would incur as much guilt by keeping silence about things which it was the will of heaven should be revealed as by uttering what ought to be concealed. It stood recorded in the Books of Fate, and had been handed down by the occult science of the Etruscans, that whenever the water of the Alban Lake overflowed and the Romans drew it off in the appointed way, the victory over the Veientines would be granted them; until that happened the gods would not desert the walls of Veii. Then he explained the prescribed mode of drawing off the water. The senate, however, did not regard their informant as sufficiently trustworthy in a matter of such importance, and determined to wait for the return of their embassy with the oracular reply of the Pythian god.
[5.16]Previous to their return, and before any way of dealing with the Alban portent was discovered, the new consular tribunes entered upon office. They were L. Julius Julus, L. Furius Medullinus - for the fourth time - L. Sergius Fidenas, A. Postumius Regillensis, P. Cornelius Maluginensis, and A. Manlius. This year a new enemy arose. The people of Tarquinii saw that the Romans were engaged in numerous campaigns - against the Volscians at Anxur, where the garrison was blockaded; against the Aequi at Labici, who were attacking the Roman colonists, and, in addition to these, at Veii, Falerii, and Capenae, whilst, owing to the contentions between the plebs and the senate, things were no quieter within the walls of the City. Regarding this as a favourable opportunity for mischief, they despatched some light-armed cohorts to harry the Roman territory, in the belief that the Romans would either let the outrage pass unpunished to avoid having another war on their shoulders, or would resent it with a small and weak force. The Romans felt more indignation than anxiety at the raid, and without making any great effort, took prompt steps to avenge it. A. Postumius and L. Julius raised a force, not by a regular levy - for they were obstructed by the tribunes of the plebs - but consisting mostly of volunteers whom they had induced by strong appeals to come forward. With this they advanced by cross marches through the territory of Caere and surprised the Tarquinians as they were returning heavily laden with booty. They slew great numbers, stripped the whole force of their baggage, and returned with the recovered possessions from their farms to Rome. Two days were allowed for the owners to identify their property; what was unclaimed on the third day, most of it belonging to the enemy, was sold "under the spear," and the proceeds distributed amongst the soldiers. The issues of the other wars, especially of that against Veii, were still undecided, and the Romans were already despairing of success through their own efforts, and were looking to the Fates and the gods, when the embassy returned from Delphi with the sentence of the oracle. It was in accord with the answer given by the Veientine soothsayer, and ran as follows: -
"See to it, Roman, that the rising flood
At Alba flow not o'er its banks and shape
Its channel seawards. Harmless through thy fields
Shalt thou disperse it, scattered into rills.
Then fiercely press upon thy foeman's walls,
For now the Fates have given thee victory.
That city which long years thou hast besieged
Shall now be thine. And when the war hath end,
Do thou, the victor, bear an ample gift
Into my temple, and the ancestral rites
Now in disuse, see that thou celebrate
Anew with all their wonted pomp."
[5.17]From that time the captive prophet began to be held in very high esteem, and the consular tribunes, Cornelius and Postumius, began to make use of him for the expiation of the Alban portent and the proper method of appeasing the gods. At length it was discovered why the gods were visiting men for neglected ceremonies and religious duties unperformed. It was in fact due to nothing else but the fact that there was a flaw in the election of the magistrates, and consequently they had not proclaimed the Festival of the Latin League and the sacrifice on the Alban Mount with the due formalities. There was only one possible mode of expiation, and that was that the consular tribunes should resign office, the auspices to be taken entirely afresh, and an interrex appointed. All these measures were earned out by a decree of the senate. There were three interreges in succession - L. Valerius, Q. Servilius Fidenas, and M. Furius Camillus. During all this time there were incessant disturbances owing to the tribunes of the plebs hindering the elections until an understanding was come to that the majority of the consular tribunes should be elected from the plebeians. Whilst this was going on the national council of Etruria met at the Fane of Voltumna. The Capenates and the Faliscans demanded that all the cantons of Etruria should unite in common action to raise the siege of Veii; they were told in reply that assistance had been previously refused to the Veientines because they had no right to seek help from those whose advice they had not sought in a matter of such importance. Now, however, it was their unfortunate circumstances and not their will that compelled them to refuse. The Gauls, a strange and unknown race, had recently overrun the greatest part of Etruria, and they were not on terms of either assured peace or open war with them. They would, however, do this much for those of their blood and name, considering the imminent danger of their kinsmen - if any of their younger men volunteered for the war they would not prevent their going. The report spread in Rome that a large number had reached Veii, and in the general alarm the internal dissensions, as usual, began to calm down.
[5.18]The prerogative centuries elected P. Licinius Calvus consular tribune, though he was not a candidate. His appointment was not at all distasteful to the senate, for when in office before he had shown himself a man of moderate views. He was, however, advanced in years. As the voting proceeded it became clear that all who had been formerly his colleagues in office were being reappointed one after another. They were L. Titinius, P. Maenius, Q. Manlius, Cnaeus Genucius, and L. Atilius. After the tribes had been duly summoned to hear the declaration of the poll, but before it was actually published, P. Licinius Calvus, by permission of the interrex, spoke as follows: "I see, Quirites, that from what you remember of our former tenure of office, you are seeking in these elections an omen of concord for the coming year, a thing most of all helpful in the present state of affairs. But, whilst you are re-electing my old comrades, who have become wiser and stronger by experience, you see in me not the man I was, but only a mere shadow and name of P. Licinius. My bodily powers are worn out, my sight and hearing are impaired, my memory is failing, my mental vigour is dulled. Here," he said, holding his son by the hand, "is a young man, the image and counterpart of him whom in days gone by you elected as the first consular tribune taken from the ranks of the plebs. This young man whom I have trained and moulded I now hand over and dedicate to the republic to take my place, and I beg you, Quirites, to confer this honour which you have bestowed unsought on me, on him who is seeking it, and whose candidature I would fain support and further by my prayers." His request was granted, and his son P. Licinius was formally announced as consular tribune with those above mentioned. Titinius and Genucius marched against the Faliscans and Capenates, but they proceeded with more courage than caution and fell into an ambuscade. Genucius atoned for his rashness by an honourable death, and fell fighting amongst the foremost. Titinius rallied his men from the disorder into which they had fallen and gained some rising ground where he reformed his line, but would not come down to continue the fight on level terms.
More disgrace was incurred than loss, but it almost resulted in a terrible disaster, so great was the alarm it created not only in Rome, where very exaggerated accounts were received, but also in the camp before Veii. Here a rumour had gained ground that after the destruction of the generals and their army, the victorious Capenates and Faliscans and the whole military strength of Etruria had proceeded to Veii and were at no great distance; in consequence of this the soldiers were with difficulty restrained from taking to flight. Still more disquieting rumours were current in Rome; at one moment they imagined that the camp before Veii had been stormed, at another that a part of the enemies' forces was in full march to the City. They hurried to the walls; the matrons, whom the general alarm had drawn from their homes, made prayers and supplications in the temples; solemn petitions were offered up to the gods that they would ward off destruction from the houses and temples of the City and from the walls of Rome, and divert the fears and alarms to Veii if the sacred rites had been duly restored and the portents expiated.
[5.19]By this time the Games and the Latin Festival had been celebrated afresh, and the water drawn off from the Alban Lake on the fields, and now the fated doom was closing over Veii. Accordingly the commander destined by the Fates for the destruction of that city and the salvation of his country - M. Furius Camillus - was nominated Dictator. He appointed as his Master of the Horse P. Cornelius Scipio. With the change in the command everything else suddenly changed; men's hopes were different, their spirits were different, even the fortunes of the City wore a different aspect. His first measure was to execute military justice upon those who had fled during the panic from the camp, and he made the soldiers realise that it was not the enemy who was most to be feared. He then appointed a day for the enrolment of troops, and in the interim went to Veii to encourage the soldiers, after which he returned to Rome to raise a fresh army. Not a man tried to escape enlistment. Even foreign troops - Latins and Hernicans - came to offer assistance for the war. The Dictator formally thanked them in the senate, and as all the preparations for war were now sufficiently advanced, he vowed, in pursuance of a senatorial decree, that on the capture of Veii he would celebrate the Great Games and restore and dedicate the temple of Matuta the Mother, which had been originally dedicated by Servius Tullius. He left the City with his army amid a general feeling of anxious expectation rather than of hopeful confidence on the part of the citizens, and his first engagement was with the Faliscans and Capenates in the territory of Nepete. As usual where everything was managed with consummate skill and prudence, success followed. He not only defeated the enemy in the field, but he stripped them of their camp and secured immense booty. The greater part was sold and the proceeds paid over to the quaestor, the smaller share was given to the soldiers. From there the army was led to Veii. The forts were constructed more closely together. Frequent skirmishes had occurred at random in the space between the city wall and the Roman lines, and an edict was issued that none should fight without orders, thereby keeping the soldiers to the construction of the siege works. By far the greatest and most difficult of these was a mine which was commenced, and designed to lead into the enemies' citadel. That the work might not be interrupted, or the troops exhausted by the same men being continuously employed in underground labour, he formed the army into six divisions. Each division was told off in rotation to work for six hours at a time; the work went on without any intermission until they had made a way into the citadel.
[5.20]When the Dictator saw that victory was now within his grasp, that a very wealthy city was on the point of capture, and that there would be more booty than had been amassed in all the previous wars taken together, he was anxious to avoid incurring the anger of the soldiers through too niggardly a distribution of it on the one hand, and the jealousy of the senate through too lavish a grant of it on the other. He sent a despatch to the senate in which he stated that through the gracious favour of heaven, his own generalship, and the persevering efforts of his soldiers, Veii would in a very few hours be in the power of Rome, and he asked for their decision as to the disposal of the booty. The senate were divided. It is reported that the aged P. Licinius, who was the first to be asked his opinion by his son, urged that the people should receive public notice that whoever wanted to share in the spoils should go to the camp at Veii. Appius Claudius took the opposite line. He stigmatised the proposed largesse as unprecedented, wasteful, unfair, reckless. If, he said, they once thought it sinful for money taken from the enemy to lie in the treasury, drained as it had been by the wars, he would advise that the pay of the soldiers be supplied from that source, so that the plebs might have so much less tax to pay. "The homes of all would feel alike the benefit of a common boon, the rewards won by brave warriors would not be filched by the hands of city loafers, ever greedy for plunder, for it so constantly happens that those who usually seek the foremost place in toil and danger are the least active in appropriating the spoils." Licinius on the other hand said that "this money would always be regarded with suspicion and aversion, and would supply material for indictments before the plebs, and consequently bring about disturbances and revolutionary measures. It was better, therefore, that the plebs should be conciliated by this gift, that those who had been crushed and exhausted by so many years of taxation should be relieved and get some enjoyment from the spoils of a war in which they had almost become old men. When any one brings home something he has taken from the enemy with his own hand, it affords him more pleasure and gratification than if he were to receive many times its value at the bidding of another. The Dictator had referred the question to the senate because he wanted to avoid the odium and misrepresentations which it might occasion; the senate, in its turn, ought to entrust it to the plebs and allow each to keep what the fortune of war has given him." This was felt to be the safer course, as it would make the senate popular. Notice accordingly was given that those who thought fit should go to the Dictator in camp to share in the plunder of Veii.
[5.21]An enormous crowd went and filled the camp. After the Dictator had taken the auspices and issued orders for the soldiers to arm for battle, he uttered this prayer: "Pythian Apollo, guided and inspired by thy will I go forth to destroy the city of Veii, and a tenth part of its spoils I devote to thee. Thee too, Queen Juno, who now dwellest in Veii, I beseech, that thou wouldst follow us, after our victory, to the City which is ours and which will soon be shine, where a temple worthy of thy majesty will receive thee." After this prayer, finding himself superior in numbers, he attacked the city on all sides, to distract the enemies' attention from the impending danger of the mine. The Veientines, all unconscious that their doom had already been sealed by their own prophets and by oracles in foreign lands, that some of the gods had already been invited to their share in the spoils, whilst others, called upon in prayer to leave their city, were looking to new abodes in the temples of their foes; all unconscious that they were spending their last day, without the slightest suspicion that their walls had been undermined and their citadel already filled with the enemy, hurried with their weapons to the walls, each as best he could, wondering what had happened to make the Romans, after never stirring from their lines for so many days, now run recklessly up to the walls as though struck with sudden frenzy.
At this point a tale is introduced to the effect that whilst the king of the Veientines was offering sacrifice, the soothsayer announced that victory would be granted to him who had cut out the sacrificial parts of the victim, His words were heard by the soldiers in the mine, they burst through, seized the parts and carried them to the Dictator. But in questions of such remote antiquity I should count it sufficient if what bears the stamp of probability be taken as true. Statements like this, which are more fitted to adorn a stage which delights in the marvellous than to inspire belief, it is not worth while either to affirm or deny. The mine, which was now full of picked soldiers, suddenly discharged its armed force in the temple of Juno, which was inside the citadel of Veii. Some attacked the enemy on the walls from behind, others forced back the bars of the gates, others again set fire to the houses from which stones and tiles were being hurled by women and slaves. Everything resounded with the confused noise of terrifying threats and shrieks of despairing anguish blended with the wailing of women and children. In a very short time the defenders were driven from the walls and the city gates flung open. Some rushed in in close order, others scaled the deserted walls; the city was filled with Romans; fighting went on everywhere. At length, after great carnage, the fighting slackened, and the Dictator ordered the heralds to proclaim that the unarmed were to be spared. That put a stop to the bloodshed, those who were unarmed began to surrender, and the soldiers dispersed with the Dictator's permission in quest of booty. This far surpassed all expectation both in its amount and its value, and when the Dictator saw it before him he is reported to have raised his hands to heaven and prayed that if any of the gods deemed the good fortune which had befallen him and the Romans to be too great, the jealousy which it caused might be allayed by such a calamity as would be least injurious to him and to Rome. The tradition runs that whilst he was turning round during this devotion he stumbled and fell. To those who judged after the event it appeared as if that omen pointed to Camillus' own condemnation and the subsequent capture of Rome which occurred a few years later. That day was spent in the massacre of the enemy and the sack of the city with its enormous wealth.
[5.22]The following day the Dictator sold all freemen who had been spared, as slaves. The money so realised was the only amount paid into the public treasury, but even that proceeding roused the ire of the plebs. As for the spoil they brought home with them, they did not acknowledge themselves under any obligation for it either to their general, who, they thought, had referred a matter within his own competence to the senate in the hope of getting their authority for his niggardliness, nor did they feel any gratitude to the senate. It was the Licinian family to whom they gave the credit, for it was the father who had advocated the popular measure and the son who had taken the opinion of the senate upon it. When all that belonged to man had been carried away from Veii, they began to remove from the temples the votive gifts that had been made to the gods, and then the gods themselves; but this they did as worshippers rather than as plunderers. The deportation of Queen Juno to Rome was entrusted to a body of men selected from the whole army, who after performing their ablutions and arraying themselves in white vestments, reverently entered the temple and in a spirit of holy dread placed their hands on the statue, for it was as a rule only the priest of one particular house who, by Etruscan usage, touched it. Then one of them, either under a sudden inspiration, or in a spirit of youthful mirth, said, "Art thou willing, Juno, to go to Rome?" The rest exclaimed that the goddess nodded assent. An addition to the story was made to the effect that she was heard to say, "I am willing." At all events we have it that she was moved from her place by appliances of little power, and proved light and easy of transport, as though she were following of her own accord. She was brought without mishap to the Aventine, her everlasting seat, whither the prayers of the Roman Dictator had called her, and where this same Camillus afterwards dedicated the temple which he had vowed. Such was the fall of Veii, the most wealthy city of the Etruscan league, showing its greatness even in its final overthrow, since after being besieged for ten summers and winters and inflicting more loss than it sustained, it succumbed at last to destiny, being after all carried by a mine and not by direct assault.
[5.23]Although the portents had been averted by due expiation and the answers given by the soothsayer and the oracle were matters of common knowledge, and all that man could do had been done by the selection of M. Furius, the greatest of all commanders - notwithstanding all this, when the capture of Veii was announced in Rome, after so many years of undecided warfare and numerous defeats, the rejoicing was as great as if there had been no hope of success. Anticipating the order of the senate, all the temples were filled with Roman mothers offering thanksgivings to the gods. The senate ordered that the public thanksgivings should be continued for four days, a longer period than for any previous war. The arrival of the Dictator, too, whom all classes poured out to meet, was welcomed by a greater concourse than that of any general before. His triumph went far beyond the usual mode of celebrating the day; himself the most conspicuous object of all, he was drawn into the City by a team of white horses, which men thought unbecoming even for a mortal man, let alone a Roman citizen. They saw with superstitious alarm the Dictator putting himself on a level in his equipage with Jupiter and Sol, and this one circumstance made his triumph more brilliant than popular. After this he signed a contract for building the temple of Queen Juno on the Aventine and dedicated one to Matuta the Mother. After having thus discharged his duties to gods and men he resigned his Dictatorship. Subsequently a difficulty arose about the offering to Apollo. Camillus stated that he had vowed a tenth of the spoils to the deity, and the college of pontiffs decided that the people must fulfil their religious obligation. But it was not easy to find a way of ordering the people to restore their share of booty so that the due proportion might be set apart for sacred purposes. At length recourse was had to what seemed the smoothest plan, namely, that any one who wished to discharge the obligation for himself and his household should make a valuation of his share and contribute the value of a tenth of it to the public treasury, in order that out of the proceeds a golden crown might be made, worthy of the grandeur of the temple and the august divinity of the god, and such as the honour of the Roman people demanded. This contribution still further estranged the feelings of the plebeians from Camillus. During these occurrences envoys from the Volscians and Aequi came to sue for peace. They succeeded in obtaining it, not so much because they deserved it as that the commonwealth, wearied with such a long war, might enjoy repose.
[5.24]The year following the capture of Veii had for the six consular tribunes two of the Publii Cornelii, namely, Cossus and Scipio, M. Valerius Maximus - for the second time - Caeso Fabius Ambustus - for the third time - L. Furius Medullinus - for the fifth time - and Q. Servilius - for the third time. The war against the Faliscans was allotted to the Cornelii, that against Capenae to Valerius and Servilius. They did not make any attempt to take cities either by assault or investment, but confined themselves to ravaging the country and carrying off the property of the agriculturists; not a single fruit tree, no produce whatever, was left on the land. These losses broke the resistance of the Capenates, they sued for peace and it was granted them. Amongst the Faliscans the war went on. In Rome, meanwhile, disturbances arose on various matters. In order to quiet them it had been decided to plant a colony on the Volscian frontier, and the names of 3000 Roman citizens were entered for it. Triumvirs appointed for the purpose had divided the land into lots of 3 7/12 jugera per man. This grant began to be looked upon with contempt, they regarded it as a sop offered to them to divert them from hoping for something better. "Why," they asked, "were plebeians to be sent into banishment amongst the Volscians when the splendid city of Veii and the territory of the Veientines was within view, more fertile and more ample than the territory of Rome?" Whether in respect of its situation or of the magnificence of its public and private buildings and its open spaces, they gave that city the preference over Rome. They even brought forward a proposal, which met with still more support after the capture of Rome by the Gauls, for migrating to Veii. They intended, however, that Veii should be inhabited by a portion of the plebs and a part of the senate; they thought it a feasible project that two separate cities should be inhabited by the Roman people and form one State. In opposition to these proposals, the nobility went so far as to declare that they would sooner die before the eyes of the Roman people than that any of those schemes should be put to the vote. If, they argued, there was so much dissension in one city, what would there be in two? Could any one possibly prefer a conquered to a conquering city, and allow Veii to enjoy a greater good fortune after its capture than while it stood safe? It was possible that in the end they might be left behind in their native City by their fellow-citizens, but no power on earth would compel them to abandon their native City and their fellow-citizens in order to follow T. Sicinius - the proposer of this measure - to Veii as its new founder, and so abandon Romulus, a god and the son of a god, the father and creator of the City of Rome.
[5.25]This discussion was attended by disgraceful quarrels, for the senate had drawn over a section of the tribunes of the plebs to their view, and the only thing that restrained the plebeians from offering personal violence was the use which the patricians made of their personal influence. Whenever shouts were raised to get up a brawl, the leaders of the senate were the first to go into the crowd and tell them to vent their rage on them, to beat and kill them. The mob shrank from offering violence to men of their age and rank and distinction, and this feeling prevented them from attacking the other patricians. Camillus went about delivering harangues everywhere, and saying that it was no wonder that the citizens had gone mad, for though bound by a vow, they showed more anxiety about everything than about discharging their religious obligations. He would say nothing about the contribution, which was really a sacred offering rather than a tithe, and since each individual bound himself to a tenth, the State, as such, was free from the obligation. But his conscience would not allow him to keep silence about the assertion that the tenth only applied to movables, and that no mention was made of the city and its territory, which were also really included in the vow. As the senate considered the question a difficult one to decide, they referred it to the pontiffs, and Camillus was invited to discuss it with them. They decided that of all that had belonged to the Veientines before the vow was uttered and had subsequently passed into the power of Rome, a tenth part was sacred to Apollo. Thus the city and territory came into the estimate. The money was drawn from the treasury, and the consular tribunes were commissioned to purchase gold with it. As there was not a sufficient supply, the matrons, after meeting to talk the matter over, made themselves by common consent responsible to the tribunes for the gold, and sent all their trinkets to the treasury. The senate were in the highest degree grateful for this, and the tradition goes that in return for this munificence the matrons had conferred upon them the honour of driving to sacred festivals and games in a carriage, and on holy days and work days in a two-wheeled car. The gold received from each was appraised in order that the proper amount of money might be paid for it, and it was decided that a golden bowl should be made and carried to Delphi as a gift to Apollo. When the religious question no longer claimed their attention, the tribunes of the plebs renewed their agitation; the passions of the populace were aroused against all the leading men, most of all against Camillus. They said that by devoting the spoils of Veii to the State and to the gods he had reduced them to nothing. They attacked the senators furiously in their absence; when they were present and confronted their rage, shame kept them silent. As soon as the plebeians saw that the matter would be carried over into the following year, they reappointed the supporters of the proposal as their tribunes; the patricians devoted themselves to securing the same support for those who had vetoed the proposal. Consequently, nearly all the same tribunes of the plebs were re-elected.
[5.26]In the election of consular tribunes the patricians succeeded by the utmost exertions in securing the return of M. Furius Camillus. They pretended that in view of the wars they were providing themselves with a general; their real object was to get a man who would oppose the corrupt policy of the plebeian tribunes. His comrades in the tribuneship were L. Furius Medullinus - for the sixth time - C. Aemilius, L. Valerius Publicola, S. Postumius, and P. Cornelius - for the second time. At the beginning of the year the tribunes of the plebs made no move until Camillus left for operations against the Faliscans, the theatre of war assigned to him. This delay took the heart out of their agitation, whilst Camillus, the adversary whom they most dreaded, was gaining fresh glory amongst the Faliscans. At first the enemy kept within their walls, thinking this the safest course, but by devastating their fields and burning their farms he compelled them to come outside their city. They were afraid to go very far, and fixed their camp about a mile away; the only thing which gave them any sense of security was the difficulty of approaching it, as all the country round was rough and broken, and the roads narrow in some parts, in others steep. Camillus, however, had gained information from a prisoner captured in the neighbourhood, and made him act as guide. After breaking up his camp in the dead of night, he showed himself at daybreak in a position considerably higher than the enemy. The Romans of the third line began to entrench, the rest of the army stood ready for battle. When the enemy attempted to hinder the work of entrenchment, he defeated them and put them to flight, and such a panic seized the Faliscans that in their disorderly flight they were carried past their own camp, which was nearer to them, and made for their city. Many were killed and wounded before they could get inside their gates. The camp was taken, the booty sold, and the proceeds paid over to the quaestors, to the intense indignation of the soldiers, but they were overawed by the sternness of their general's discipline, and though they hated his firmness, at the same time they admired it. The city was now invested and regular siege-works were constructed. For some time the townsmen used to attack the Roman outposts whenever they saw an opportunity, and frequent skirmishes took place. Time went on and hope inclined to neither side; corn and other supplies had been previously collected, and the besieged were better provisioned than the besiegers. The task seemed likely to be as long as it had been at Veii, had not fortune given the Roman commander an opportunity of displaying that greatness of mind which had already been proved in deeds of war, and so secured him an early victory.
[5.27]It was the custom of the Faliscans to employ the same person as the master and also as the attendant of their children, and several boys used to be entrusted to one man's care; a custom which prevails in Greece at the present time. Naturally, the man who had the highest reputation for learning was appointed to instruct the children of the principal men. This man had started the practice, in the time of peace, of taking the boys outside the gates for games and exercise, and he kept up the practice after the war had begun, taking them sometimes a shorter, sometimes a longer distance from the city gate. Seizing a favourable opportunity, he kept up the games and the conversations longer than usual, and went on till he was in the midst of the Roman outposts. He then took them into the camp and up to Camillus in the headquarters tent. There he aggravated his villainous act by a still more villainous utterance. He had, he said, given Falerii into the hands of the Romans, since those boys, whose fathers were at the head of affairs in the city, were now placed in their power. On hearing this Camillus replied, "You, villain, have not come with your villainous offer to a nation or a commander like yourself. Between us and the Faliscans there is no fellowship based on a formal compact as between man and man, but the fellowship which is based on natural instincts exists between us, and will continue to do so. There are rights of war as there are rights of peace, and we have learnt to wage our wars with justice no less than with courage. We do not use our weapons against those of an age which is spared even in the capture of cities, but against those who are armed as we are, and who without any injury or provocation from us attacked the Roman camp at Veii. These men you, as far as you could, have vanquished by an unprecedented act of villainy; I shall vanquish them as I vanquished Veii, by Roman arts, by courage and strategy and force of arms." He then ordered him to be stripped and his hands tied behind his back, and delivered him up to the boys to be taken back to Falerii, and gave them rods with which to scourge the traitor into the city. The people came in crowds to see the sight, the magistrates thereupon convened the senate to discuss the extraordinary incident, and in the end such a revulsion of feeling took place that the very people who in the madness of their rage and hatred would almost sooner have shared the fate of Veii than obtained the peace which Capena enjoyed, now found themselves in company with the whole city asking for peace. The Roman sense of honour, the commander's love of justice, were in all men's mouths in the forum and in the senate, and in accordance with the universal wish, ambassadors were despatched to Camillus in the camp, and with his sanction to the senate in Rome, to make the surrender of Falerii.
On being introduced to the senate, they are reported to have made the following speech: "Senators! vanquished by you and your general through a victory which none, whether god or man, can censure, we surrender ourselves to you, for we think it better to live under your sway than under our own laws, and this is the greatest glory that a conqueror can attain. Through the issue of this war two salutary precedents have been set for mankind. You have preferred the honour of a soldier to a victory which was in your hands; we, challenged by your good faith, have voluntarily given you that victory. We are at your disposal; send men to receive our arms, to receive the hostages, to receive the city whose gates stand open to you. Never shall you have cause to complain of our loyalty, nor we of your rule." Thanks were accorded to Camillus both by the enemy and by his own countrymen. The Faliscans were ordered to supply the pay of the troops for that year, in order that the Roman people might be free from the war-tax. After the peace was granted, the army was marched back to Rome.
[5.28]After thus subduing the enemy by his justice and good faith, Camillus returned to the City invested with a much nobler glory than when white horses drew him through it in his triumph. The senate could not withstand the delicate reproof of his silence, but at once proceeded to free him from his vow. L. Valerius, L. Sergius, and A. Manlius were appointed as a deputation to carry the golden bowl, made as a gift to Apollo, to Delphi, but the solitary warship in which they were sailing was captured by Liparean pirates not far from the Straits of Sicily, and taken to the islands of Liparae. Piracy was regarded as a kind of State institution, and it was the custom for the government to distribute the plunder thus acquired. That year the supreme magistracy was held by Timasitheus, a man more akin to the Romans in character than to his own countrymen. As he himself reverenced the name and office of the ambassadors, the gift they had in charge and the god to whom it was being sent, so he inspired the multitude, who generally share the views of their ruler, with a proper religious sense of their duty. The deputation were conducted to the State guest-house, and from there sent on their way to Delphi with a protecting escort of ships, he then brought them back safe to Rome. Friendly relations were established with him on the part of the State, and presents bestowed upon him.
During this year there was war with the Aequi of so undecided a character that it was a matter of uncertainty, both in the armies themselves and in Rome, whether they were victorious or vanquished. The two consular tribunes, C. Aemilius and Spurius Postumius, were in command of the Roman army. At first they carried on joint operations; after the enemy had been routed in the field, they arranged that Aemilius should hold Verrugo whilst Postumius devastated their. territory. Whilst he was marching somewhat carelessly after his success, with his men out of order, he was attacked by the Aequi, and such a panic ensued that his troops were driven to the nearest hills, and the alarm spread even to the other army at Verrugo. After they had retreated to a safe position, Postumius summoned his men to assembly and severely rebuked them for their panic and flight, and for having been routed by such a cowardly and easily defeated foe. With one voice the army exclaimed that his reproaches were deserved; they had, they confessed behaved disgracefully, but they would themselves repair their fault, the enemy would not long have cause for rejoicing. They asked him to lead them at once against the enemy's camp - it was in full view down in the plain - and no punishment would be too severe if they failed to take it before nightfall. He commended their eagerness, and ordered them to refresh themselves and to be ready by the fourth watch. The enemy, expecting the Romans to attempt a nocturnal flight from their hill, were posted to cut them off from the road leading to Verrugo. The action commenced before dawn, but as there was a moon all night, the battle was as clearly visible as if it had been fought by day. The shouting reached Verrugo, and they believed that the Roman camp was being attacked. This created such a panic that in spite of all the appeals of Aemilius in his efforts to restrain them, the garrison broke away and fled in scattered groups to Tusculum. Thence the rumour was carried to Rome that Postumius and his army were slain. As soon as the rising dawn had removed all apprehensions of a surprise in case the pursuit was carried too far, Postumius rode down the ranks demanding the fulfilment of their promise. The enthusiasm of the troops was so roused that the Aequi no longer withstood the attack. Then followed a slaughter of the fugitives, such as might be expected where men are actuated by rage even more than by courage; the army was destroyed. The doleful report from Tusculum and the groundless fears of the City were followed by a laurelled despatch from Postumius announcing the victory of Rome and the annihilation of the Aequian army.
[5.29]As the agitation of the tribunes of the plebs had so far been without result, the plebeians exerted themselves to secure the continuance in office of the proposers of the land measure, whilst the patricians strove for the re-election of those who had vetoed it. The plebeians, however, carried the election, and the senate in revenge for this mortification passed a resolution for the appointment of consuls, the magistracy which the plebs detested. After fifteen years, consuls were once more elected in the persons of L. Lucretius Flavus and Servius Sulpicius Camerinus. At the beginning of the year, as none of their college was disposed to interpose his veto, the tribunes were combined in a determined effort to carry their measure, while the consuls, for the same reason, offered a no less strenuous resistance. Whilst all the citizens were preoccupied with this struggle, the Aequi successfully attacked the Roman colony at Vitellia, which was situated in their territory. Most of the colonists were uninjured, for the fact of its treacherous capture taking place in the night gave them the chance of escaping in the opposite direction from the enemy and reaching Rome. That field of operations fell to L. Lucretius. He advanced against the enemy and defeated them in a regular engagement, and then came back victorious to Rome, where a still more serious contest awaited him.
A day had been fixed for the prosecution of A. Verginius and Q. Pomponius, who had been tribunes of the plebs two years previously. The senate unanimously agreed that their honour was concerned in defending them, for no one brought any charge against them touching their private life or their public action; the only ground of indictment was that it was to please the senate that they had exercised their veto. The influence of the senate, however, was overborne by the angry temper of the plebeians, and a most vicious precedent was set by the condemnation of those innocent men to a fine of 10,000 "ases" each. The senate were extremely distressed. Camillus openly accused the plebeians of treason in turning against their own magistrates because they did not see that through this iniquitous judgment they had taken from their tribunes the power of veto, and in depriving them of that had overthrown their power. They were deceived if they expected the senate to put up with the absence of any restraint upon the licence of that magistracy. If the violence of tribunes could not be met by the veto of tribunes, the senate would find another weapon. He poured blame on the consuls also for having silently allowed the honour of the State to be compromised in the case of tribunes who had followed the instructions of the senate. By openly repeating these charges he embittered the feeling of the populace more every day.
[5.30]The senate, on the other hand, he was perpetually inciting to oppose the measure. They must not, he said, go down to the Forum, when the day came for voting on it, in any other temper than that of men who realised that they would have to fight for their hearths and altars, for the temples of the gods, and even for the soil on which they had been born. As for himself, if he dared to think of his own reputation when his country's existence was at stake, it would be indeed an honour to him that the city which he had taken should become a popular resort, that that memorial of his glory should give him daily delight, that he should have before his eyes the city which had been carried in his triumphal procession, and that all should tread in the track of his renown. But he considered it an offence against heaven for a city to be repeopled after it had been deserted and abandoned by the gods, or for the Roman people to dwell on a soil enslaved and change the conquering country for a conquered one. Roused by these appeals of their leader, the senators, old and young, came down in a body to the Forum when the proposal was being put to the vote. They dispersed among the tribes, and each taking his fellow-tribesmen by the hand, implored them with tears not to desert the fatherland, for which they and their fathers had fought so bravely and so successfully. They pointed to the Capitol, the temple of Vesta, and the other divine temples round them, and besought them not to drive the Roman people, as homeless exiles, from their ancestral soil and their household gods into the city of their foes. They even went so far as to say that it were better that Veii had never been taken than that Rome should be deserted. As they were having recourse not to violence but to entreaties, and were interspersing their entreaties with frequent mention of the gods, it became for the majority of voters a religious question and the measure was defeated by a majority of one tribe. The senate were so delighted at their victory that on the following day a resolution was passed, at the instance of the consuls, that seven jugera of the Veientine territory should be allotted to each plebeian, and not to the heads of families only, account was taken of all the children in the house, that men might be willing to bring up children in the hope that they would receive their share.
[5.31]This bounty soothed the feelings of the plebs, and no opposition was offered to the election of consuls. The two elected were L. Valerius Potitus and M. Manlius, who afterwards received the title of Capitolinus. They celebrated the "Great Games" which M. Furius had vowed when Dictator in the Veientine war. In the same year the temple of Queen Juno, which he had also vowed at the same time, was dedicated, and the tradition runs that this dedication excited great interest amongst the matrons, who were present in large numbers. An unimportant campaign was conducted against the Aequi on Algidus; the enemy were routed almost before they came to close quarters. Valerius had shown greater energy in following up the fugitives; he was accordingly decreed a triumph; Manlius an ovation. In the same year a new enemy appeared in the Volsinians. Owing to famine and pestilence in the district round Rome, in consequence of excessive heat and drought, it was impossible for an army to march. This emboldened the Volsinians in conjunction with the Salpinates to make inroads upon Roman territory. Thereupon war was declared against the two States. C. Julius, the censor, died, and M. Cornelius was appointed in his place. This proceeding was afterwards regarded as an offence against religion because it was during that lustrum that Rome was taken, and no one has ever since been appointed as censor in the room of one deceased. The consuls were attacked by the epidemic, so it was decided that the auspices should be taken afresh by an interrex. The consuls accordingly resigned office in compliance with a resolution of the senate, and M. Furius Camillus was appointed interrex. He appointed P. Cornelius Scipio as his successor, and Scipio appointed L. Valerius Potitus. The last named appointed six consular tribunes, so that if any of them became incapacitated through illness there might still be a sufficiency of magistrates to administer the republic.
[5.32]These were L. Lucretius, Servius Sulpicius, M. Aemilius, L. Furius Medullinus - for the seventh time - Agrippa Furius, and C. Aemilius - for the second time. They entered upon office on the 1st of July. L. Lucretius and C. Aemilius were charged with the campaign against the Volsinians; Agrippa Furius and Servius Sulpicius with the one against the Salpinates. The first action took place with the Volsinians; an immense number of the enemy were engaged, but the fighting was by no means severe. Their line was scattered at the first shock; 8000 who were surrounded by the cavalry laid down their arms and surrendered. On hearing of this battle the Salpinates would not trust themselves to a regular engagement in the field, but sought the protection of their walls. The Romans carried off plunder in all directions from both the Salpinate and Volsinian territories without meeting any resistance. At last the Volsinians, tired of the war, obtained a truce for twenty years on condition that they paid an indemnity for their previous raid and supplied the year's pay for the army. It was in this year that Marcus Caedicius, a member of the plebs, reported to the tribunes that whilst he was in the Via Nova where the chapel now stands, above the temple of Vesta, he heard in the silence of the night a voice more powerful than any human voice bidding the magistrates be told that the Gauls were approaching. No notice was taken of this, partly owing to the humble rank of the informant, and partly because the Gauls were a distant and therefore an unknown nation. It was not the monitions of the gods only that were set at nought in face of the coming doom. The one human aid which they had against it, M. Furius Camillus, was removed from the City. He was impeached by the plebeian tribune L. Apuleius for his action with reference to the spoils of Veii, and at the time had just been bereaved of his son. He invited the members of his tribe and his clients, who formed a considerable part of the plebs, to his house and sounded their feelings towards him. They told him that they would pay whatever fine was imposed, but it was impossible for them to acquit him. Thereupon he went into exile, after offering up a prayer to the immortal gods that if he were suffering wrongfully as an innocent man, they would make his ungrateful citizens very soon feel the need of him. He was condemned in his absence to pay a fine of 15,000 "ases."
[5.33]After the expulsion of that citizen whose presence, if there is anything certain in human affairs, would have made the capture of Rome impossible, the doom of the fated City swiftly approached. Ambassadors came from Clusium begging for assistance against the Gauls. The tradition is that this nation, attracted by the report of the delicious fruits and especially of the wine - a novel pleasure to them - crossed the Alps and occupied the lands formerly cultivated by the Etruscans, and that Arruns of Clusium imported wine into Gaul in order to allure them into Italy. His wife had been seduced by a Lucumo, to whom he was guardian, and from whom, being a young man of considerable influence, it was impossible to get redress without getting help from abroad. In revenge, Arruns led the Gauls across the Alps and prompted them to attack Clusium. I would not deny that the Gauls were conducted to Clusium by Arruns or some one else living there, but it is quite clear that those who attacked that city were not the first who crossed the Alps. As a matter of fact, Gauls crossed into Italy two centuries before they attacked Clusium and took Rome. Nor were the Clusines the first Etruscans with whom the Gaulish armies came into conflict; long before that they had fought many battles with the Etruscans who dwelt between the Apennines and the Alps. Before the Roman supremacy, the power of the Tuscans was widely extended both by sea and land. How far it extended over the two seas by which Italy is surrounded like an island is proved by the names, for the nations of Italy call the one the "Tuscan Sea," from the general designation of the people, and the other the "Atriatic," from Atria, a Tuscan colony. The Greeks also call them the "Tyrrhene" and the "Adriatic." The districts stretching towards either sea were inhabited by them. They first settled on this side the Apennines by the western sea in twelve cities, afterwards they founded twelve colonies beyond the Apennines, corresponding to the number of the mother cities. These colonies held the whole of the country beyond the Po as far as the Alps, with the exception of the corner inhabited by the Veneti, who dwelt round an arm of the sea. The Alpine tribes are undoubtedly of the same stock, especially the Raetii, who had through the nature of their country become so uncivilised that they retained no trace of their original condition except their language, and even this was not free from corruption.
[5.34]About the passage of the Gauls into Italy we have received the following account. Whilst Tarquinius Priscus was king of Rome, the supreme power amongst the Celts, who formed a third part of the whole of Gaul, was in the hands of the Bituriges; they used to furnish the king for the whole Celtic race. Ambigatus was king at that time, a man eminent for his own personal courage and prosperity as much as for those of his dominions. During his sway the harvests were so abundant and the population increased so rapidly in Gaul that the government of such vast numbers seemed almost impossible. He was now an old man, and anxious to relieve his realm from the burden of over-population. With this view he signified his intention of sending his sister's sons Bellovesus and Segovesus, both enterprising young men, to settle in whatever locality the gods should by augury assign to them. They were to invite as many as wished to accompany them, sufficient to prevent any nation from repelling their approach. When the auspices were taken, the Hercynian forest was assigned to Segovesus; to Bellovesus the gods gave the far pleasanter way into Italy. He invited the surplus population of six tribes - the Bituriges, the Averni, the Senones, the Aedui, the Ambarri, the Carnutes, and the Aulerci. Starting with an enormous force of horse and foot, he came to the Tricastini. Beyond stretched the barrier of the Alps, and I am not at all surprised that they appeared insurmountable, for they had never yet been surmounted by any route, as far at least as unbroken memory reaches, unless you choose to believe the fables about Hercules. Whilst the mountain heights kept the Gauls fenced in as it were there, and they were looking everywhere to see by what path they could cross the peaks which reached to heaven and so enter a new world, they were also prevented from advancing by a sense of religious obligation, for news came that some strangers in quest of territory were being attacked by the Salyi. These were Massilians who had sailed from Phocaea. The Gauls, looking upon this as an omen of their own fortunes, went to their assistance and enabled them to fortify the spot where they had first landed, without any interference from the Salyi. After crossing the Alps by the passes of the Taurini and the valley of the Douro, they defeated the Tuscans in battle not far from the Ticinus, and when they learnt that the country in which they had settled belonged to the Insubres, a name also borne by a canton of the Haedui, they accepted the omen of the place and built a city which they called Mediolanum.
[5.35]Subsequently another body, consisting of the Cenomani, under the leadership of Elitovius, followed the track of the former and crossed the Alps by the same pass, with the goodwill of Bellovesus. They had their settlements where the cities of Brixia and Verona now stand. The Libui came next and the Saluvii; they settled near the ancient tribe of the Ligurian Laevi, who lived about the Ticinus. Then the Boii and Lingones crossed the Pennine Alps, and as all the country between the Po and the Alps was occupied, they crossed the Po on rafts and expelled not only the Etruscans but the Umbrians as well. They remained, however, north of the Apennines. Then the Senones, the last to come, occupied the country from the Utis to the Aesis. It was this last tribe, I find, that came to Clusium, and from there to Rome; but it is uncertain whether they came alone or helped by contingents from all the Cisalpine peoples. The people of Clusium were appalled by this strange war, when they saw the numbers, the extraordinary appearance of the men, and the kind of weapons they used, and heard that the legions of Etruria had been often routed by them on both sides of the Po. Although they had no claim on Rome, either on the ground of alliance or friendly relations, unless it was that they had not defended their kinsmen at Veii against the Romans, they nevertheless sent ambassadors to ask the senate for assistance. Active assistance they did not obtain. The three sons of M. Fabius Ambustus were sent as ambassadors to negotiate with the Gauls and warn them not to attack those from whom they had suffered no injury, who were allies and friends of Rome, and who, if circumstances compelled them, must be defended by the armed force of Rome. They preferred that actual war should be avoided, and that they should make acquaintance with the Gauls, who were strangers to them, in peace rather than in arms.
[5.36]A peaceable enough mission, had it not contained envoys of a violent temper, more like Gauls than Romans. After they had delivered their instructions in the council of the Gauls, the following reply was given: "Although we are hearing the name of Romans for the first time, we believe nevertheless that you are brave men, since the Clusines are imploring your assistance in their time of danger. Since you prefer to protect your allies against us by negotiation rather than by armed force, we on our side do not reject the peace you offer, on condition that the Clusines cede to us Gauls, who are in need of land, a portion of that territory which they possess to a greater extent than they can cultivate. On any other conditions peace cannot be granted. We wish to receive their reply in your presence, and if territory is refused us we shall fight, whilst you are still here, that you may report to those at home how far the Gauls surpass all other men in courage." The Romans asked them what right they had to demand, under threat of war, territory from those who were its owners, and what business the Gauls had in Etruria. The haughty answer was returned that they carried their right in their weapons, and that everything belonged to the brave. Passions were kindled on both sides; they flew to arms and joined battle. Thereupon, contrary to the law of nations, the envoys seized their weapons, for the Fates were already urging Rome to its ruin. The fact of three of the noblest and bravest Romans fighting in the front line of the Etruscan army could not be concealed, so conspicuous was the valour of the strangers. And what was more, Q. Fabius rode forward at a Gaulish chieftain, who was impetuously charging right at the Etruscan standards, ran his spear through his side and slew him. Whilst he was in the act of despoiling the body the Gauls recognised him, and the word was passed through the whole army that it was a Roman ambassador. Forgetting their rage against the Clusines, and breathing threats against the Romans, they sounded the retreat.
Some were for an instant advance on Rome. The older men thought that ambassadors should first be sent to Rome to make a formal complaint and demand the surrender of the Fabii as satisfaction for the violation of the law of nations. After the ambassadors had stated their case, the senate, whilst disapproving of the conduct of the Fabii, and recognising the justice of the demand which the barbarians made, were prevented by political interests from placing their convictions on record in the form of a decree in the case of men of such high rank. In order, therefore, that the blame for any defeat which might be incurred in a war with the Gauls might not rest on them alone, they referred the consideration of the Gauls' demands to the people. Here personal popularity and influence had so much more weight that the very men whose punishment was under discussion were elected consular tribunes for the next year. The Gauls regarded this procedure as it deserved to be regarded, namely, as an act of hostility, and after openly threatening war, returned to their people. The other consular tribunes elected with the Fabii were Q. Sulpicius Longus, Q. Servilius - for the fourth time - and P. Cornelius Maluginensis.
[5.37]To such an extent does Fortune blind men's eyes when she will not have her threatened blows parried, that though such a weight of disaster was hanging over the State, no special steps were taken to avert it. In the wars against Fidenae and Veii and other neighbouring States, a Dictator had on many occasions been nominated as a last resource. But now when an enemy, never seen or even heard of before, was rousing up war from ocean and the furthest corners of the world, no recourse was had to a Dictator, no extraordinary efforts were made. Those men through whose recklessness the war had been brought about were in supreme commands as tribunes, and the levy they raised was not larger than had been usual in ordinary campaigns, they even made light of the resorts as to the seriousness of the war. Meantime the Gauls learnt that their embassy had been treated with contempt, and that honours had actually been conferred upon men who had violated the law of nations. Burning with rage - as a nation they cannot control their passions - they seized their standards and hurriedly set out on their march. At the sound of their tumult as they swept by, the affrighted cities flew to arms and the country folk took to flight. Horses and men, spread far and wide, covered an immense tract of country; wherever they went they made it understood by loud shouts that they were going to Rome. But though they were preceded by rumours and by messages from Clusium, and then from one town after another, it was the swiftness of their approach that created most alarm in Rome. An army hastily raised by a levy en masse marched out to meet them. The two forces met hardly eleven miles from Rome, at a spot where the Alia, flowing in a very deep channel from the Crustuminian mountains, joins the river Tiber a little below the road to Crustumerium. The whole country in front and around was now swarming with the enemy, who, being as a nation given to wild outbreaks, had by their hideous howls and discordant clamour filled everything with dreadful noise.
[5.38]The consular tribunes had secured no position for their camp, had constructed no entrenchments behind which to retire, and had shown as much disregard of the gods as of the enemy, for they formed their order of battle without having obtained favourable auspices. They extended their line on either wing to prevent their being outflanked, but even so they could not make their front equal to the enemy's, whilst by thus thinning their line they weakened the centre so that it could hardly keep in touch. On their right was a small eminence which they decided to hold with reserves, and this disposition, though it was the beginning of the panic and flight, proved to be the only means of safety to the fugitives. For Bennus, the Gaulish chieftain, fearing some ruse in the scanty numbers of the enemy, and thinking that the rising ground was occupied in order that the reserves might attack the flank and rear of the Gauls while their front was engaged with the legions, directed his attack upon the reserves, feeling quite certain that if he drove them from their position, his overwhelming numbers would give him an easy victory on the level ground. So not only Fortune but tactics also were on the side of the barbarians. In the other army there was nothing to remind one of Romans either amongst the generals or the private soldiers. They were terrified, and all they thought about was flight, and so utterly had they lost their heads that a far greater number fled to Veii, a hostile city, though the Tiber lay in their way, than by the direct road to Rome, to their wives and children. For a short time the reserves were protected by their position. In the rest of the army, no sooner was the battle-shout heard on their flank by those nearest to the reserves, and then by those at the other end of the line heard in their rear, than they fled, whole and unhurt, almost before they had seen their untried foe, without any attempt to fight or even to give back the battle-shout. None were slain while actually fighting; they were cut down from behind whilst hindering one another's flight in a confused, struggling mass. Along the bank of the Tiber, whither the whole of the left wing had fled, after throwing away their arms, there was great slaughter. Many who were unable to swim or were hampered by the weight of their cuirasses and other armour were sucked down by the current. The greater number, however, reached Veii in safety, yet not only were no troops sent from there to defend the City, but not even was a messenger despatched to report the defeat to Rome. All the men on the right wing, which had been stationed some distance from the river, and nearer to the foot of the hill, made for Rome and took refuge in the Citadel without even closing the City gates.
[5.39]The Gauls for their part were almost dumb with astonishment at so sudden and extraordinary a victory. At first they did not dare to move from the spot, as though puzzled by what had happened, then they began to fear a surprise, at last they began to despoil the dead, and, as their custom is, to pile up the arms in heaps. Finally, as no hostile movement was anywhere visible, they commenced their march and reached Rome shortly before sunset. The cavalry, who had ridden on in front, reported that the gates were not shut, there were no pickets on guard in front of them, no troops on the walls. This second surprise, as extraordinary as the previous one, held them back, and fearing a nocturnal conflict in the streets of an unknown City, they halted and bivouacked between Rome and the Anio. Reconnoitring parties were sent out to examine the circuit of the walls and the other gates, and to ascertain what plans their enemies were forming in their desperate plight. As for the Romans, since the greater number had fled from the field in the direction of Veii instead of Rome, it was universally believed that the only survivors were those who had found refuge in Rome, and the mourning for all who were lost, whether living or dead, filled the whole City with the cries of lamentation. But the sounds of private grief were stifled by the general terror when it was announced that the enemy were at hand. Presently the yells and wild war-whoops of the squadrons were heard as they rode round the walls. All the time until the next day's dawn the citizens were in such a state of suspense that they expected from moment to moment an attack on the City. They expected it first when the enemy approached the walls, for they would have remained at the Alia had not this been their object; then just before sunset they thought the enemy would attack because there was not much daylight left; and then when night was fallen they imagined that the attack was delayed till then to create all the greater terror. Finally, the approach of the next day deprived them of their senses; the entrance of the enemy's standards within the gates was the dreadful climax to fears that had known no respite.
But all through that night and the following day the citizens afforded an utter contrast to those who had fled in such terror at the Alia. Realising the hopelessness of attempting any defence of the City with the small numbers that were left, they decided that the men of military age and the able-bodied amongst the senators should, with their wives and children, withdraw into the Citadel and the Capitol, and after getting in stores of arms and provisions, should from that fortified position defend their gods, themselves, and the great name of Rome. The Flamen and priestesses of Vesta were to carry the sacred things of the State far away from the bloodshed and the fire, and their sacred cult should not be abandoned as long as a single person survived to observe it. If only the Citadel and the Capitol, the abode of gods; if only the senate, the guiding mind of the national policy; if only the men of military age survived the impending ruin of the City, then the loss of the crowd of old men left behind in the City could be easily borne; in any case, they were certain to perish. To reconcile the aged plebeians to their fate, the men who had been consuls and enjoyed triumphs gave out that they would meet their fate side by side with them, and not burden the scanty force of fighting men with bodies too weak to carry arms or defend their country.
[5.40]Thus they sought to comfort one another - these aged men doomed to death. Then they turned with words of encouragement to the younger men on their way to the Citadel and Capitol, and solemnly commended to their strength and courage all that was left of the fortunes of a City which for 360 years had been victorious in all its wars. As those who were carrying with them all hope and succour finally separated from those who had resolved not to survive the fall of the City the misery of the scene was heightened by the distress of the women. Their tears, their distracted running about as they followed first their husbands then their sons, their imploring appeals to them not to leave them to their fate, made up a picture in which no element of human misery was wanting. A great many of them actually followed their sons into the Capitol, none forbidding or inviting them, for though to diminish the number of non-combatants would have helped the besieged, it was too inhuman a step to take. Another crowd, mainly of plebeians, for whom there was not room on so small a hill or food enough in the scanty store of corn, poured out of the City in one continuous line and made for the Janiculum. From there they dispersed, some over the country, others towards the neighbouring cities, without any leader or concerted action, each following his own aims, his own ideas. and all despairing of the public safety. While all this was going on, the Flamen of Quirinus and the Vestal virgins, without giving a thought to their own property, were deliberating as to which of the sacred things they ought to take with them, and which to leave behind, since they had not strength enough to carry all, and also what place would be the safest for their custody. They thought best to conceal what they could not take in earthen jars and bury them under the chapel next to the Flamen's house, where spitting is now forbidden. The rest they divided amongst them and carried off, taking the road which leads by the Pons Sublicius to the Janiculum. Whilst ascending that hill they were seen by L. Albinius, a Roman plebeian who with the rest of the crowd who were unfit for war was leaving the City. Even in that critical hour the distinction between sacred and profane was not forgotten. He had his wife and children with him in a wagon, and it seemed to him an act of impiety for him and his family to be seen in a vehicle whilst the national priests should be trudging along on foot, bearing the sacred vessels of Rome. He ordered his wife and children to get down, put the virgins and their sacred burden in the wagon, and drove them to Caere, their destination.
[5.41]After all the arrangements that circumstances permitted had been made for the defence of the Capitol, the old men returned to their respective homes and, fully prepared to die, awaited the coming of the enemy. Those who had filled curule offices resolved to meet their fate wearing the insignia of their former rank and honour and distinctions. They put on the splendid dress which they wore when conducting the chariots of the gods or riding in triumph through the City, and thus arrayed, they seated themselves in their ivory chairs in front of their houses. Some writers record that, led by M. Fabius, the Pontifex Maximus, they recited the solemn formula in which they devoted themselves to death for their country and the Quirites. As the Gauls were refreshed by a night's rest after a battle which had at no point been seriously contested, and as they were not now taking the City by assault or storm, their entrance the next day was not marked by any signs of excitement or anger. Passing the Colline gate, which was standing open, they came to the Forum and gazed round at the temples and at the Citadel, which alone wore any appearance of war. They left there a small body to guard against any attack from the Citadel or Capitol whilst they were scattered, and then they dispersed in quest of plunder through streets in which they did not meet a soul. Some poured in a body into all the houses near, others made for the most distant ones, expecting to find them untouched and full of spoils. Appalled by the very desolation of the place and dreading lest some stratagem should surprise the stragglers, they returned to the neighbourhood of the Forum in close order. The houses of the plebeians were barricaded, the halls of the patricians stood open, but they felt greater hesitation about entering the open houses than those which were closed. They gazed with feelings of real veneration upon the men who were seated in the porticoes of their mansions, not only because of the superhuman magnificence of their apparel and their whole bearing and demeanour, but also because of the majestic expression of their countenances, wearing the very aspect of gods. So they stood, gazing at them as if they were statues, till, as it is asserted, one of the patricians, M. Papirius, roused the passion of a Gaul, who began to stroke his beard - which in those days was universally worn long - by smiting him on the head with his ivory staff. He was the first to be killed, the others were butchered in their chairs. After this slaughter of the magnates, no living being was thenceforth spared; the houses were rifled, and then set on fire.
[5.42]Now - whether it was that the Gauls were not all animated by a passion for the destruction of the City, or whether their chiefs had decided on the one hand to present the spectacle of a few fires as a means of intimidating the besieged into surrender from a desire to save their homes, and on the other, by abstaining from a universal conflagration, hold what remained of the City as a pledge by which to weaken their enemies' determination - certain it is that the fires were far from being so indiscriminate or so extensive as might be expected on the first day of a captured city. As the Romans beheld from the Citadel the City filled with the enemy who were running about in all the streets, while some new disaster was constantly occurring, first in one quarter then in another, they could no longer control their eyes and ears, let alone their thoughts and feelings. In whatever direction their attention was drawn by the shouts of the enemy, the shrieks of the women and boys, the roar of the flames, and the crash of houses falling in, thither they turned their eyes and minds as though set by Fortune to be spectators of their country's fall, powerless to protect anything left of all they possessed beyond their lives. Above all others who have ever stood a siege were they to be pitied, cut off as they were from the land of their birth and seeing all that had been theirs in the possession of the enemy. The day which had been spent in such misery was succeeded by a night not one whit more restful, this again by a day of anguish, there was not a single hour free from the sight of some ever fresh calamity. And yet, though, weighed down and overwhelmed with so many misfortunes, they had watched everything laid low in flame and ruin, they did not for a moment relax their determination to defend by their courage the one spot still left to freedom, the hill which they held, however small and poor it might be. At length, as this state of things went on day by day, they became as it were hardened to misery, and turned their thoughts from the circumstances round them to their arms and the sword in their right hand, which they gazed upon as the only things left to give them hope.
[5.43]For some days the Gauls had been making useless war merely upon the houses of the City. Now that they saw nothing surviving amidst the ashes and ruin of the captured City except an armed foe whom all these disasters had failed to appal, and who would entertain no thought of surrender unless force were employed, they determined as a last resort to make an assault on the Citadel. At daybreak the signal was given and the whole of their number formed up in the Forum. Raising their battle-shout and locking their shields together over their heads, they advanced. The Romans awaited the attack without excitement or fear, the detachments were strengthened to guard all the approaches, and in whatever direction they saw the enemy advancing, there they posted a picked body of men and allowed the enemy to climb up, for the steeper the ground they got on to, the easier they thought it would be to fling them down the slope. About midway up the hill the Gauls halted; then from the higher ground, which of itself almost hurled them against the enemy, the Romans charged, and routed the Gauls with such loss and overthrow that they never again attempted that mode of fighting either with detachments or in full strength. All hope, therefore, of forcing a passage by direct assault being laid aside, they made preparations for a blockade. Up to that time they had never thought of one; all the corn in the City had been destroyed in the conflagrations, whilst that in the fields around had been hastily carried off to Veii since the occupation of the City. So the Gauls decided to divide their forces; one division was to invest the Citadel, the other to forage amongst the neighbouring States so that they could supply corn to those who were keeping up the investment. It was Fortune herself who led the Gauls after they left the City to Ardea, that they might have some experience of Roman courage. Camillus was living there as an exile, grieving more over his country's fortunes than his own, eating his heart out in reproaches to gods and men, asking in indignant wonder where the men were with whom he had taken Veii and Falerii; men whose valour in all their wars was greater even than their success. Suddenly he heard that the Gaulish army was approaching, and that the Ardeates were engaged in anxious deliberation about it. He had generally avoided the council meetings, but now, seized with an inspiration nothing short of divine, he hastened to the assembled councillors and addressed them as follows:
[5.44]"Men of Ardea! friends of old, and now my fellow-citizens - for this your kindness has granted, this my fortunes have compelled - let none of you imagine that I have come here in forgetfulness of my position. The force of circumstances and the common danger constrain every man to contribute what help he can to meet the crisis. When shall I ever be able to show my gratitude for all the obligations you have conferred if I fail in my duty now? When shall I ever be of any use to you if not in war? It was by that that I held my position in my native City as having never known defeat; in times of peace my ungrateful countrymen banished me. Now the chance is offered to you, men of Ardea, of proving your gratitude for all the kindness that Rome has shown you - you have not forgotten how great it is, nor need I bring it up against those who so well remember it - the chance of winning for your city a vast reputation for war at the expense of our common foe. Those who are coming here in loose and disorderly fashion are a race to whom nature has given bodies and minds distinguished by bulk rather than by resolution and endurance. It is for this reason that they bring into every battle a terrifying appearance rather than real force. Take the disaster of Rome as a proof. They captured the City because it lay open to them; a small force repelled them from the Citadel and Capitol. Already the irksomeness of an investment has proved too much for them, they are giving it up and wandering through the fields in straggling parties. When they are gorged with food and the wine they drink so greedily, they throw themselves down like wild beasts, on the approach of night, in all directions by the streams, without entrenching themselves, or setting any outposts or pickets on guard. And now after their success they are more careless than ever. If it is your intention to defend your walls and not to allow all this country to become a second Gaul, seize your arms and muster in force by the first watch and follow me to what will be a massacre, not a battle. If I do not deliver them, whilst enchained by sleep, into your hands to be slaughtered like cattle, I am ready to accept the same fate in Ardea which I met with in Rome."
[5.45]Friends and foes were alike persuaded that nowhere else was there at that time so great a master of war. After the council broke up they refreshed themselves and waited eagerly for the signal to be given. When it was given in the silence of the night they were at the gates ready for Camillus. After marching no great distance from the city they came upon the camp of the Gauls, unprotected, as he had said, and carelessly open on every side. They raised a tremendous shout and rushed in; there was no battle, it was everywhere sheer massacre; the Gauls, defenceless and dissolved in sleep, were butchered as they lay. Those in the furthest part of the camp, however, startled from their lairs, and not knowing whence or what the attack was, fled in terror, and some actually rushed, unawares, amongst their assailants. A considerable number were carried into the neighbourhood of Antium, where they were surrounded by the townsmen. A similar slaughter of Etruscans took place in the district of Veii. So far were these people from feeling sympathy with a City which for almost four centuries had been their neighbour, and was now crushed by an enemy never seen or heard of before, that they chose that time for making forays into Roman territory, and after loading themselves with plunder, intended to attack Veii, the bulwark and only surviving hope of the Roman name. The Roman soldiers at Veii had seen them dispersed through the fields, and afterwards, with their forces collected, driving their booty in front of them. Their first feelings were those of despair, then indignation and rage took possession of them. "Are even the Etruscans," they exclaimed, "from whom we have diverted the arms of Gaul on to ourselves, to find amusement in our disasters?" With difficulty they restrained themselves from attacking them. Caedicius, a centurion whom they had placed in command, induced them to defer operations till nightfall. The only thing lacking was a commander like Camillus, in all other respects the ordering of the attack and the success achieved were the same as if he had been present. Not content with this, they made some prisoners who had survived the night's massacre act as guides, and, led by them, surprised another body of Tuscans at the salt works and inflicted a still greater loss upon them. Exultant at this double victory they returned to Veii.
[5.46]During these days there was little going on in Rome; the investment was maintained for the most part with great slackness; both sides were keeping quiet, the Gauls being mainly intent on preventing any of the enemy from slipping through their lines. Suddenly a Roman warrior drew upon himself the admiration of foes and friends alike. The Fabian house had an annual sacrifice on the Quirinal, and C. Fabius Dorsuo, wearing his toga in the "Gabine cincture," and bearing in his hands the sacred vessels, came down from the Capitol, passed through the middle of the hostile pickets, unmoved by either challenge or threat, and reached the Quirinal. There he duly performed all the solemn rites and returned with the same composed expression and gait, feeling sure of the divine blessing, since not even the fear of death had made him neglect the worship of the gods; finally he re-entered the Capitol and rejoined his comrades. Either the Gauls were stupefied at his extraordinary boldness, or else they were restrained by religious feelings, for as a nation they are by no means inattentive to the claims of religion. At Veii there was a steady accession of strength as well as courage. Not only were the Romans who had been dispersed by the defeat and the capture of the City gathering there, but volunteers from Latium also flocked to the place that they might be in for a share of the booty. The time now seemed ripe for the recovery of their native City out of the hands of the enemy. But though the body was strong it lacked a head. The very place reminded men of Camillus, the majority of the soldiers had fought successfully under his auspices and leadership, and Caedicius declared that he would give neither gods nor men any pretext for terminating his command; he would rather himself, remembering his subordinate rank, ask for a commander-in-chief. It was decided by general consent that Camillus should be invited from Ardea, but the senate was to be consulted first; to such an extent was everything regulated by reverence for law; the proper distinctions of things were observed, even though the things themselves were almost lost.
Frightful risk would have to be incurred in passing through the enemies' outposts. Pontius Cominius, a fine soldier, offered himself for the task. Supporting himself on a cork float, he was carried down the Tiber to the City. Selecting the nearest way from the bank of the river, he scaled a precipitous rock which, owing to its steepness, the enemy had left unguarded, and found his way into the Capitol. On being brought before the supreme magistrates he delivered his instructions from the army. After receiving the decree of the senate, which was to the effect that after being recalled from exile by the comitia curiata, Camillus should be forthwith nominated Dictator by order of the people, and the soldiers should have the commander they wanted, the messenger returned by the same route and made the best of his way to Veii. A deputation was sent to Ardea to conduct Camillus to Veii. The law was passed in the comitia curiata annulling his banishment and nominating him Dictator, and it is, I think, more likely that he did not start from Ardea until he learnt that this law had been passed, because he could not change his domicile without the sanction of the people, nor could he take the auspices in the name of the army until he had been duly nominated Dictator.
[5.47]While these proceedings were taking place at Veii, the Citadel and Capitol of Rome were in imminent danger. The Gauls had either noticed the footprints left by the messenger from Veii, or had themselves discovered a comparatively easy ascent up the cliff to the temple of Carmentis. Choosing a night when there was a faint glimmer of light, they sent an unarmed man in advance to try the road; then handing one another their arms where the path was difficult, and supporting each other or dragging each other up as the ground required, they finally reached the summit. So silent had their movements been that not only were they unnoticed by the sentinels, but they did not even wake the dogs, an animal peculiarly sensitive to nocturnal sounds. But they did not escape the notice of the geese, which were sacred to Juno and had been left untouched in spite of the extremely scanty supply of food. This proved the safety of the garrison, for their clamour and the noise of their wings aroused M. Manlius, the distinguished soldier, who had been consul three years before. He snatched up his weapons and ran to call the rest to arms, and while the rest hung back he struck with the boss of his shield a Gaul who had got a foothold on the summit and knocked him down. He fell on those behind and upset them, and Manlius slew others who had laid aside their weapons and were clinging to the rocks with their hands. By this time others had joined him, and they began to dislodge the enemy with volleys of stones and javelins till the whole body fell helplessly down to the bottom. When the uproar had died away, the remainder of the night was given to sleep, as far as was possible under such disturbing circumstances, whilst their peril, though past, still made them anxious.
At daybreak the soldiers were summoned by sound of trumpet to a council in the presence of the tribunes, when the due rewards for good conduct and for bad would be awarded. First, Manlius was commended for his bravery, and rewarded not by the tribunes alone but by the soldiers as a body, for every man brought to him at his quarters, which were in the Citadel, half a pound of meal and a quarter of a pint of wine. This does not sound much, but the scarcity made it an overwhelming proof of the affection felt for him, since each stinted himself of food and contributed in honour of that one man what had to be taken from his necessaries of life. Next, the sentinels who had been on duty at the spot where the enemy had climbed up without their noticing it were called forward. Q. Sulpicius, the consular tribune, declared that he should punish them all by martial law. He was, however, deterred from this course by the shouts of the soldiers, who all agreed in throwing the blame upon one man. As there was no doubt of his guilt, he was amidst general approval flung from the top of the cliff. A stricter watch was now kept on both sides; by the Gauls because it had become known that messengers were passing between Rome and Veii; by the Romans, who had not forgotten the danger they were in that night.
[5.48]But the greatest of all the evils arising from the siege and the war was the famine which began to afflict both armies, whilst the Gauls were also visited with pestilence. They had their camp on low-lying ground between the hills, which had been scorched by the fires and was full of malaria, and the least breath of wind raised not dust only but ashes. Accustomed as a nation to wet and cold, they could not stand this at all, and tortured as they were by heat and suffocation, disease became rife among them, and they died off like sheep. They soon grew weary of burying their dead singly, so they piled the bodies into heaps and burned them indiscriminately, and made the locality notorious; it was afterwards known as the Busta Gallica. Subsequently a truce was made with the Romans, and with the sanction of the commanders, the soldiers held conversations with each other. The Gauls were continually bringing up the famine and calling upon them to yield to necessity and surrender. To remove this impression it is said that bread was thrown in many places from the Capitol into the enemies' pickets. But soon the famine could neither be concealed nor endured any longer. So, at the very time that the Dictator was raising his own levy at Ardea, and ordering his Master of the Horse, L. Valerius, to withdraw his army from Veii, and making preparations for a sufficient force with which to attack the enemy on equal terms, the army of the Capitol, worn out with incessant duty, but still superior to all human ills, had nature not made famine alone insuperable by them, were day by day eagerly watching for signs of any help from the Dictator. At last not only food but hope failed them. Whenever the sentinels went on duty, their feeble frames almost crushed by the weight of their armour, the army insisted that they should either surrender or purchase their ransom on the best terms they could, for the Gauls were throwing out unmistakable hints that they could be induced to abandon the siege for a moderate consideration. A meeting of the senate was now held, and the consular tribunes were empowered to make terms. A conference took place between Q. Sulpicius, the consular tribune, and Brennus, the Gaulish chieftain, and an agreement was arrived at by which 1000 lbs. of gold was fixed as the ransom of a people destined ere long to rule the world. This humiliation was great enough as it was, but it was aggravated by the despicable meanness of the Gauls, who produced unjust weights, and when the tribune protested, the insolent Gaul threw his sword into the scale, with an exclamation intolerable to Roman ears, "Woe to the vanquished!"
[5.49]But gods and men alike prevented the Romans from living as a ransomed people. By a dispensation of Fortune it came about that before the infamous ransom was completed and all the gold weighed out, whilst the dispute was still going on, the Dictator appeared on the scene and ordered the gold to be carried away and the Gauls to move off. As they declined to do so, and protested that a definite compact had been made, he informed them that when he was once appointed Dictator no compact was valid which was made by an inferior magistrate without his sanction. He then warned the Gauls to prepare for battle, and ordered his men to pile their baggage into a heap, get their weapons ready, and win their country back by steel, not by gold. They must keep before their eyes the temples of the gods, their wives and children, and their country's soil, disfigured by the ravages of war - everything, in a word, which it was their duty to defend, to recover or to avenge. He then drew up his men in the best formation that the nature of the ground, naturally uneven and now half burnt, admitted, and made every provision that his military skill suggested for securing the advantage of position and movement for his men. The Gauls, alarmed at the turn things had taken, seized their weapons and rushed upon the Romans with more rage than method. Fortune had now turned, divine aid and human skill were on the side of Rome. At the very first encounter the Gauls were routed as easily as they had conquered at the Alia. In a second and more sustained battle at the eighth milestone on the road to Gabii, where they had rallied from their flight, they were again defeated under the generalship and auspices of Camillus. Here the carnage was complete; the camp was taken, and not a single man was left to carry tidings of the disaster. After thus recovering his country from the enemy, the Dictator returned in triumph to the City, and amongst the homely jests which soldiers are wont to bandy, he was called in no idle words of praise, "A Romulus," "The Father of his country," "The Second Founder of the City." He had saved his country in war, and now that peace was restored, he proved, beyond all doubt, to be its saviour again, when he prevented the migration to Veii. The tribunes of the plebs were urging this course more strongly than ever now that the City was burnt, and the plebs were themselves more in favour of it. This movement and the pressing appeal which the senate made to him not to abandon the republic while the position of affairs was so doubtful, determined him not to lay down his dictatorship after his triumph.
[5.50]As he was most scrupulous in discharging religious obligations, the very first measures he introduced into the senate were those relating to the immortal gods. He got the senate to pass a resolution containing the following provisions: All the temples, so far as they had been in possession of the enemy, were to be restored and purified, and their boundaries marked out afresh; the ceremonies of purification were to be ascertained from the sacred books by the duumvirs. Friendly relations as between State and State were to be established with the people of Caere, because they had sheltered the sacred treasures of Rome and her priests, and by this kindly act had prevented any interruption to the divine worship. Capitoline Games were to be instituted, because Jupiter Optimus Maximus had protected his dwelling-place and the Citadel of Rome in the time of danger, and the Dictator was to form a college of priests for that object from amongst those who were living on the Capitol and in the Citadel. Mention was also made of offering propitiation for the neglect of the nocturnal Voice which was heard announcing disaster before the war began, and orders were given for a temple to be built in the Nova Via to AIUS LOCUTIUS. The gold which had been rescued from the Gauls and that which during the confusion had been brought from the other temples, had been collected in the temple of Jupiter. As no one remembered what proportion ought to be returned to the other temples, the whole was declared sacred, and ordered to be deposited under the throne of Jupiter. The religious feeling of the citizens had already been shown in the fact that when there was not sufficient gold in the treasury to make up the sum agreed upon with the Gauls, they accepted the contribution of the matrons, to avoid touching that which was sacred. The matrons received public thanks, and the distinction was conferred upon them of having funeral orations pronounced over them as in the case of men. It was not till after those matters were disposed of which concerned the gods, and which therefore were within the province of the senate, that Camillus' attention was drawn to the tribunes, who were making incessant harangues to persuade the plebs to leave the ruins and migrate to Veii, which was ready for them. At last he went up to the Assembly, followed by the whole of the senate, and delivered the following speech: -
[5.51]"So painful to me, Quirites, are controversies with the tribunes of the plebs, that all the time I lived at Ardea my one consolation in my bitter exile was that I was far removed from these conflicts. As far as they are concerned I would never have returned even if you recalled me by a thousand senatorial decrees and popular votes. And now that I am returned, it was not change of mind on my part but change of fortune on yours that compelled me. The question at stake was whether my country was to remain unshaken in her seat, not whether I was to be in my country at any cost. Even now I would gladly remain quiet and hold my peace, if I were not fighting another battle for my country. To be wanting to her, as long as life shall last, would be for other men a disgrace, for Camillus a downright sin. Why did we win her back, why did we, when she was beset by foes, deliver her from their hands, if, now that she is recovered, we desert her? Whilst the Gauls were victorious and the whole of the City in their power, the gods and men of Rome still held, still dwelt in, the Capitol and the Citadel. And now that the Romans are victorious and the City recovered, are the Citadel and Capitol to be abandoned? Shall our good fortune inflict greater desolation on this City than our evil fortune wrought? Even had there been no religious institutions established when the City was founded and passed down from hand to hand, still, so clearly has Providence been working in the affairs of Rome at this time, that I for one would suppose that all neglect of divine worship has been banished from human life. Look at the alternations of prosperity and adversity during these late years; you will find that all went well with us when we followed the divine guidance, and all was disastrous when we neglected it. Take first of all the war with Veii. For what a number of years and with what immense exertions it was carried on! It did not come to an end before the water was drawn off from the Alban Lake at the bidding of the gods. What, again, of this unparalleled disaster to our City? Did it burst upon us before the Voice sent from heaven announcing the approach of the Gauls was treated with contempt, before the law of nations had been outraged by our ambassadors, before we had, in the same irreligious spirit, condoned that outrage when we ought to have punished it? And so it was that, defeated, captured, ransomed, we received such punishment at the hands of gods and men that we were a lesson to the whole world. Then, in our adversity, we bethought us of our religious duties. We fled to the gods in the Capitol, to the seat of Jupiter Optimus Maximus; amidst the ruin of all that we possessed we concealed some of the sacred treasures in the earth, the rest we carried out of the enemies' sight to neighbouring cities; abandoned as we were by gods and men, we still did not intermit the divine worship. It is because we acted thus that they have restored to us our native City, and victory and the renown in war which we had lost; but against the enemy, who, blinded by avarice, broke treaty and troth in the weighing of the gold, they have launched terror and rout and death.
[5.52]"When you see such momentous consequences for human affairs flowing from the worship or the neglect of the gods, do you not realise, Quirites, how great a sin we are meditating whilst hardly yet emerging from the shipwreck caused by our former guilt and fall? We possess a City which was founded with the divine approval as revealed in auguries and auspices; in it there is not a spot which is not full of religious associations and the presence of a god; the regular sacrifices have their appointed places no less than they have their appointed days. Are you, Quirites, going to desert all these gods - those whom the State honours, those whom you worship, each at your own altars? How far does your action come up to that of the glorious youth C. Fabius, during the siege, which was watched by the enemy with no less admiration than by you, when he went down from the Citadel through the missiles of the Gauls and celebrated the appointed sacrifice of his house on the Quirinal? Whilst the sacred rites of the patrician houses are not interrupted even in time of war, are you content to see the State offices of religion and the gods of Rome abandoned in a time of peace? Are the Pontiffs and Flamens to be more neglectful of their public functions than a private individual is of the religious obligations of his house?
"Some one may possibly reply that we can either discharge these duties at Veii or send priests to discharge them here. But neither of these things can be done if the rites are to be duly performed. Not to mention all the ceremonies or all the deities individually, where else, I would ask, but in the Capitol can the couch of Jupiter be prepared on the day of his festal banquet? What need is there for me to speak about the perpetual fire of Vesta, and the Image - the pledge of our dominion - which is in the safe keeping of her temple? And you, Mars Gradivus, and you, Father Quirinus, what need to speak of your sacred shields? Is it your wish that all these holy things, coeval with the City, some of even greater antiquity, should be abandoned and left on unhallowed soil? See, too, how great the difference between us and our ancestors. They left to us certain rites and ceremonies which we can only duly perform on the Alban Mount or at Lavinium. If it was a matter of religion that these rites should not be transferred from cities which belonged to an enemy to us at Rome, shall we transfer them from here to the enemies' city, Veii, without offending heaven? Call to mind, I pray you, how often ceremonies are repeated, because through negligence or accident some detail of the ancestral ritual has been omitted. What remedy was there for the republic, when crippled by the war with Veii after the portent of the Alban Lake, except the revival of sacred rites and the taking of fresh auspices? And more than that, as though after all we reverenced the ancient faiths, we have transferred foreign deities to Rome, and have established new ones. Queen Juno was lately carried from Veii and dedicated on the Aventine, and how splendidly that day was celebrated through the grand enthusiasm of our matrons! We ordered a temple to be built to Aius Locutius because of the divine Voice which was heard in the Via Nova. We have added to our annual festivals the Capitoline Games, and on the authority of the senate we have founded a college of priests to superintend them. What necessity was there for all these undertakings if we intended to leave the City of Rome at the same time as the Gauls, if it was not of our own free will that we remained in the Capitol through all those months, but the fear of the enemy which shut us up there?
"We are speaking about the temples and the sacred rites and ceremonies. But what, pray, about the priests? Do you not realise what a heinous sin will be committed? For the Vestals surely there is only that one abode, from which nothing has ever removed them but the capture of the City. The Flamen of Jupiter is forbidden by divine law to stay a single night outside the City. Are you going to make these functionaries priests of Veii instead of priests of Rome? Will thy Vestals desert thee, Vesta ? Is the Flamen to bring fresh guilt upon himself and the State for every night he sojourns abroad? Think of the other proceedings which, after the auspices have been duly taken, we conduct almost entirely within the City boundaries - to what oblivion, to what neglect are we consigning them! The Assembly of the Curies, which confers the supreme command, the Assembly of the Centuries, in which you elect the consuls and consular tribunes - where can they be held and the auspices taken except where they are wont to be held? Shall we transfer these to Veii, or are the people, when an Assembly is to be held, to meet at vast inconvenience in this City after it has been deserted by gods and men?
[5.53]"But, you may say, it is obvious that the whole City is polluted, and no expiatory sacrifices can purify it; circumstances themselves compel us to quit a City devastated by fire, and all in ruins, and migrate to Veii where everything is untouched. We must not distress the poverty-stricken plebs by building here. I fancy, however, Quirites, that it is evident to you, without my telling you, that this suggestion is a plausible excuse rather than a true reason. You remember how this same question of migrating to Veii was mooted before the Gauls came, whilst public and private buildings were still safe and the City stood secure. And mark you, tribunes, how widely my view differs from yours. Even supposing it ought not to have been done then, you think that at any rate it ought to be done now, whereas - do not express surprise at what I say before you have grasped its purport - I am of opinion that even had it been right to migrate then when the City was wholly unhurt, we ought not to abandon these ruins now. For at that time the reason for our migrating to a captured city would have been a victory glorious for us and for our posterity, but now this migration would be glorious for the Gauls, but for us shame and bitterness. For we shall be thought not to have left our native City as victors, but to have lost it because we were vanquished; it will look as though it was the flight at the Alia, the capture of the City, the beleaguering of the Capitol, which had laid upon us the necessity of deserting our household gods and dooming ourselves to banishment from a place which we were powerless to defend. Was it possible for Gauls to overthrow Rome and shall it be deemed impossible for Romans to restore it?
"What more remains except for them to come again with fresh forces - we all know that their numbers surpass belief - and elect to live in this City which they captured, and you abandoned, and for you to allow them to do so? Why, if it were not Gauls who were doing this, but your old enemies, the Aequi and Volscians, who migrated to Rome, would you wish them to be Romans and you Veientines? Or would you rather that this were a desert of your own than the city of your foes? I do not see what could be more infamous. Are you prepared to allow this crime and endure this disgrace because of the trouble of building? If no better or more spacious dwelling could be put up in the whole City of Rome than that hut of our Founder, would it not be better to live in huts after the manner of herdsmen and peasants, surrounded by our temples and our gods, than to go forth as a nation of exiles? Our ancestors, shepherds and refugees, built a new City in a few years, when there was nothing in these parts but forests and swamps; are we shirking the labour of rebuilding what has been burnt, though the Citadel and Capitol are intact, and the temples of the gods still stand? What we would each have done in our own case, had our houses caught fire, are we as a community refusing to do now that the City has been burnt?
[5.54]"Well now, suppose that either through crime or accident a fire broke out in Veii, and the flames, as is quite possible, fanned by the wind, consumed a great part of the city, are we going to look out for Fidenae or Gabii, or any other city you please, as a place to which to migrate? Has our native soil, this land we call our motherland, so slight a hold upon us? Does our love for our country cling only to its buildings? Unpleasant as it is to recall my sufferings, still more your injustice, I will nevertheless confess to you that whenever I thought of my native City all these things came into my mind - the hills, the plains, the Tiber, this landscape so familiar to me, this sky beneath which I was born and bred - and I pray that they may now move you by the affection they inspire to remain in your City, rather than that, after you have abandoned it, they should make you pine with home-sickness. Not without good reason did gods and men choose this spot as the site of a City, with its bracing hills, its commodious river, by means of which the produce of inland countries may be brought down and over-sea supplies obtained; a sea near enough for all useful purposes, but not so near as to be exposed to danger from foreign fleets; a district in the very centre of Italy - in a word, a position singularly adapted by nature for the expansion of a city. The mere size of so young a City is a proof of this. This is the 365th year of the City, Quirites, yet in all the wars you have for so long been carrying on amongst all those ancient nations - not to mention the separate cities - the Volscians in conjunction with the Aequi and all their strongly fortified towns, the whole of Etruria, so powerful by land and sea, and stretching across Italy from sea to sea - none have proved a match for you in war. This has hitherto been your Fortune; what sense can there be - perish the thought! - in making trial of another Fortune? Even granting that your valour can pass over to another spot, certainly the good Fortune of this place cannot be transferred. Here is the Capitol where in the old days a human head was found, and this was declared to be an omen, for in that place would be fixed the head and supreme sovereign power of the world. Here it was that whilst the Capitol was being cleared with augural rites, Juventas and Terminus, to the great delight of your fathers, would not allow themselves to be moved. Here is the Fire of Vesta; here are the Shields sent down from heaven; here are all the gods, who, if you remain, will be gracious to you."
[5.55]It is stated that this speech of Camillus made a profound impression, particularly that part of it which appealed to the religious feelings. But whilst the issue was still uncertain, a sentence, opportunely uttered, decided the matter. The senate, shortly afterwards, were discussing the question in the Curia Hostilia, and some cohorts returning from guard happened to be marching through the Forum. They had just entered the Comitium, when the centurion shouted, "Halt, standard-bearer! Plant the standard; it will be best for us to stop here." On hearing these words, the senators rushed out of the Senate-house, exclaiming that they welcomed the omen, and the people crowding round them gave an emphatic approval. The proposed measure for migration was dropped, and they began to rebuild the City in a haphazard way. Tiling was provided at the public expense; every one was given the right to cut stone and timber where he pleased, after giving security that the building should be completed within the year. In their haste, they took no trouble to plan out straight streets; as all distinctions of ownership in the soil were lost, they built on any ground that happened to be vacant. That is the reason why the old sewers, which originally were carried under public ground, now run everywhere under private houses, and why the conformation of the City resembles one casually built upon by settlers rather than one regularly planned out.
End of Book 5
Copyright (c) 1996 by Bruce J. Butterfield.
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