|The Story of the Romans|
|by Helene A. Guerber|
| Elementary history of Rome, presenting short stories of the great heroes, mythical and historical, from Aeneas and the founding of Rome to the fall of the western empire. Around the famous characters of Rome are graphically grouped the great events with which their names will forever stand connected. Vivid descriptions bring to life the events narrated, making history attractive to the young, and awakening their enthusiasm for further reading and study. Ages 10-14 |
THE SACRED GEESE
 ROME was all destroyed except the Capitol, where the little
army was intrenched behind the massive
walls which had been built with such care by Tarquin.
This fortress, as you may remember, was situated on the
top of the Capitoline hill, so that the Gauls could not
easily become masters of it.
Whenever they tried to scale the steep mountain side,
the Romans showered arrows and stones down upon them;
and day after day the Gauls remained in their camp at
the foot of the Capitol, hoping to starve the Romans
The garrison understood that this was the plan which
Brennus had made; so, to convince him that it was vain,
they threw loaves of bread down into his camp. When the
chief of the Gauls saw these strange missiles, he began
to doubt the success of his plan; for if the Romans
 use bread as stones, they were still far from the point
of dying of hunger.
One night, however, a sentinel in the Gallic camp saw
a barefooted Roman soldier climbing noiselessly down
the steep rock on which the Capitol was built. The man
had gone to carry a message to the fugitives from Rome,
asking them to come to the army's relief.
The sentinel at once reported to Brennus what he had
seen; and the Gallic chief resolved to make a bold
attempt to surprise the Romans on the next night. While
the weary garrison were sound asleep, the Gauls
silently scaled the rocks, following the course which
the Roman soldier
had taken in coming down.
The barbarians were just climbing over the wall, when
an accidental clanking of their armor awoke the sacred
geese which were kept in the Capitol. The startled
fowls began cackling so loudly that they roused a Roman
soldier named Manlius.
As this man glanced toward the wall, he saw the tall
form of a barbarian looming up against the sky. To
spring forward, and hurl the Gaul down headlong, was
but the work of a moment. The man, in falling, struck
his companions, whose foothold was anything but
secure, and all the Gauls rolled to the foot of the
rock, as Manlius gave the alarm.
All hope of surprising the Capitol was now at an end,
so Brennus offered to leave Rome, on condition that the
senate would give him one thousand pounds of gold. This
was a heavy price to pay for a ruined city, but the
Romans agreed to give it.
When they brought the precious metal and began to
 weigh it, they found that the barbarians had placed
false weights in the scales, so as to obtain more gold
than they were entitled to receive. The Romans
complained; but Brennus, instead of listening to them,
flung his sword also into the scales, saying,
scornfully, "Woe to the vanquished!"
While the Romans stood there hesitating, not knowing
what to do, the exiled Camillus entered the city with
an army, and came to their aid. When he heard the
insolent demands of the barbarians, he bade the
senators take back the gold, and proudly exclaimed:
"Rome ransoms itself with the sword, and not with
Next, he challenged Brennus to fight, and a battle
soon took place in which the Gauls were defeated with
great slaughter, and driven out of the country. As soon
as they were fairly gone, the fugitive Romans began to
return, and many were the laments when they beheld
their ruined homes.
Instead of wasting time in useless tears, however,
they soon set to work to rebuild their dwellings from
the stones found in the ruins; and as each citizen
placed his house wherever he pleased, the result was
very irregular and unsightly.
Manlius, the soldier who saved the Capitol from the
barbarians, was rewarded by being given the surname of
Capitolinus, and a house and pension. He was so
proud of these honors, however, that he soon wanted to
become king of Rome. He formed a plot to obtain
the city, but this was discovered before it could be
 Manlius Capitolinus was therefore accused of treachery,
and arrested. He was tried, found guilty, and sentenced
to death. Like any other traitor, he was flung from
the top of the Tarpeian Rock, and thus he perished at
the foot of the mountain which he had once saved from
the assault of the Gauls.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics