| Famous Men of Rome|
|by John H. Haaren|
|Attractive biographical sketches of twenty-eight of the most prominent characters in the history of ancient Rome, from its founding to its fall. Includes most of the best known characters from the kingdom and republic of Rome, as well as the most prominent personages from the imperial age. Each story is told in a clear, simple manner, and is well calculated to awaken and stimulate the youthful imagination. Ages 9-12 |
 ABOUT three hundred and eighty years before the birth of Christ the Romans
had another war with the Veientians. During this war they tried to take the
rich city of Veii, which was about twelve miles from Rome. But there was a
great wall of stone all around the city, and the gates, which were of brass,
were very high and very strong. So the Romans, though they tried as hard as
they could for seven years, were not able to take Veii.
And to make matters worse for them it was reported that twelve Etruscan
cities were going to send armies to help the Veientians. It was also said
that as soon as the twelve armies had driven the Romans away from the walls
of Veii, they would march to Rome and destroy the city.
The Romans were much alarmed by these reports, and they resolved that there
should be a dictator. So the Senate appointed a dictator, and the man
appointed was Marcus
Camillus was one of the greatest men of Rome.
 He belonged to a very rich and powerful family, and he was a great soldier.
When he was made dictator he raised a large army and marched at once to
Veii. He tried a long time to break down the walls or gates, but he could
not do it. Then he thought of the plan of digging a tunnel under the walls.
This seemed a good idea, so Camillus set a great number of his men to work.
Soon they had a tunnel dug under the walls and so far under the city that
they thought they were as far as the great temple of Juno, which was in the
fort or strongest part of Veii. Here they stopped to consider what next to
do. Suddenly the sound of voices, as of people talking in the temple above
them, reached their ears. So they sent for Camillus, and when he came he
listened to the voices.
Now it happened that at that moment the king of Veii was in the temple
preparing to offer an ox as a sacrifice to Juno and praying to the goddess
to save the city from the Romans. The ox was killed and its carcass was
ready to be laid on the altar. After the king had prayed one of the
priests, pretending that he had received an answer from Juno, cried out:
"The goddess declares she will give victory to him who offers this as a
sacrifice upon the altar."
 As soon as Camillus, who was listening all the time, heard these words of
the priest, he ordered his men to break an opening in the earth over their
heads. This was quickly done, and the Romans sprang through into the midst
of the worshipers. They at once seized the carcass of the ox, and Camillus
himself offered it upon the altar to Juno. Then he and his companions
rushed out of the temple and opened the gates of the city before the
astonished and frightened people knew what was being done.
As soon as the gates were opened the Roman soldiers poured in by thousands.
The Veientians fought bravely, but they were quickly defeated, and their
great and rich city was at last in the hands of the Romans.
In those times, as has already been said, it was the custom to divide among
the victorious soldiers the valuable things taken from a defeated enemy.
The riches of Veii were, therefore, divided among the Roman soldiers, and
there were so many precious things—gold and silver and jewelry—that the men
were quite rich when each got his share.
SOME time after the taking of Veii the Romans were at war with the
Faliscians, another people
 of Etruria, and Camillus went with an army to besiege their chief town,
which was called Falerii. He made his camp in front of the walls,
stationed soldiers all round and tried hard to take the town. But the
Faliscians were very strong and brave, and they defended their town so well
that Camillus began to be afraid he would not be able to take it at all.
Now there was at that time in Falerii a schoolmaster who taught the sons of
the chief citizens of the town. This schoolmaster used to take his boys
every day for a walk outside the walls. One day he led them within the
lines of the Roman army and brought them into the camp of Camillus.
Camillus was surprised at seeing the boys. He asked the schoolmaster who
they were and why he had brought them there. The schoolmaster told who the
boys were and then said:
 "I bring them here to give them up to you. In doing this I give you up the
city, for their fathers will surrender the city to you in order to get back
Camillus stood for a moment in silence, gazing at the traitor with a look of
disgust. Then in an angry voice he cried out:
"Villain, we Romans are not so base as you are. We do not make war upon
children, but upon men who do us wrong."
He then ordered some of his soldiers to tie the schoolmaster's hands behind
his back and to give each of the boys a rod, telling them to scourge the
traitor before them into the city. This the boys did with a hearty
good-will. They whipped the unworthy schoolmaster into Falerii, and when
the people saw the sight and heard of the noble conduct of Camillus, they
resolved not to fight any more against so good a man. So they sent
ambassadors to Rome to make peace, and the Romans and Faliscians became good
NOT long after this time one of the tribunes brought a charge against
Camillus that he had kept for his own use more than his fair share of the
 spoils of Veii. Some valuable things were noticed in his house, and it was
said that he had not got them as part of his share. It was believed,
therefore, that he had taken them secretly from Veii.
The Romans were very particular upon this point. They had strict laws for
the division of spoils obtained in war, and no one was permitted to take
more than he was entitled to, according to his rank in the army.
Camillus was summoned to appear in the people's court to answer the charge
made against him. But he would not humble himself so much as to go before
the plebeians to be tried. He preferred rather to leave Rome forever. So
the great Camillus departed from his native city, intending never to return.
As he passed out of the gates he prayed to the gods that some dreadful
thing might happen to the Romans, so that they would be forced to call him
back again to Rome to save the city.
And very soon something did happen which compelled the Romans to ask for the
help of Camillus. For a long time a people called the Gauls had been doing
a great deal of mischief in some parts of Italy. These people came from the
country now known as France, which in ancient times was called Gaul.
Thousands of them made their way across the high mountains called the Alps
and settled on the plains
 of northern Italy. For many years they lived in this region. Then they
heard that further south the country was very beautiful and was rich in corn
and cattle, so they started out in great numbers to conquer it.
They were a strange, savage people, very different from the Romans or the
Etruscans. They were very tall and strong and had long, shaggy black hair
and dark, fierce faces, so that they appeared very terrible to the Italians.
In battle they showed all their savage nature. They rushed furiously at
their enemies, yelling at the top of their voices, flourishing enormous
swords, and blowing trumpets.
The chief or king of the Gauls at this time was called Brennus. He was a
man of great strength and size. He wore a golden collar around his neck,
and on his arms, which were bare, he sometimes wore bracelets of gold.
The Gauls found the southern lands very much to their liking. They robbed
farms, attacked some of the Etruscan cities, and then, after a short time,
they marched for Rome. A great Roman army went out to fight them, and the
two armies met on the banks of a river called the Allia.
The Roman soldiers had never before seen the dreadful Gauls. They were,
therefore, greatly terrified when the tall, fierce-looking savages came
run-  ning over the plains in vast numbers, shouting furiously and blowing their
trumpets. And though the Roman general, Marcus Manlius, tried to make his
men go forward bravely to meet the Gauls it was useless. They fought badly
and were killed by thousands. At last they ran from the field and fled
WHEN the defeated soldiers reached Rome and told what had happened, there
was great terror in the city. Most of the people bundled up their household
goods and fled to hiding-places in the mountains close by, where they thought
they would be safe from the Gauls.
But many of the senators and other brave men, both nobles and plebeians,
instead of running away from the city went up to the Capitol, fastened the
gates, and made ready for a siege. The Capitol was the most sacred part of
the city. It contained splendid statues of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, and,
as you know, the famous Sibylline Books.
Some old men who had been consuls resolved to remain in the city and wait
for the Gauls to come. They thought that if the Gauls should kill them they
would then be satisfied and would spare
 the city. So the patriotic old men dressed themselves in their finest robes
and sat in chairs in the Forum, each with an ivory staff in his right hand.
When the Gauls reached the city there was no one to oppose them. They
marched on to the Forum and found the old men, with long white beards,
sitting in their chairs, so still that they looked like statues. A Gaul
went up to one of them and pulled his beard to see if he were a living
person. Instantly the old man raised his staff and struck the barbarian in
the face. The Gauls then fell upon the patriots and killed them. Then they
began to plunder.
THE ROMAN AND THE GAUL
After destroying the greater part of the city the Gauls turned their
attention to the Capitol. The rock on which it was built was high and
 Brennus led his soldiers up the hill, but the Romans in the Capitol rushed
down the narrow road and after a few minutes of brave fighting drove them
back. The Gauls made another attempt, but it was no more successful than
Brennus saw that the Romans could not be driven from the Capitol. He
therefore decided to starve them out. He put a strong guard at the
entrance, so that the Romans could not come out to get food. For weeks the
Capitol was thus besieged, but its faithful defenders held out manfully.
Meanwhile the people who had fled from Rome took courage again. They
gathered at the city of Veii and organized a strong army to fight the Gauls.
But they wanted a commander, and then they thought of Camillus. All
agreed that he would be the right man to be their general. So they resolved
to send for him, but first they thought they must have the approval of the
Senate. Here was a difficulty. How could a messenger get to the Senate
while the Gauls were around the Capitol? This puzzled them for a good
while, but at last a young man named Pontius Cominius volunteered to
carry a message to the Capitol.
So on a very dark night Pontius left Veii and swam down the Tiber until he
reached the Capitoline Hill. Then he went on shore and crept up
 the hill as far as the great rock. The Gauls had put no guard there, for
they thought no one could climb the rock because it was so steep.
By great efforts Pontius managed to climb up. Several times he was near
falling. But by clinging to the vines and bushes that grew on the rock he
came to the top at last. His countrymen in the Capitol were delighted to
see him. They were also very glad when they heard about the army at Veii,
and the Senate at once approved of the proposal about Camillus. It was
agreed not only to make him general, but to make him dictator. Then
Cominius went down the rock and the hill by the way he had come up and
hastened off to Veii.
THE next day some of the Gauls, while walking along this side of the hill,
noticed footmarks in the soil. They also noticed that bushes, growing high
up on the rock, were crushed and torn. Then they knew that some one had
gone up or come down the cliff, and they resolved to try to go up themselves
So shortly after midnight, when they thought that the Romans would be fast
asleep, a party of
 Gauls began cautiously and silently to clamber up the steep rock. Some
placed their shields across their shoulders for others to stand upon, and in
this way they supported one another, until at last some of them made their
way very near to the top and one got just to the edge of a balcony of the
Capitol. No one within the building heard them, not even the watch-dogs.
But at that moment there was a loud cackling of geese. These birds were
thought to be favorite birds of the goddess Juno. Many were kept in the
Capitol, and some of them happened just then to be at the side the Gauls
were climbing up. The movements of the climbers, quiet though they were,
disturbed the geese and they began to cackle and flap their wings.
THE GEESE OF THE CAPITOL
The noise aroused Marcus Manlius from his sleep. He sprang from his bed,
seized his sword and shield, and ran to the balcony. There he saw a Gaul
climbing on to the parapet and others scrambling up behind. Marcus rushed
upon him, struck him in the face with his shield, and tumbled him headlong
down the rock.
As the Gaul fell he knocked down some of his companions who were climbing
behind him. The geese still kept up their loud cackling, and soon all the
Romans were awakened and came quickly
 to the assistance of Marcus. The Gauls were hurled back as they mounted the
rock, and in a few minutes all who had come up were dashed down the steep
cliff and killed. Thus the Capitol was saved by the cackling of geese. For
his brave action on this occasion Marcus Manlius was honored by being called
BRENNUS now saw that he could not take the Capitol, so he thought it would
be useless to remain any longer in Rome. He therefore offered to go away if
the Senate would give him a thousand pounds of gold. The Senate thought it
better to do this. Food was very scarce in the Capitol and in a few days
the brave men there would have none at all. They had heard nothing further
from the army at Veii and they were not sure that help could come in time to
So the Senate resolved to give the thousand pounds of gold to the Gauls, and
an officer named
Quintus Sulpitius was sent with some lictors to deliver
it to Brennus. But the gold had to be weighed and the Gauls attempted to
cheat the Romans by using false weights. When Sulpitius complained of this,
Brennus took off his sword and
 threw it, belt and all, into one of the scales, and when Sulpitius asked
what that meant Brennus answered:
"What should it mean but woe to the conquered?"
"WOE TO THE CONQUERED"
At that moment Camillus appeared at the gates with his army. He soon
learned what was going on. Quickly he marched to the spot and ordered the
lictors to take the gold out of the scale and carry it back to the Roman
treasury. Then he turned to Brennus and addressing him in a stern voice
"We Romans defend our country, not with gold, but with steel."
Immediately there was a battle, and the Gauls were defeated and driven out
of the city. Next day there was another battle a few miles from Rome, and
the Gauls were again defeated and thousands of them slain.
Camillus then returned to Rome at the head of his victorious army. The
people received him with shouts of joy and for several days they had
celebrations in his honor. They called him the second Romulus, meaning that
he was the second founder of the city. They also called him the
FATHER OF HIS COUNTRY.
 IT was in the time of Camillus that a great hole or chasm, caused perhaps by
an earthquake, suddenly appeared in the ground in the middle of the Forum.
Workmen were sent to fill it up, but no matter how much earth they threw
into it the hole seemed to be as large and deep as before. The Senate then
consulted the augurs and they said the hole could not be filled up until
what was most valuable in Rome was cast into it. Then the people began to
throw in gold and silver and jewelry, but still the hole was as deep as
ever. At last a young man named Curtius said that the most valuable things
the Romans had were their arms and their courage. Then he put on his armor
and his sword and mounting his horse rode into the Forum and leaped into the
great hole. Immediately it closed up behind him, and neither he nor his
horse was ever seen again.
In the old Roman stories Curtius is much praised as a patriot and hero. The
people thought he had saved his country from some great evil, which they
believed would have happened to it if the hole in the Forum had not been
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