|The Story of Rome|
|by Mary Macgregor|
|A vivid account of the story of Rome from the earliest times to the death of Augustus, retold for children, chronicling the birth of a city and its growth through storm and struggle to become a great world empire. Gives short accounts of battles and campaigns, and of the men who expanded the borders of the Roman empire to include all lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Ages 10-14 |
THE BATTLE ON THE BANKS OF THE ANIO
 THE battle on the banks of the Anio took place when
Camillus was no longer young, and when he was attacked
Yet the Senate, anxious to have his help, would not
listen as he pleaded that he was unable for the duties
of a tribune.
But when war broke out with the Volscians and the
Prænestines, it sent another tribune with Camillus,
to lead the army, so that the old man's strength might
be spared. Lucius Furius was the name of the tribune
who accompanied Camillus.
The two tribunes encamped near the enemy, Camillus
hoping to avoid battle until he was stronger.
But Lucius wished to win glory on the field, and was
impatient to fight.
The old warrior, too generous to thwart the young
tribune, agreed that he should lead the army to the
field; yet he feared that the rashness of Lucius might
lead to defeat.
Owing to his feeble health, Camillus himself stayed in
the camp, with only a small company of soldiers. But
he could see all that was happening on the battlefield.
As he had feared, Lucius proved too rash a leader, and
the Roman army was soon in dire confusion and flying
toward the camp.
Such a sight was more than the brave old warrior could
endure. Leaping from his couch, he bade those who were
near to follow him.
Then as the fugitives saw their old general, who had so
 often led them to victory, forcing his way toward the
enemy, shame stayed their flight.
Swiftly they rallied, and turning, followed Camillus,
so that the Volscians and the Prænestines were in
their turn forced to flee.
The next day Camillus led the whole army against the
foe, and fought so fiercely that before long the enemy
was in full retreat. Many of the fugitives sought
refuge in their camp. But the Romans followed, and
driving them from the shelter of the tents, put them to
Then, having won these three victories, Camillus
returned in triumph to Rome, carrying with him much
But the old warrior was not yet to be allowed to rest.
In 381 B.C. war broke out in Tusculum,
which town had long been faithful to Rome, and Camillus
was sent to put down the rebellion. He was told to
choose one of his five colleagues to help him.
Each tribune longed for the glory of accompanying
Camillus, but his choice fell upon Lucius, who had so
nearly lost a battle in the last war. Perhaps the
great general wished to give the tribune a chance to
retrieve his mistake.
When the Tusculans heard that Camillus was approaching
their gates with a large army, they speedily repented
of their rebellion and laid down their arms.
Ploughmen hastened back to their fields, shepherds to
their sheep. Tradesmen, too, were soon again busy in
their workshops, children were in their places at
school, while the well-to-do citizens walked about the
streets in their usual dress, unarmed.
When the tribunes arrived at Tusculum, they were
welcomed by the magistrates with every sign of
pleasure, and entertained as hospitably as though they
were eagerly expected guests.
Camillus was too wise to be deceived by these simple
folk, yet seeing their penitence, he was sorry for
So, instead of punishing them, he merely bade them
 send ambassadors to the Senate to beg for forgiveness,
promising himself to speak on their behalf.
The Senate proved merciful. For the city was forgiven,
and her inhabitants were made Roman citizens.
About five years later, in 376 B.C.,
the Latins were defeated so severely by the Romans,
that they were glad to enter into alliance with their
conquerors. Then for nearly ten years Rome enjoyed
greater peace than had been her lot for long. It was
during these years that Licinius made the laws of which
I have told you.
But in 367 B.C., the Gauls, who were
still dreaded by the Romans, marched with a large army
toward Rome, laying waste the country through which
Camillus, although now eighty years of age, was again
Before leading his army against the dreaded foe, the
Dictator ordered smooth and polished helmets of iron to
be made. In other days he had seen that the swords of
the Gauls swept down with relentless force on the heads
and shoulders of the Romans. Now he hoped that their
blows would glance off the smooth surface of the iron
helmets, or be broken.
The Roman shields, too, were made of wood, but Camillus
ordered their rims to be strengthened with bands of
With his army thus equipped, the Dictator felt that
victory was secure.
The Gauls, already laden with the plunder that they had
taken on their march, were encamped near the river
Within sight of the camp was a hill with hollows,
behind which it would be easy to hide from the enemy.
To this hill Camillus led his men, carefully concealing
the larger number of them behind these hollows so that
from the Gallic camp the Roman soldiers seemed but a
The Gauls were indeed completely deceived. It seemed
to them that the Romans did not mean to attack them;
that they had fled for safety to the hills.
 Camillus, wishing to lure the Gauls into danger, never
stirred, even when the enemy ventured close to his
trenches in search of plunder.
Soon, careless of the enemy, the barbarians scattered
over the country in search of forage, while those left
in the camp spent day and night in song and feast.
Then the Dictator knew that the time for action had
He sent a small company of his men to harass the enemy,
while early the following morning he marched with his
whole army to the foot of the hill.
The barbarians were dismayed when they saw so great a
host in battle array, and before they could form into
their proper ranks the enemy was upon them.
Shouting their wild battle-cries, the Gauls then drew
their swords and fought with fury. But their swords
were soon twisted or broken, as they slid off the
polished helmets worn by the Roman soldiers. To
complete their discomfort, the javelins which Camillus
now bade his soldiers throw at the enemy's shields,
stuck fast in them, until they grew too heavy to wield.
As their swords were useless, the Gauls sought to pull
the javelins out of their shields, that they might use
the Romans' weapons against the enemy.
But Camillus saw what they meant to do, and ordered his
men to advance swiftly, and cut the Gauls to pieces
before they could carry out their plan. The foremost
were speedily hewn down, while those who could fled
over the plains, for the hills were already held by the
So sure of victory had the Gauls been, that they had
left their camp unguarded, and it too was soon
Thirteen years before, the defeat at Allia and the sack
of Rome had filled the Romans with a superstitious fear
of the fierce Gallic warriors.
The battle now won by the banks of the river Anio for
ever put an end to their dread of the barbarians.
Camillus returned once more in triumph to Rome, to
 find yet another service he could do for the country he
had served so loyally and loved so well.
Civil war was on the point of breaking out, for the
people, acting according to one of the Licinian laws,
had chosen Sextus, a plebeian, to be Consul.
The Senate and patricians were not at all ready to
carry out this law. Indeed, it seemed that they would
rather fight than let the people have their will. As
the plebeians refused to give up their new-won
privilege, the city was in an uproar.
But Camillus had great influence with the Senate, and
he persuaded it to yield to the just demand of the
people. So the angry passions of the patricians and
the plebeians were allayed, and Sextus became the first
In the following year, 366 B.C., a
pestilence swept over Italy, and in Rome, among many
who perished was the brave old soldier Camillus.
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