|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 |
CAMILLUS CAPTURES THE CITY OF VEII
 WHEN Rome was in danger, the people, as you know, were
called from their homes, their shops, and their fields
to fight for their country. If the army was sent to
besiege a town, it was one which could be taken in a
short time, so that the soldiers were soon free to go
home to plough their fields and tend their shops.
These soldier citizens received no wages for fighting
for their country. They were but doing their duty in
defending her or in adding to her dominions.
But the Romans were now growing ambitious to win
greater glory by their conquests than they had yet
done. To do this they knew that they must have a
regular army that could stay in the field as long as
was necessary. This army, too, would have to be paid
by the State. It was, partly, at least, through the
influence of Camillus, who was soon to be made
Dictator, that a standing army was raised. Under him
the army began to grow in power, nor did it cease to
grow until at length it was able to control Senate and
In 406 B.C. the Romans began their more
ambitious wars by besieging a beautiful city called
Veii. Veii was in Etruria, about ten miles north of
For many years the inhabitants of this city had made
raids along the borders of Rome, plundering and burning
the countryside, until the people fled from their homes
at the slightest rumour of their approach.
To destroy Veii was the only way to put an end to these
 constant and irritating border raids, and the siege was
The town was built on the summit of a steep rock, three
sides of which it was impossible to scale, and she was
strongly fortified. Her population was larger and
richer than that of Rome, while her buildings were
grander and more beautiful.
Camillus was made Dictator during the siege, which
lasted for ten long years.
I need not tell you of all that happened in the course
of these ten years, but of the taking of the city many
legends are told. Here is one of them.
It was autumn, and many of the lakes and brooks were
dry, for little rain had fallen during the summer. But
in the Lake of Alba the water began to rise in a
strange, mysterious way.
First it rose to the foot of the mountains which
encircled the lake, and that was wonderful enough, but
when the water reached the summit of the mountains that
was marvellous indeed.
No waves disturbed the peace of the lake, but by and by
the sheer weight of the water broke down part of the
surrounding mountains, which had acted as a dam.
Then a great flood of water spread over fields and
groves, and the Romans whispered to one another, "It is
a sign from the gods," yet no one could tell what the
sign might portend.
In the camp before Veii and in the city itself every
one talked of the strange omen.
One day a Roman soldier talked with a Veian soldier,
who was said to know the meaning of omens.
It was plain that the Veian did not think that the omen
boded ill to his city, but the Roman did not find it
easy to find out all that the other knew. Until he had
done so, he determined not to let him go.
So, telling the Veian stories about his own country, he
drew the wise man unaware farther and farther from the
 gates of Veii. As they drew near to the Roman camp,
the soldier, who was tall and strong, seized the Veian
in his arms and carried him before his captain. Before
long the captive had been persuaded to tell all he
"The city of Veii shall never be taken," said the wise
man, "until the waters of the Lake of Alba are dried
It seemed to the Romans that the soothsayer should be
sent to the Senate, that it might hear for itself what
he had to say.
But when the Senate had listened to the Veian's words
it was still uncertain what to do; so it sent
messengers to the oracle of Delphi, which was the
highest authority it knew. The oracle sent back a
plain message. "Shut up the water of the lake in its
ancient bounds, and keep it from flowing into the sea";
and the Romans at once began to carry out its
Channels were dug, and soon, with the help of great
engineering works, the water of the lake was carried
away to irrigate the plain.
Meanwhile, Camillus, finding that he would never be
able to take Veii by storm, ordered underground
passages to be made between his camp and the centre of
the city. So secretly were the tunnels dug that the
enemy never dreamed what was going on beneath their
streets and temples.
At length the passage was complete, and Camillus led a
picked band of soldiers along the tunnel, until they
stood beneath the temple of Juno, the goddess of Veii.
While the Dictator was stealing underground with his
followers, the walls of the city were being once again
The Veians, still ignorant of the mine beneath their
feet, rushed to defend their walls against the enemy.
As the conflict raged, the King of Veii hastened to the
temple of Juno to offer sacrifices, and to beseech the
goddess to grant him victory.
 "The victory will be won by him who lays the sacrifice
on the altar," cried the priest who stood by the side
of the king.
Camillus, who was just beneath the altar, heard the
priest's words. Instantly he broke through the floor
of the temple and entered the sacred building with his
followers, who shouted and waved their weapons above
The Veians fled from the temple in dismay, while
Camillus hastened to seize the sacrifice and fling it
upon the altar.
Then, knowing that victory was assured, the band of
Roman soldiers rushed to the gates of the city and
flung them wide that their comrades might enter.
A little later, and the Veians were overwhelmed, and
Veii was at length in the hands of the Romans.
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