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The Story of Rome by  Mary Macgregor


 

 

CAMILLUS SETS THE CAMP OF THE VOLSCIANS ON FIRE

[109] WHILE Rome was still at work repairing the damage which the Gauls had inflicted on her city, the Volscians encamped within twenty miles of her gates. They hoped to attack the city while she was unprepared for war.

But an army at once set out to meet the enemy. Before the Romans were aware, however, their camp was surrounded by the Volscians, and they were unable either to fight or to retire.

Camillus, who had again been appointed Dictator, summoned every Roman who could bear arms to follow him. He then marched to within a short distance of the camp of the Volscians. Here he ordered fires to be lighted, that the imprisoned army might know that help was at hand.

But the Volscians saw the fires as well as the Romans, and at once began to strengthen their camp with a strong barricade, made out of the trunks of trees.

Then, knowing that their numbers would soon be reinforced, they were satisfied that the enemy could do them no harm.

But Camillus did not mean to wait until their allies joined them. He determined at once to set fire to the wooden barricade that the Volscians had built around their camp.

Ordering part of his force to attack the camp on one side, the Dictator withdrew the rest of the army to that side of the camp from which the wind blew. He then bade the soldiers fling lighted torches in among the wooden defences.

[110] The flames, blown by the wind, quickly spread from stake to stake until they reached the camp itself.

There was no water at hand to quench the fire, and the Volscians were soon driven from their tents, to find themselves in the hands of the Romans, who cut them down without mercy.

Camillus then ordered the flames to be put out, that the soldiers might pillage what was still unconsumed by the fire.

Leaving his son to guard the prisoners, the Dictator was soon marching to Sutrium, which town was besieged by the Etruscans.

But before Camillus reached the city, he met a pitiful band of men, women and children, who had already been banished from the town by the victorious enemy.

Their homes were plundered, their treasures were in the enemy's hands. With nothing left, save only the clothes they wore, they were wandering through the country in search of shelter.

Camillus was grieved for the misery of these poor folk. When he saw that his soldiers also pitied them, he determined still to go to the city, that he might wrest it once again from the Etruscans, and restore the Sutrians to their homes.

He foresaw that the victorious soldiers would be feasting, that the gates would be unguarded.

And so it was. Camillus had no difficulty in seizing the gates and manning the walls of Sutrium. Then he ordered his soldiers to fall upon the merrymakers, who were celebrating their victory with song and feast. Many of the Etruscans surrendered, while others waited like cowards to be slain. Sutrium was thus taken twice in one day.


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