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THE ROMANS CONQUER THE GAULS
 THE first Punic war ended in 242 B.C., leaving the
Romans in possession of Sicily, while the second Punic
war did not begin until twenty-three years later.
For a little time Rome was at peace, and in 235 B.C.
the gates of the temple of Janus were closed for the
first time since the reign of the peace-loving King,
But ten years later, the Gauls once again threatened to
invade Rome. They were always foes to be dreaded, and
some of the old superstitious fears, which had
apparently vanished for ever, began once more to spread
among the Roman legions.
Omens of ill too were rife. The Capitol was struck
with lightning, so the Sibylline books were opened, and
behold, it was written, "When the lightning shall
strike the Capitol and the temple of Apollo, then, must
thou, O Roman, beware of the Gauls."
After that the simplest event seemed to the Romans to
forebode evil. And while they brooded over the meaning
of a strange light in the sky or a cloud of curious
aspect, a large Gallic army was marching through
Etruria, upon Clusium, a town only three days' march
from Rome. This was the very way their fathers had
taken long years before.
When the Consuls were absent from Rome, or already
engaged with other matters, prætors were sent to lead
the Romans against the foe.
 In this case it was a prætor who was sent with a
reserve corps to track the enemy. He succeeded in
following the Gauls to Clusium, and believed the enemy
was in his grasp.
But during the night, the main body of the Gauls
slipped quietly out of their camp and marched some
distance off, leaving only the cavalry to guard the
tents. They hoped to entrap the Romans.
The prætor, finding only a small force of cavalry in
the camp, ordered an attack. As the Gallic horse
retreated, the Romans followed, to find themselves,
almost at once, face to face with the whole force of
A fierce struggle followed, in which six thousand
Romans were slain. Those who were left alive
entrenched themselves with the prætor on a hill, and
were at once surrounded by the Gauls.
Meanwhile Æmilius, one of the Consuls, found himself
free to hasten to Clusium with a large army. Here he
heard of the disaster that had befallen the arms of
Rome, and he resolved to restore her fortune.
The prisoners on the hill were soon cheered to see the
watchfires of their comrades, and they were sure that
in the morning the Consul would scatter the barbarians.
But the Gauls had no wish to encounter Æmilius while
they were laden with prisoners and booty. So they
began to march northward, followed by the Consul, who
harassed their rear, and wrested what booty he could
from the retreating-foe.
Suddenly the barbarians were ordered to halt. Their
chiefs had seen another army approaching. If they were
Romans, the Gauls saw that they were caught in a trap.
It was indeed a Roman army that was marching toward
them, led by Regulus, the son of the Consul who had
perished at Carthage. He was on his way to Rome when
he unwittingly startled the Gauls by his appearance.
With an army marching straight toward them and
 another in their rear, there was nothing left for the
Gauls to do save prepare for battle.
One part of the Gallic army continued to face
northward, ready to destroy, as they hoped, the troops
led by Regulus. The other turned to the south, to face
Æmilius, who was eager to attack the warriors. A
short time before it had seemed as though they were
going to escape the punishment he was anxious to
Those who advanced upon Æmilius were the fiercest of
all the fierce Gallic tribes. They wore neither armour
nor clothes, but their bodies were covered with
The chiefs wore the richest jewels, for they were
adorned with heavy collars and bracelets of twisted
gold, the sight of which filled the Romans with greed.
Their savage war-cries filled them with fear.
Amid the blowing of horns and trumpets, the Gauls,
still shouting their wild battle-cries, dashed upon the
enemy, while they, remembering the dread day of Allia,
fought with all their might.
Toward the north, the battle also raged. Regulus
himself led his cavalry, but he was slain almost at
once. The barbarians cut off his head, and in their
savage way held it aloft on a spear, that his followers
might see what had befallen their leader. With no one
to command them, the cavalry withdrew, to allow the
infantry to advance.
But the Gauls soon found that their weapons were of
little use against the shield or helmet of the enemy.
Their swords, of which the steel was badly tempered,
bent at the first stroke and glanced aside, leaving the
Roman's shield or helmet unglazed.
Fierce was the struggle between the two forces, but ere
long the barbarians found that the day was going
against them. The knowledge made them fight but the
Slowly but steadily the Roman legions now began to
close in, shutting the Gauls together in their midst,
 at length they were hemmed in so relentlessly that it
was not possible for them to use their arms. Then the
Romans slaughtered them without mercy.
Forty thousand were killed, ten thousand taken
prisoners, while one of the Gallic kings was captured
alive. The other perished by his own hand.
All the booty that the Gauls had taken from the Romans,
when they enticed them out of the camp at Clusium, was
now recaptured. The Gauls themselves were robbed of
their ornaments and their land was invaded by the
Æmilius then led his troops back to Rome and was given
a great triumph, while the people thanked the gods that
their city was safe from the barbarians.
For three years the war with the Gauls continued,
until, from the Apennines to the Alps, the whole plain
of Northern Italy had been subdued and was subject to