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The Story of Rome by  Mary Macgregor

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THE STATUE OF THE GODDESS

[92] WHEN Veii had fallen into his hands, Camillus allowed not only the soldiers, but the citizens of Rome to plunder the city, for he had agreed with the Senate that all the people should share in the spoil.

As he stood on a high tower watching the sack of the city which had resisted Rome for ten years, Camillus wept for pity. Then, covering his face with his toga, he prayed that if his great victory had made him proud, Jupiter would punish, not Rome or the army, but only him, and that "with as little hurt as might be."

Turning then to his right, as was the custom after prayer, the Dictator slipped and fell to the ground. This, he believed, was the "little hurt" sent to him by the god.

Many treasures were taken from the conquered city to Rome, but none more sacred than the statue of Juno.

Camillus ordered some young men to clothe themselves in white robes, and then to go to the temple to remove the statue.

It was a solemn moment when the youths stood before the image, scarce venturing to look upon it, lest they should be punished for their boldness.

One of them, half mocking, yet, it may be, half in earnest too, said: "O Juno, wilt thou go to Rome?"

Clear through the temple echoed the voice of the goddess: "I will."

Then reverently the young men lifted the image, but to their astonishment it was so light that they felt as though [93] their arms were empty, and the goddess was walking by their side.

In safety they reached Rome with the wondrous image, and Camillus built a temple on the Aventine hill, in which henceforth the statue of Juno stood.

When the Dictator returned to Rome he enjoyed a great triumph. Dressed in the garments of Jupiter, he drove through the gates in a chariot drawn by four white horses, his soldiers following him, shouting the praises of their leader.

But the people of Rome were displeased with the Dictator, for none but kings might drive in a chariot drawn by four white horses.

Soon they even hated Camillus, for he sided with the Senate against those tribunes who had been faithful to the plebeians. Moreover, he had vowed to give a tenth of the spoil taken at Veii to the god Apollo. At the time that the city was sacked, it seemed that the Dictator had forgotten his vow. When he remembered it, the people had spent or parted with their share of the spoil, so Camillus forced them to give up the tenth part of their goods. At this the poor folk grumbled, as indeed they had some cause to do.

But much as the people hated Camillus, they could not do without him. When war broke out against a people called the Falerians, he was elected as a military tribune, and at once marched away with his army to besiege the strongly fortified town of Falerii.

In his heart Camillus hoped that if he was successful in taking the city, the Romans would forget their anger against him.


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