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THE GAULS AT ROME
 WE have related in the preceding tale how a Veientian
prophet predicted the ruin of Rome, in retribution for
the cruelty of the Romans to the people of Veii. It is
the story of this disaster which we have now to tell.
While the Romans were assailing Veii and making other
conquests among the neighboring cities, a new people
had come into Central Italy, a fair-faced,
light-haired, great-bodied tribe of barbarians, fierce
in aspect, warlike in character, the first contingent
of that great invasion from the north which, centuries
afterwards, was to overthrow the empire of Rome.
These were the Gauls, barbarian tribes from the region
now known as France, who had long before crossed the
Alps and made themselves lords of much of Northern
Italy. Just when this took place we do not know, but
about the time with which we are now concerned they
pushed farther south, overthrew the Etruscans, and in
the year 389 B.C. crossed the Apennines and penetrated
into Central Italy.
And now the proud city of Rome was to come face to face
with an enemy more powerful and courageous than any it
had hitherto known. In the year named the Gauls
besieged the city of Clusium,
 in Etruria, the city of Lars Porsenna, who in former
years had aided Tarquin against Rome. The Roman senate,
alarmed at their approach, sent three deputies to
observe these barbarian bands. What follows is the
story as told in Roman annals. It cannot be accepted as
the exact truth, though no one questions the
destruction of Rome by the Gauls.
The story goes, then, that the deputies sent to the
barbarians, and asked by what right they sought to take
a part of the territory of Clusium, a city in alliance
with Rome. Brennus, the leader of the Gauls, who knew
little and cared less about Rome, replied, with
insolent pride, that all things belonged to the brave,
and that their right lay in their swords.
Soon after, in a sortie that was made from the city,
one of the Roman deputies joined the soldiers, and
killed a Gaulish champion of great size and stature. On
this being reported to Brennus he sent messengers to
Rome, demanding that the man who had slain one of his
chiefs, when no war existed between the Gauls and
Romans, should be delivered into his hands for
punishment. The senate voted to do so, as the demand
seemed reasonable; but an appeal was made to the
people, and they declared that the culprit should not
be given up. On this answer being taken to Brennus, he
at once ordered that the siege of Clusium should be
abandoned, and marched with his whole army upon Rome.
A Roman army, forty thousand strong, was hastily
raised, and crossed the Tiber, marching towards Veii,
where they expected to meet the advancing enemy.
 But they reckoned wrongly: the Gauls came down the left
bank of the river, plundering and burning as they
marched. This threw the Romans into the greatest alarm.
For many miles above Rome the Tiber could not be
forded, there were no bridges, and boats could not be
had to convey so large an army. The Romans were forced
to march back with all speed to the city, cross the
river there, and hasten to meet their foes before they
got too near at hand. But when they came within sight
of the Gauls the latter were already within twelve
miles of Rome.
The Roman army was drawn up behind the Alia, a little
stream whose deep bed formed a line of defence. But the
Gauls made their attack upon the weakest section of the
Roman army, hewing them down with their great
broadswords, and assailing their ears with frightful
yells. The Roman right wing, formed of new recruits,
gave way before this vigorous charge, and in its flight
threw the regular legions of the left wing into
disorder. The Gauls pursued so fiercely that in a short
time the whole army was in total rout, and flying as
Roman army had never fled before.
Many plunged into the river, in hope of escaping by
swimming across it. But of these the Gauls slew
multitudes on the banks, and killed most of those in
the stream with their javelins. Others took refuge in a
dense wood near the road, where they lay hidden till
nightfall. The remainder fled back to the city, where
they brought the frightful tidings of the utter ruin of
the Roman army.
 The news threw Rome into a panic. Of those who escaped
from the battle, the majority had crossed the river and
made their way to Veii. No other army could be raised.
Most of the other inhabitants left the city, as the
people of Athens had done when the army of Xerxes
approached. It was resolved to abandon the city to the
barbarians, but to maintain the citadel, the home of
the gods of Rome. The holy articles in the temples were
buried or removed, the Vestal Virgins sent away, and
the flower of the patricians took refuge in the
Capitol, determined to defend to the last that
abiding-place of the guardian gods of Rome.
But there were aged members of the senate, old
patricians who had filled the highest offices in the
state, and venerable ministers of the gods, who felt
that they had a different duty to perform. They could
not serve their country by their deeds; they might by
their death. They devoted themselves and the army of
the Gauls, in solemn invocations, to the spirits of the
dead and to the earth, the common grave of man. Then,
attiring themselves in their richest robes of office,
each took his seat on his ivory chair of magistracy in
the gateway of his house.
Meanwhile the Gauls had delayed for a day their attack
on the city, fearing that the silence portended some
snare. When they did enter, the people had escaped with
such valuables as they could carry. The Capitol was
provisioned and garrisoned, and the aged senators
awaited death in solemn calm.
On seeing these venerable men, sitting in motionless
silence amid the confusion of the sack of the
 city, the Gauls viewed them with awe, regarding them at
first as more than human. One of the soldiers
approached M. Papirius, and began reverently to stroke
his long white beard. Papirius was a minister of the
gods, and looked on this touch of a barbarian hand as
profanation. With an impulse of anger he struck the
Gaul on the head with his ivory sceptre. Instantly the
barbarian, breaking into rage, cut him down with his
sword. This put an end to the feeling of awe. All the
old men were attacked and slain, their vow being thus
Rome, except its Capitol, was now in the hands of the
Gauls. The sack and ruin of the city went mercilessly
on. But the Capitol defied their efforts. It stood on a
hill which, except at a single point, presented
precipitous sides. The Gauls tried to storm it by this
single approach, but were driven back with loss. They
then blockaded the hill, and spent their time in
devastating the city and neighboring country.
While this was going on the fugitives from Rome had
gathered at Veii, where they daily became more
reorganized. And now they turned in their distress to a
man whom they had injured in their prosperity.
Camillus, the conqueror of Veii, had been exiled from
Rome on a charge of having been dishonest in
distributing the spoils of the conquered city. He was
now living at Ardea, whither messengers were sent,
begging him to come to the aid of Rome. He sent word
back that he had been condemned for an offence of which
he was not guilty, and would not return unless
requested to do so by the senate.
 But the senate was shut up in the Capitol. How could it
be reached? In this dilemma a young man. Pontius
Cominius, volunteered for the adventure. He swam the
Tiber at night, climbed the hill by the aid of shrubs
and projecting stones, obtained for Camillus the
appointment as dictator, and returned by the same
The feat of Cominius, whatever its real purpose, came
near being a fatal one to Rome. He had left his marks
on the cliff. Here the soil had been trodden away and
stones loosened; there bushes had been broken or torn
from the soil. The sharp eyes of the Gauls saw, in the
morning light, these proofs that some one had climbed
or descended the hill. The cliff, then, could be
climbed. Some Roman had climbed it; why not they? The
spot, supposed to be inaccessible, was not guarded.
There was no wall at its top. Here was an open route to
that stubborn citadel. They resolved to attempt it as
soon as night should fall.
It was midnight when the Gauls began to make their way
slowly and with difficulty up the steep cliff. The moon
may have aided them with its rays, but, if so, it
revealed them to no sentinel above. The very watchdogs
failed to scent and signal their approach. They reached
the summit, and, to their gratification, no alarm had
been given. The Romans slept on.
The fate of Rome in that hour hung in the balance. Had
the citadel been taken and its defenders slain, Rome
might never have recovered from the blow. The whole
course of history might have been
 changed. It was the merest chance that saved the city
from this impending disaster.
It chanced that on this part of the hill stood the
temple of the guardian gods of Rome,—Jupiter, Juno, and
Minerva,—and in this temple were kept a number of
geese, sacred to Juno. Though food was not abundant,
the garrison had spared these sacred geese. They were
now to be amply repaid, for the geese alone heard the
noise of the ascending Gauls, and in alarm began a loud
screaming and flapping of wings.
The noise aroused Marcus Manlius, who slept near.
Hastily seizing his sword and shield, he called to his
comrades and ran to the edge of the cliff. He reached
there just in time to see the head and shoulders of a
burly Gaul, who had nearly attained the summit. Dashing
the rim of his shield into the face of the barbarian,
Manlius tumbled him down the rock, and with him those
who followed in his track. The others, dismayed,
dropped their arms to cling more closely to the rocks.
Unable to ascend or descend, they were easily
slaughtered by the guards who followed Manlius. The
Capitol was saved. As for the captain of the watch,
from whose neglect of duty this peril had come, he was
punished the next morning by being hurled down the
cliff upon the slaughtered Gauls.
Manlius was rewarded, says the story, by each man
giving him from his scanty store a day's allowance of
food,—namely, half a pound of corn and five ounces in
weight of wine. As for the real defenders of Rome, the
geese of the Capitol, they were ever after held in the
highest honor and veneration.
 As the Capitol could not be taken by assault or rise,
there remained only the slow process of siege. For six
or eight months the Gauls blockaded the hill. So says
the story, but it was probably not so long. However, in
the end the Romans were brought to the point of famine,
and offered to ransom their city by paying a large sum
of gold. Brennus, the Gaulish king, was ready to accept
the offer. His men were suffering from the Roman fever;
food had grown scarce; he agreed, if paid a thousand
pounds' weight of gold, to withdraw his army from Rome.
Much gold had been brought by the fugitive patricians
into the Capitol. From this the delegates brought down
and placed in the scales a sufficient quantity. But
while they found the gold, the Gauls found the weights,
and it was soon discovered that the wily barbarians
were cheating. Their weights were too heavy. Complaint
of this fraud was made by the Roman tribune of the
soldiers. In reply Brennus drew his heavy broadsword
and threw it into the scale with the weights.
"What does this mean?" asked the tribune.
"It means," answered the barbarian, haughtily, "woe to
the vanquished!" "Væ victis esse!"
While this was going on, says the legend, Camillus, the
dictator, was marching to Rome with the legions he had
organized at Veii. He appeared at the right minute for
the dramatic interest of the story, entered the Forum
while the gold was being weighed, bade the Romans take
back their gold, threw the weights to the Gauls, and
 proudly that it was the Roman custom to pay their debts
in iron, not in gold.
A fight ensued, as might be expected. The Gauls were
driven from the city. The next day Camillus attacked
them in their camp, eight miles from Rome, and defeated
them so utterly that not a man was left alive to carry
home the tale of the slaughter.
This story of the coming of Camillus is too much like
the last act of a stage-play, or the dénouement of a
novel, to be true. Most likely the Gauls marched off
with their gold, though they may have been attacked on
their retreat, and most or all of the gold regained.
Camillus, however, is said to have saved Rome in still
another way. The old city was in ashes. Most of the
citizens were at Veii, where they had found or built
new homes. They were loath to come back to rebuild a
ruined city. This Camillus induced them to do. Every
appeal was made to the local pride and the religious
sentiments of the people. A centurion, marching with
his company, and being obliged to halt in front of the
senate-house, called to the standard-bearer, "Pitch
your standard here, for this is the best place to stop
at." This casual remark was looked upon as an omen from
heaven, and by this and the like means the people were
induced to return.
Then the rebuilding of Rome began. The sites of the
temples were retraced as far as could be done in the
ruins. The laws of the twelve tables and some other
records were recovered, but the mass of the historical
annals of Rome had been destroyed. Some
 relics were said to have been miraculously preserved,
among them the shepherd's crook of Romulus.
But the bulk of the possessions of the Romans had
vanished in the flames; the streets were mere heaps of
ashes; the very walls had been in part pulled down;
rubbish and ruin lay everywhere. Rome, like the phœnix,
had to be born again from its ashes. Men built wherever
they could find a clear spot. Stones and
roofing-material were brought from Veii, and one city
was dismantled that another might be restored. Stones
and timber were supplied to any man from the public
lands. The city rapidly rose again. But it was an
irregular city; the streets ran anywhere; no effort was
made at rule or system in the making of the new Rome.
As for Camillus, he came to be honored as the second
founder of Rome. While the Romans were at work on their
new homes they were harassed by their foes, and he was
kept busy with the army in the field. He lived for
twenty-five years longer, and in the year 367 B.C.,
when some eighty years of age, he marched again to meet
the Gauls in a new assault upon Rome, and defeated them
with such slaughter that they left Rome alone for many
Marcus Manlius, the preserver of the Capitol, was not
so fortunate. He came forward as the patron of the
poor, who began to suffer again from the severe laws
against debtors. Finally he began to use his large
fortune to relieve suffering debtors, and is said to
have paid the debts of four hundred debtors,
 thus saving them from bondage. This generosity won him
the unbounded affection of the people, who called him
the "Father of the Commons." But it aroused the
suspicion of the patricians, and some of these, against
whom he had used violent language, had him arrested on
a charge of treason, perhaps with good reason. Though
he showed the many honors he had received for services
to his country, he was condemned to death and his house
razed to the ground. Thus the patricians dealt with the
benefactors of the poor.