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From Readings in Ancient History, Illustrative Extracts from the Sources, Volume II. Rome and the West, by William Stearns Davis; Allyn and Bacon; Boston; 1913; pp. 31-32; 399, 400.


390 B. C.


Livy,* “History,” book V, chaps. 47-49. Bohn Translation

The story here given of how the Capitol was saved from surprise, and how later the Gauls were ejected from Rome [390 B.C.] is another tale of Livy which is never spoiled by repeating. The incident of the geese is probably in the main historical; but it is very doubtful whether the Gauls were attacked by the dictator Camillus as here described. Probably they retired with their ransom money, and any vengeance with the sword came considerably later.

The Capitol of Rome was meantime in great danger; for the Gauls had remarked the easy ascent [to it] by the rock at the Temple of Carmentis. On a moonlight night, after they had first sent ahead a man unarmed to test the way, by alternately supporting and being supported by one another, and drawing each other up, as the ground required, they gained the summit all in silence. Not merely had they escaped the ken of the sentinels, but even the dogs, sensitive as they are to noises at night, had not been alarmed. But they did not escape the notice of the geese; for these creatures were sacred to Juno, and had been accordingly spared [by the garrison] despite the scarcity of food.

Thus it befell that Marcus Manlius, who had been consul three years earlier, and who was a redoubted warrior, was awakened by their hissing and the clapping of their wings. He snatched his arms, and calling loudly to his fellows, ran to the spot. Here he smote with the boss of his shield a Gaul who had already gained a foothold on the summit, and tumbled him headlong. The fall of this man as he crashed down dashed over those next to him. Manlius also slew certain others who in their alarm had cast aside their weapons and were clinging to the rocks. By this time the rest [of the Romans] had rushed together, and crushed the enemy with darts and stones, so that the whole bank, dislodged 32 from their foothold, were hurled down the precipice in general ruin.

At daylight, the soldiers were summoned by the trumpet to attend their [military] tribunes, for the meting out of rewards for merit and demerit. The first to be commended for bravery was Manlius, and he was presented with gifts — not merely by the military tribunes, but by the consent fohte soldier, for they all carried to his house, which was in the citadel, a donation of half a pound of corn and half a pint of wine; a trifling matter enough it seems in the telling, but in the prevailing scarcity a mighty proof of gratitude. The sentinel, however, who was manifestly negligent, was cast down from the rock [to his death] with the approval of all; and from this time forth the guards on both sides were more vigilant.

How the Gauls were driven from Rome

[At length, however, the garrison became weakened by constant watching and by famine, while the Gauls found the ruined site of Rome highly unhealthful and the siege wearisome. Negotiations therefore took place between the leaders on both sides.]

It was agreed between Quintus Sulpicius, a military tribune, and Brennus, the Gallic chief, that a thousand pounds weight of gold1 should be the ransom of a people so soon to be the veritable rulers of the world. The transaction was humiliating enough; but insult was added. False weights were brought by the Gauls, and when the tribune objected, the insolent Gaul threw in his sword, as an additional weight, while uttering words most intolerable to the Romans. “Woe to the vanquished!

[But at this moment, according to the story, the dictator Camillus appeared with his army, raised from the Roman refugees who had fled to Veii, and he ordered that the gold be withdrawn, while he told the Gauls to get ready for battle.]


The Gauls were thrown into confusion by this unexpected turn. They seized their arms, and with rage, rather than wisdom, they rushed upon the Romans. But Fortune now had changed; the aid of the gods and of human prudence alike aided the Romans. AT the first encounter the Gauls were routed, even as easily as they had formerly won the day at the Allia. After they had fled as far as the eighth milestone on the Gabii road, they were beaten again by Camillus in a second battle. There the slaughter was universal. Their camp was stormed, and not one soul was left to carry away the tale of the defeat.

Having thus recovered his country from the enemy, Camillus returned to the city of triumph, and [the soldiers] styled him, with well-deserved praise, “Romulus,” “Father of his Country,” and “Second Founder of the City!”


1  If taken literally, about $225,000.


Biographical Note

*  Livy (59 B.C. to 17 A.D.). Titus Livius a native of Patavium (Padua) is by all odds the leading historian for the Roman Republican period. His entire history in 142 books extended from the foundation of Rome down to 9 B.C. Most unfortunately we possess only 35 of these intact, although Epitomes have been preserved of most of the others. A critical and scrupulously impartial historian Livy was not. He often gives us myths that have obviously no factual value, and again he suppresses or colors such evidence as reflects upon the glory of Rome. On the other hand, his style is “clear, animated, and eloquent,” and often under the legends a little sifting will bring out valuable data; while no Roman who had read through his long narrative could fail to gain a clear 400 grasp upon the long slow process of war and patriotic sacrifice by which the little city by the Tiber rose to world-wide dominion.


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