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disastrously defeated in the great battle of Allia, fought in B. C. 390, eleven

miles from Rome.

The remnant of the army of the consuls escaped into the city, and the Gauls

swarmed about the ramparts by thousands. The Romans were panic-stricken. The

walls were abandoned; and the terrified people flocked to the Capitol, carrying

with them whatever they could seize. The Gauls poured in like a flood, and the

city was taken without resistance. At this juncture occurred that famous

incident, doubtless the invention of Roman pride in after times; namely, the

heroic conduct of the Roman senators in the presence of the barbarian invaders.

It is related that the venerable fathers of the Republic clad themselves in the

robes and insignia of their office, and seated themselves in their curule chairs

in the Forum. They sat in silence in the presence of the astonished Gauls, who

knew not whether these sage, gray-bearded figures were men or gods. At last,

rather to satisfy himself than to commit an indignity against a being who might

be one of the immortals, a certain Gaul approached the aged Papirius and stroked

his flowing beard. For this the venerable senator struck him to earth with his

wand. The barbarians were at once aroused to passion, and soon glutted their

vengeance by. the massacre of the whole assembly. The city was then pillaged and

burnt, but the Capitol held out against the invaders. Without the means of

conducting a regular siege, the Gauls were baffled in their assaults, and were

obliged to content themselves with an attempted reduction of the place by famine.

The courage of the Romans was sustained in the emergency by the conduct of a

certain Fabius, who in the very face of the Gauls made his way to the Quirinal

Hill, and there performed those expiatory rites which were said to be due to the


Another brave deed was done which raised the spirits of the besieged. A valiant

plebeian, named Pontius Cominius, escaped down the precipice of the Tarpeian

Rock, swam the Tiber, and carried an invitation to Camillus, then at Veii, to

accept the dictator- ship and come to the rescue of the city. The hero's

footprints were discovered by the Gauls, and on the following night they

undertook to scale the cliff down which Cominius had escaped. The Romans,

regarding this part of the rampart as impregnable, had taken no care to

strengthen the defenses. The barbarians, aided by the obscurity of night, were on

the point of gaining the summit, when their coming was revealed by the clamor of

the sacred geese kept in the temple of Juno. The soldiers rushed to arms, but

even these would hardly have prevailed to keep the Gauls at bay had not the brave

patrician, Marcus Manlius, thrown himself upon the foremost barbarians, and

hurled them down one by one from their slippery footing. Thus the fortress was

saved from its peril, and the people, in gratitude to Manlius, conferred on him

the title of Capitolinus.

Meanwhile Camillus had accepted the dictatorship, and was proceeding with that

part of the Roman army which had survived the defeat at Allia to the rescue of

the city. Before his arrival, however, the Romans were driven to desperation, and

offered to surrender to the barbarians. The latter consented to accept a large

sum of gold and retire from the city. The terms were agreed to, and the Roman

officers were weighing out the money, when Brennus, the Gaulish chieftain, in

order to increase this amount, threw his sword into the opposite side of the

balance, exclaiming as he did so, "Woe to the vanquished!" At this moment of

desperation, however, Camillus arrived, and stopped the whole proceeding with the

declaration that the Romans, having a dictator, could make no treaty without his

con- sent. He seized the money which was about to be paid to the Gauls, and bade

defiance to Brennus and his host. The latter shrank from a renewal of the

encounter, and retired from the city. They were pursued and routed by Camillus

before they escaped from Latium.

Such is the popular tradition, embellished, no doubt, with much poetic fiction,

of the pillage and capture of Rome by the Gauls. From many circumstances, it

appears certain that the city was once for a season in the power of these

barbarians. There are also good grounds for believing that they were presently

driven out of the country. Nor is it unreasonable to