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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book V Chapter 42: Invasion of the Gauls. Destruction of Rome.[390 BC]
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Now -- whether it was that the Gauls were not all animated by a passion for the destruction of the City, or whether their chiefs had decided on the one hand to present the spectacle of a few fires as a means of intimidating the besieged into surrender from a desire to save their homes, and on the other, by abstaining from a universal conflagration, hold what remained of the City as a pledge by which to weaken their enemies' determination -- certain it is that the fires were far from being so indiscriminate or so extensive as might be expected on the first day of a captured city. As the Romans beheld from the Citadel the City filled with the enemy who were running about in all the streets, while some new disaster was constantly occurring, first in one quarter then in another, they could no longer control their eyes and ears, let alone their thoughts and feelings. In whatever direction their attention was drawn by the shouts of the enemy, the shrieks of the women and boys, the roar of the flames, and the crash of houses falling in, thither they turned their eyes and minds as though set by Fortune to be spectators of their country's fall, powerless to protect anything left of all they possessed beyond their lives. Above all others who have ever stood a siege were they to be pitied, cut off as they were from the land of their birth and seeing all that had been theirs in the possession of the enemy. |
The day which had been spent in such misery was succeeded by a night not one whit more restful, this again by a day of anguish, there was not a single hour free from the sight of some ever fresh calamity. And yet, though, weighed down and overwhelmed with so many misfortunes, they had watched everything laid low in flame and ruin, they did not for a moment relax their determination to defend by their courage the one spot still left to freedom, the hill which they held, however small and poor it might be. At length, as this state of things went on day by day, they became as it were hardened to misery, and turned their thoughts from the circumstances round them to their arms and the sword in their right hand, which they gazed upon as the only things left to give them hope.