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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book V Chapter 53: The Speech of Camillus against migrating to Veii. Cont.[390 BC]
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"But, you may say, it is obvious that the whole City is polluted, and no expiatory sacrifices can purify it; circumstances themselves compel us to quit a City devastated by fire, and all in ruins, and migrate to Veii where everything is untouched. We must not distress the poverty-stricken plebs by building here. I [Note 1] fancy, however, Quirites, that it is evident to you, without my telling you, that this suggestion is a plausible excuse rather than a true reason. You remember how this same question of migrating to Veii was mooted before the Gauls came, whilst public and private buildings were still safe and the City stood secure. And mark you, tribunes, how widely my view differs from yours. Even supposing it ought not to have been done then, you think that at any rate it ought to be done now, whereas -- do not express surprise at what I say before you have grasped its purport -- I am of opinion that even had it been right to migrate then when the City was wholly unhurt, we ought not to abandon these ruins now. For at that time the reason for our migrating to a captured city would have been a victory glorious for us and for our posterity, but now this migration would be glorious for the Gauls, but for us shame and bitterness. For we shall be thought not to have left our native City as victors, but to have lost it because we were vanquished; it will look as though it was the flight at the Alia, the capture of the City, the beleaguering of the Capitol, which had laid upon us the necessity of deserting our household gods and dooming ourselves to banishment from a place which we were powerless to defend. Was it possible for Gauls to overthrow Rome and shall it be deemed impossible for Romans to restore it?" |
"What more remains except for them to come again with fresh forces -- we all know that their numbers surpass belief -- and elect to live in this City which they captured, and you abandoned, and for you to allow them to do so? Why, if it were not Gauls who were doing this, but your old enemies, the Aequi and Volscians, who migrated to Rome, would you wish them to be Romans and you Veientines? Or would you rather that this were a desert of your own than the city of your foes? I do not see what could be more infamous."
Are you prepared to allow this crime and endure this disgrace because of the trouble of building? If no better or more spacious dwelling could be put up in the whole City of Rome than that hut of our Founder, would it not be better to live in huts after the manner of herdsmen and peasants, surrounded by our temples and our gods, than to go forth as a nation of exiles? Our ancestors, shepherds and refugees, built a new City in a few years, when there was nothing in these parts but forests and swamps; are we shirking the labour of rebuilding what has been burnt, though the Citadel and Capitol are intact, and the temples of the gods still stand? What we would each have done in our own case, had our houses caught fire, are we as a community refusing to do now that the City has been burnt?
Note 1: I = Camillus