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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book V Chapter 21: Conquest and Plunder of Veii.[396 BC]
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An enormous crowd went and filled the camp. After the dictator [Note 1] had taken the auspices and issued orders for the soldiers to arm for battle, he uttered this prayer: " Pythian Apollo, guided and inspired by thy will I go forth to destroy the city of Veii, and a tenth part of its spoils I devote to thee. Thee too, queen Juno, who now dwellest in Veii, I beseech, that thou wouldst follow us, after our victory, to the City which is ours and which will soon be thine, where a temple worthy of thy majesty will receive thee." After this prayer, finding himself superior in numbers, he attacked the city on all sides, to distract the enemies' attention from the impending danger of the mine. The Veientines, all unconscious that their doom had already been sealed by their own prophets and by oracles in foreign lands, that some of the gods had already been invited to their share in the spoils, whilst others, called upon in prayer to leave their city, were looking to new abodes in the temples of their foes; all unconscious that they were spending their last day, without the slightest suspicion that their walls had been undermined and their citadel already filled with the enemy, hurried with their weapons to the walls, each as best he could, wondering what had happened to make the Romans, after never stirring from their lines for so many days, now run recklessly up to the walls as though struck with sudden frenzy. |
At this point a tale is introduced to the effect that whilst the king of the Veientines was offering sacrifice the soothsayer announced that victory would be granted to him who had cut out the sacrificial parts of the victim. His words were heard by the soldiers in the mine, they burst through, seized the parts and carried them to the dictator. But in questions of such remote antiquity I should count it sufficient if what bears the stamp of probability be taken as true. Statements like this, which are more fitted to adorn a stage which delights in the marvellous than to inspire belief, it is not worth while either to affirm or deny.
The mine, which was now full of picked soldiers, suddenly discharged its armed force in the temple of Juno, which was inside the citadel of Veii. Some attacked the enemy on the walls from behind, others forced back the bars of the gates, others again set fire to the houses from which stones and tiles were being hurled by women and slaves. Everything resounded with the confused noise of terrifying threats and shrieks of despairing anguish blended with the wailing of women and children. In a very short time the defenders were driven from the walls and the city gates flung open. Some rushed in in close order, others scaled the deserted walls; the city was filled with Romans; fighting went on everywhere. At length, after great carnage, the fighting slackened, and the dictator ordered the heralds to proclaim that the unarmed were to be spared. That put a stop to the bloodshed, those who were unarmed began to surrender, and the soldiers dispersed with the dictator's permission in quest of booty. This far surpassed all expectation both in its amount and its value, and when the dictator saw it before him he is reported to have raised his hands to heaven and prayed that if any of the gods deemed the good fortune which had befallen him and the Romans to be too great, the jealousy which it caused might be allayed by such a calamity as would be least injurious to him and to Rome. The tradition runs that whilst he was turning round during this devotion he stumbled and fell. To those who judged after the event it appeared as if that omen pointed to Camillus' own condemnation and the subsequent capture of Rome which occurred a few years later.
Note 1: dictator = Camillus
|Ingens profecta multitudo repleuit castra. Tum dictator auspicato egressus cum edixisset ut arma milites caperent, "tuo ductu" inquit, "Pythice Apollo, tuoque numine instinctus pergo ad delendam urbem Veios, tibique hinc decimam partem praedae uoueo. Te simul, Iuno regina, quae nunc Veios colis, precor, ut nos uictores in nostram tuamque mox futuram urbem sequare, ubi te dignum amplitudine tua templum accipiat". Haec precatus, superante multitudine ab omnibus locis urbem adgreditur, quo minor ab cuniculo ingruentis periculi sensus esset. Veientes ignari se iam a suis uatibus, iam ab externis oraculis proditos, iam in partem praedae suae uocatos deos, alios uotis ex urbe sua euocatos hostium templa nouasque sedes spectare, seque ultimum illum diem agere, nihil minus timentes quam subrutis cuniculo moenibus arcem iam plenam hostium esse, in muros pro se quisque armati discurrunt, mirantes quidnam id esset quod cum tot per dies nemo se ab stationibus Romanus mouisset, tum uelut repentino icti furore improuidi currerent ad muros. Inseritur huic loco fabula: immolante rege Veientium uocem haruspicis, dicentis qui eius hostiae exta prosecuisset, ei uictoriam dari, exauditam in cuniculo mouisse Romanos milites ut adaperto cuniculo exta raperent et ad dictatorem ferrent. Sed in rebus tam antiquis si quae similia ueri sint pro ueris accipiantur, satis habeam: haec ad ostentationem scenae gaudentis miraculis aptiora quam ad fidem neque adfirmare neque refellere est operae pretium. Cuniculus delectis militibus eo tempore plenus, in aedem Iunonis quae in Veientana arce erat armatos repente edidit, et pars auersos in muris inuadunt hostes, pars claustra portarum reuellunt, pars cum ex tectis saxa tegulaeque a mulieribus ac seruitiis iacerentur, inferunt ignes. Clamor omnia uariis terrentium ac pauentium uocibus mixto mulierum ac puerorum ploratu complet. Momento temporis deiectis ex muro undique armatis patefactisque portis cum alii agmine inruerent, alii desertos scanderent muros, urbs hostibus impletur; omnibus locis pugnatur; deinde multa iam edita caede senescit pugna, et dictator praecones edicere iubet ut ab inermi abstineatur. Is finis sanguinis fuit. Dedi inde inermes coepti et ad praedam miles permissu dictatoris discurrit. Quae cum ante oculos eius aliquantum spe atque opinione maior maiorisque pretii rerum ferretur, dicitur manus ad caelum tollens precatus esse ut si cui deorum hominumque nimia sua fortuna populique Romani uideretur, ut eam inuidiam lenire quam minimo suo priuato incommodo publicoque populi Romani liceret. Conuertentem se inter hanc uenerationem traditur memoriae prolapsum cecidisse; idque omen pertinuisse postea euentu rem coniectantibus uisum ad damnationem ipsius Camilli, captae deinde urbis Romanae, quod post paucos accidit annos, cladem. Atque ille dies caede hostium ac direptione urbis opulentissimae est consumptus:|