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Young Folks' History of Rome

11. Camillus' Banishment, B.C. 390
The wars with the Etruscans went on, and chiefly with the city of Veii, which stood on a
hill twelve miles from Rome, and was altogether thirty years at war with it. At last the
Romans made up their minds that, instead of going home every harvest-time to gather in
their crops, they must watch the city constantly till they could take it, and thus, as the
besiegers were unable to do their own work, pay was raised for them to enable them to
get it done, and this was the beginning of paying armies.
The siege of Veii lasted ten years, and during the last the Alban lake filled to an unusual
height, although the summer was very dry. One of the Veian soldiers cried out to the
Romans half in jest, "You will never take Veii till the Alban lake is dry." It turned out
that there was an old tradition that Veii should fall when the lake was drained. On this the
senate sent orders to have canals dug to carry the waters to the sea, and these still remain.
Still Veii held out, and to finish the war a dictator was appointed, Marcus Furius
Camillus, who chose for his second in command a man of one of the most virtuous
families in Rome, as their surname testified, Publius Cornelius, called Scipio, or the Staff,
because either he or one of his forefathers had been the staff of his father's old age.
Camillus took the city by assault, with an immense quantity of spoil, which was divided
among the soldiers.
Camillus in his pride took to himself at his triumph honors that had hitherto only been
paid to the gods. He had his face painted with vermilion and his car drawn by milk-white
horses. This shocked the people, and he gave greater offence by declaring that he had
vowed a tenth part of the spoil to Apollo, but had forgotten it in the division of the
plunder, and now must take it again. The soldiers would not consent, but lest the god
should be angry with them, it was resolved to send a gold vase to his oracle at Delphi. All
the women of Rome brought their jewels, and the senate rewarded them by a decree that
funeral speeches might be made over their graves as over those of men, and likewise that
they might be driven in chariots to the public games.
Camillus commanded in another war with the Falisci, also an Etruscan race, and laid
siege to their city. The sons of almost all the chief families were in charge of a sort of
schoolmaster, who taught them both reading and all kinds of exercises. One day this man,
pretending to take the boys out walking, led them all into the enemy's camp, to the tent of
Camillus, where he told that he brought them all, and with them the place, since the
Romans had only to threaten their lives to make their fathers deliver up the city.
Camillus, however, was so shocked at such perfidy, that he immediately bade the lictors
strip the fellow instantly, and give the boys rods with which to scourge him back into the
town. Their fathers were so grateful that they made peace at once, and about the same
time the Æqui were also conquered; and the commons and open lands belonging to Veii
being divided, so that each Roman freeman had six acres, the plebeians were contented
for the time.
The truth seems to have been that these Etruscan nations were weakened by a great new
nation coming on them from the North. They were what the Romans called Galli or
Gauls, one of the great races of the old stock which has always been finding its way
westward into Europe, and they had their home north of the Alps, but they were always
pressing on and on, and had long since made settlements in northern Italy. They were in
clans, each obedient to one chief as a father, and joining together in one brotherhood.
They had lands to which whole families had a common right, and when their numbers
outgrew what the land could maintain, the bolder ones would set off with their wives,