Study Guide for Plutarch's Life of Camillus

Text taken from Thomas North and/or John Dryden
Study Guide by Anne White

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Marcus Furius Camillus (c. 446/445-365 B.C.)

These notes, and the accompanying text, are prepared for the use of individual students and small groups following a twelve-week term.

The text is a free mixture of Thomas North's 1579 translation of Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans and John Dryden's 1683 translation. (Dryden for clarity, North for character.) Omissions have been made for length and suitability for the intended age group.

Those using audio versions or other translations may want to preview those editions for similar "necessary omissions."

Who was Camillus?

Marcus Furius Camillus was a statesman and general of the early Roman Republic, referred to during his own lifetime as the "Second Founder of Rome." Camillus repeatedly held the high-ranking positions of dictator and consular tribune (see below), but (as Plutarch explains in the first lesson), the times he lived in prevented him from becoming a consul.

For those who have read Plutarch's Life of Coriolanus, Camillus was born about half a century after the Siege of Corioli. His family, the Furii, were of the patrician class, and his father was also one of the consular tribunes.

Who were the patricians and the plebeians?

There were two different types of class divisions in ancient Rome. The first was family-based, between the patricians (the nobility) and the plebeians (common people). The second type of division was between property- or wealth-based classes (such as the senatores), but it is less important than the first one in this story.

Why was Camillus a dictator, and why was that all right?

This story takes place during a time when certain Roman consuls had been suspected of conspiring to bring back the monarchy, and when there were frequent wars with other tribes. The office of praetor maximus, or dictator, was created as a safeguard: someone who would act as the supreme magistrate of the city, and also as its military general, for a limited period of time. The dictator was also referred to as magister populi, or "master of the infantry," and therefore his second-in-command was "master of the horse."

Most Roman dictatorships took place during the first two hundred years of the Republic; the position became much less common in later times (Fabius, Sulla, and Julius Caesar were among the later dictators).

What were the magistracies in Rome?

The elected positions, or magistracies, in the Roman Republic were (starting at the bottom) quaestor, aedile, praetor, and consul. (The office of tribune was a separate position, explained below.) There were various numbers of each of these: for example, two consuls were elected each year, and (at least at the beginning) they acted as judges and military generals as well as city leaders. (The historian Livy wrote that the office of praetor, intended to relieve the consuls of their judicial duties, was created near the end of Camillus' lifetime.)

In addition to overseeing the census (counting the citizens), the censor was responsible for public morality, which is where we get the word censorship. The office of censor was usually held by men of the patrician class who had previously been consuls; but there were exceptions such as Camillus, who was censor in 403 B.C. before becoming consular tribune in 401.

Who were the tribunes?

The civil office of tribune of the plebeians, or tribune of the people, was a "watchdog" position defending the rights of the common people, which had been established some years previously (see Plutarch's Life of Coriolanus). However, a military tribune was an army officer (ranking below a legate and above a centurion).

And to add to the confusion, this Life gives us a third version. A bill brought to the Senate at about the time Camillus was born proposed, first of all, intermarriage between the patrician and plebeian classes; and, second, that one of the two consuls should be from the plebeian class. (It is possible that plebeians had been elected in earlier times, but that the position had later been monopolized by the patricians.)

The senators were not willing to accept this proposal, but they did offer a compromise: consular tribunes ("military tribunes with consular powers") would be elected in place of the consuls; and they could be of either class. This alternative election took place about half the time over the next few decades. The problem was that most of those elected either as consuls or tribunes were still patricians. Nothing had really changed. As Plutarch explains in Lesson One, Camillus could have run for consul during the years when the position was open, but he chose not to because of the controversy around it.

In 376 B.C., when Camillus was seventy years old, the tribunes of the people brought forward a proposal saying that one of the two consuls must (not just could) be from the plebeian class (see Lesson Twelve). When the Senate refused this demand, the people rebelled and managed to prevent regular elections from taking place for the next several years. Finally, with the support of Camillus (who had been appointed dictator again), the law was changed, plebeian consuls began to be elected, and the need for consular tribunes ended.

Nations Around Rome

As the story of Camillus belongs to an earlier time than many of Plutarch's other Lives, we hear about less-familiar rival tribes who eventually became part of the Roman Republic.

Aequi or Aequians: An Italic tribe who lived to the east of Rome

Italic: Like Latin, this refers to the Indo-European people who spoke Italic languages (there were other Italic languages besides Latin).

Etrurian, Etruscan: an ancient civilization in Italy, predating Rome

Gauls: Celtic tribes from the north, known for their strength in battle.

Latin: The name Latin (sometimes Latian) refers to an ancient Indo-European people who moved into the Italian peninsula during the late Bronze Age (1200-900 B.C.), and lived in a region they called Latium. From about 600 B.C. on, the Romans became the most powerful of the Latin tribes.

Volsci, Volscians: The Volsci were an Italic people who lived to the southwest of Rome. (North calls them the Volsces.)

A Special Note on Historical Problems

Those recording early history, and later interpreters and synthesizers such as Plutarch, sometimes repeated single events, or put the same event in different places at different times. This is the equivalent of saying that an argument took place during Cora's fourteenth birthday party, and someone later insists that the quarrel occurred at her cousin Clara's party; or they describe a quarrel occurring ten years later at a wedding, which turns out to be a misplaced version of the party story.

In this story, starting in Lesson Nine, Plutarch describes sieges and battles occurring at Sutrium. However, other sources record similar events at Satricum, leading later historians to wonder if Plutarch's cutting and pasting from various sources confused names and events.

I would suggest not trying to examine these military events too closely, for the reasons already explained. For simplicity, we will use the name Sutrium, and assume that events happened in the order related by Plutarch.

Top Vocabulary Terms in the Life of Camillus

If you know these words, you're well on the way to mastering the vocabulary for this study. They will not be repeated in the lessons.

1. confederates: allies, friends

2. divination: foretelling the future by interpreting omens

3. hard by: near to

4. indigent: poor, needy

5. lusty: strong, bold. To do something lustily is to do so energetically, with great force. The English word originally meant healthy, vigorous, even merry (which is why we might read that someone was singing lustily). The more negative meaning of lust (desire) seems to have come into use later on.

6. practice, practise: plan, plot, scheme. British/Canadian spelling differentiates between the noun and the verb; Americans use practice for both. It is also used in the more common way: in Lesson Three, the traitorous schoolmaster accustoms his pupils "by practice" to play near enemy lines.

7. rash: thoughtless; without the considering the consequences of an action

8. siege: the process of surrounding a city, or a fortified place such as a castle, to force it to surrender. The verb form is to besiege or to lay siege to it.

9. spoil(s): treasure or loot taken during a raid or after a battle.

10. suffer: allow, permit

Lesson One


This lesson may seem, at first reading, to be a disjointed start to the story of Camillus. We first read Plutarch's prologue about the many offices and commissions that he was given during his lifetime; then we hear just a bit about the military career that took up most of the first half of his life. By the end of Lesson One, we see Camillus leading the Roman army in a siege against troublesome rival cities; but Plutarch then veers off into the decision to build a drainage tunnel from the flooded Lake Albano, in hopes that certain prophecies of victory would then come true. The water story seems to end there, as Plutarch then moves on to the rest of the war (in Lesson Two).

With the lack of attention on Camillus himself, it seems that Lesson One can be best used as an introduction to life in Rome (and in its neighbouring city-states) around 400 B.C. What can we tell already about Roman political structure and issues, economic activities, religious beliefs, and methods of warfare? Which of these seem to be the most important? Which might cause conflict with others? And why might the Romans decide that they needed a dictator? See also the activities listed under On the Map.


dictator, consul, Tribuni militares, censor: see introductory notes

had triumphed: had been given a parade honouring a military victory

the people: the plebeian class (see introductory notes)

at dissension: in conflict

odious: unpleasant, detestable

oligarchy: government by a small number of people

the government in the meantime . . . : during this time, there were some periods when they did elect consuls

against the inclination of the people: It was not that the common people did not want Camillus to be consul, but that they were protesting against the whole system.

honest: honourable

rated: put on the list of taxpayers

exempted from taxes: did not have to pay them

corn: grain, such as wheat or barley

portend: foretell, predict

prodigy: unusual occurrence

the oracle of Apollo, at the city of Delphi: a Greek temple famous for prophetic messages

Historic Occasions

509 B.C.: Founding of the Roman Republic

c. 446/445 B.C.: Birth of Camillus

445 B.C.: Decision to create consular tribunes (see introductory notes)

406 B.C.: Rome declared war against Veii

403 B.C.: Camillus was censor

401 B.C., 398 B.C.: Camillus was consular tribune (and head of the Roman army)

395/393 B.C.: Discharge tunnel built from Lake Albano so that its waters could be used for irrigation

On the Map

As an introduction to this study, it would be good not only to look at maps of the early Roman Republic and its surroundings (including bodies of water such as the Mediterranean, Adriatic, and Tuscan seas), but to review or become familiar with the city of Rome itself. If you are learning in a group, individual students or partners might be asked to research and briefly describe sites such as the Forum and the Capitoline Hill. (Remember that some famous features of Rome were not built until much later.)

Veii (Veians): an Etrurian city northwest of Rome

Tuscany: a region of central Italy

Falerii (Falerians): an Etrurian city northeast of Rome, and an ally of Veii, within the territory of the Faliscans

Capena (Capenates): a town just north of Rome, another ally of Veii

Alban lake: Lake Albano, a volcanic crater lake southeast of Rome



If this section causes confusion, please read the explanation in the general notes.

Amongst many great matters which are spoken of Furius Camillus, this seemeth most strange and wonderful above the rest. That he, having borne the chiefest offices of charge in his country, and having done many notable and worthy deeds in the same; as one that was chosen five times dictator, and had triumphed four times, and had won himself the name and title of the "Second Founder of Rome"; and yet never came to be consul. But the only cause thereof was, that the commonwealth of Rome stood then in such state and sort that the people were then at dissension with the Senate, and would choose no more consuls, but another kind of magistrates whom they called Tribuni militares or military tribunes. These did all things with like power and authority as the consuls, yet were they not so odious unto the people, because it was divided among a large number. For it was some hope to the opponents of oligarchy that the government of the state being put into six, and not into two officers' hands, their rule would be the easier, and more tolerable. This was the condition of the times when Camillus was in the height of his actions and glory; and, although the government in the meantime had often proceeded to consular elections, yet he could never persuade himself to be consul against the inclination of the people [omission for length].

Part One

[Omission for length: Plutarch says that Camillus distinguished himself in military service, and that he was honoured by being made censor (in his forties).]

In his office of censorship, he did two notable acts. The one was very honest: he brought men that were not married to marry the women whom the wars had left widows, which were in number many. To this he got them partly by persuasion, and partly by threatenings, to set round fines upon their heads that refused. The other was very necessary, in causing orphans to be rated, who before were exempted from taxes, the frequent wars requiring more than ordinary expenses to maintain them.

What, however, pressed them most was the siege of Veii. This was the head city of Tuscany, not inferior to Rome either in number of arms or multitude of soldiers. For the Veians were grown to stomach and courage in time, by reason of their wealth and prosperity, and for the sundry great battles they had fought against the Romans, that contended with them for glory and empire. It now it fell so out that, finding themselves weakened by many great overthrows which they had received of the Romans, they did let fall their former peacock's bravery and ambition, so that, having fortified themselves with high and strong walls, and furnished the city with all sorts of weapons (offensive and defensive), as likewise with corn and all manner of provisions, they cheerfully endured a siege, which, though tedious to them, was no less troublesome and distressing to the besiegers. For the Romans had never been accustomed to stay away from home except in summer, and for no great length of time; and were accustomed to winter at home.

Part Two

And now, the seventh year of the war drawing to an end, the commanders began to be suspected as too slow and remiss in driving on the siege: whereupon in the end they were discharged, and other captains chosen. Among those, Camillus was one, whom then for the second time they created tribune. But at present he had no hand in the siege, the duties that fell by lot to him being to make war upon the Faliscans and the Capenates. These people, whilst the Romans were occupied elsewhere, had invaded their country, and done them great harm, during the time of their war with the Tuscans; but were now reduced by Camillus, and with great loss shut up within their own walls.

And now, in the very heat of the war, a strange phenomenon in the Alban lake, which in the absence of any known cause and explanation by natural reasons, did marvellously amaze the Romans, being no less wonderful than the most strange and uncrediblest thing that could be told by man. It was the beginning of autumn, and the summer now ending had, to all observation, been neither rainy nor much troubled with southern winds; and of the many lakes, brooks, and springs of all sorts with which Italy abounds, some were wholly dried up, others drew very little water with them; all the rivers, as is usual in summer, ran in a very low and hollow channel. But the Alban lake, that is fed by now other waters but its own, and is on all sides encircled with fruitful mountains, without any cause, unless it were divine, began visibly to rise and swell, increasing to the feet of the mountains, and by degrees reaching the level of the very tops of them, and all this without any waves or agitation. At first it was the wonder of shepherds and herdsmen; but when the earth, which, like a great dam, held up the lake from falling into the lower grounds, through the quantity and weight of water was broken down, and in a violent stream it ran through the ploughed fields and plantations to discharge itself in the sea, it not only struck, terror into the Romans, but was thought by all the inhabitants of Italy to portend some extraordinary event. But the greatest talk of it was in the camp that besieged Veii, so that in the town itself, also, the occurrence became known.

As in long sieges it commonly happens that parties on both sides meet often and converse with one another; so it chanced that a Roman had gained much confidence and familiarity with one of the besieged, a man versed in ancient prophecies, and of repute for more than ordinary skill in divination. The Roman, observing him to be overjoyed at the story of the lake, and to mock at the siege, told him that this was not the only prodigy that of late had happened to the Romans; others more wonderful yet than this had befallen them, which he was willing to communicate to him, that his own private matters might prosper well with him. The man greedily embraced the proposal, expecting to hear some wonderful secrets; but when, by little and little, he had led him on in conversation and insensibly drawn him a good way from the gates of the city, he snatched him up by the middle, being stronger than he, and, by the assistance of others that came running from the camp, seized and delivered him to the commanders.

The Veian seeing himself thus forcibly used, and knowing also that fatal destiny cannot be avoided, began to declare unto the Romans the ancient oracles and prophecies touching the fortune of their city; that it was not possible the city should be taken until the Alban lake, which now broke forth and had found out new passages, was drawn back from that course, and so diverted that it could not mingle with the sea.

This was carried unto the Senate at Rome, to be consulted of in council: and there it was determined they should send to the oracle of Apollo, at the city of Delphi, and ask him what they should do therein.

The messengers [omission for length], having made their voyage by sea and consulted the god, returned with the command that the Alban water, if it were possible, they should keep from the sea, and shut it up in its ancient bounds; but if that was not to be done, then they should carry it off by ditches and trenches into lower grounds, and so dry it up; which message being delivered, the priests performed what related to the sacrifices, and the people went to work and turned the water.

Narration and Discussion

If you were a Roman who had never had to pay taxes before, what might your reaction have been to Camillus' new program?

Why was the war against Veii so unpopular with the Romans at the time Camillus became a consular tribune?

(See the introduction to this lesson for other questions that may arise from the reading.)

Creative narration: You are a Roman school teacher trying to explain how the government works. What questions might the students ask? How would you respond?

For older students and further thought: The story about channeling the water of Lake Albano was important to the Romans, as it lent religious significance to an engineering project, but also emphasized their own cleverness and strength. Are there stories from your own or other cultures that serve a similar purpose?

Lesson Two


This lesson shows Camillus at a time of great personal success and acclaim (crushing the city of Veii, triumphing in unparalleled splendor), but it also shows his frequent struggle against popular opinion, and particularly against rivals who knew how to make use of "mob rule."


general of horse: second-in-command (see introductory notes)

Matuta, the Mother: a goddess of the Latins

Juno: a major female goddess, wife of Jupiter

entrails: inner organs, believed to be useful for divination

being taken by storm: In this violent event, any Veiians not killed were taken as slaves. It seems pertinent to mention this because, later on, the Romans considered moving some of their people to Veii, and it helps to understand why the city then stood empty.

Jupiter: the supreme god of the Romans

mischance: accident, mishap

vouchsafe: promise

felicitations: congratulations, praise

tumultuous: noisy, uproarious

Historic Occasions

396 B.C.: After Rome suffered military defeats against Veii and its allies, Camillus was named dictator and led the capture of the city.


Part One

And now the Senate, in the tenth year of the war, taking away all other commands, created Camillus dictator; who chose Cornelius Scipio for his general of horse. He made vows unto the gods that, if they would grant a happy conclusion of the war, he would celebrate to their honour the great games, and dedicate a temple to the goddess whom the Romans call Matuta, the Mother [omission for content].

Camillus then entered with his army into the Faliscan territory, and in a great battle overthrew them and the Capenates, their confederates. From there he went to the siege of Veii, where, perceiving to take it by assault was not to be won without great danger, he proceeded to cut mines underground, the earth about the city being easy to break up and allowing such depth for the works as would prevent their being discovered by the enemy.

This design going on in a hopeful way, he openly gave assaults to the enemy to keep them to the walls, whilst they that worked underground in the mines were, without being perceived, arrived within the citadel, close to the temple of Juno, which was the greatest and most honoured in all the city. It is said that the prince of the Tuscans was at that very time at sacrifice; and that the priest, after he had looked into the entrails of the beast, cried out with a loud voice that the gods would give the victory to those that should complete those offerings; and that the Romans who were in the mines, hearing the words, immediately pulled down the floor, and, ascending with noise and clashing of weapons, frightened away the enemy, and, snatching up the entrails, carried them to Camillus. But this may look like a fable.

The city, however, being taken by storm, and the soldiers busied in pillaging and gathering an infinite quantity of riches and spoils; Camillus, from the high tower viewing what was done, at first wept for pity. And when those that were about him congratulated his success, he lifted up his hands unto heaven, and made this prayer:

And as he had spoken these words, and was turning to the right (according to the manner of the Romans after they have prayed unto the gods), he stumbled and fell. The standers-by, taking this for an ill token, were somewhat troubled with the matter; but after he got up on his feet again, he told them that he had received what he had prayed for, a small mischance, in compensation for the greatest good fortune.

Having sacked the city, he was also desirous to carry Juno's image to Rome, to accomplish the vow he had made. And having sent for workmen for this purpose, he did sacrifice first unto the goddess, beseeching her to accept well of the Romans' goodwill, and that she would willingly vouchsafe to come and dwell with the other gods who had the protection of the city of Rome [omission for length and content].

Part Two

Now Camillus, whether puffed up with the greatness of his achievement in conquering a city that was the rival of Rome, and had held out a ten years' siege; or exalted with the felicitations of those that were about him, assumed to himself more than became a civil and legal magistrate. Among other things, in the pride and haughtiness of his triumph, he was carried through Rome upon his triumphant chariot drawn with four fair white horses, which no general either before or since ever did; for the Romans consider such a mode of conveyance to be sacred, and specially set apart to the king and father of the gods. This bred him much envy amongst the citizens, which had not been acquainted with such pomp and display.

There was another occasion also that made them mislike him much, which was his opposing the law by which the city was to be divided; for the tribunes of the people brought forward a motion that the people and Senate should be divided into two parts, one of which should remain at home, the other, as the lot should decide, remove to the new-taken city. By this means they should not only have much more room, but, by the advantage of two great and magnificent cities, be better able to maintain their territories and their fortunes in general. The people, therefore, who were numerous and indigent, greedily embraced it, and crowded continually to the Forum, with tumultuous demands to have it put to the vote. But the Senate and the noblest citizens, judging the proceedings of the tribunes to tend rather to a destruction than a division of Rome, greatly averse to it, went to Camillus for assistance; who, fearing the result if it came to a direct contest, contrived to occupy the people with other business, and so staved it off. He thus became unpopular with the common people.

Narration and Discussion

Why did it seem significant that Camillus stumbled? How did he explain it?

You are a Roman reporter who has heard that Camillus is "unpopular with the common people." Interview various people to find out why.

Lesson Three


After the taking of Veii, there was a logistical problem: some of the treasure had been promised as thanks to the gods, but the actual pieces had already been sold, and the money spent. Replacement gold was collected, with more enthusiasm by some (the Roman women) than others (the soldiers); and, after many adventures, it was deposited at a temple in Delphi.

And soon afterwards, the city of Falerii was taken by the Romans, though in a very different manner than that of Veii.


the tenth part of their spoils: that is, of the loot taken from the capture of Veii

he was discharged of his charge: he stepped down as dictator

levied: collected

massy: usually refers to weight ("massive", bulky); can also mean unalloyed or pure; the best translation would probably be "solid gold," which includes both meanings.

sent to Delphi: that is, to the temple there

talent: A talent of gold is estimated to have weighed 110 lb. (50 kg).

recompense: reward

obsequies: funeral rites

rovers: pirates

division of the city: see previous lesson

ratified: approved, given consent

Historic Occasions

394 B.C.: Camillus was appointed consular tribune to lead the final campaign against the Faliscans (and their city of Falerii)

On the Map

Lipari (Liparians): the largest of the Aeolian Islands, off the northern coast of Sicily


Part One

But the original and apparent cause of the people's ill will towards Camillus was for taking from them the tenth part of their spoils: and his taking of it was not altogether without some reason, and to say truly the people did him much wrong to bear him such malice for that. For before he went to Veii, he made a solemn vow to offer the tenth part unto the gods, of the spoils of the city, if he won the same. But when it was taken and sacked, whether it was that he was loath to trouble the citizens, or having a world of business in his head, that he easily forgot his vow: he suffered the soldiers to divide the spoil amongst them, and to take the benefit to themselves.

Shortly after he was discharged of his charge, he did inform the Senate of his vow. Furthermore, the soothsayers made report at that very time, how they knew by certain signs and tokens of their sacrifices, that the gods were offended for something, and how they must of necessity be pacified again. Whereupon the Senate presently made an order, where it was impossible every man should bring in again the selfsame things he had gotten, to make a new division of every man's share: that everyone therefore, upon his oath, should present the tenth part of his gains he had gotten by that booty.

This occasioned many annoyances and hardships to the soldiers, who were poor men, and had endured much in the war, and now were forced, out of what they had gained and spent, to bring in so great a proportion; and for this trouble, they all cried out with open mouth against Camillus. For want of a better excuse, he betook himself to the poorest of defenses, saying that, forsooth, he had forgotten his vow. They in turn complained that he had vowed the tenth of the enemy's goods, and now levied it out of the tenth of the citizens'.

Nevertheless, everyone having brought in his due proportion, it was decreed that out of it a bowl of massy gold should be made, and sent to Delphi. And when there was great scarcity of gold in the city, and the magistrates were considering where to get it, the Roman ladies, meeting together and consulting among themselves, out of the golden ornaments they wore they contributed as much as went to the making of the offering, which in weight came to eight talents of gold. In recompense whereof, to honour them withal: the Senate ordained that they should be praised openly with funeral orations at their burial, as they did use at honourable and noble men's obsequies. For before that law, it was not the manner to praise women openly at their funerals.

Part Two

Now there were appointed three of the noblest men of the city to go to carry this offering, and they sent them out in a galley well manned, stored also with good mariners, and trimly set forth in all triumphing manner: howbeit both in storm, and calm weather, they were in danger of their lives. For after that they had escaped drowning very narrowly by tempest, when the wind was down again, they fell into another danger, which they escaped also beyond all hope. For hard by the Aeolian Islands, the galleys of the Liparians fell upon them, as if they had been rovers. But when the Liparians saw they made no resistance, and entreated them, holding up their hands: they gave no further charge upon them, but only fastened their galley unto theirs. So when they had hauled them to the shore, where they expected to sell their goods and persons as lawful prize, they being pirates; and scarcely, at last, by the virtue and interest of one man, Timasitheus by name, who was in office as general, and used his utmost persuasion, they were, with much ado, dismissed. He, however, himself sent out some of his own vessels with them, to accompany them in their voyage and assist them at the dedication; for which he received honours at Rome, according to his well deserving.

Part Three

The tribunes of the people again resuming their motion for the division of the city, the war against the Faliscans luckily broke out, giving liberty to the chief citizens to choose what magistrates they pleased, and to appoint Camillus military tribune, with five colleagues; affairs then requiring a commander of authority and reputation, as well as experience. And when the people had ratified the election, he marched with his forces into the territories of the Faliscans, and laid siege to Falerii, a well-fortified city, and plentifully stored with all necessaries of war [omission for length].

But the Falerians trusting in the situation of their city, which was very strong in all parts, made so little account of the siege that those which kept not watch upon the walls, walked up and down in their gowns in the city, without any weapon about them; and their children went to school. The schoolmaster also would commonly lead them abroad out of the city a-walking, to play and pass the time by the town walls. For the Falerians, like the Greeks, used to have a single teacher for many pupils, wishing their children to live and be brought up from the beginning in each other's company.

This schoolmaster, designing to betray the Falerians by their children, led them out every day under the town wall, at first but a little way, and, when they had exercised, brought them home again. Afterwards by degrees he drew them farther and farther, till by practice he had made them bold and fearless, as if no danger was about them.

But at the length, one day having gotten all the citizens' children with him, he led them within the watch of the Romans' camp, and there delivered all his scholars into their hands, and prayed them they would bring him unto their general. So they did. And when he came before Camillus, he began to tell him that he was schoolmaster unto all these children, nevertheless that he did more esteem to have his grace and favour, than regard his office he had by this name and title.

Camillus hearing what he said, and beholding his treacherous part, he said to those that were about him:

Therefore he commanded his sergeants to bind his hands behind him [omission for content]: and that they should give the children rods and whips in their hands, to whip the traitor back again into the city, that had thus betrayed them, and grieved their parents.

Now when the Falerians heard news that the schoolmaster had thus betrayed them, all the city fell a-weeping (as every man may think for so great a loss) and men and women ran together one in another's neck, to the town walls, and gates of the city, like people out of their wits, they were so troubled. When they came thither, they saw their children bringing their schoolmaster back again [omission for content], whipping of him, and calling Camillus their father, their god, and their saviour: so that not only the fathers and mothers of the children, but all the citizens, did conceive in themselves a wonderful admiration and great love of the wisdom, goodness, and justice of Camillus.

Narration and Discussion

How did Camillus create a very different impression in his treatment of the Falerians vs. his actions in Veii? What might have been the reasons for this?

For older students: "Among good men there is a law and discipline, which doth forbid them to seek victory by wicked and traitorous means . . . ": do you agree? Do you think Camillus will be able to sustain this philosophy?

Creative narration: Retell either the story of the collection and journey with the gold, or the story of the schoolchildren and their traitorous teacher, in any creative format you like (drama, artwork, comic strip, song).

Lesson Four


In 391 B.C., sulking soldiers and stubborn city-dividers successfully managed to impeach Camillus. Refusing to pay his fine (or to accept its payment by others), he went into exile in the city of Ardea.

The second half of the lesson introduces a new threat to Rome itself: the Gauls. That story will continue through Lesson Eight.


resign whatever they had to his disposal: give up their rights and property to him

making a peace with the whole nation of the Faliscans, returned home: Plutarch moves on quickly to other matters, but it is worth noting that as a result of this victory, other city-states such as Aequi, Volsci, and Capena proposed peace treaties with Rome. Rome now controlled a much larger territory and was the strongest power in that part of Italy.

railed against: criticized

inveighing: speaking negatively, protesting

commiseration: sympathy

abate their malice: let go of their anger

immoderate: great

preferred: proposed, created

appropriation: theft

exasperated: annoyed, out of patience

defamed: slandered, having his reputation damaged

ignominy: public disgrace

choler: anger

like Achilles: in Homer's Iliad

imprecations: curses

noised: spread (like news)


Gauls: see introductory notes for this study.

Historic Occasions

391 B.C.: Impeachment and exile of Camillus

On the Map

Riphean Mountains: a northern mountain range, of uncertain location


Part One

Immediately meeting in assembly, the Falerians sent ambassadors to him, to resign whatever they had to his disposal. Camillus sent them to Rome, where, being brought into the Senate, they spoke to this purpose: that the Romans, preferring justice before victory, had taught them rather to embrace submission than liberty; they did not so much confess themselves to be inferior in strength, as they must acknowledge the Romans to be superior in virtue. The Senate dispatched letters unto Camillus, to judge and order as he thought fit; who, taking a sum of money of the Falerians, and, making a peace with the whole nation of the Faliscans, returned home.

But the soldiers, who had expected to have the pillage of the city, when they came to Rome empty-handed, railed against Camillus among their fellow-citizens, saying that he loved not the common people, and how for spite he disappointed their army of the spoil. Afterwards, when the tribunes of the people again brought their motion for dividing the city to the vote, Camillus appeared openly against it, shrinking from no unpopularity, and inveighing boldly against the promotors of it, and so urging and constraining the multitude that, contrary to their inclinations, they rejected the proposal, but yet hated Camillus. Insomuch that, though a great misfortune befell him in his family (one of his two sons dying of a disease), commiseration for this could not in the least make them abate their malice. And, indeed, he took this loss with immoderate sorrow, being a man naturally of a mild and tender disposition; and, when the accusation was preferred against him, he kept his house, and mourned amongst the women of his family.

The accuser was Lucius Apuleius (a tribune of the people); the charge, appropriation of the Tuscan spoils; certain brass gates, part of those spoils, were said to be in his (Camillus') possession. The people were exasperated against him, and it was plain they would take hold of any occasion to condemn him. Wherefore calling together his friends and soldiers that had served under him in the wars, or that had taken charge with him, which were many in number: he earnestly besought them, that they would not suffer him thus vilely to be condemned, through false and unjust accusations laid against him, nor to be so scorned and defamed by his enemies. His friends having laid their heads together, and consulted thereupon, made him answer: how for his judgment they could not remedy it, but if he were condemned, they would all join together, with a very goodwill, to help to pay his fine. But he being of mind not to bear such an open shame and ignominy, determined in choler to leave the city, and to exile himself from it.

And after he had taken his leave of his wife and children, bidding them farewell: he went out of his house to the gates of the city, and said never a word. When he came thither, he stayed suddenly, and returning back again, he lift up his hands towards the Capitol, and made his prayers unto the gods: that if it were of very spite and malice, and not of just deserving, that the common people compelled him thus shamefully to forsake the city, that the Romans might quickly repent them, and in the face of the world might wish for him, and have need of him.

Thus, like Achilles, having left his imprecations on the citizens, he went into banishment; so that, neither appearing nor making defense, he was condemned in the sum of a great deal of money. And there is not a Roman but believes that immediately upon the prayers of Camillus, a sudden judgment followed, and that he received a revenge for the injustice done unto him; which though we cannot think was pleasant, but rather grievous and bitter to him, yet was very remarkable, and noised over the whole world.

Part Two

Such a punishment visited the city of Rome: an era of such loss and danger and disgrace so quickly succeeded, whether it thus fell out by Fortune, or it be the office of some god not to see injured virtue go unavenged.

Their first token that threatened some great mischief to light upon them, was the death of Julius, one of the censors: for the Romans do greatly reverence the office of a censor, and esteem it as a sacred place.

The second token that happened a little before Camillus' exile, was this: that one Marcus Caeditius, a man but of mean quality, and none of the senators (but otherwise a fair conditioned honest man, and of good conscience) told the military tribunes of a thing that was to be well considered of. For he said that the night before, as he was going on his way in the street called the New Way, he heard someone call him aloud: and returning back to see what it was, he saw no living creature, but only heard a voice bigger than a man's, which said unto him: "Marcus Caeditius, go thy way tomorrow morning to the military tribunes and bid them look quickly for the Gauls."

The tribunes were merry at the matter, and made but a jest at his warning; and, straight after that came the condemnation of Camillus.

A Sidebar About the Gauls

Now as touching the Gauls. They came (as they say) of the Celts, whose country not being able to maintain the multitudes of them, they were driven to go seek other countries to inhabit: and there were amongst them many thousands of young men of service and good soldiers, but yet more women and little children by a great number.

Of these people, some of them went towards the north sea, passing the Riphean Mountains, and did dwell in the extreme parts of Europe. Other of them remained between the Pyrenees, and the greatest mountains of the Alps, near unto the Senones, and the Celtorii. There they continued a long time, until they fortuned in the end to taste of the wine, which was first brought out of Italy unto them. Which drink they found so good, and were so delighted with it, that suddenly they armed themselves: and taking their wives and children with them, they went directly towards the Alps, to go seek out the country that brought forth such fruit, judging all other countries, in respect of that, to be but wild and barren [omission for length and content].

So they conquered at their first coming all that country which the Tuscans held in old time, reaching from the Alps to both the seas, as the names themselves testify: for the north or Adriatic Sea is named from the Tuscan city, Adria; and that to the south simply the Tuscan Sea. All that country is well planted with trees, and hath goodly pleasant pastures for beasts and cattle to feed in, and is notably watered with goodly running rivers. It had eighteen large and beautiful cities, well provided with all the means for industry and wealth, and all the enjoyments and pleasures of life. The Gauls cast out the Tuscans, and seated themselves in them. (But this was long before.)

Narration and Discussion

Why were the soldiers disappointed about the lack of violence in the taking of Falerii? How did this contribute towards the general desire to discredit Camillus?

Why did Camillus choose exile over a compromise that would have allowed him to stay in Rome?

What impressions do you have of the Gauls?

Creative narration: The somewhat similar events of Coriolanus inspired Shakespeare to write a play around them. Write a scene where people discuss recent misfortunes in Rome, and worry about what else could go wrong. Older students could also write a soliloquy for Camillus, expressing his feelings at this time.

Lesson Five


The Gauls, politely asked by the Romans not to invade cities that had caused them no injury, laughed in their faces and pointed out that they, the Romans, had done exactly that to others.

Then they, incredibly, scored such a victory over the Romans (at the Battle of the River Allia) that they themselves were surprised to enter the city (in Lesson Six) and find it almost emptied.


barbarous: At its most negative, "barbarous" or "barbaric" means brutal and cruel, which might be an accurate description of the Gauls. It may also simply mean uncivilized and primitive (at least from the Roman perspective).

giving over: ceasing

glistering: shining

skirmishing: fighting small battles

priests called the Faeciales: Plutarch explains that these priests were considered the guardians of peace, and "the judges of all causes by which war might justifiably be made."

done the fact: committed the crime

dissolute: unfaithful, lax

confound: confuse

stole by night to Veii: The survivors of the battle went to the deserted city of Veii; many of the Roman civilians, taking advantage of the Gauls' leisurely pace, escaped to the Etruscan city of Caere; but a remaining garrison held out on the Capitoline Hill. According to Plutarch, though, Rome was not entirely deserted, because we later read that the Gauls, entering the city, killed all those they found.


Brennus, King of the Gauls: or Chief of the Senones, a tribe which battled the Romans until 283 B.C., when they were finally defeated

Historic Occasions

c. 391 B.C.: Siege of Clusium

July 390 B.C.: Gauls marched towards Rome, defeated Rome at the Battle of the Allia, and seized the city

On the Map

Clusium (Clusinians): a city in Tuscany (present-day Chiusi)

River Allia: a small river in Lazio, and a tributary of the Tiber, which flows through Rome


Part One

Now the Gauls, being further entered into Tuscany, did besiege the city of Clusium. Thereupon the Clusinians seeking aid of the Romans, besought them they would send letters and ambassadors unto these barbarous people in their favour. They sent unto them three of the best and most honourable persons of the city, all three of the house of the Fabians. The Gauls received them very courteously, from respect to the name of Rome; and, giving over the assault which was then making upon the walls, came to conference with them. When the ambassadors asked what injury they had received of the Clusinians that they thus invaded their city, Brennus, King of the Gauls, laughed and made answer:

By this answer the Romans, perceiving that Brennus was not to be treated with, went into Clusium, and encouraged and stirred up the inhabitants to make a sally with them upon the barbarians, which they did either to try their strength or to show their own.

The sally being made, and the fight growing hot about the walls, one of the Fabii, Quintus Ambustus, being well mounted, and setting spurs to his horse, made full against a Gaul, a man of huge bulk and stature, whom he saw riding out at a distance from the rest. He (Quintus Ambustus) was not recognized, as his glistering armour dimmed the eyes of the enemies.

But after he had slain the Gaul, and came to strip him: Brennus then knew him, and protested against him, calling the gods to witness how he had broken the law of arms: that, coming as an ambassador, he had taken upon him the form of an enemy. Hereupon Brennus forthwith left skirmishing, and raising the siege from Clusium, led his army directly to Rome.

But not wishing that it should look as if they took advantage of that injury, and were ready to embrace any occasion offered, he sent a herald to demand the man in punishment, that he might punish him accordingly; and in the meantime marched leisurely on to receive their answer.

Part Two

The Senate hereupon assembled, and many of the senators blamed the rashness of the Fabians. The priests called the Faeciales were the most decided: on religious grounds, they urged the Senate that they should lay the whole weight and burden of it upon him alone, that only had done the fact. The Senate referred the whole matter to the people; and the priests there, as well as in the Senate, were against the Fabians; the multitude, however, so little regarded their authority, that instead of delivering Quintus Ambustus unto the enemy, they did choose him for one of the military tribunes, along with his brothers.

The Gauls, on hearing this, in great rage threw aside every delay, and hastened on with all the speed they could make. The places through which they marched, terrified with their numbers and the splendour of their preparations for war, and in alarm at their violence and fierceness, began to give up their territories as already lost, with little doubt but their cities would quickly follow. Contrary, however, to expectation, the Gauls did no injury as they passed, nor took anything from the fields; and, as they went by any city, cried out that they went to Rome, and would have no wars but with the Romans, and how otherwise they desired to be friends with all the world.

These barbarous people marching on in this wise towards Rome, the military tribunes brought their army to the field to encounter them. They were no less in number than the Gauls, for they were forty thousand footmen. Howbeit most part of them were raw soldiers, and such as never handled a weapon before. Besides, they were very careless of the gods, and dissolute in matters of religion: for they passed neither for good signs in their sacrifices, neither to ask counsel of their soothsayers, which the Romans were religiously wont to do, before they gave any battle.

To make the matter worse, the number of the captains having power and authority alike, did as much (or more than the rest) disorder and confound their doings. Frequently before, upon lesser occasions, they had chosen a single leader, with the title of dictator, being sensible of what great importance it is in critical times to have the soldiers united under one general with the entire and absolute control placed in his hands. The injury also which they had to ungratefully done to Camillus, brought great mischief and inconvenience then upon them. For the captains after him dared no more command the people roughly, but ever after did flatter them much.

In this condition they left the city, and encamped by the River Allia, about ten miles from Rome, and not far from the place where it falls into the Tiber; and here the Gauls came upon them, and, after a disgraceful resistance, devoid of order and discipline, they were miserably defeated. The left wing was immediately driven into the river, and there destroyed; the right had less damage by declining the shock, and from the low grounds getting to the tops of the hills, from whence most of them afterwards dropped into the city; the rest, as many as escaped the enemy being weary of the slaughter, stole by night to Veii, giving up Rome and all that was in it for lost.

[Omission for length]

Narration and Discussion

Describe Brennus from a Roman point of view. How might someone of his own tribe describe him differently?

Explain this sentence: "For the captains after [Camillus] dared no more command the people roughly, but ever after did flatter them much."

Creative narration: Write Camillus a letter, informing him of what has been going on around Rome.

Lesson Six


The Romans, after the shock of seeing their own city burned, and hearing of the brutal murder of their elders, agreed that they needed the leadership of Camillus. But would he be willing to help?


leisure: opportunity, time

works: fortifications

vestal virgins: Vesta was the goddess of hearth and home, and the vestal virgins were young women responsible for maintaining her sacred fire. (North translates it "nuns.")

devoting: committing a thing or a person to God or the gods

design or stratagem: plot, trick

razed: destroyed, burned down

in want of provision: short of food

sojourned: stayed, lived

enterprise: boldness, resolve

mustered: gathered (to fight)

Historic Occasions

390 B.C.: Rome was occupied by the Gauls

On the Map

Ardea: a town of the Lazio region, 22 miles (35 km) south of Rome (it is now within the Metropolitan City of Rome)


Part One

Now after this battle lost, if the Gauls had hotly pursued the chase of their flying enemies, nothing could have saved Rome from being taken, and the inhabitants thereof from being put unto the sword; such was the terror that those who escaped the battle brought with them into the city, and with such distraction and confusion were themselves in turn infected. But the Gauls, not imagining their victory to be so considerable, and overtaken with the present joy, fell to feasting and dividing the spoil; by which means they gave leisure to those who were for leaving the city to make their escape, and to those that remained to anticipate and prepare for their coming.

For they who resolved to stay at Rome, abandoning the rest of the city, betook themselves to the Capitol, which they fortified with the help of missiles and new works. One of their principal cares was of their holy things, most of which they conveyed into the Capitol.

A sidebar about sacred things

But the consecrated fire, the vestal virgins took and fled with it, as likewise their other sacred things.

[Omission for length; it is unclear exactly what they took with them.]

However it be, taking the most precious and important things they had, they fled away with them, shaping their course along the riverside, where Lucius Albinius, a simple citizen of Rome, who among others was making his escape, overtook them, having his wife, children, and goods in a cart; and, seeing the virgins, dragging along in their arms the holy things of the gods, in a helpless and weary condition, he caused his wife and children to get down, and, taking out his goods, put the virgins in the cart, that they might make their escape to some of the Greek cities. This devout act of Albinius, and the respect he showed thus signally to the gods at a time of such extremity, deserved not to be passed over in silence.

Part Two

But the priests that belonged to other gods, and the most elderly of the senators, men who had been consuls and had enjoyed triumphs, could not endure to leave the city; but, putting on their sacred and splendid robes, Fabius the high priest performing the office, they made their prayers to the gods, and, devoting themselves, as it were, for their country, sat themselves down in their ivory chairs in the Forum, and in that posture expected the event.

On the third day after the battle, Brennus came to Rome with his army: who, finding the gates of the city all open, and the walls without watch, he first began to suspect it was some design or stratagem, never dreaming that the Romans were in so desperate a condition. But when he found it to be so indeed, he entered at the Colline gate, and took Rome, in the three hundred and sixtieth year, or a little more, after it was built [omission for length]. After taking possession of Rome, he set a strong guard about the Capitol; and, going down into the Forum, was there struck with amazement at the sight of so many men sitting in that order and silence, observing that they neither rose at his coming, not so much as changed colour or countenance, but remained without fear or concern, leaning upon their staves, and sitting quietly, looking at each other. This their so strange manner at the first did so damp the Gauls, that for a space they stood still, and were in doubt to come near to touch them, fearing lest they had been some gods: until such time, as one of them went boldly unto Marcus Papirius, and laid his hand fair and softly upon his long beard. But Papirius gave him such a rap on his head with his staff, that he made the blood run about his ears. This barbarous beast was in such a rage with the blow, that he drew out his sword, and slew him.

The other soldiers also killed all the rest afterwards: and so the Gauls continued many days spoiling and sacking all things they found in the houses, and in the end did set them all afire, and destroyed them every one, for despite of those that guarded the Capitol, that would not yield upon their summons, but valiantly repulsed them when they scaled the walls. For this cause they razed the whole city, and put all to the sword that came in their hands, young and old, man, woman, and child.

Part Three

And now, the siege of the Capitol having lasted a good while, the Gauls began to be in want of provision; and, dividing their forces, part of them stayed with their kind at the siege, the rest went to forage the country, ravaging the towns and villages where they came, but not all together in a body, but in different squadrons and parties; and to such a confidence had success raised them, that they carelessly rambled about without the least fear or apprehension of danger.

But the greatest and best-ordered body of their forces went to the city of Ardea, where Camillus then sojourned, having, ever since his leaving Rome, meddling with no matters of state from the time of his exile until that present time; but now he began to rouse up himself, and consider not how to avoid or escape the enemy, but to find out an opportunity to be revenged upon them. And perceiving that the Ardeatians wanted not men, but rather enterprise, through the inexperience and timidity of their officers, he began to speak with the young men, saying that:

When Camillus found the young men embraced the idea, he went to the magistrates and council of Ardea, and, having persuaded them also, he mustered all that could bear arms.

Narration and Discussion

Do you agree that the elders of Rome showed great courage? (Should they have armed themselves for battle instead?)

Which is more surprising: that the Romans asked Camillus to lead a counterattack against the Gauls, or that he agreed to help them?

For further thought: Those who have read Coriolanus may want to compare his actions with those of Camillus. How did they differ?

Creative narration: Those who found the earlier Shakespeare-inspired exercise interesting might add to it in this lesson. Which events would you portray onstage, and which would you have other characters describe? How might Shakespeare have rewritten Camillus' speech?

Lesson Seven


The plan to retake Rome involved surrounding the city, and then deciding how and when to attack. Camillus, insistent on doing things by the book, delayed taking on the office of dictator (or general) until it had been properly ratified by the Roman senators, who were besieged on the Capitoline Hill. But how would they get that request past the Gauls?

In the second part of the reading, the Gauls followed the path of that messenger to scale the hill and attack the garrison; however, their attempts at stealth were foiled by some patriotic geese.


the ground that lay between: between Ardea and the enemy camp

works: fortifications

despatched: killed

be their captain: Camillus was being offered an unofficial generalship.

the victory of Camillus: the taking of the camp

make them privy to it: inform them of it

invincible: unconquerable

their just desert: what they deserve

rampart: defensive wall


Pontius Cominius: also called Cominius Pontius

Marcus Manlius, later called Capitolinus: consul in 392 B.C.; tribune in 389 B.C. He was the brother of Aulius Manlius Capitolinus, a consular tribune.

Historic Occasions

390 B.C.: Camillus named dictator for the second time


Part One

Camillus drew his soldiers up within the walls of Ardea, that they might not be perceived by the enemy, who was near; who, having scoured the country, and now returned heavy-laden with spoils, lay encamped in the plains in a careless and negligent posture; and having their full carriage of wine, laid them down to sleep, and made no noise at all in their camp.

When Camillus learned this from his scouts, he drew out the Ardeatians, and in the dead of the night, passing in silence over the ground that lay between, came up to their works, and, commanding his trumpets to sound and his men to shout and halloo, he struck terror into them from all quarters; who yet with all the loud noise they made, could hardly be made to wake, they were so deadly drunk. A few, whom fear had sobered, getting into some order, for a while resisted; and so died with their weapons in their hands. But the greatest part of them, buried in wine and sleep, were surprised without their arms, and despatched; and as many of them as by the advantage of the night got out of the camp were the next day found scattered abroad and wandering in the fields, and were picked up by the horsemen which followed and killed them, as they took them straggling here and there in the fields.

The fame of this action soon flew through the neighbouring cities, and stirred up the young men from various quarters to come and join themselves with him. But none were so much concerned as those Romans who escaped in the Battle of Allia, and were now at Veii, thus lamenting with themselves,

So they all agreed to this counsel, and sent unto Camillus, to beseech him to be their captain and lead them. But he made answer, he would in no case consent unto it, unless they that were besieged in the Capitol had lawfully first confirmed it by their voices. "For those," (said he) "so long as they remain within the city, do represent the state and body thereof." Therefore if they commanded him to take this charge upon him, he would most willingly obey them: if otherwise they misliked of it, that then he would not meddle against their goodwills and commandment.

They having received this answer, there was not a Roman amongst them but greatly honoured and extolled the wisdom and justice of Camillus. But now they knew not how to make them privy to it, that were besieged in the Capitol: for they saw no possibility to convey a messenger to them: considering the enemies were lords of the city, and laid siege to it. Howbeit there was one Pontius Cominius amongst the young men (a man of a mean house, but yet desirous of honour and glory) that offered himself very willingly to venture to get in if he could.

So he took no letters to carry to them which were besieged, for fear lest they might be intercepted, and so they should discover Camillus' intention; but putting on a poor dress and carrying corks under it, he boldly travelled the greatest part of the way by day, and came to the city when it was dark. The bridge he could not pass, as it was guarded by the barbarians; so that taking his clothes, which were neither many nor heavy, and binding them about his head, he laid his body upon the corks, and swimming with them, got over to the city. Avoiding those quarters where he perceived the enemy was awake, he went to the Carmental gate, where there was greatest silence, and where the hill of the Capitol is steepest and rises with craggy and broken rock. By this way he got up, though with much difficulty, by the hollow of the cliff, and presented himself to the guards, saluting them, and telling them his name; he was taken in and carried to the commanders.

A meeting of the Senate being immediately called, he related to them in order the victory of Camillus, which they had not heard of before, and the proceeding of the soldiers, urging them to confirm Camillus in the command, as on him alone all their fellow-countrymen outside the city would rely. Having heard and consulted of the matter, the Senate declared Camillus dictator, and sent back Pontius the same way that he came; who, with the same success as before, got through the enemy without being discovered, and delivered to the Romans outside the decision of the Senate, who joyfully received it. Camillus, on his arrival, found twenty thousand of them ready in arms; with which forces, and those confederates he brought along with him, he prepared to set upon the enemy.

Part Two

But at Rome some of the barbarians, walking out by chance near the place at which Pontius by night had got into the Capitol, spied in several places marks of feet and hands, where he had laid hold and clambered, and places where the plants that grew to the rock had been rubbed off, and the earth had slipped, and went accordingly and reported it to the king, who, coming in person, and viewing it, for the present said nothing, but in the evening, picking out such of the Gauls as were nimblest of body, and by living in the mountains were accustomed to climb, he said to them,

When the king had spoken these words unto the Gauls, they fell to it lustily every man to get up: and about midnight, they began many of them to dig, and make steps up to the rock one after another, as softly as could possibly, with catching hold the best they could, by the hanging of the rock, which they found very steep, but nevertheless easier to climb, then they took it at the beginning. So that the foremost of them being come to the top of the rock, were now ready to take the wall, and to set upon the watch that slept: for there was neither man nor dog that heard them.

It chanced then there were holy geese kept in the Temple of Juno, which at other times were plentifully fed, but now, by reason that corn and other provisions were grown scarce for all, were but in a poor condition. The creature is by nature of quick sense, and apprehensive of the least noise, so that these, being moreover watchful through hunger, and restless, immediately discovered the coming of the Gauls, and, running up and down with their noise and cackling, they raised the whole camp, while the barbarians on the other side, perceiving themselves discovered, no longer endeavoured to conceal their attempt, and came in with all the open noise and terror they could.

The Romans, everyone in haste snatching up the next weapon that came to hand, did what they could on the sudden occasion. Marcus Manlius, a man of consular dignity, of strong body and great spirit, was the first that made head against them, and, engaging with two of the enemy at once, with his sword cut off the right arm of one just as he was lifting up his blade to strike; and, running his target full in the face of the other, tumbled him headlong down the steep rock; then mounting the rampart, and there standing with others that came running to his assistance, drove down the rest of them, who, indeed, to begin, had not been many, and did nothing worthy of so bold an attempt. The Romans, having thus escaped this danger, early in the morning took the captain of the watch and flung him down the rock upon the heads of their enemies; and to Manlius for his victory voted a reward, intended more for honour than advantage, bringing him, each man of them, as much as he received for his daily allowance, which was half a pound of bread and one eighth of a pint of wine.

Narration and Discussion

Some of the Romans might have felt that Camillus was wasting time, and perhaps endangering their mission, by worrying about legal procedure. Do you agree with his decision?

Why was the reward for Manlius "more for honour than advantage?"

Creative narration: Tell the story of Pontius Cominius in any creative way you wish. Older students may feel inspired by Macaulay's poem "Horatius at the Bridge," which describes an earlier attempt to save Rome from Etruscan invaders.

Lesson Eight


The Roman senators, starving and short on ideas, were finally brought to the point of simply paying the Gauls to leave; and the Gauls, by this point, were equally satisfied to accept this persuasion. However, the weighing out of the gold was interrupted by the arrival of Camillus.


they wanted provisions: they lacked food

despondency: low spirits, loss of hope

parley: communication, discussion

passing by and dissembling a petty injury: ignoring a small insult

hot: angry

required ought: wanted to transact any business

mad as a march hare: a phrase used as early as 1500 A.D. to describe excitable and unpredictable behaviour; a more current way to describe Brennus' reaction might be to say that he "lost it."

Aius Locutius: Dryden translates this "Rumour, or Voice;" the words mean "spoken affirmation," referring to the fact that the deity spoke unusually clearly and was known by its voice alone.

Historic Occasions

February 389 B.C.: Rome liberated from the Gauls


Henceforward, the affairs of the Gauls were daily in a worse and worse condition: they wanted provisions, being withheld from foraging (through fear of Camillus); and sickness also was amongst them, occasioned by the number of carcasses that lay in heaps unburied; and amongst burnt houses destroyed, where the ashes being blown very high by the wind and vehemence of heat, breathed up, so to say, a dry and searching air, the inhalation of which was destructive to their health. But the chief cause was the change from their natural climate, coming as they did out of shady and hilly countries, abounding in means of shelter from the heat, to lodge in low, and, in the autumn season, very unhealthy ground; added to which was the length and tediousness of the siege, as they had now sat seven months before the Capitol. There was, therefore, a great destruction among them, and the number of the dead grew so great that the living gave up burying them. Neither, indeed, were things on that account any better with the besieged, for famine increased upon them, and also despondency with not hearing anything of Camillus, it being impossible to send any one to him, the city was so guarded by the barbarians.

Things being in this sad condition on both sides, a motion of treaty was made at first by some of the outposts, as they happened to speak with one another; which being embraced by the leading men, Sulpicius, tribune of the Romans, came to a parley with Brennus, in which it was agreed that, the Romans laying down a thousand weight of gold, the Gauls, upon the receipt of it, should immediately depart out of their city, and all their territories.

The agreement being confirmed by oath on both sides, and the gold brought forth, the Gauls used false dealing in the weights, secretly at first, but afterwards openly pulled back and disturbed the balance; at which the Romans indignantly complaining, Brennus, in a scoffing and insulting manner, pulled off his sword and belt, and threw them both into the scales; and when Sulpicius asked what that meant, "What should it mean," says he, "but woe to the conquered?" This word ever after ran as a common proverb in the people's mouths.

And as for the Romans, some were so incensed that they were for taking their gold back again and returning to endure the siege. Others were for passing by and dissembling a petty injury, and not to account that the indignity of the thing lay in paying more than was due, since paying anything at all was itself a dishonour only submitted to as a necessity of the times.

Whilst this difference remained still unsettled, both amongst themselves and with the Gauls, Camillus was at the gates with his army. Having learned what was going on, he commanded the main body of his forces to follow slowly after him in good order; and himself with the choicest of his men hastening on, went at once to the Romans; where all giving way to him, and receiving him as their sole magistrate, with profound silence and order, he took the gold out of the scales, and delivered it to his officers, commanding the Gauls presently to take up their scales, and to get them going. "For," sayeth he, "it is not the Romans' manner to keep their country with gold, but with the sword."

Then Brennus began to be hot, and told him it was not honourably done of him to break the accord that had passed between them before by oath. Whereunto Camillus stoutly answered him again, that accord was of no validity. For he had been created dictator before all other officers and magistrates whatsoever, and their acts, by his election, were made of no authority; and seeing, therefore, they had dealt with men that had no power of themselves to accord to any matter, they were to speak to him, if they required ought. For he alone had absolute authority to pardon them if they repented, and would ask it; or else to punish them, and make their bodies answer the damages and loss his country had by them sustained.

These words made Brennus mad as a march hare, that out went his blade. Then they drew their swords of all sides, and laid lustily one at another as they could, within the houses, and in open streets, where they could set no battle in order. But Brennus, suddenly remembering himself that it was no even match for him, retired with his men about him into his camp, before he had lost many of his people.

The next night following, he departed out of Rome with all his army, and went to encamp himself about sixty furlongs from thence, in the highway that goeth towards the city of the Gabians. Camillus with his whole army well appointed, went after him immediately, and appeared at his camp by the break of day. The Romans having taken heart again unto them, did lustily give them battle; it continued long, very cruel and doubtful, until the Gauls at the length were overthrown, and their camp taken with great slaughter. As for those that did escape the fury of the battle, they were killed, some by the Romans themselves, who hotly followed the chase after the battle broken: the residue of them, and the greatest part, were slain by those of the cities and villages nearabout, that did set upon them as they fled scatteringly here and there in the fields.

And thus was the city of Rome strangely again recovered, that was before strangely won and lost, after it had continued seven months in the hands of the barbarous people. For they entered Rome about the fifteenth day of July: and they were driven out again, about the thirteenth day of February following. Camillus triumphed, as he deserved, having saved his country that was lost, and brought the city, so to say, back again to itself.

For those that had fled abroad, together with their wives and children, accompanied him as he rode in; and those who had been shut up in the Capitol, and were reduced almost to the point of perishing with hunger, went out to meet him, embracing each other as they met, and weeping for joy, and, through the excess of the present pleasure, scarce believing in its truth.

The priests and ministers of the temples also, presented their holy jewels, whole and undefaced, which some of them had buried in the ground within the city itself: and others some had carried away with them, when they fled out of Rome. All these the people did as gladly see, as if the gods themselves had returned home again into their city. After they had sacrificed unto the gods, and rendered them most humble thanks, and had purified the city according to the directions of those properly instructed, he restored the existing temples, and erected a new one to Aius Locutius, informing himself of the spot in which that voice came by night to Marcus Caedicius, foretelling the coming of the barbarian army. It was a matter of difficulty, and a hard task, amidst so much rubbish, to discover and re-determine the consecrated places; but by the zeal of Camillus, and the incessant labour of the priests, it was at last accomplished.

Narration and Discussion

Why did the Gauls take their final battle outside the walls of the city?

Describe ways in which Camillus showed his love for Rome.

For older students and further thought: "All these the people did as gladly see, as if the gods themselves had returned home again into their city." Why was it so important to see the jewels and religious items restored to their places? (Compare this story with the restoration of Jerusalem in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.)

Creative narration: This whole passage lends itself well to dramatization, newspaper reports, and other creative forms of narration. Those who have been experimenting with Shakespearean adaptations may wish to continue with that project.

Lesson Nine


The rebuilding of Rome continued, though not without setbacks, and complaints (once again) that it would be easier to start afresh in the unoccupied city of Veii. However, the discovery of artifacts (such as the staff of Romulus) helped to remind the Romans of their heritage, and encouraged them to stay where they were.

Then, with "scarcely a breathing time from their trouble," they received news that an allied city was being besieged and needed help. This is one of the stories (as Plutarch explains) for which there are quite different and confusing variations. Only the first version is presented here; the second will be told in Lesson Ten.


seditious: rebellious

tumult: upset, trouble

tarry: wait

naked and destitute: lacking even basic needs

Palatium: The Palatium was the highest point of the Palatine Hill, one of the Seven Hills of Rome; but it may mean the Palatine Hill itself.

Altar of Mars: a religious site in Rome, located in the Field of Mars

augural: used for divination (reading omens, foretelling the future)

sent to Rome: asked Rome for help


Romulus: the legendary founder of Rome

Historic Occasions

389 B.C.: Camillus was dictator for the third time

On the Map

Sutrium: Please read A Special Note in the introduction to this study.


Part One

But when they were to build again all the rest of the city, that was wholly burnt, and destroyed to the ground: the people had no mind to it, but ever shrank back to put any hand to the work, for that they lacked all things necessary to begin the same. It was a time, too, when they rather needed relief and rest from their past labours, than any new demands upon their exhausted strength and impaired fortunes. Thus they turned their thoughts again towards Veii, a city ready-built and well-provided; and gave an opening to the arts of flatterers eager to gratify their desires; and lent their ears to seditious language flung out against Camillus: as that, out of ambition and self-glory, he withheld them from a city fit to receive them, forcing them to live in the midst of ruins, and to re-erect a pile of burnt rubbish, that he might be esteemed not the chief magistrate only and general of Rome, but, to the exclusion of Romulus, its founder also.

The Senate considering of this matter, and fearing some tumult among the people, would not suffer Camillus to leave his dictatorship before the end of the year, though no dictator had ever held it above six months.

Then Camillus for his part did much endeavour himself to comfort and appease the people, praying them all he could to tarry: and further pointed with his finger unto the graves of their ancestors, and put them in mind also of the holy places dedicated to the gods, and sanctified by King Numa, or by Romulus, or by other kings [omission for length].

He reminded them of the holy fire which had just been rekindled again, since the end of the war, by the vestal virgins. "What a disgrace it would be to them to lose and extinguish this, leaving the city it belonged to, to be either inhabited by strangers and newcomers, or left a wild pasture for cattle to graze on?" Such reasons as these were met, on the other hand, by laments and protestations of distress and helplessness; entreaties that, reunited, as they just were, after a sort of shipwreck, naked and destitute, they would not constrain them to patch up the pieces of a ruined and shattered city, when they had another at hand ready-built and prepared.

So Camillus' counsel was that the Senate should consult upon this matter, and deliver their absolute opinion herein: which was done. And in this council, he himself brought forth many probable reasons why they should not leave, in any case, the place of their natural birth and country; and so did many other senators in like case, favouring that opinion. Last of all, after these persuasions, he commanded Lucius Lucretius (whose manner was to speak first in such assemblies) that he should stand up and deliver his opinion, and that the rest also in order as they sat, should say their minds. So every man keeping silence, as Lucretius was ready to speak, at that present time there passed by their council house a captain with his band that warded that day, who spoke aloud to his ensign bearer that went foremost, to stay, and set down his ensign there: "For," said he, "here is a very good place for us to ward in." This voice, coming in that moment of time, and at that crisis of uncertainty and anxiety for the future, was taken as a direction what was to be done; so that Lucretius, assuming an attitude of devotion, gave sentence in concurrence with the gods, as he said; and so the rest, in their order, said as much.

Moreover there was a wonderful change and alteration of mind suddenly among the common people: every one now cheered and encouraged his neighbour, and set himself to the work; proceeding in it, however, not by any regular lines or divisions, but every one pitching upon that plot of ground which came next to hand, or best pleased his fancy; by which haste and hurry in building, they constructed their city in narrow and ill-designed lanes, and with houses huddled together one upon another; for it is said that within the year the whole city was built up anew, both in its public walls and private buildings.

But the persons, however, appointed by Camillus to resume and mark out, in this general confusion, all consecrated places, coming, in their way round the Palatium to the Chapel of Mars, found the chapel itself indeed destroyed and burnt to the ground, like everything else, by the barbarians; but whilst they were clearing the place, and carrying away the rubbish, they lit upon Romulus' augural staff, buried under a great heap of ashes. This sort of staff is crooked at one end, and is called a lituus; they make use of it in quartering out the regions of the heavens when engaged in divination from the flight of birds; Romulus, who was himself a great diviner, made use of it. But when he disappeared from the earth, the priests took it, and kept it as a holy relic, suffering no creature to lay hands on it.

Now that they found this staff whole and unbroken, where all things else were consumed and perished by fire, they were in a marvellous joy thereat. For they interpreted this to be a sign of the everlasting continuance of the city of Rome.

Part Two

And now they had scarcely got a breathing time from their trouble, when a new war came upon them: the Aequians, Volscians, and Latins all at once invaded their territories, and the Tuscans besieged Sutrium, their confederate city. The military tribunes who commanded the army, and were encamped about Mount Marcius, being closely besieged by the Latins, and the camp in danger to be lost, sent to Rome, where Camillus was a third time chosen dictator.

The occasion of this war is reported two manner of ways: whereof I will declare the first, which I do conceive to be but a tale. They say the Latins sent unto the Romans, to demand some of their free maids in marriage: which they did either to make a quarrel of war, or else as desirous indeed, to join both the peoples again by new marriages. The Romans were amazed very much at this, and sore troubled, as not knowing how to answer them, they were so afraid of wars. For they were scant new settled at home, and dreaded much lest this demand of their daughters was but a summons made to give them hostages, which they finely cloaked under the name of alliance in marriage.

Some say that there was at that time a bondmaid called Tutola, or as some say, Philotis, that went unto the Senate, and counselled them they should send her away with some other fair maids' slaves, dressed up like gentlewomen, and then let her alone. The Senate liked very well of this device, and chose such a number of bondmaids as she desired to have, and trimming them up in fine apparel, begauded with chains of gold and jewels, they sent them forth to the Latins, who were encamped not far from the city.

When night was come, the other maids hid their enemies' swords. But this Tutola, or Philotis (call her as you will) did climb up to the top of a wild fig tree, from which she shewed a burning torch unto the Romans, and spreading out a thick woolen cloth behind her, held out a torch towards Rome, which was the signal concerted between her and the commanders, without the knowledge, however, of any other of the citizens, which was the reasons that their issuing out from the city was tumultuous, the officers pushing their men on, and they calling upon one another's names, and scarce able to bring themselves into order; that setting upon the enemy's works, who either were asleep or expected no such matter, they took the camp and destroyed most of them.

[Omission for length]

Narration and Discussion

What difficulties did Camillus face in rebuilding Rome? How did he overcome them?

Why did Plutarch consider the story of the disguised slave girls to be probably just a fable? Do you think it could have happened?

Lesson Ten


Camillus, at the age of about sixty, was still a top military strategist, and quite capable of leading the Roman forces against enemy tribes. Even those who had previously called him "just lucky" were forced to admit that skill and courage might also have contributed to his success.


palisade: wall constructed of stakes, for defense

firebrands: torches

fiery matter: Dryden, "combustibles"; things set on fire

commiserating their case: full of sympathy for them

conjecturing: guessing

Historic Occasions

389 B.C.: Camillus conquered rival nations and had his third triumph

On the Map

the mountain Maecius: in Latin, ad Maecium

Sutrium: possibly Satricum; see introductory note


Part One

The other account of the war (according to the general stream of writers) is this: Camillus, being the third time chosen dictator, and learning that the army under the tribunes was besieged by the Latins and Volscians, was constrained to arm not only those under, but also those over, the age of service; and taking a large circuit round the mountain Maecius, undiscovered by the enemy, lodged his army behind them, where he raised fires to make the Romans that were besieged know how he was come. The besieged, encouraged by this, prepared to sally forth and join battle; but the Latins and Volscians, fearing this exposure to an enemy on both sides, drew themselves within their works, and fortified their camp with a strong palisade of trees on every side, resolving to wait for more supplies from home, and expecting also the assistance of the Tuscans, their confederates.

Camillus perceiving this, and fearing lest they should serve him, as he had already handled them, by compassing of him again behind: he thought it necessary to prevent this. So considering the enclosure and fortification of their camp was all of wood, and that every morning, commonly, there came a great wind from the side of the mountains, he made provision of a number of firebrands. And leading out his army into the fields by break of day, he appointed one part of them to give charge upon the enemies on the one side, with great noise and shouting: and he with the other part determined to raise fire on the contrary side, from whence the wind should come, looking for opportunity to do the same. When he saw the sun up, and the wind beginning to whistle, blowing a good gale from the side of the hills, and that the skirmish was begun on the other side: then he gave a signal of onset; and heaving in an infinite quantity of fiery matter, filled all their rampart with it, so that the flame being fed by the close timber and wooden palisades, went on and spread into all quarters. The Latins, having nothing ready to keep it off or extinguish it, when the camp was now almost full of fire, were driven back within a very small compass, and at last forced by necessity to come into their enemy's hands, who stood before the works ready armed and prepared to receive them; of these very few escaped, while those that stayed in the camp were all a prey to the fire, until the Romans themselves came to quench it, for greediness of their spoil and goods.

Part Two

When all this was done, Camillus left his son in the camp, to keep the prisoners and spoils; and he himself, with the rest of the army, went to invade his enemies' country, where he took Bola, the capital city of the Aequians.

Then after he had overcome the Volsces, he led his army to Sutrium: not having heard what had befallen the Sutrians, but making haste to assist them, as if they were still in danger and besieged by the Tuscans. They, however, had already surrendered their city to their enemies; and destitute of all things, with nothing left but their clothes, met Camillus on the way, lamenting their misery, with their wives and little young children: whose misery went to the very heart of Camillus, when he beheld their lamentable state. Furthermore, when he saw the soldiers weeping, and commiserating their case, while the Sutrians hung about and clung to them, resolved not to defer revenge, but that very day to lead his army to Sutrium; conjecturing that the enemy, having just taken a rich and plentiful city, without an enemy left within it, nor any from without to be expected, would be found abandoned to enjoyment, and unguarded.

And indeed it fell out rightly as he guessed. For he had not only passed through the territories of the city, without any intelligence given to the enemies within the same: but he was come to the very gates, and had taken the walls, before they heard anything of his coming, by reason they neither kept watch nor ward, but were dispersed abroad in the city, in every house, eating and drinking drunk together. Insomuch as when they knew their enemies were already within the city, they were so full with meat and wine, that the most of their wits served them not so much as to flee, but tarried until they were slain or taken like beasts in the houses.

Thus was the city of Sutrium twice taken in one day. And it chanced that those which had won it, lost it; and those which had lost it, recovered it again by Camillus' means. For all which actions he received a triumph, which brought him no less honour and reputation than the two former ones; for those citizens who before most regarded him with an evil eye, and ascribed his successes to a certain luck rather than real merit, were compelled by these last acts of his to confess that his wisdom and valiantness deserved praise and commendation to the skies.

Narration and Discussion

Choose three adjectives that you think best describe Camillus at this point in his life.

Creative narration: You are a Roman reporter on the day of Camillus' third triumph. Chat with anyone you can find who might have an opinion about whether he deserved this honour. If you can manage an exclusive interview with Camillus himself, so much the better.

Lesson Eleven


Well into old age, Camillus continued to be a powerful force in Rome. He outwitted a political rebel who had been playing on people's memories of his past glories; and led troops in battle (though somewhat reluctantly). His one blind (or at least overly generous) spot seemed to be the Tusculans.


usurpation: taking, seizing

gain the multitude: get the support of the common people

changed their apparel: put on mourning clothes

prospect: view

manifest: unarguable, obvious

Moneta: a version of the goddess Juno

being called again to his sixth tribuneship: This was in reaction to a new military crisis involving Antium and other Volsci cities, which had united and retaken Sutrium (or Satricum, see notes).

ensue upon: follow

one of his companions: Other sources state that Lucius Furius was the son or nephew of Camillus.

protract the war: To protract something is to prolong or extend it; but here it seems that Camillus wanted to delay the battle.

stayed: ceased, stopped

exceeding spoil: large amount of treasure

made suit to have the charge: wanted to be in office

fetches: tricks

the privilege and freedom of Rome: the rights of citizens


Marcus Manlius: see Lesson Seven

Quinctius Capitolinus: Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus Capitolinus, dictator in 380 B.C. (Plutarch says that he was dictator during the Marcus Manlius events, but other sources say that he was Master of the Horse, second to Aulus Cornelius Cossus.)

Historic Occasions

384 B.C.: Camillus was consular tribune (fifth time)

384 B.C.: Execution of Marcus Manlius

381 B.C.: Camillus was consular tribune (sixth and last time)

On the Map

Tusculum (Tusculans): Not to be confused with the Tuscans of Tuscany! Tusculum was a city southeast of Rome, the original home of the Furii (Camillus' family).


Part One

Camillus, of all his enemies, had one most bitter to him, which was Marcus Manlius, that was the first man that gave the Gauls the repulse that night they had entered the walls of the Capitol, and had thought to have taken it; and who for that reason had been named Capitolinus. He, aspiring to be the chief of the city, and finding no direct way to exceed the glory of Camillus, took that ordinary course towards usurpation of absolute power, namely, to gain the multitude, those of them especially that were in debt; defending some by pleading their causes against their creditors; rescuing others by force, and not suffering the law to proceed against them; insomuch that in a short time he got great numbers of indigent people about him, whose tumults and uproars in the Forum struck terror into the principal citizens.

After Quinctius Capitolinus, who was made dictator to suppress these disorders, had committed Manlius to prison, the people immediately changed their apparel, a thing never done but in great and public calamities; and the Senate, fearing some tumult, ordered him to be released. He being thus out of prison, was no whit the better, nor wiser thereby, but did still stir up the commons, more boldly and seditiously, than before.

They chose, therefore, Camillus (for the fifth time) as military tribune; and a day being appointed for Manlius to answer to his charge, the prospect from the place where his trial was held proved a great impediment to his accusers; for the very spot where Manlius by night fought with the Gauls overlooked the Forum from the Capitol, so that, he himself pointing with his hand, showed the place unto the gods, and weeping tenderly, he laid before them the remembrance of the hazard of his life, in fighting for their safety. This did move the judges' hearts to pity, so as they knew not what to do; but many times they did put over the hearing of his case unto another day, and neither would they give judgement, knowing he was convicted by manifest proofs: neither could they use the severity of the law upon him, because the place of his so notable good service was ever still before their eyes.

Wherefore Camillus, finding the cause of delay of justice, did make the place of judgement to be removed without the city, into a place called the Peteline Grove, from whence they could not see the Capitol. And there the accusers gave apparent evidence against him: and the judges considering all his wicked practices, conceived a just cause to punish him, as he had deserved. He was convicted, carried to the Capitol, and flung headlong from the rock; so that one and the same spot was thus the witness of his greatest glory, and monument of his most unfortunate end.

The Romans, besides, razed his house, and built there a temple to the goddess they call Moneta, ordaining for the future that none of the patrician order should ever dwell on the Capitoline.

Part Two

Camillus after this, being called again to his sixth tribuneship, desired to be excused, as being aged, and perhaps not unfearful of the malice of Fortune, and those reverses which seem to ensue upon great prosperity.

Howbeit the most apparent cause of his excuse, was his sickness, which troubled him much at that time. But the people would allow no excuse by any means, but cried out they did not desire he should fight afoot, nor a-horseback, but that he should only give counsel and command; and, therefore, they compelled him to take the charge, and to lead the army with one of his companions, named Lucius Furius, against the enemy. These were the Praenestines, and the Volsces, who, with large forces, were laying waste the territory of the Roman confederates.

Having marched out with his army, he sat down and encamped near the enemy, meaning himself to protract the war, or, if there should come any necessity or occasion of fighting, in the meantime to regain his strength. But Lucius Furius, contrarily coveting glory, was hotly bent to hazard the battle, whatsoever peril came of it: and to this end he stirred up and encouraged the captains of every private band. Wherefore Camillus fearing he might be seen out of envy to be wishing to rob the young men of the glory of a noble exploit, consented, though unwillingly, that he (Lucius Furius) should draw out the forces, whilst himself, by reason of weakness, stayed behind with a few in the camp.

Lucius went on ahead to present battle to the enemy, but was quickly overthrown. But Camillus, hearing the Romans were overthrown, could not contain himself; but, leaping from his bed, with those he had about him ran to meet them at the gates of the camp, passing through those that fled, until he came to meet with the enemies that had them in chase. The Romans seeing this that were already entered into the camp, followed him at the heels: and those that fled also without, when they saw him, they gathered together, and put themselves again in array before him, and persuaded one another not to forsake their captain. So their enemies hereupon stayed their chasing, and would pursue no further that day.

But the next morning, Camillus leading his army into the field, gave them battle, and won the field of them by plain force: and following the victory hard, he entered amongst them that fled into their camp pell-mell, and slew the most part of them even there.

After this victory, he was advertised how the Tuscans had taken the city of Sutrium, and had put to the sword all the inhabitants of the same, who were Roman citizens. Whereupon he sent to Rome the greatest part of his army, and keeping with him the lightest and lustiest men, went and gave assault unto the Tuscans, that now were harboured in the city of Sutrium. Which when he had won again, he slew part of them; and the others saved themselves by flight.

Part Three

After this, he returned to Rome with an exceeding spoil, confirming by experience the wisdom of the Romans, who did not fear the age nor sickness of a good captain that was expert and valiant; but had chosen him against his will, though he was both old and sick, and preferred him far before the younger and lustier that made suit to have the charge.

When, therefore, the revolt of the Tusculans was reported, they gave Camillus the charge of reducing them, choosing one of his five colleagues to go with him. And when everyone was eager for the place, contrary to the expectation of all, he passed by the rest and chose Lucius Furius, the very same man who lately, against the judgement of Camillus, had rashly hazarded and nearly lost a battle. Howbeit Camillus, having a desire (as I think) to hide his fault and shame he had received, did of courtesy prefer him before all others.

Now the Tusculans, hearing of Camillus' coming against them, made a cunning attempt at revoking their act of revolt; their fields, as in times of highest peace, were full of ploughmen and shepherds; their gates stood wide open, and their children were being taught in the schools; of the people, such as were tradesmen, he found in their workshops, busied about their various employments; and the better sort of citizens walking in the public places in their ordinary dress; the magistrates hurried about to provide quarters for the Romans, as if they stood in fear of no danger and were conscious of no fault.

Howbeit all these fine fetches could not make Camillus believe but that they had an intent to rebel against the Romans; yet they made Camillus pity them, seeing they repented them of that which they had determined to do. So he commanded them to go to Rome to the Senate, to crave pardon of their fault; and he himself did help them not only to purge their city of any intent of rebellion, but also to get them the privilege and freedom of Rome. And these be the chiefest acts Camillus did in the sixth time of his tribuneship.

Narration and Discussion

Why was Camillus reluctant to take the office of tribune again? Should he have refused?

Tell the story of Lucius Furius. Was it good judgement on Camillus' part to give him another chance?

For further thought: It has been suggested that Camillus may have had a soft spot for the Tusculans, since they were (in a way) his own people. What do you think?

Creative narration: Imagine that you are one of Camillus' trusted friends. Write or act out an imagined conversation after these events. What would you advise him to do next? Is it time for him to retire?

Lesson Twelve and Examination Questions


A common pattern in Plutarch's Lives is for things to go along quite well until near the end; and then his subject makes one big mistake and is punished, or an enemy assassinates him. That doesn't happen in this story.

Camillus did come close to being arrested during the patrician-plebeian consul crisis, but he stood his ground, and was given some of the credit for its resolution. His passing soon afterwards was not entirely from natural causes, but it also wasn't by execution (as for Phocion) or outright murder (as for Dion).


one of them should be a commoner: see introductory notes

general muster: a military registration. Camillus was trying to keep the plebeian council from meeting (and approving the demand that one of the consuls be a plebeian).

general of horse: second-in-command, lieutenant

appease the dissension: calm the hostility

sitting upon the tribunal: acting as judge

Concord: Concordia was the Roman goddess of peace and harmony.

one should be chosen from the commonalty: The new office of praetor (see introductory notes) was also created at this time, and was open to both classes.


Licinius Stolo: Gaius Licinius Calvus Stolo, tribune from 376 to 367 B.C.

Marcus Aemilius: or Lucius Aemilius Mamercinus; consul in 366 and 363 B.C.

Lucius Sextius: Lucius Sextius Lateranus, consul in 366 B.C.

Historic Occasions

376 B.C.: Bill proposed that one consul must be of the plebeian class

368 B.C.: Camillus chosen dictator for the fourth time, supposedly to conduct a war against Velletri (a Volscian city), but really so he could "manage" the plebeians

367 B.C.: Camillus chosen dictator for the fifth time, to oppose the Gauls

367 B.C.: The building of the Temple of Concord

366 B.C.: The first plebeian consul elected

365 B.C.: Death of Camillus


Part One

After these things, Licinius Stolo moved great sedition in the city between the common people and the Senate. For he would in any case that of the two consuls, which were chosen yearly, the one of them should be a commoner, and not that both of them should be of the ancient noble families, called Patricians. Tribunes of the people were chosen, but the election of the consuls was interrupted and prevented by the people. And as this absence of any supreme magistrate was leading to yet further confusion, Camillus was the fourth time created dictator by the Senate, sorely against the people's will, and not altogether in accordance with his own; he had little desire for a conflict with men whose past services entitled them to tell him that he had achieved far greater actions in war along with them than in politics with the patricians, who, indeed, had only put him forward now out of envy; that, if successful, he might crush the people, or failing, be crushed himself.

However, to provide as good a remedy as he could for the present, knowing the day on which the tribunes of the people intended to propose the law, he appointed that day, by proclamation, for a general muster, and called the people from the Forum into the Field of Mars, threatening to set heavy fines upon such as should not obey.

On the other side, the tribunes of the people met his threats by solemnly protesting they would fine him in fifty thousand drachmas of silver, if he persisted in obstructing the people from giving their voices to such law as they liked of. Camillus perceiving this, and fearing to be condemned, and banished once again, which would fall out very ill for him, being now an old man, and one that had done so many great and notable acts, or else for that he thought himself not strong enough to withstand the force of the people: he kept his house that day, feigning himself to be sick, and certain other days following; and in the end he gave up his office.

The Senate created another dictator, who, choosing Stolo, leader of the sedition, to be his general of horse, suffered that law to be passed by voices of the people, that above all other laws, which was most grievous to the patricians, namely, that no person whatsoever should possess above five hundred acres of land. Stolo was much distinguished by the victory he had gained; but, not long after, was found himself to possess more than he had allowed to others, and suffered the penalties of his own law.

Part Two

And now the contention about election of consuls coming on (which was the main point and original cause of the dissension, and had throughout furnished most matter of division between the Senate and the people), certain intelligence arrived that the Gauls again, proceeding from the Adriatic Sea, were marching in vast numbers upon Rome. On the very heels of the report followed manifest acts also of hostility; the country through which they marched was all wasted, and such as by flight could not make their escape to Rome were dispersing and scattering among the mountains.

The fear of this did somewhat appease the dissension. The people then assembling with the Senate, and the baser sort with the noble, did all with one voice and assent chose Camillus as dictator the fifth time.

[Omission for length: Camillus, though close to eighty years old, distinguished himself once again in battle against the Gauls; Vellitri also surrendered to Rome; and Camillus was given a final triumph.]

Part Three

But the greatest of all civil contests, and the hardest to be managed, was still to be fought out against the common people, who, returning home full of victory and success, insisted, contrary to established law, to have one of the consuls chosen out of their own body.

The Senate strongly opposed it, and would not suffer Camillus to lay down his dictatorship, thinking that, under the shelter of his great name and authority, they should be better able to contend for the power of his aristocracy. But when Camillus was sitting upon the tribunal, despatching public affairs, an officer, sent by the tribunes of the people, commanded him to rise and follow him, laying his hand upon him, as ready to seize and carry him away; upon which, such a noise and tumult as was never heard before filled the whole Forum: some that were about Camillus thrusting the officer from the bench, and the multitude below calling out to him to bring Camillus down.

This so amazed Camillus, that he knew not well what to say to the matter. Notwithstanding, he would not resign up his office, but taking those senators he had about him, he went unto the place where the Senate was wont to be kept. And there, before he would go into it, he returned back again unto the Capitol, and made his prayer unto the gods, that it would please them to bring his troubles again to a quiet, and so made a solemn vow and promise (if these tumults and troubles might be pacified) that he would build a temple to Concord.

A great conflict of opposite opinions arose in the Senate; but, at last, the most moderate and most acceptable to the people prevailed, and consent was given, that, of two consuls, one should be chosen from the commonalty.

When the dictator proclaimed this determination of the Senate to the people, at the moment pleased and reconciled with the Senate, as indeed could not otherwise be, they accompanied Camillus home, with all expressions and acclamations of joy; and the next day, assembling together, they voted a temple of Concord to be built, according to Camillus' vow, facing the assembly and the Forum; and to the feasts, called the Latin Holidays, they added one more, making four in all, and ordained that, on the present occasion, the whole people of Rome should sacrifice with garlands on their heads.

In the election of consuls held by Camillus, Marcus Aemilius was chosen of the patricians, and Lucius Sextius the first of the commonalty; and this was the last of all Camillus' actions.

For, the next year after, the plague was in Rome, and took away an infinite number of people that died, besides many magistrates and officers of the city that departed: among whom, Camillus also left his life. Who notwithstanding he had lived a long time, and had ended a reasonable course of life: yet he was as ready to die, and as patiently took his death, as any man living could have done. Moreover, the Romans made more moan and lamentation for his death alone, than for all the rest the plague had already consumed.

Narration and Discussion

When the civil unrest was ended, Camillus built a temple to Concord. How would you mark the end of a quarrel or an unhappy time? (Look up 1 Samuel 7:12 for a Biblical example.)

Why did the Romans make such "moan and lamentation" for the death of Camillus?

Creative narration #1: You are the Roman schoolteacher from Lesson One, trying to explain the government reforms to your class of young students. What questions might they have?

Creative narration #2: If Shakespeare had written a play called Camillus, how might it have ended?

Examination Questions

Younger Students:

1. Tell how the Romans retook their city from the Gauls.

2. Why did Camillus never become a consul of Rome?

Older Students:

1. What difficulties did Camillus face in rebuilding Rome? How did he overcome them?. OR Answer Question 2.

2. (High school) Tell the story of Camillus' impeachment and exile. Was it justified?

AmblesideOnline Plutarch Readings:

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