The Story of the Roman Empire: Or, The Kingdom of Iron - 9

 •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 16
THE Gauls who vanquished the Roman army and destroyed the city were undoubtedly a branch of the Celtic race, which had spread over the greater part of Western Europe, and inhabited the country we now know as France, and also our own Islands. They took possession of Northern Italy and eventually marched on Rome. Their battle cry was always, “Our way lies for Rome,” and on the 16th of July (390 B.C.), about eleven miles from the city, they met the Roman legions on the banks of the little river Allia and totally defeated them. With the exception of the Capitol, the city immediately fell into the hands of the victors, and the tradition is that this central point was only saved through “the cackling of the geese” that were held sacred to Juno. Their cries warned the sentinels of the approach of the Gauls, and enabled them to successfully defend the citadel.
The defeat of the Romans at this period of their history was not an unmixed evil, for it taught them the necessity of greater care in estimating the power of their enemies. They began to imagine they were invincible: but the disaster on the borders of the little river so close to their own home was ever a black-letter day in their record, and indicated that sterner discipline was an absolute necessity to secure victory, and the result of the lesson was, that very soon the invaders were driven back and for many years never ventured to definitely oppose in battle the Roman army.
Indeed, the position occupied by the Roman power about this era was very remarkable. She was surrounded by enemies ready to take advantage of her disaster, but she reorganized her forces, and so united all the military powers over which she had any control, that they presented an unbroken front to the foes of her country, and caused her to triumph more decidedly than ever over all the different races that either singly or in combination endeavored to subdue her.
And so for the next 130 years, until the great conflict with Carthage began, Rome surely became the undisputed master of Italy. Over and over again the Samnites tried to crush her, but it was all of no avail. This powerful nation, like the Latins years before, was obliged to yield to the mightier power of Rome and to accept a treaty of peace which left them practically under the domination of their conquerors. Other trials, however, came upon the city of Rome about this period. A fearful pestilence raged, which carried off very many of the ablest citizens: the Tiber overflowed its banks and did terrible damage: moreover, an earthquake shook the city, which had but recently been rebuilt, and, as the story runs, a chasm opened in the Forum, into which a noble youth Mettus Curtius leaped, all mounted as he was on his horse and clad in armor, in order to satisfy the wrath of the gods who demanded such a sacrifice. The incident is often cited, and reminds us of ONE who did go into the breach for sinners and died that they might live.