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year preceding Camillus's exile. Of illustrious descent, he was also strikingly gifted with personal beauty, and with the mental excellences, described by an old historian as “eloquence, dignity, intrepidity, and confidence,” that were consistent with his times. Some strong reasons exist for supposing him to have been a personal, or at any rate a political, opponent of Camillus, at the period of whose fall, whether this supposition be true or doubtful, Manlius, though still young, was the most rising man of his order and his nation.
If it were true, as was reported, that Camillus, departing through the gates of Rome, turned back towards the Capitol, and prayed that the people might be brought to feel their need of him whom they had banished, he must have soon believed that the gods accepted and answered his desires. The very next year, a host of Gauls, as they were called, at all events, of rude and mighty barbarians, came down from the North, and, being provoked by the appearance of some ambassadors from Rome in a battle they were fighting with the Etruscans, pressed on to crush the Roman forces by the river Allia, and to destroy the city itself in blood and flames. It seems, as we read the breathless tidings of disaster and ruin, as if the end of Rome were not only prefigured, but arrived.
6 “Eloquentia, dignitate, acrimo- here more than usually uncertain. nia, confidentia pariter precellebat.” See the narrative in Livy, V. 37–41: Q. Claudius, ap. Aul. Gell., XVII.2. it cannot be better told. 7 A. C. 389. Dates are just
It was more, however, than a single torrent of barbarians could do, to sweep aside the stream for which half the earth was destined to be the channel. While most men fled, with wives and children and all they could hope to save, some to Veii, and some to any and every place of refuge, a few,” of stouter hearts, remained, determined to protect the Capitol. These were chiefly the more eminent of the younger citizens or magistrates; and at their head, the first to advise the defence of the citadel and its holy temple, though all things else were lost, was Marcus Manlius, whose family name of Capitolinus appeared to be his natural inspiration to courage in such a cause.”
Not many days, or even hours, after the occupation of the Capitol, its defenders were surprised by the sudden appearance of Pontius Cominius, a young Plebeian, who came, through perils and in the face of death, to tell them that Camillus, supported by the the people of Ardea, having gained some advantages over the Gauls, had been called, by his countrymen at Veii, to take the command of their forces, and was only waiting the consent of such of the magistrates as had survived the recent slaughter, to put himself at the head of those who wished him for their leader. If the band then gathered in the Capitol were, as is very likely, among the adversaries of Camillus, the message sent at his request was perhaps intended as a bitter taunt; but, on the contrary, he may have thought that his friends outnumbered his foes, or that he would, at all events, consult the only guardians of the laws, to which he meant to prove his fidelity as no Roman had ever done before. He was instantly chosen Dictator, whether by thankful partisans or humbled opponents is little to the purpose; and the brave Cominius bore back a proclamation from the scanty Senate, appointing Camillus to absolute authority over all who still confessed the name of Rome. The tradition of his successes is so evidently exaggerated, that it is safe to read only of his having taken advantage of the reverses of the Gauls among the nations of the southern neighbourhood, and joined his forces to theirs in repelling the barbarians, whose garrison, left in charge of Rome, was compelled to save itself from his hands by surrender of its plunder." Meanwhile, the Capitol had been assailed by night, and nearly lost. Its safety and the repulse of the barbarians were ascribed entirely to Manlius, more wakeful than the rest, and to him each one of his companions brought something from his stores, in order to give him the only reward they then had at command. Six months had elapsed since their occupation of the citadel, when the force besieging them was driven from the ruins of the city, and Camillus returned to liberate his countrymen, wellnigh
* Florus (I. 13) says a thousand; 9 “Capta urbe, auctor in CapitoZonaras (VII. 23) includes their lium confugiendi fuit.” De Wir. Ill., families. Cap. XXIV. Cf. AEn., VIII. 652. 10 This account is, in some re- counting for the retreat of the Gauls, spects, conjectural. Polybius (II. which he imputes to an invasion of 18) says nothing of Camillus in ac- their own territories in the North.