Carpe fatum, my friends.
Without hesitation, let us finish the story of Camillus.
After destroying the Gaul’s encampment outside of the city of Rome (click here for last week’s description of this), Camillus knew that he would need a larger army than the one composed of local farmers he had currently rallied if he were to take back Rome.
For months, Camillus worked indefatigably1; going to every corner of Italy in order to find farmers, sailors, exiled soldiers, and any other capable fighting man he could marshal to his cause. Because word had spread of his great victory over the Gauls, men seemed eager to join Camillus’ force.
After months of work, Camillus assessed his accomplishment: an army of over 12,000 men.
He stood atop a hill overlooking his newly founded force and thought to himself
“Will this be enough? I have no idea how large or how strong the Gauls in Rome are, and my army is mainly made up of men who aren’t even soldiers, let alone battle-hardened.
Camillus felt what every person in the world has felt right as they take the biggest risk of their life: He felt fear.
“What if I fail?” he thought.
But Camillus knew that the Romans being held hostage in their city likely didn’t have much time left.
It was now or never.
Camillus walked down the hill to discuss his plans with his lieutenants.
Meanwhile in Rome:
The leader of the Gauls, Brennus, was having the time of his life pillaging, stealing and fearmongering. Really, who wouldn’t? Because he had spent all of his time doing these things, he had paid no mind to the matter of what to do with the obscene amount of corpses in the city. Needless to say, disease began to spread. It eventually became so bad that Brennus decided that maybe it was time for the Gauls to leave Rome, at least until the disease died down.
He met with the Senators in the city and negotiated the terms for departure.
His demands were thus: one thousand pounds of gold in order for the Gauls to leave the city.
The Senators begrudgingly complied.
During the weighing of the gold however, the Senators noticed that Brennus was using heavier weights than the standard to measure the gold. When they complained to Brennus, he laughed, drew his sword and pressed it onto the scale, proclaiming “VAE VICTIS!” (Woe to the conquered!)
It was at this moment that Camillus walked out of the crowd of the Senators, drew his sword and swung it against the scale, knocking it to the ground. He bellowed:
“Not with gold, but with iron, shall the city be saved!”
Suddenly, Camillus’ soldiers burst into the city, screaming in unison “For ROME!”
The battle that ensued was so intense that the dust on the street rose above Rome in a great particulate cloud. It seemed for a while that either side may prevail, but under Camillus’ command, the Romans finally defeated the Gauls.
The Senators came to Camillus, overjoyed and prattling words of thanks. They asked him what he wanted to do celebrate this great victory; that nothing could be too ostentatious! Camillus, in reply, told the Senate that he would have no celebration, no feast, and no triumphal procession. Rather, all of the money that would be used for those things should go towards the rebuilding of Rome.
Surprised, but pleased, the Senators obliged.
And that, my friends, is the story of Camillus–the Second Romulus!
We can learn much from this legendary tale. Camillus demonstrates several virtues that are vital to living The Examined Life, and are much easier said than achieved.
He shows us the virtue of dedication to something greater than yourself. Despite being exiled from Rome, when it was in need of help Camillus did everything in his power to help his country. It sounds easy enough to read about; valuing something greater than your own life. But when reality strikes you across the face, when the heat of battle burns against your chest, when the possibility of your very self being destroyed looms over you, it becomes much more difficult to continue valuing that thing above your own life.
Camillus also teaches us the value of overcoming your fear. In spite of his massive effort to rally the Romans, Camillus still feared defeat. He still felt that primal emotion that screams into your very soul “run!”
Camillus overcame that feeling because he was able to recognize the significance of his task and the incumbency of his timing—if he didnt act now, he would not have another chance to save Rome.
Finally, we learn from Camillus possibly the most difficult lesson he had to experience: accepting blame for your errors and working to improve them. Camillus had no celebration, no pomp nor parade. Rather, he decided that rebuilding Rome was more important than his triumphal procession. He recognized how he had messed up in his past actions (see Camillus pt. 1), and chose a different path from his earlier victory.
Let us be like Camillus, my friends.
The Golden Scribe
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” -Socrates
1 Word of the day: tirelessly