As this phrase, seize fate, is our motto for this year, today’s TEL will explore a man who chose his own destiny in impossible circumstances.
Last week, we explored the story of the Roman hero, Camillus. We learned about the value of reputation, resourcefulness, and we learned to be wary of our own arrogance. The story left off with the banishment of Camillus. Today we will see what fate had in store for him after his exile..
As Camillus left Rome, so did he leave the public life behind him. He decided to settle down with his wife, Camilla (that wasn’t her name but don’t you wish it was?) and his son, Lucius, in the small town of Ardea.
With Camillus gone, the Senate of Rome became overconfident in its abilities. Deluded by their hubris, they seem to think that the victories won by Camillus were won by them. They began to haphazardly send the Roman army all over the Roman empire. Because of Camillus’ leadership, by the year 390 BCE, the empire of the Roman republic had grown over 70%. Rome was at this point the most powerful city in Italy and the senators felt that they had surely become the sole protectors of Italy.
When the Gauls, a Celtic people from modern-day France, invaded Etruria and Clusium, the Italic people begged Rome for help. The Senate obliged and sent a small force to go and crush the Gauls.
It didn’t work.
Enraged by this action, the Gauls marched straight for Rome. But surely the most powerful city in Italy could defeat an army of unorganized barbarians right?
That’s what the Roman senate thought.
They sent out the entire Roman army to meet the Gauls in Allia
And the entire Roman army was killed.
The Gauls marched on the defenceless Rome.
The elite of Rome had only their own personal guard to defend them on the Capitoline hill while the Gauls remained in the city, plotting their next move. The Gauls decided to sack all of the small towns around Rome in order to acquire some food, and to inflict some psychological warfare on the remaining Roman soldiers and politicians in the city.
One of the those towns was Ardea.
Camillus sat atop of the hill overlooking his new hometown. He watched sombrely as the horde of Gauls grew ever larger in the distance, incrementally making their way towards his town.
Was this his fate? To die at the hands of the barbaric enemies of Rome? The great commander Camillus, without any army to command. “Fate is cruel,” thought Camillus.
But Camillus was no ordinary man. He would not sit idly and docile while the claws of death closed around him! He would seize fate for himself! He would decide his destiny.
He ran down the hill, into the town and rallied the townsmen.
“Friends! Romans! Countrymen! Lend me your ears!1 The Gauls come to take our homes, our wives and children, our crops and wealth! They take no prisoners and they leave no witnesses! Stand with me and we shall fight back these wretched invaders!”
The Gauls set up camp for the night and prepared to invade Ardea come morning; they had just plundered another town and were celebrating vehemently. Wine flowed and shouts of revelry could be heard all throughout the camp. In the dead of night, as the moon began its descent toward the earth, the Gaul’s shouts of revelry turned to those of anguish, fear and dismay. Camillus and his army of Farmers crashed into the camp! They took the Gaul’s entire encampment within the hour, destroying most and capturing the rest.
“What next, Commander?” Called one of the Roman farmers.
Camillus turned to the countrymen.
“We take back Rome.”
The story of Camillus will continue next week.
The Golden Scribe
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” -Socrates
1 Let us know if you get the reference (without looking it up)