This article is taken from The History of France, by Maurice Guizot, Chapter 2, The Gauls out of Gaul.
For Bible students, this history provides some insight into the type of people who occupied Galatia during the early Christian era, and at the time of the Apostle Paul.
About three centuries B.C. numerous hordes of Gauls crossed the Alps and penetrated to the centre of Etruria, which is nowadays Tuscany. The Etruscans, being then at war with Rome, proposed to take them, armed and equipped as they had come, into their own pay. “If you want our hands,” answered the Gauls, “against your enemies, the Romans, here they are at your service–but on one condition: give us lands.”
A century afterwards other Gallic hordes, descending in like manner upon Italy, had commenced building houses and tilling fields along the Adriatic, on the territory where afterwards was Aquileia. The Roman Senate decreed that their settlement should be opposed, and that they should be summoned to give up their implements and even their arms. Not being in a position to resist, the Gauls sent representatives to Rome. They, being introduced into the Senate, said, “The multitude of people in Gaul, the want of lands, and necessity forced us to cross the Alps to seek a home. We saw plains uncultivated and uninhabited. We settled there without doing any one harm… . We ask nothing but lands. We will live peacefully on them under the laws of the republic.”
Again, a century later, or thereabouts, some Gallic Cimmerians, mingled with Teutons or Germans, said also to the Roman Senate, “Give us a little land as pay, and do what you please with our hands and weapons.”
Want of room and means of subsistence have, in fact, been the principal causes which have at all times thrust barbarous people, and especially the Gauls, out of their fatherland. An immense extent of country is required for indolent hordes who live chiefly upon the produce of the chase and of their flocks; and when there is no longer enough of forest or pasturage for the families that become too numerous, there is a swarm from the hive, and a search for livelihood elsewhere. The Gauls emigrated in every direction. To find, as they said, rivers and lands, they marched from north to south, and from east to west. They crossed at one time the Rhine, at another the Alps, at another the Pyrenees. More than fifteen centuries B.C. they had already thrown themselves into Spain, after many fights, no doubt, with the Iberians established between the Pyrenees and the Garonne. They penetrated north-westwards to the northern point of the Peninsula, into the province which received from them and still bears the name of Galicia; south-eastwards to the southern point, between the river Anas (nowadays Guadiana) and the ocean, where they founded a Little Celtica; and centerwards and southwards from Castile to Andalusia, where the amalgamation of two races brought about the creation of a new people, that found a place in history as Celtiberians. And twelve centuries after those events, about 220 B.C., we find the Gallic people, which had planted itself in the south of Portugal, energetically defending its independence against the neighboring Carthaginian colonies. Indortius, their chief, conquered and taken prisoner, was beaten with rods and hung upon the cross, in the sight of his army, after having had his eyes put out by command of Hamilcar-Barca, the Carthaginian general; but a Gallic slave took care to avenge him by assassinating, some years after, at a hunting-party, Hasdrubal, son-in-law of Hamilcar, who had succeeded to the command. The slave was put to the torture; but, indomitable in his hatred, he died insulting the Africans.
A little after the Gallic invasion of Spain, and by reason perhaps of that very movement, in the first half of the fourteenth century B.C., another vast horde of Gauls, who called themselves Anahra, Ambra, Ambrons, that is, “braves,” crossed the Alps, occupied northern Italy, descended even to the brink of the Tiber, and conferred the name of Ambria or Umbria on the country where they founded their dominion. If ancient accounts might be trusted, this dominion was glorious and flourishing, for Umbria numbered, they say, three hundred and fifty-eight towns; but falsehood, according to the Eastern proverb, lurks by the cradle of nations. At a much later epoch, in the second century B.C., fifteen towns of Liguria contained altogether, as we learn from Livy, but twenty thousand souls. It is plain, then, what must really have been– even admitting their existence–the three hundred and fifty-eight towns of Umbria. However, at the end of two or three centuries, this Gallic colony succumbed beneath the superior power of the Etruscans, another set of invaders from eastern Europe, perhaps from the north of Greece, who founded in Italy a mighty empire. The Umbrians or Ambrons were driven out or subjugated. Nevertheless some of their peoples, preserving their name and manners, remained in the mountains of upper Italy, where they were to be subsequently discovered by fresh and more celebrated Gallic invasions.
Those just spoken of are of such antiquity and obscurity, that we note their place in history without being able to say how they came to fill it. It is only with the sixth century before our era that we light upon the really historical expeditions of the Gauls away from Gaul, those, in fact, of which we may follow the course and estimate the effects.
Towards the year 587 B.C., almost at the very moment when the Phoceans had just founded Marseilles, two great Gallic hordes got in motion at the same time, and crossed, one the Rhine, the other the Alps, making one for Germany, the other for Italy. The former followed the course of the Danube and settled in Illyria, on the right bank of the river. It is too much, perhaps, to say that they settled; the greater part of them continued wandering and fighting, sometimes amalgamating with the peoples they encountered, sometimes chasing them and exterminating them, whilst themselves were incessantly pushed forward by fresh bands coming also from Gaul. Thus marching and spreading, leaving here and there on their route, along the rivers and in the valleys of the Alps, tribes that remained and founded peoples, the Gauls had arrived, towards the year 340 B.C., at the confines of Macedonia, at the time when Alexander, the son of Philip, who was already famous, was advancing to the same point to restrain the ravages of the neighboring tribes, perhaps of the Gauls themselves. From curiosity, or a desire to make terms with Alexander, certain Gauls betook themselves to his camp. He treated them well, made them sit at his table, took pleasure in exhibiting his magnificence before them, and in the midst of his carouse made his interpreter ask them what they were most afraid of.
“We fear nought,” they answered, “unless it be the fall of heaven; but we set above everything the friendship of a man like thee.” “The Celts are proud,” said Alexander to his Macedonians; and he promised them his friendship. On the death of Alexander, the Gauls, as mercenaries, entered, in Europe and Asia, the service of the kings who had been his generals. Ever greedy, fierce, and passionate, they were almost equally dangerous as auxiliaries and as neighbors. Antigonus, King of Macedonia, was to pay the band he had enrolled a gold piece a head. They brought their wives and children with them, and at the end of the campaign they claimed pay for their following as well as for themselves: “We were promised,” said they, “a gold piece a head for each Gaul; and these are also Gauls.”
Before long they tired of fighting the battles of another; their power accumulated; fresh hordes, in great numbers, arrived amongst them about the year 281 B.C. They had before them Thrace, Macedonia, Thessaly, Greece, rich, but distracted and weakened by civil strife. They effected an entrance at several points, devastating, plundering, loading their cars with booty, and dividing their prisoners into two parts; one offered in sacrifice to their gods, the other strung up to trees and abandoned to the _gais_ and _matars,_ or javelins and pikes of the conquerors.
Like all barbarians, they, both for pleasure and on principle, added insolence to ferocity. Their Brenn, or most famous chieftain, whom the Latins and Greeks call Brennus, dragged in his train Macedonian prisoners, short, mean, and with shaven heads, and exhibiting them beside Gallic warriors, tall, robust, long-haired, adorned with chains of gold, said, “This is what we are, that is what our enemies are.”
Ptolemy the Thunderbolt, King of Macedonia, received with haughtiness their first message requiring of him a ransom for his dominions if he wished to preserve peace. “Tell those who sent you,” he replied to the Gallic deputation, “to lay down their arms and give up to me their chieftains. I will then see what peace I can grant them.” On the return of the deputation, the Gauls were moved to laughter. “He shall soon see,” said they, “whether it was in his interest or our own that we offered him peace.” And, indeed, in the first engagement, neither the famous Macedonian phalanx, nor the elephant he rode, could save King Ptolemy; the phalanx was broken, the elephant riddled with javelins, the king himself taken, killed, and his head marched about the field of battle on the top of a pike.
Macedonia was in consternation; there was a general flight from the open country, and the gates of the towns were closed. “The people,” says an historian, “cursed the folly of King Ptolemy, and invoked the names of Philip and Alexander, the guardian deities of their land.”
Three years later, another and a more formidable invasion came bursting upon Thessaly and Greece. It was, according to the unquestionably exaggerated account of the ancient historians, two hundred thousand strong, and commanded by that famous, ferocious, and insolent Brennus mentioned before. His idea was to strike a blow which should simultaneously enrich the Gauls and stun the Greeks. He meant to plunder the temple at Delphi, the most venerated place in all Greece, whither flowed from century to century all kinds of offerings, and where, no doubt, enormous treasure was deposited. Such was, in the opinion of the day, the sanctity of the place, that, on the rumor of the projected profanation, several Greeks essayed to divert the Gallic Brenn himself, by appealing to his superstitious fears; but his answer was, “The gods have no need of wealth; it is they who distribute it to men.”
All Greece was moved. The nations of the Peloponnese closed the isthmus of Corinth by a wall. Outside the isthmus, the Boeotians, Phocidians, Locrians, Megarians, and Aetolians formed a coalition under the leadership of the Athenians; and, as their ancestors had done scarcely two hundred years before against Xerxes and the Persians, they advanced in all haste to the pass of Thermopylae, to stop there the new barbarians.
And for several days they did stop them; and instead of three hundred heroes, as of yore in the case of Leonidas and his Spartans, only forty Greeks, they say, fell in the first engagement. ’Amongst them was a young Athenian, Cydias by name, whose shield was hung in the temple of Zeus the savior, at Athens, with this inscription:–
THIS SHIELD, DEDICATED TO ZEUS, IS THAT OF A VALIANT MAN,
CYDIAS. IT STILL BEWAILS ITS
YOUNG MASTER. FOR THE FIRST TIME
HE BARE IT ON HIS LEFT ARM
WHEN TERRIBLE ARES CRUSHED
But soon, just as in the case of the Persians, traitors guided Brennus and his Gauls across the mountain-paths; the position of Thermopylae was turned; the Greek army owed its safety to the Athenian galleys; and by evening of the same day the barbarians appeared in sight of Delphi.
Brennus would have led them at once to the assault. He showed them, to excite them, the statues, vases, cars, monuments of every kind, laden with gold, which adorned the approaches of the town and of the temple: “It’s pure gold–massive gold,” was the news he had spread in every direction. But the very cupidity he provoked was against his plan; for the Gauls fell out to plunder. He had to put off the assault until the morrow. The night was passed in irregularities and orgies.
The Greeks, on the contrary, prepared with ardor for the fight. Their enthusiasm was intense. Those barbarians, with their half-nakedness, their grossness, their ferocity, their ignorance, and their impiety, were revolting. They committed murder and devastation like dolts. They left their dead on the field, without burial. They engaged in battle without consulting priest or augur. It was not only their goods, but their families, their life, the honor of their country, and the sanctuary of their religion, that the Greeks were defending, and they might rely on the protection of the gods. The oracle of Apollo had answered, “I and the white virgins will provide for this matter.” The people surrounded the temple, and the priests supported and encouraged the people. During the night small bodies of Aetolians, Amphisseans, and Phocidians arrived one after another. Four thousand men had joined within Delphi, when the Gallic bands, in the morning, began to mount the narrow and rough incline which led up to the town. The Greeks rained down from above a deluge of stones and other missiles. The Gauls recoiled, but recovered themselves. The besieged fell back on the nearest streets of the town, leaving open the approach to the temple, upon which the barbarians threw themselves. The pillage of the shrines had just commenced when the sky looked threatening; a storm burst forth, the thunder echoed, the rain fell, the hail rattled. Readily taking advantage of this incident, the priests and the augurs sallied from the temple clothed in their sacred garments, with hair disheveled and sparkling eyes, proclaiming the advent of the god: “It’s he! we saw him shoot athwart the temple’s vault, which opened under his feet; and with him were two virgins, who issued from the temples of Artemis and Athena. We saw them with our eyes. We heard the twang of their bows, and the clash of their armor.” Hearing these cries and the roar of the tempest, the Greeks dash on–the Gauls are panic-stricken, and rush headlong down the bill. The Greeks push on in pursuit. Rumors of fresh apparitions are spread; three heroes, Hyperochus, Laodocus, and Pyrrhus, son of Achilles, have issued from their tombs hard by the temple, and are thrusting at the Gauls with their lances. The rout was speedy and general; the barbarians rushed to the cover of their camp; but the camp was attacked next morning by the Greeks from the town and by re-enforcements from the country places. Brennus and the picked warriors about him made a gallant resistance, but defeat was a foregone conclusion. Brennus was wounded, and his comrades bore him off the field. The barbarian army passed the whole day in flight. During the ensuing night a new access of terror seized them they again took to flight, and four days after the passage of Thermopylae some scattered bands, forming scarcely a third of those who had marched on Delphi, rejoined the division which had remained behind, some leagues from the town, in the plains watered by the Cephissus. Brennus summoned his comrades “Kill all the wounded and me,” said he; “burn your cars; make Cichor king; and away at full speed.” Then he called for wine, drank himself drunk, and stabbed himself. Cichor did cut the throats of the wounded, and traversed, flying and fighting, Thessaly and Macedonia; and on returning whence they had set out, the Gauls dispersed, some to settle at the foot of a neighboring mountain under the command of a chieftain named Bathanat or Baedhannatt, i.e., son of the wild boar; others to march back towards their own country; the greatest part to resume the same life of incursion and adventure. But they changed the scene of operations. Greece, Macedonia, and Thrace were exhausted by pillage, and made a league to resist. About 278 B.C. the Gauls crossed the Hellespont and passed into Asia Minor. There, at one time in the pay of the kings of Bithynia, Pergamos, Cappadocia, and Syria, or of the free commercial cities which were struggling against the kings, at another carrying on wars on their own account, they wandered for more than thirty years, divided into three great hordes, which parceled out the territories among themselves, overran and plundered them during the fine weather, entrenched themselves during winter in their camp of cars, or in some fortified place, sold their services to the highest bidder, changed masters according to interest or inclination, and by their bravery became the terror of these effeminate populations and the arbiters of these petty states.
At last both princes and people grew weary. Antiochus, King of Syria, attacked one of the three bands,–that of the Tectosagians,–conquered it, and cantoned it in a district of Upper Phrygia. Later still, about 241 B.C., Eumenes, sovereign of Pergamos, and Attalus, his successor, drove and shut up the other two bands, the Tolistoboians and Troemians, likewise in the same region. The victories of Attalus over the Gauls excited veritable enthusiasm. He was celebrated as a special envoy from Zeus. He took the title of King, which his predecessors had not hitherto borne. He had his battles showily painted; and that he might triumph at the same time both in Europe and Asia, he sent one of the pictures to Athens, where it was still to be seen three centuries afterwards, hanging upon the wall of the citadel. Forced to remain stationary, the Gallic hordes became a people,–the Galatians,–and the country they occupied was called Galatia. They lived there some fifty years, aloof from the indigenous population of Greeks and Phrygians, whom they kept in an almost servile condition, preserving their warlike and barbarous habits, resuming sometimes their mercenary service, and becoming once more the bulwark or the terror of neighboring states. But at the beginning of the second century before our era, the Romans had entered Asia, in pursuit of their great enemy, Hannibal. They had just beaten, near Magnesia, Antiochus, King of Syria. In his army they had encountered men of lofty stature, with hair light or dyed red, half naked, marching to the fight with loud cries, and terrible at the first onset. They recognized the Gauls, and resolved to destroy or subdue them. The consul, Cn. Manlius, had the duty and the honor. Attacked in their strongholds on Mount Olympus and Mount Magaba, 189 B.C., the three Gallic bands, after a short but stout resistance, were conquered and subjugated; and thenceforth losing all national importance, they amalgamated little by little with the Asiatic populations around them. From time to time they are still seen to reappear with their primitive manners and passions. Rome humored them; Mithridates had them for allies in his long struggle with the Romans. He kept by him a Galatian guard; and when he sought death, and poison failed him, it was the captain of the guard, a Gaul named Bituitus, whom he asked to run him through. That is the last historical event with which the Gallic name is found associated in Asia.
Nevertheless the amalgamation of the Gauls of Galatia with the natives always remained very imperfect; for towards the end of the fourth century of the Christian era they did not speak Greek, as the latter did, but their national tongue, that of the Kymro-Belgians; and St. Jerome testifies that it differed very little from that which was spoken in Belgica itself, in the region of Troves.
The Romans had good ground for keeping a watchful eye, from the time they met them, upon the Gauls, and for dreading them particularly. At the time when they determined to pursue them into the mountains of Asia Minor, they were just at the close of a desperate struggle, maintained against them for four hundred years, in Italy itself; “a struggle,” says Sallust, “in which it was a question not of glory, but of existence, for Rome.” It was but just now remarked that at the beginning of the sixth century before our era, whilst, under their chieftain Sigovesus, the Gallic bands whose history has occupied the last few pages were crossing the Rhine and entering Germany, other bands, under the command of Bellovesus, were traversing the Alps and swarming into Italy. From 587 to 521 B.C. five Gallic expeditions, formed of Gallic, Kymric, and Ligurian tribes, followed the same route and invaded successively the two banks of the Po–the bottomless river, as they called it. The Etruscans, who had long before, it will be remembered, themselves wrested that country from a people of Gallic origin, the Umbrians or Ambrons, could not make head against the new conquerors, aided, may be, by the remains of the old population. The well-built towns, the cultivation of the country, the ports and canals that had been dug, nearly all these labors of Etruscan civilization disappeared beneath the footsteps of these barbarous hordes that knew only how to destroy, and one of which gave its chieftain the name of Hurricane (Elitorius, Ele-Dov). Scarcely five Etruscan towns, Mantua and Ravenna amongst others, escaped disaster. The Gauls also founded towns, such as Mediolanum (Milan), Brixia (Brescia), Verona, Bolonia (Bologna), Sena-Gallica (Sinigaglia), &c. But for a long while they were no more than entrenched camps, fortified places, where the population shut themselves up in case of necessity. “They, as a general rule, straggled about the country,” says Polybius, the most correct and clear-sighted of the ancient historians, “sleeping on grass or straw, living on nothing but meat, busying themselves about nothing but war and a little husbandry, and counting as riches nothing but flocks and gold, the only goods that can be carried away at pleasure and on every occasion.”
During nearly thirty years the Gauls thus scoured not only Upper Italy, which they had almost to themselves, but all the eastern coast, and up to the head of the peninsula, encountering along the Adriatic, and in the rich and effeminate cities of Magna Graecia, Sybaris, Tarentum, Crotona, and Locri, no enemy capable of resisting them. But in the year 391 B.C., finding themselves cooped up in their territory, a strong band of Gauls crossed the Apennines, and went to demand from the Etruscans of Clusium the cession of a portion of their lands. The only answer Clusium made was to close her gates. The Gauls formed up around the walls. Clusium asked help from Rome, with whom, notwithstanding the rivalry between the Etruscan and Roman nations, she had lately been on good terms. The Romans promised first their good offices with the Gauls, afterwards material support; and thus were brought face to face those two peoples, fated to continue for four centuries a struggle which was to be ended only by the complete subjection of Gaul.
The details of that struggle belong specially to Roman history; they have been transmitted to us only by Roman historians; and the Romans it was who were left ultimately in possession of the battle-field, that is, of Italy. It will suffice here to make known the general march of events and the most characteristic incidents.
Four distinct periods may be recognized in this history; and each marks a different phase in the course of events, and, so to speak, an act of the drama. During the first period, which lasted forty-two years, from 391 to 349 B.C., the Gauls carried on a war of aggression and conquest against Rome. Not that such had been their original design; on the contrary, they replied, when the Romans offered intervention between them and Clusium, “We ask only for lands, of which we are in need; and Clusium has more than she can cultivate. Of the Romans we know very little; but we believe them to be a brave people, since the Etruscans put themselves under their protection. Remain spectators of our quarrel; we will settle it before your eyes, that you may report at home how far above other men the Gauls are in valor.”
But when they saw their pretensions repudiated and themselves treated with outrageous disdain, the Gauls left the siege of Clusium on the spot, and set out for Rome, not stopping for plunder, and proclaiming everywhere on their march, “We are bound for Rome; we make war on none but Romans;” and when they encountered the Roman army, on the 16th of duly, 390 B.C., at the confluence of the Allia and the Tiber, half a day’s march from Rome, they abruptly struck up their war-chant, and threw themselves upon their enemies. It is well known how they gained the day; how they entered Rome, and found none but a few gray-beards, who, being unable or unwilling to leave their abode, had remained seated in the vestibule on their chairs of ivory, with truncheons of ivory in their hands, and decorated with the insignia of the public offices they had filled. All the people of Rome had fled, and were wandering over the country, or seeking a refuge amongst neighboring peoples. Only the senate and a thousand warriors had shut themselves up in the Capitol, a citadel which commanded the city. The Gauls kept them besieged there for seven months. The circumstances of this celebrated siege are well known, though they have been a little embellished by the Roman historians. Not that they have spoken too highly of the Romans themselves, who, in the day of their country’s disaster, showed admirable courage, perseverance, and hopefulness. Pontius Cominius, who traversed the Gallic camp, swam the Tiber, and scaled by night the heights of the Capitol, to go and carry news to the senate; M. Manlius, who was the first, and for some moments the only one, to hold in check, from the citadel’s walls, the Gauls on the point of effecting an entrance; and M. Furius Camillus, who had been banished from Rome the preceding year, and had taken refuge in the town of Ardea, and who instantly took the field for his country, rallied the Roman fugitives, and incessantly harassed the Gauls–are true heroes, who have earned their weed of glory. Let no man seek to lower them in public esteem. Noble actions are so beautiful, and the actors often receive so little recompense, that we are at least bound to hold sacred the honor attached to their name.
The Roman historians have done no more than justice in extolling the saviors of Rome. But their memory would have suffered no loss had the whole truth been made known; and the claims of national vanity are not of the same weight as the duty one owes to truth. Now, it is certain that Camillus did not gain such decisive advantages over the Gauls as the Roman accounts would lead one to believe, and that the deliverance of Rome was much less complete. On the 13th of February, 389 B.C., the Gauls, it is true, allowed their retreat to be purchased by the Romans; and they experienced, as they retired, certain checks, whereby they lost a part of their booty. But twenty-three years afterwards they are found in Latium scouring in every direction the outlying country of Rome, without the Romans daring to go out and fight them. It was only at the end of five years, in the year 361 B.C., that, the very city being menaced anew, the legions marched out to meet the enemy. “Surprised at this audacity,” says Polybius, “the Gauls fell back, but merely a few leagues from Rome, to the environs of Tibur; and thence, for the space of twelve years, they attacked the Roman territory, renewing the campaign every year, often reaching the very gates of the city, and being repulsed indeed, but never farther than Tibur and its slopes.” Rome, however, made great efforts, every war with the Gauls was previously proclaimed a tumult, which involved a levy in mass of the citizens, without any exemption, even for old men and priests. A treasure, specially dedicated to Gallic wars, was laid by in the Capitol, and religious denunciations of the most awful kind hung over the head of whoever should dare to touch it, no matter what the exigency might be. To this epoch belonged those marvels of daring recorded in Roman tradition, those acts of heroism tinged with fable, which are met with amongst so many peoples, either in their earliest age, or in their days of great peril. In the year 361 B.C., Titus Manlius, son of him who had saved the Capitol from the night attack of the Gauls, and twelve years later M. Valerius, a young military tribune, were, it will be remembered, the two Roman heroes who vanquished in single combat the two Gallic giants who insolently defied Rome. The gratitude towards them was general and of long duration, for two centuries afterwards (in the year 167 B.C.) the head of the Gaul with his tongue out still appeared at Rome, above the shop of a money-changer, on a circular sign-board, called “the Kymrian shield” (scutum Cimbricum). After seventeen years’ stay in Latium, the Gauls at last withdrew, and returned to their adopted country in those lovely valleys of the Po which already bore the name of Cisalpine Gaul. They began to get disgusted with a wandering life. Their population multiplied; their towns spread; their fields were better cultivated; their manners became less barbarous. For fifty years there was scarcely any trace of hostility or even contact between them and the Romans. But at the beginning of the third century before our era, the coalition of the Samnites and Etruscans against Rome was near its climax; they eagerly pressed the Gauls to join, and the latter assented easily. Then commenced the second period of struggles between the two peoples. Rome had taken breath, and had grown much more rapidly than her rivals. Instead of shutting herself up, as heretofore, within her walls, she forthwith raised three armies, took the offensive against the coalitionists, and carried the war into their territory. The Etruscans rushed to the defense of their hearths. The two consuls, Fabius and Decius, immediately attacked the Samnites and Gauls at the foot of the Apennines, close to Sentinum (now Sentina). The battle was just beginning, when a hind, pursued by a wolf from the mountains, passed in flight between the two armies, and threw herself upon the side of the Gauls, who slew her; the wolf turned towards the Romans, who let him go. “Comrades,” cried a soldier, “flight and death are on the side where you see stretched on the ground the hind of Diana; the wolf belongs to Mars; he is unwounded, and reminds us of our father and founder; we shall conquer even as he.” Nevertheless the battle went badly for the Romans; several legions were in flight, and Decius strove vainly to rally them. The memory of his father came across his mind. There was a belief amongst the Romans that if in the midst of an unsuccessful engagement the general devoted himself to the infernal gods, “panic and flight” passed forthwith to the enemies’ ranks. “Why daily?” said Decius to the grand pontiff, whom he had ordered to follow him and keep at his side in the flight; “’tis given to our race to die to avert public disasters.” He halted, placed a javelin beneath his feet, and covering his head with a fold of his robe, and supporting his chin on his right hand, repeated after the pontiff this sacred form of words:–
“Janus, Jupiter, our father Mars, Quirinus, Bellona, Lares, … ye gods in whose power are we, we and our enemies, gods Manes, ye I adore; ye I pray, ye I adjure to give strength and victory to the Roman people, the children of Quirinus, and to send confusion, panic, and death amongst the enemies of the Roman people, the children of Quirinus. And, in these words for the republic of the children of Quirinus, for the army, for the legions, and for the allies of the Roman people, I devote to the gods Manes and to the grave the legions and the allies of the enemy and myself.”
Then remounting, Decius charged into the middle of the Gauls, where he soon fell pierced with wounds; but the Romans recovered courage and gained the day; for heroism and piety have power over the hearts of men, so that at the moment of admiration they become capable of imitation.
During this second period Rome was more than once in danger. In the year 283 B.C. the Gauls destroyed one of her armies near Aretium (Arezzo), and advanced to the Roman frontier, saying, “We are bound for Rome; the Gauls know how to take it.” Seventy-two years afterwards the Cisalpine Gauls swore they would not put off their baldrics till they had mounted the Capitol, and they arrived within three days’ march of Rome. At every appearance of this formidable enemy the alarm at Rome was great. The senate raised all its forces and summoned its allies. The people demanded a consultation of the Sibylline books, sacred volumes sold, it was said, to Tarquinius Priscus by the sibyl Amalthea, and containing the secret of the destinies of the Republic. They were actually opened in the year 228 B.C., and it was with terror found that the Gauls would twice take possession of the soil of Rome. On the advice of the priests, there was dug within the city, in the middle of the cattle-market, a huge pit, in which two Gauls, a man and a woman, were entombed alive; for thus they took possession of the soil of Rome, the oracle was fulfilled, and the mishap averted. Thirteen years afterwards, on occasion of the disaster at Cann, the same atrocity was again committed, at the same place and for the same cause. And by a strange contrast, there was at the committing of this barbarous act, “which was against Roman usage,” says Livy, a secret feeling of horror, for, to appease the manes of the victims, a sacrifice was instituted, which was celebrated every year at the pit, in the month of November.
In spite of sometimes urgent peril, in spite of popular alarms, Rome, during the course of this period, from 299 to 258 B.C., maintained an increasing ascendency over the Gauls. She always cleared them off her territory, several times ravaged theirs, on the two banks of the Po,– called respectively Transpadan and Cispadan Gaul, and gained the majority of the great battles she had to fight. Finally in the year 283 B.C., the proprietor Drusus, after having ravaged the country of the Senonic Gauls, carried off the very ingots and jewels, it was said, which had been given to their ancestors as the price of their retreat. Solemn proclamation was made that the ransom of the Capitol had returned within its walls; and, sixty years afterwards, the Consul M. Cl. Marcellus, having defeated at Clastidium a numerous army of Gauls, and with his own hand slain their general, Virdumar, had the honor of dedicating to the temple of Jupiter the third “grand spoils” taken since the foundation of Rome, and of ascending the Capitol, himself conveying the armor of Virdumar, for he had got hewn an oaken trunk, round which he had arranged the helmet, tunic, and breastplate of the barbarian king.
Nor was war Rome’s only weapon against her enemies. Besides the ability of her generals and the discipline of her legions, she had the sagacity of her Senate. The Gauls were not wanting in intelligence or dexterity, but being too free to go quietly under a master’s hand, and too barbarous for self-government, carried away, as they were, by the interest or passion of the moment, they could not long act either in concert or with sameness of purpose. Far-sightedness and the spirit of persistence were, on the contrary, the familiar virtues of the Roman Senate. So soon as they had penetrated Cisalpine Gaul, they labored to gain there a permanent footing, either by sowing dissension amongst the Gallic peoples that lived there, or by founding Roman colonies. In the year 283 B.C., several Roman families arrived, with colors flying and under the guidance of three triumvirs or commissioners, on a territory to the north-east, on the borders of the Adriatic. The triumvirs had a round hole dug, and there deposited some fruits and a handful of earth brought from Roman soil; then yoking to a plough, having a copper share, a white bull and a white heifer, they marked out by a furrow a large enclosure. The rest followed, flinging within the line the ridges thrown up by the plough. When the line was finished, the bull and the heifer were sacrificed with due pomp. It was a Roman colony come to settle at Sena, on the very site of the chief town of those Senonic Gauls who had been conquered and driven out. Fifteen years afterwards another Roman colony was founded at Ariminum (Rimini), on the frontier of the Bolan Gauls. Fifty years later still two others, on the two banks of the Po, Cremona and Placentia (Plaisance). Rome had then, in the midst of her enemies, garrisons, magazines of arms and provisions, and means of supervision and communication. Thence proceeded at one time troops, at another intrigues, to carry dismay or disunion amongst the Gauls.
Towards the close of the third century before our era, the triumph of Rome in Cisalpine Gaul seemed nigh to accomplishment, when news arrived that the Romans’ most formidable enemy, Hannibal, meditating a passage from Africa into Italy by Spain and Gaul, was already at work, by his emissaries, to insure for his enterprise the concurrence of the Transalpine and Cisalpine Gauls. The Senate ordered the envoys they had just then at Carthage to traverse Gaul on returning, and seek out allies there against Hannibal. The envoys halted amongst the Gallo-Iberian peoples who lived at the foot of the eastern Pyrenees. There, in the midst of the warriors assembled in arms, they charged them in the name of the great and powerful Roman people, not to suffer the Carthaginians to pass through their territory. Tumultuous laughter arose at a request that appeared so strange. “You wish us,” was the answer, “to draw down war upon ourselves to avert it from Italy, and to give our own fields over to devastation to save yours. We have no cause to complain of the Carthaginians or to be pleased with the Romans, or to take up arms for the Romans and against the Carthaginians. We, on the contrary, hear that the Roman people drive out from their lands, in Italy, men of our nation, impose tribute upon them, and make them undergo other indignities.” So the envoys of Rome quitted Gaul without allies.
Hannibal, on the other hand, did not meet with all the favor and all the enthusiasm he had anticipated. Between the Pyrenees and the Alps several peoples united with him; and several showed coldness, or even hostility. In his passage of the Alps the mountain tribes harassed him incessantly. Indeed, in Cisalpine Gaul itself there was great division and hesitation; for Rome had succeeded in inspiring her partisans with confidence and her enemies with fear. Hannibal was often obliged to resort to force even against the Gauls whose alliance he courted, and to ravage their lands in order to drive them to take up arms. Nay, at the conclusion of an alliance, and in the very camp of the Carthaginians, the Gauls sometimes hesitated still, and sometimes rose against Hannibal, accused him of ravaging their country, and refused to obey his orders. However, the delights of victory and of pillage at last brought into full play the Cisalpine Gauls’ natural hatred of Rome. After Ticinus and Trebia, Hannibal had no more zealous and devoted troops. At the battle of Lake Trasimene he lost fifteen hundred men, nearly all Gauls; at that of Canine he had thirty thousand of them, forming two thirds of his army; and at the moment of action they cast away their tunics and checkered cloaks (similar to the plaids of the Gals or Scottish Highlanders), and fought naked from the belt upwards, according to their custom when they meant to conquer or die. Of five thousand five hundred men that the victory of Cannae cost Hannibal, four thousand were Gauls. All Cisalpine Gaul was moved; enthusiasm was at its height; new bands hurried off to recruit the army of the Carthaginian who, by dint of patience and genius, brought Rome within an ace of destruction, with the assistance almost entirely of the barbarians he had come to seek at her gates, and whom he had at first found so cowed and so vacillating.
When the day of reverses came, and Rome had recovered her ascendency, the Gauls were faithful to Hannibal; and when at length he was forced to return to Africa, the Gallic bands, whether from despair or attachment, followed him thither. In the year 200 B.C., at the famous battle of Zama, which decided matters between Rome and Carthage, they again formed a third of the Carthaginian army, and showed that they were, in the words of Livy, “inflamed by that innate hatred towards the Romans which is peculiar to their race.”
This was the third period of the struggle between the Gauls and the Romans in Italy. Rome, well advised by this terrible war of the danger with which she was ever menaced by the Cisalpine Gauls, formed the resolution of no longer restraining them, but of subduing them and conquering their territory. She spent thirty years (from 200 to 170 B.C.) in the execution of this design, proceeding by means of war, of founding Roman colonies, and of sowing dissension amongst the Gallic peoples. In vain did the two principal, the Boians and the Insubrians, endeavor to rouse and rally all the rest: some hesitated; some absolutely refused, and remained neutral. The resistance was obstinate. The Gauls, driven from their fields and their towns, established themselves, as their ancestors had done, in the forests, whence they emerged only to fall furiously upon the Romans. And then, if the engagement were indecisive, if any legions wavered, the Roman centurions hurled their colors into the midst of the enemy, and the legionaries dashed on at all risks to recover them. At Parma and Bologna, in the towns taken from the Gauls, Roman colonies came at once and planted them-selves. Day by day did Rome advance. At length, in the year 190 B.C., the wrecks of the one hundred and twelve tribes which had formed the nation of the Boians, unable any longer to resist, and unwilling to submit, rose as one man, and departed from Italy.
The Senate, with its usual wisdom, multiplied the number of Roman colonies in the conquered territory, treated with moderation the tribes that submitted, and gave to Cisalpine Gaul the name of the Cisalpine or Hither Gallic Province, which was afterwards changed for that of Gallia Togata or Roman Gaul. Then, declaring that nature herself had placed the Alps between Gaul and Italy as an insurmountable barrier, the Senate pronounced “a curse on whosoever should attempt to cross it.”