Story of the Romans - Helene Guerber

The Invasion of the Gauls

A hastily collected army met Brennus near the river Allia, but in spite of the almost superhuman efforts of the Romans, the Gauls won a great victory, and killed nearly forty thousand men. The Roman army was cut to pieces, and no obstacle now prevented the barbarians from reaching Rome.

As the Gauls advanced, the people fled, while many soldiers took refuge in the Capitol, resolved to hold out to the very last. The rest of the city was deserted, but seventy of the priests and senators remained at their posts, hoping that the sacrifice of their lives would disarm the anger of their gods, and save their beloved city. These brave men put on their robes of state, and sat in their ivory chairs on the Forum, to await the arrival of the barbarians.

When the Gauls reached the city, they were amazed to find the gates wide open, the streets deserted, and the houses empty. They did not at first dare enter, lest they should be drawn into an ambush, but, reassured by the silence, they finally ventured in. As they passed along the streets, they gazed with admiration at the beautiful buildings.

At last they came to the Forum, and here they again paused in wonder in front of those dignified old men, sitting silent and motionless in their chairs. The sight was so impressive that they were filled with awe, and began to ask whether these were living men or only statues.

One of the Gauls, wishing to find out by sense of touch whether they were real, slowly stretched out his hand and stroked the beard of the priest nearest him. This rude touch was considered an insult by the Roman, so he raised his wand of office, and struck the barbarian on the head.

The spell of awe was broken. The Gaul was indignant at receiving a blow, however weak and harmless, and with one stroke of his sword he cut off the head of the offender. This was the signal for a general massacre. The priests and senators were all slain, and then the plundering began.

When all the houses and temples had been ransacked, and their precious contents either carried off or destroyed, the barbarians set fire to the city, which was soon a mass of ruins. This fire took place in the year 390 B.C., and in it perished many records of the early history of Rome. Because of their loss, not much reliable information was left; but the Romans little by little put together the history which you have heard in the preceding chapters.

We now know that many of these stories cannot be true, and that the rest are not entirely so. And this is the case also with those in the next two or three chapters; for the first historians did not begin to write till many years after the burning of Rome. The Romans, however, believed thoroughly in all these stories, and people nowadays need to know them as much as the perfectly true ones that follow.


Front Matter

The First Settlers
Escape from the Burning City
The Clever Trick
The Boards Are Eaten
The Wolf and the Twins
Romulus Builds Rome
The Maidens Carried Off
Union of Sabines and Romans
Death of Romulus
Strange Signs of the Romans
The Quarrel with Alba
The Horatii and Curiatii
Tarquin and the Eagle
The Roman Youths
The King Outwitted
The Murder of Tarquin
The Ungrateful Children
The Mysterious Books
Tarquin's Poppies
The Oracle of Delphi
The Death of Lucretia
The Stern Father
A Roman Triumph
A Roman Triumph (Cont.)
Defense of the Bridge
The Burnt Hand
The Twin Gods
The Wrongs of the Poor
Fable of the Stomach
The Story of Coriolanus
The Farmer Hero
The New Laws
Death of Virginia
Plans of a Traitor
A School-Teacher Punished
Invasion of the Gauls
The Sacred Geese
Two Heroes of Rome
Disaster at Caudine Forks
Pyrrhus and His Elephants
The Elephants Routed
Ancient Ships
Regulus and the Snake
Hannibal Crosses the Alps
The Romans Defeated
The Inventor Archimedes
The Roman Conquests
Destruction of Carthage
Roman Amusements
The Jewels of Cornelia
Death of Tiberius Gracchus
Caius Gracchus
Jugurtha, King of Numidia
The Barbarians
The Social War
The Flight of Marius
The Proscription Lists
Sertorius and His Doe
Revolt of the Slaves
Pompey's Conquests
Conspiracy of Catiline
Caesar's Conquests
Crossing of the Rubicon
Battle of Pharsalia
The Death of Caesar
The Second Triumvirate
The Vision of Brutus
Antony and Cleopatra
The Poisonous Snake
The Augustan Age
Death of Augustus
Varus Avenged
Death of Germanicus
Tiberius Smothered
The Wild Caligula
Wicked Wives of Claudius
Nero's First Crimes
Christians Persecuted
Nero's Cruelty
Two Short Reigns
The Siege of Jerusalem
The Buried Cities
The Terrible Banquet
The Emperor's Tablets
The Good Trajan
Trajan's Column
The Great Wall
Hadrian's Death
Antoninus Pius
The Model Pagan
Another Cruel Emperor
An Unnatural Son
The Senate of Women
The Gigantic Emperor
Invasion of the Goths
Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra
A Prophecy Fulfulled
First Christian Emperor
Roman Empire Divided
An Emperor's Penance
Sieges of Rome
End of the Western Empire