... we are all prompted by the same motives, all deceived by the same fallacies, all animated by hope, obstructed by danger, entangled by desire, and seduced by pleasure. — Samuel Johnson

Story of Rome - Mary Macgregor

The Schoolmaster Who Proved a Traitor

The Falerians were not disturbed when the Roman army pitched its camp without their walls, not even although they knew that so great a general as Camillus was at its head.

Their city was well fortified, and so, sure of being able to defend it, they guarded their walls, and then went on with their work and with their play as was their wont.

But there was a traitor within the walls of Falerii, and through his treachery misfortune well-nigh overtook the city.

The traitor was a schoolmaster. He thought that it would be an easy matter to betray the city to the Romans by the aid, unknown to themselves, of his pupils.

Before the siege began he had been used to take the children outside the city walls for their daily walks and exercises.

He continued to do so after the Romans had laid siege to the city, but at first he did not venture far from the gates, lest the children should be afraid.

But, little by little, as they became careless of the enemy, the schoolmaster took them nearer and nearer to the Roman camp. Then one day, before the boys were aware, their master had led them close to the enemy's lines and had asked to be taken before Camillus.

He was admitted to the presence of the tribune, and pointing to his pupils the traitor said: 'I have brought you the children of Falerii. With them in your power, you will soon be able to make what terms you please with the citizens. They will give up their city without a struggle to secure the safe return of their children.'

But Camillus was not the man that the traitor had dreamed. He looked with scorn upon the treacherous schoolmaster, then, turning to those who stood near, he said: 'War indeed is of necessity attended with much injustice and violence. Certain laws, however, all good men observe, even in war itself, nor is victory so great an object as to induce us to incur for its sake obligations for base and impious acts. A great general should rely on his own valour and not on other men's vice.'

Camillus then bade his officers strip off the schoolmaster's clothes and tie his hands behind him. The children were then given rods and told to beat their master back to the city.

Meanwhile, the Falerians had missed the children. Fathers and mothers, distraught with grief, rushed to the walls, to the gates, but nowhere was there any trace of their boys. Cries and lamentations filled the city.

Suddenly the cries were hushed. Hark! that was a joyful shout! And then another and yet another rent the air.

The children were there, in sight, running back, merrily as it seemed, from the direction of the enemy's camp.

Then silence fell upon the parents, for as the children came nearer a strange picture was visible.

Their boys had rods in their hands, and they were chasing and beating a miserable, naked man, who looked like the honourable schoolmaster. But surely they must be mistaken. . . .

A moment or two later the children rushed through the gates, and in breathless haste told to their parents all that had befallen them, and how Camillus himself had bidden them chase the traitor schoolmaster back to the city.

Not only the parents, but all the citizens of Falerii were so pleased with the kindness Camillus had shown to the children that they sent ambassadors to him, offering to give up to the Romans whatever he chose to ask.

Again Camillus showed how generous a foe he could be, for he made peace with the Falerians, and demanding from them only a sum of money, he took his army back to Rome.

But the soldiers, who had hoped to gain much booty in Falerii, were angry. When they reached Rome empty-handed, they grumbled against their general, and told the people he was not their friend, for he cared for nothing save his own welfare.

Then his enemies determine to get rid of Camillus. So they accused him of keeping more than his share of the spoils of Veii. Even now, so they said, valuable brass gates, to which he had no right, were in his possession.

Camillus had many friends as well as many enemies, and he entreated those who trusted him to prove that the accusations brought against him were false. But all they could promise to do was to help him pay, should the Senate insist on fining him.

But this did not satisfy the brave Roman, who knew that he was guiltless. He determined to leave the city for which he had done so much, without waiting to hear his sentence pronounced.

As he passed through the gates, he turned, and stretching out his hands toward the Capitol, he cried to the gods: 'If not for evil I have done,' he cried, 'but through the hatred of my enemies I have been driven into exile, grant that the Romans may soon grow sorry and send for Camillus to help them when trouble befalls.'

And his prayer was answered. For when, in 390 B.C., the Gauls descended upon Rome, soldiers and citizens alike demanded that the Senate should send to Camillus and beseech him to come to help them in their dire need.


Front Matter

The Lady Roma
The She-Wolf
The Twin Boys
Numitor's Grandson
The Sacred Birds
The Founding of Rome
The Sabine Maidens
The Tarpeian Rock
The Mysterious Gate
The King Disappears
The Peace-Loving King
Horatius Slays His Sister
Pride of Tullus Hostilius
King Who Fought and Prayed
The Faithless Friend
A Slave Becomes a King
Cruel Deed of Tullia
Fate of the Town of Gabii
Books of the Sibyl
Industry of Lucretia
Death of Lucretia
Sons of Brutus
Horatius Cocles
Mucius Burns Right Hand
The Divine Twins
The Tribunes
Coriolanus and His Mother
The Roman Army in a Trap
The Hated Decemvirs
The Death of Verginia
The Friend of the People
Camillus Captures Veii
The Statue of the Goddess
Schoolmaster Traitor
Battle of Allia
The Sacred Geese
The City Is Rebuilt
Volscians on Fire
Battle on the Anio
The Curtian Lake
Dream of the Two Consuls
The Caudine Forks
Caudine Forks Avenged
Fabius among the Hills
Battle of Sentinum
Son of Fabius Loses Battle
Pyrrhus King of the Epirots
Elephants at Heraclea
Pyrrthus and Fabricius
Pyrrhus is Defeated
Romans Build a Fleet
Battle of Ecnomus
Roman Legions in Africa
Regulus Taken Prisoner
Romans Conquer the Gauls
The Boy Hannibal
Hannibal Invades Italy
Hannibal Crosses the Alps
Battle of Trebia
Battle of Lake Trasimenus
Hannibal Outwits Fabius
Fabius Wins Two Victories
Battle of Cannae
Despair of Rome
Defeat of Hasdrubal
Claudius Enjoy a Triumph
Capture of New Carthage
Scipio Sails to Africa
Romans Set Fire to Camp
Hannibal Leaves Italy
The Battle of Zama
Scipio Receives a Triumph
Flamininus in Garlands
Death of Hannibal
Hatred of Cato for Carthage
The Stern Decree
Carthaginians Defend City
Destruction of Carthage
Cornelia, Mother of Gracchi
Tiberius and Octavius
Death of Tiberius Gracchus
Death of Gaius Gracchus
The Gold of Jugurtha
Marius Wins Notice of Scipio
Marius Becomes Commander
Capture of Treasure Towns
Capture of Jugurtha
Jugurtha Brought to Rome
Marius Conquers Teutones
Marius Mocks the Ambassadors
Metellus Driven from Rome
Sulla Enters Rome
The Flight of Marius
Gaul Dares Not Kill Marius
Marius Returns to Rome
The Orator Aristion
Sulla Besieges Athens
Sulla Fights the Samnites
The Proscriptions of Sulla
The Gladiators' Revolt
The Pirates
Pompey Defeats Mithridates
Cicero Discovers Conspiracy
Death of the Conspirators
Caesar Captured by Pirates
Caesar Gives up Triumph
Caesar Praises Tenth Legion
Caesar Wins a Great Victory
Caesar Invades Britain
Caesar Crosses Rubicon
Caesar and the Pilot
The Flight of Pompey
Cato Dies Rather than Yieldr
Caesar is Loaded with Honours
Nobles Plot against Caesar
The Assassination of Caesar
Brutus Speaks to Citizens
Antony Speaks to Citizens
The Second Triumvirate
Battle of Philippi
Death of Brutus
Antony and Cleopatra
Battle of Actium
Antony and Cleopatra Die
Emperor Augustus