The joy which this great success excited in Rome had its echo in the Roman custom, continued down to a late age, of concluding the festal games with a "sale of Veientes," at which, among the mock spoils submitted to auction, the most wretched old cripple who could be procured wound up the sport in a purple mantle and ornaments of gold as "king of the Veientes." The city was destroyed, and the soil was doomed to perpetual desolation. Falerii and Capena hastened to make peace; the powerful Volsinii, which with federal indecision had remained quiet during the agony of Veii and took up arms after its capture, likewise after a few years (363) consented to peace. The statement that the two bulwarks of the Etruscan nation, Melpum and Veii, yielded on the same day, the former to the Celts, the latter to the Romans, may be merely a melancholy legend; but it at any rate involves a deep historical truth. The double assault from the north and from the south, and the fall of the two frontier strongholds, were the beginning of the end of the great Etruscan nation.
The Celts Attack Rome-- Battle On The Allia-- Capture Of Rome
For a moment, however, it seemed as if the two peoples, through whose co-operation Etruria saw her very existence put in jeopardy, were about to destroy each other, and the reviving power of Rome was to be trodden under foot by foreign barbarians. This turn of things, so contrary to what might naturally have been expected, the Romans brought upon themselves by their own arrogance and shortsightedness.
The Celtic swarms, which had crossed the river after the fall of Melpum, rapidly overflowed northern Italy--not merely the open country on the right bank of the Po and along the shore of the Adriatic, but also Etruria proper to the south of the Apennines. A few years afterwards (363) Clusium situated in the heart of Etruria (Chiusi, on the borders of Tuscany and the Papal State) was besieged by the Celtic Senones; and so humbled were the Etruscans that the Tuscan city in its straits invoked aid from the destroyers of Veii. Perhaps it would have been wise to grant it and to reduce at once the Gauls by arms, and the Etruscans by according to them protection, to a state of dependence on Rome; but an intervention with aims so extensive, which would have compelled the Romans to undertake a serious struggle on the northern Tuscan frontier, lay beyond the horizon of the Roman policy at that time. No course was therefore left but to refrain from all interference. Foolishly, however, while declining to send auxiliary troops, they despatched envoys. With still greater folly these sought to impose upon the Celts by haughty language, and, when this failed, they conceived that they might with impunity violate the law of nations in dealing with barbarians; in the ranks of the Clusines they took part in a skirmish, and in the course of it one of them stabbed and dismounted a Gallic officer. The barbarians acted in this case with moderation and prudence. They sent in the first instance to the Roman community to demand the surrender of those who had outraged the law of nations, and the senate was ready to comply with the reasonable request. But with the multitude compassion for their countrymen outweighed justice towards the foreigners; satisfaction was refused by the burgesses; and according to some accounts they even nominated the brave champions of their fatherland as consular tribunes for the year 364,(9) which was to be so fatal in the Roman annals. Then the Brennus or, in other words, the "king of the army" of the Gauls broke up the siege of Clusium, and the whole Celtic host--the numbers of which are stated at 70,000 men--turned against Rome. Such expeditions into unknown land distant regions were not unusual for the Gauls, who marched as bands of armed emigrants, troubling themselves little as to the means of cover or of retreat; but it was evident that none in Rome anticipated the dangers involved in so sudden and so mighty an invasion. It was not till the Gauls were marching upon Rome that a Roman military force crossed the Tiber and sought to bar their way. Not twelve miles from the gates, opposite to the confluence of the rivulet Allia with the Tiber, the armies met, and a battle took place on the 18th July, 364. Even now they went into battle--not as against an army, but as against freebooters--with arrogance and foolhardiness and under inexperienced leaders, Camillus having in consequence of the dissensions of the orders withdrawn from taking part in affairs. Those against whom they were to fight were but barbarians; what need was there of a camp, or of securing a retreat? These barbarians, however, were men whose courage despised death, and their mode of fighting was to the Italians as novel as it was terrible; sword in hand the Celts precipitated themselves with furious onset on the Roman phalanx, and shattered it at the first shock. The overthrow was complete; of the Romans, who had fought with the river in their rear, a large portion met their death in the attempt to cross it; such as escaped threw themselves by a flank movement into the neighbouring Veii. The victorious Celts stood between the remnant of the beaten army and the capital. The latter was irretrievably abandoned to the enemy; the small force that was left behind, or that had fled thither, was not sufficient to garrison the walls, and three days after the battle the victors marched through the open gates into Rome. Had they done so at first, as they might have done, not only the city, but the state also must have been lost; the brief interval gave opportunity to carry away or to bury the sacred objects, and, what was more important, to occupy the citadel and to furnish it with provisions for the exigency. No one was admitted to the citadel who was incapable of bearing arms--there was not food for all. The mass of the defenceless dispersed among the neighbouring towns; but many, and in particular a number of old men of high standing, would not survive the downfall of the city and awaited death in their houses by the sword of the barbarians.