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Camillus – Noble Roman Dictator

Greek Parallel – Themistocles

No Extant Parallel Essay – 🙁

Important People

Brennus – Gallic chieftan, unscrupulous and forceful, but without much character development as Plutarch did for other villains (see, for example, Alexander of Pherae’s character development in the Life of Pelopidas or Dionysius II’s tyrannical character as developed in the Life of Dion).

The Common (Ro)Man – Whether volunteering to give your wagon to Vestal Virgins or to take a risky message across enemy lines and back again, the common Romans do a great deal in this life. This creates a great parallel with the Life of Publicola, whose life features the brave deeds of so many Romans other than himself.

Important Places

Ardea – Camillus’s chosen spot of exile

Rome – What’s in a city? When it’s all been burned to the ground, should the Romans rebuild or colonize elsewhere?

Allia – Battle v. The Gauls

Sutrium – An ally of Rome which the Tuscans besiege calling for unprecedented tactics on the part of the Romans.

Key Virtues and Vices

φρόνησις – practical judgment –

Moderation – μετριότης (cf. 11 for lack of it in grieving)

Boldness of Speech – παρρησία

Hatred – ἀπεχθεία

Gentleness – ἥμερος (cf. 11)

Kindliness – χρηστός (cf. 11)

Avoidance of Conflict – On several occasions Camillus seems to choose to do the easier thing, rather than having the difficult conversation or confrontation necessary to ensure the right action is taken.

Justice – δικαιοσύνη – More important even than victory, Camillus’s conscientious application of the law even to his enemies in war wins him admiration and trust on both sides of a conflict.

C. 1 – Always a Bridesmaid…

Dictator (5x), Triumphs (4x) but NEVER Consul, Camillus lived in strange political times for the city-state of Rome. The people were still at odds with the Senate (see Life of Coriolanus for more info) and so led through 6 military tribunes instead of 2 consuls. He was moderate (μετριότης) and prudent (φρόνησις), which made him the most excellent leader even when he shared power.

C. 2 – Novus Homo and Rome’s Strongest Enemies

New man (first of the Furiī to find fame, though not quite a consul, but cf. Marius and Cicero) fighting against the Volscians and Aequians, wounded in the thigh, he put the enemy to flight. He served as censor and encouraged the unmarried men to marry the widows, of whom there were many because of Rome’s constant wars. He also taxed orphans (which Plutarch sees as a good thing?). Veii the most formidable Roman enemy who, even when beaten on the battlefield, built up their walls and provisions and prepared for a protracted siege. This siege went on through all seasons for six years and the Roman people grew tired of it. Camillus was fighting down south during this siege.

C. 3 – Alban Lake Miracle

Normal winter and summer, but Lake Alban with no natural explanation increased in size and reached up to the highest mountains surrounding it. It flooded much of the surrounding countryside and towns.

C. 4 – What the Seer Saw

A Veiian seer is captured by the Romans says that they cannot win the siege until the waters of the Alban Lake are prevented from meeting the sea. Perplexed, the Senators consult Delphi. The response: ancestral rites of the Latin festival had been neglected; another (response?) encouraged them to divert it onto the plain to dissipate the extra water.

C. 5 – Camillus Wins and Prays

Camillus then given the dictatorship in the 10th year of the Veiian siege. Dictators also have a Master of Horse, a second in command (usually to stay in the city while the dictator commands the troops abroad). Camillus chose Cornelius Scipio and makes promises to Mater Matuta (mother of the dawn) if victorious in battle. He worship looks similar to Greek worship of Leucothea (weird description follows). After beating the Faliscans and Capetans, he turns to Veii. He orders his men to tunnel, and they reach all the way to the largest temple of Juno in the center of the city. The sacrificial victim told that whoever finished the sacrifice would have victory and at that moment the Romans pop out of their tunnel and run off with the sacrificial victim. Even Plutarch is worried this sounds fabulous… Camillus cries in seeing the city sacked, and prays to Jupiter not to avenge this injustice on the Romans but on himself. The Romans generally turn to the right after prayer and adoration and Camillus stumbled as he turned, thinking that was the fulfillment of his prayer.

C. 6 – Veiian Juno Comes to Rome

Plutarch reveals his beliefs in supernatural as well as his monotheism. Juno must be transferred. In one version of the story, she speaks, in another, her attendants speak on her behalf. Plutarch thinks the greatest argument for divine approval is how great Rome became from something so small and insignificant. Plutarch encourages moderation, even in religious belief: “But in such matters eager credulity and excessive incredulity are alike dangerous, because of the weakness of our human nature, which sets no limits and has no mastery over itself, but is carried away now into vain superstition, and now into contemptuous neglect of the gods. Caution is best, and to go to no extremes.” GREEK: ἀλλὰ τοῖς τοιούτοις καὶ τὸ πιστεύειν σφόδρα καὶ τὸ λίαν ἀπιστεῖν ἐπισφαλές ἐστι διὰ τὴν ἀνθρωπίνην ἀσθένειαν ὅρον οὐκ ἔχουσαν οὐδὲ κρατοῦσαν αὑτῆς, ἀλλʼ ἐκφερομένην ὅπου μὲν εἰς δεισιδαιμονίαν καὶ τῦφον, ὅπου δʼ εἰς ὀλιγωρίαν τῶν θεῶν καὶ περιφρόνησιν ἡ δʼ εὐλάβεια καὶ τὸ μηδὲν ἄγαν ἄριστον.

C. 7 – Camillus’s Triumph and Forgotten Vow

Camillus celebrates a triumph with four white horses and a chariot, a setup previously preserved for the god Jupiter. The people grow angry with him and he also opposes a law sending colonists to the city of Veii to settle it. Camillus does so indirectly, by distracting the people with other business. They discover that he’s doing this and are annoyed. Then he makes a vow and either refuses to enforce it or forgets (promised 1/10 of spoils to Delphi).

C. 8 – A Golden Bowl for Apollo at Delphi

Senate votes for the soldiers to voluntarily turn over, under oath, ten percent of their spoils. Soldiers annoyed that he had promised the goods of the enemy but now paid with the goods of his fellow citizens. The spoils were collected and turned into a massive golden bowl sent to Delphi. With insufficient gold to make the bowl, the women donated their jewelry amounting to 8 talents and earning the right for women to get a eulogy after their deaths. The boat sent out was thought to be pirates and was captured and all on board almost sold into slavery. Just in time they were preserved from piracy and even given an escort to Delphi.

C. 9 – War as Distraction from Worse Political Evils

As war with the Faliscans starts up again, Camillus appointed one of six military tribunes. Camillus besieges Falerii to keep the Romans from being controlled by demagogues in politics at home. This was a tried and true remedy the Romans would use often.

C. 10 – The Treacherous Teacher

Life continues pretty much as normal inside Falerii, the kids all still go to school (one-room school-house, but just for boys). The teacher becomes a double-agent, though, and makes a habit of leading the boys outside the walls until they grew used to the besieging army nearby and thought it safe. Finally, he turns them over to the Romans. Camillus rejects the perfidious teacher, has him tied and bound, and gives the boys rods to beat him back into the city. The grateful Falerians, receiving back their boys unharmed, hail Camillus as savior, father, and god. They sent envoys offering to negotiate for peace with the Romans, and then before the Senate declared their admiration for a man who prioritized justice over victory. The Romans contract peace and friendship with the Falerians after receiving a tribute.

C. 11 – Political Unpopularity and Personal Tragedy

But, the regular soldiers return empty-handed after expecting spoils. So now they introduce again the law for the division of the city, wanting to send some as colonists of a conquered city to gain more land and more easily work for their livelihood. The law shot down again by Camillus’s boldness of speech and willingness to face hatred (lesson learned from the vow debacle?), but now most people in Rome hate Camillus and when he greives for his dead son they are not softened by pity.

C. 12 – The Charge and Voluntary Exile

So, this hatred boils over into political punishments and Camillus is called into court on the charge of the theft of Tuscan spoils, some bronze doors from the spoils had been seen at his house. Plutarch acknowledges that any pretext would do. As he gathers his friends to make a plan, no one can help him win the trial, but they promise to help him pay the fine if one is levied. He can’t stand this and plans to leave the city. Kissing his family goodbye, he walks silently to the gate and then turns around praying that the Roman repent quickly for this injustice and learn just how much they needed Camillus (cf. Iliad and Achilles).

C. 13 – Tides Turn Quickly

He was fined in absentia 15,000 asses, or 1500 drachmas (equal to the denarius = 10 asses). Then…

C. 14 – Omens…

The censor dies, and a man hears an ominous voice warning him about the arrival of the Gauls. No one believed the man and Camillus was exiled shortly afterward.

C. 15 – The Gauls!

Suffering a lack of land for their growing population, the Gauls migrate south, bringing their wives and children with them. They had spread out in large areas of Western and Northern Europe, but one group finally got a taste of wine, and they admired the drink so much that they wanted to cross the ALps in search of the land that produced such fruit! The man who introduced them to wine and whet their appetite for conquest in Italy was an Etruscan whose adopted son had stolen his wife from him.

C. 16 – The First Gallic Invasion of Northern Italy

The Gauls over-run the Etruscan lands quickly, but much of that had already happened before the time-period Plutarch now speaks of.

C. 17 – The Gauls at Clusium

Now coming into central Italy, they besiege Clusium which asks Rome for help. The Romans send ambassadors and have their first conference with Brennus, king of the Gauls. When the Romans ask what injustice that Clusians have committed, Brennus waxes about how he and the Romans both obey the most ancient law which is that the strongest take from their weaker neighbors. Unable to bargain, the envoys encourage the Clusians to sally forth from their walls and test the strength of these barbarians. Noticing that the Roman envoys had become enemies, Brennus stops the battle and now turns toward Rome, but slowly so that they can negotiate first.

C. 18 – The Gauls Attack – Battle of Allia (390 BC)

The priests in charge of declaring war (Fetiales) particularly incensed by the behavior of the Fabii. Fetiales instituted by Numa Pompilius to be “guardians of peace” as well as arbiters for “just war” (or war with justice – σὺν δίκῃ πόλεμον). The people, though, were proud of Fabius and appointed him military tribune, so the Gauls understood what that meant and marched straight for Rome, leaving her allies and other enemies alone. Impious and untrained, the Romans march forth to meet the Gauls, but six military tribunes was too many and Plutarch recalls the office of dictator as a necessary and efficient way of being united in thought, action, and justice. Camillus’s mistreatment also meant that future leaders were more in tune with the will of the mob. The Romans were routed, many not returning to the city because they already assumed it was lost.

C. 19 – Lucky and Unlucky Days

This day coincided with an earlier slaughter of Romans, and Plutarch touches on the idea of nefasti dies or unlucky days and the debate going on in Greek Literature. The same day on which the Thebans won Leuctra they had also beaten the Thessalians two hundred years earlier. Boedromion seems to be good for the Athenians, who won at Marathon (6th) and Salamis (20th) in that month, as well as Plataea and Mycale (3rd) on the same day, Naxos (14th). Plutarch refers us to his treatise On Days (not extant). Thargelion has been disastrous for barbarians – Granicus, Timoleon beat the Carthaginians, Troy was taken! Then he lists the lost battles in Metageitnion (Panemus for your Boeotians) – Crannon under Antipater (not considered Greek), Chaeroneia under Philip. But then he lists days where opposite things happened (Pompey born and died on his birthday Pompey Outline, for example (cf. William Shakespeare). This battle-day considered the unluckiest in the Roman calendar (and also covered in more detail in Plutarch’s Roman Questions).

C. 20 – Fortifying the Capitol and Saving the Sacred Fire

Gauls celebrate immediately afterwards instead of capitalizing on their victory. This gives the Romans time to flee and regroup. They fortify the Capitoline and prepare for a siege. Having learned their lesson, they first take care of the sacred things in Rome: Vesta’s fire, since Numa appointed fire as the cause of all things since it stands as an image of the force that orders the universe. Others say this fire is sacred as a purification. Other thoughts on what the Vestal Virgins actually protect…

C. 21 – More Flight and Preparation

The Vestals flee with the most sacred objects to Rome and a man who was fleeing with his family and goods on a cart immediately recognizes the Virgins and offers them the use of the cart. Elderly men don’t leave the city, but put on ceremonial dress and sat in the forum awaiting the Gauls as a sacrificial offering (the Pontifex Maximus is from the Fabii clan… so perhaps fitting?)

C. 22 – The Gauls in Rome

The Gauls come to an undefended city with its gates open. 360 years after she was founded, a conqueror walks in to take the city. This disaster caused confusion even in the chronology (records all burned). Heracleides Ponticus does report about this vaguely. Aristotle mentions it too, though he seems to get the name wrong. Brennus puts a guard around the Capitol and then walks through the Forum, amazed by the number of old men sitting there. One Gaul finally get the courage to touch one man’s beard, causing the man to strike him with his staff. The Gaul kills the old man and the slaughter begins. They plunder Rome for days, but cannot oust those defending the Capitol.

C. 23 – Camillus’s Counter Attack

The Gauls begin to run out of provisions and start foraging in the local area for food, leaving a sufficient guard around the Capitol. One of these groups falls on the nearby town of Ardea, where Camillus had gone in his exile. Camillus must raise and lead an army from the Ardeans. He surrounds the smaller encampment of Gauls by night, but most were drunk and stayed asleep only to die. Few escaped.

C. 24 – Camillus’s Army Grows

Rumor spreads and Camillus finds more exiled Romans coming to him to fight. Camillus refuses to act as in command of Romans until the Romans put him in that place. However, it was difficult to see how the normal political processes could happen since communciation to the Capitol was behind enemy lines.

C. 25 – Nocturnal Votes

Pontius Cominius (an ordinary citizen) volunteers to send a message to Rome, bringing with him not a letter, but cork. By night, he uses the cork to help him float/swim across the river then enters the quietest part of the city and climbs the cliff of the Capitoline to reach the Roman magistrates. The Senate appoints Camillus dictator and Pontius makes his way back alive.

C. 26 – The Gauls Take Notes

The Gauls notice the next day the spot where Pontius had climbed up and show Brennus. That night, Brennus gathers his best climbers and promises them gifts and honor to assault the Capitol under cover of darkness.

C. 27 – Nocturnal Raid Foiled by Geese

The Gauls climb up silently at midnight and regroup at the top, raeady to attack. The sacred geese, who hadn’t even been well fed as provisions were running out, ran at the attackers honking loudly. The Romans grab whatever is nearby and defend themselves, Manlius famously taking on two men at once with axe and shield. Manlius receives the ration from all the men that day, and the Romans throw the body of the captain to the bottom of the cliff.

C. 28 – Vae Victis!

Now that there was a large army outside Rome, the Gauls couldn’t get provisions, and they’d run out of supplies in Rome a while ago. Encamped amid ruins and carnage of their own making, the Gauls couldn’t handle the Roman summer comes upon them and the Gauls start dying in larger numbers. The besieged Romans don’t know what Camillus is doing and are growing more desperate by the day. The Romans agree to pay off the Gauls to go away: 1000 pounds of gold. The Gauls tamper with the scales and when the Romans complain, Brennus says “Woe to the conquered” (Vae Victis in Latin — τοῖς νενικημένοις ὀδύν).

C. 29 – Camillus’s Reversal

Camillus arrives in the city as this negotation is going on. He marches in with his best troops and removes the gold from the scales, telling the Gauls that Romans save their city with iron, not gold. When Brennus says they’re reneging on their deal, Camillus points out that it was not lawfully made with those in charge (i.e. himself). That night Brennus breaks camp and retreats about 8 miles away. The Romans pursue and fight a battle which they win, with few surviving from the Gauls.

C. 30 – Rome Restored

The Gauls had occupied Rome for seven months (July to Feb). Camillus’ triumph like a normal triumph involves going from the gates of the city to the Capitoline, but this particular one connects the outside of the city to its besieged people and brings them together in a celebration that also brings back all their sacred objects. After purifying the city, he set about restoring the temples, building a new one to Rumor and Voice at the spot where the regular man (Marcus Caedicius) had heard the voice warning of the Gallic invasion.

C. 31 – The Grumbling Begins Again

The people are quickly tired out by trying to rebuild the city from its ashes, and they want to colonize Veii again. The Senate doesn’t want this and keeps Camillus in emergency powers (dictator) longer than 6 months. The Senators point to many powerful religious symbols of unity as reasons the Roman populace should remain in this city (including an omen of a severed head “proving” that Rome will be the head of the world). 00

C. 32 – The Centurion Gives a Sign

Camillus allows it to be decided in the open, and the Senators then voted, from oldest to youngest. Just before the oldest Senator voted, a centurion walking outside with his day watch ordered his contingent to halt and his voice carried into the chamber where the Senate was meeting. This all took to be a sign and nearly unanimously the vote was made to stay. This also shifted the energy to rebuilding and Plutarch blames the confusing and narrow streets of Rome on this hasty reconstruction. They finished within a year. In excavating a temple of Mars for renewal, the augural staff (lituus, cf. #Life of Romulus). How to use a lituus. By finding it Rome assured of everlasting safety.

C. 33 – Mt. Marcius – New Wars and New Tactics

Camillus voted dictator for a third time as the Roman camp near Mt. Marcius is besieged by four different allies. Plutarch will tell the more legendary (mythic from Gk. μυθώδη) story first. The Latins call for wives, but it feels like a call for hostages and the Romans are in no position to resist. One slavewoman volunteers herself and some others to be dressed up as freeborn women and let them take care of the rest. The Romans trust her plan and enact it. The women stole the enemies weapons in the night, while Tutela (whose name implies safety and her other name, Φιλωτίδα, implies love) climbs a tree and uses a torch to send a signal to the Romans to attack by night – July 7th (close to July 4th?). Also July used to be called Quintilis (see Life of Numa for more). How they celebrate this festival is in large part attached back to this story

Others say this festival has more to do with Romulus who vanished from sight on this same day, right outside the gates during a solar eclipse. He disappeared while correcting the Roman people at the Goat’s Marsh. Capratine Nones either from capra (she-goat spot) or the wild fig tree in which the slave put the torch. Romulus

C. 34 – Mt. Marcius – The Other Story – Fiery Onslaught

In his third term as dictator, Camillus must enlist old men in the army due to dwindling numbers and relieve the Roman camp by giving Mt. Marcius a wide berth and showing up behind the besieging Latins and Volscians. In response to the Roman surprise, they dig in and await reinforcements, but Camillus attacks with a following wind and rains down fiery arrows on their wooden palisade. The fire causes chaos and flight, which the Romans take full advantage of.

C. 35 – Sutrium – Twice Captured in One Day

Leaving his son in charge, Camillus goes off to relieve Sutrium of its siege. Since they had already given up their city and were now walking on the road with only the clothes on their back, Camillus meets the Sutrians on their way. His compassion immediately inflames his retribution and he falls on the celebrating Aequians totally by surprise, taking back the city before they are all even fully aware.

C. 36 – Capitolinus v. Camillus

Many forced at this third triumph to admit that it was not fortune or luck but energy and ability (τῇ δεινότητι καὶ τῷ δραστηρίῳ) that caused his virtuous successes. Marcus Manlius, now surnamed Capitolinus for his deeds on the Capitol, was now envious of Camillus’s distinctions. So, he turned to the mob, particularly those in debt, and began to build alliances. In the disruption that begins to happen in the Forum as the debtors gather there, Capitolinus is put in charge as dictator and imprisoned Camillus. The Senate ordered his release and Camillus was shortly elected military tribune again. Put on trial, Manlius can use the Capitol cliffs (visible from the Forum) to plead his case for him and he uses this proximity to great effect, winning him at least postponement from his judges. Camillus takes advantage of this to move the location of the trial and Manlius is convicted for his crime rather than acquitted for his service. Manlius’s capital punishment served on the Capitol: he was thrown from the Tarpeian Rock and his heroism and demise come together in the same spot. They raze his house (which had also been on the Capitol) and pass a law that no one may live on the capital. In the place where his house was, they build a temple to a goddes called Moneta (later associated with Juno?). Etymology of Money.

C . 37 – Camillus – Old but in Charge

Offered a sixth term as military tribune, he declines due to old age and infirmity. The Romans do not accept and tell him he will only have to give counsel, not actually march, ride, and fight. His second in command, Lucius conducts the battle rashly and the Romans start to be routed. Camillus jumps up and races toward the battle. All those who see him, includnig those who had been runningn away, turn around and join him again. The next day he leads the battle in person and wins, taking the camp. After that, he send most of the army home and relieves another city from Tuscan control in revenge for all the Romans they had put to death.

C. 38 – Tusculan Revolt?

Camillus charged to put down (or prevent) a Tusculan revolt. He chooses Lucius Furius as his second-in-command to give him an opportunity to make up for his mistake. He arrives in the Tuscan area and they are acting peaceful. He nonetheless demands they go to Rome to ask forgiveness and helps even achieve the rights of citizenship. This will be important for later men like Marius and Cicero who will be citizens of Rome because of Camillus’s actions toward this area.

C. 39 – Power to the Plebes (Fourth Dictatorship Domestic)

The reason Rome had elected no consuls at this time is that the plebeians were preventing consular elections from being held. They insisted that one consul be a plebeian and one be a patrician. In his fourth dictatorship, Camillus charged with solving this domestic problem. When the Tribunes appoint a day for the pleb-pat law to be vote on, Camillus tries to muster the army for drills and levy a fine on those who skip out. The tribunes threaten back with an even bigger fine and Camillus retires to his house and lays down his dictatoriship. The law passes under another dictator and the patricians are limited to 500 acres of land.

C. 40 – The Gauls Again!?

The consular kerfufle remains. But… the Gauls are sailing toward Rome again. They come together to elect Camillus dictator for the FIFTH time, just shy of 80. Camillus musters the men and ensures their armor is strong, knowing the barbarians slash wildly and without discipline or training. He also trained the men to use their javelins like thrusting spears to meet the enemy before the swords got close enough.

C. 41 – The Second Confrontation

Camillus sees the Gauls feasting and laden with spoils, so he sets up his attack under the cover of night and surprises them into a disorderly attack. His preparations and training pay off exactly as he suspected and the Gauls are routed 13 years after they had marched into Rome. They still so terrified the Romans that priests were always exempted from military service, except in a Gallic War (this also increases Julius Caesar’s renown because he conquers all the Gauls where they live).

C. 42 – Military v. Political Victories

Camillus had completed his last military victory, but Rome was still two cities. Camillus keeps the dictatorship so that the Senate won’t have to give the people a plebeian tribune, but it doesn’t work. A fight breaks out in the Forum when the tribunes try to summon Camillus to a meeting. Camillus calms everyone down and calls the Senate together to debate, rather than delay, this topic. The Senators finally agree to allow the plebeians to elect a consul from their own ranks and Camillus fulfills a pledge to build a temple to Concordia (Ὁμονοία) – Together-heartedness or one-mindedness in the Greek. Lucius Sextus was the first plebeian consul elected (what year?) and now Camillus had both illustrious military as well as political victories.

C. 43 – Plague

Camillus dies of plague, along with many other Romans. Though old, he was still lamented for what the Romans lost.

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