Appian, Gallic War 1

Appian of Alexandria (c.95-c.165): one of the most underestimated of all Greek historians, author of a Roman History in twenty-four books.

Although only Appian's books on the Roman Civil Wars survive in their entirety, large parts of the other books, devoted to Rome's foreign wars, have also come down to us. The parts on the Third Punic War, the wars in Iberia, the Illyrian Wars, and the Mithridatic Wars are very important historical sources.

Because these texts have to be reconstructed from several medieval manuscripts, not all editions of Appian's account of Rome's foreign wars are numbered in the same way. On these pages, the separate units of a book are counted strictly chronologically.

The translation was made by Horace White; notes by Jona Lendering.

The Sack of Rome

[1] [From Constantine Porphyrogenitus, The Embassies] In the 97th Olympiad, according to the Greek calendar,note a considerable part of the Gauls who dwelt along the Rhine moved off in search of new land, that which they occupied being insufficient for their numbers. Having scaled the Alps they fell upon the territory of Clusium, a fertile part of Etruria. The Clusians had made a league with the Romans not long before, and now applied to them for aid. So the three Fabii were sent with the Clusians as ambassadors to the Gauls to order them to vacate the country that was in alliance with Rome, and to threaten them if they did not obey. The Gauls replied that they feared no mortal man in threat or war, that they were in need of land, and that they had not yet meddled with the affairs of the Romans. The Fabii urged the Clusians to make an attack upon the Gauls while they were heedlessly plundering the country. They took part in the expedition themselves and slew an immense number of the Gauls whom they caught foraging. Quintus Fabius, one of the Roman embassy, himself killed the chief of that band, stripped his body, and carried his arms back to Clusium.

[2] [From Constantine Porphyrogenitus, The Embassies] After the Fabii had slain this large number of Gauls, Brennus, their king, though he had refused to recognize the Roman embassy, for the purpose of intimidating the Romans selected as ambassadors to them certain Gauls who exceeded all the others in bodily size as much as the Gauls exceeded other peoples, and sent them to Rome to complain that the Fabii, while serving as ambassadors, had joined in war against him, contrary to the law of nations. He demanded that they should be given up to him for punishment unless the Romans wished to make the crime their own. The Romans acknowledged that the Fabii had done wrong, but having great respect for that distinguished family, they urged the Gauls to accept a pecuniary compensation from them. As the latter refused, they elected the Fabii military tribunes for that year, and then said to the Gallic ambassadors that they could not do anything to the Fabii now because they were now holding office, but told them to come again next year if they were still in a bad humor. Brennus and the Gauls under him considered this an insult and took it hard. Accordingly they sent around to the other Gauls asking them to make common cause of war with them. When a large number had collected in obedience to this summons they broke camp and marched against Rome.

[At this point, the Roman defeat at the Allia must have been mentioned, the capture of the city, and the beginning of the siege of the Capitol. Meanwhile, a Roman commander named Quintus Caedicius conducted military operations against the Gauls, using the nearby city of Veii as his base. After several successes, he demanded the recall of Rome's best commander, Marcus Furius Camillus, from exile. The Senate agreed.]

[3] [From the Peiresc manuscript] When Caedicius bore the decree of the Senate to Camillus, by which he was made consul,note he exhorted him not to lay up against his country the injury it had done him. The latter, interrupting him, said: "I could not have prayed to the gods that the Romans might some time long for me if I had cherished any such feeling as that towards them. Now I pray the nobler prayer that I may render my country a service equal to the calamity that has befallen her."

[4] [From the Peiresc manuscript] When the Gauls could find no means for scaling the Capitol they remained quietly in camp in order to reduce the defenders by famine. A certain priest named Dorsonote went down from the Capitol to make a certain yearly sacrifice in the temple of Vesta, and passed safely, with the sacred utensils, through the ranks of the enemy, who were either awed by his courage or had respect for his piety and his venerable appearance. Thus he who had incurred danger for the sake of his holy office was saved by it. That this event occurred as related, the Roman writer Cassius tells us.

[5] [From the Peiresc manuscript] Meanwhile, the Gauls filled themselves to repletion with wine and other luxuries, being intemperate by nature, and inhabiting a country which yielded only cereals, and was unfruitful and destitute of other productions. Thus their large bodies became delicate, distended with fatness, and heavy by reason of excessive eating and drinking, and quite incapable of running or hardship; and when any exertion was required of them they speedily became exhausted by perspiration and shortness of breath.

[In the end, Camillus overcame the Gauls - according to the Roman sources, of course.]

[6] [From the Suda] Camillus showed the Gauls naked to the Romans and said: "These are the creatures who assail you with such terrible shouts in battle, and clash their arms and shake their long swords and toss their hair. Behold their weakness of soul, their slothfulness and flabbiness of body, and gird yourselves to your work."

[7] [From an Epitome] At an early period the Gauls waged war against the Romans, took Rome itself, except the Capitol, and burned it. Camillus, however, overcame and expelled them.