‘So painful to me, Quirites, are controversies with the tribunes of the plebs, that all the time I lived at Ardea my one consolation in my bitter exile was that I was far removed from these conflicts. As far as they are concerned I would never have returned even if you recalled me by a thousand senatorial decrees and popular votes.
And now that I am returned, it was not change of mind on my part but change of fortune on yours that compelled me. The question at stake was whether my country was to remain unshaken in her seat, not whether I was to be in my country at any cost. Even now I would gladly remain quiet and hold my peace, if I were not fighting another battle for my country. To be wanting to her, as long as life shall last, would be for other men a disgrace, for Camillus a downright sin.
Why did we win her back, why did we, when she was beset by foes, deliver her from their hands, if, now that she is recovered, we desert her? Whilst the Gauls were victorious and the whole of the City in their power, the gods and men of Rome still held, still dwelt in, the Capitol and the Citadel. And now that the Romans are victorious and the City recovered, are the Citadel and Capitol to be abandoned? Shall our good fortune inflict greater desolation on this City than our evil fortune wrought?
Even had there been no religious institutions established when the City was founded and passed down from hand to hand, still, so clearly has Providence been working in the affairs of Rome at this time, that I for one would suppose that all neglect of divine worship has been banished from human life.
Look at the alternations of prosperity and adversity during these late years; you will find that all went well with us when we followed the divine guidance, and all was disastrous when we neglected it.
Take first of all the war with Veii. For what a number of years and with what immense exertions it was carried on! It did not come to an end before the water was drawn off from the Alban Lake at the bidding of the gods.
What, again, of this unparalleled disaster to our City? Did it burst upon us before the Voice sent from heaven announcing the approach of the Gauls was treated with contempt, before the law of nations had been outraged by our ambassadors, before we had, in the same irreligious spirit, condoned that outrage when we ought to have punished it?
And so it was that, defeated, captured, ransomed, we received such punishment at the hands of gods and men that we were a lesson to the whole world. Then, in our adversity, we bethought us of our religious duties.
We fled to the gods in the Capitol, to the seat of Jupiter Optimus Maximus; amidst the ruin of all that we possessed we concealed some of the sacred treasures in the earth, the rest we carried out of the enemies' sight to neighbouring cities; abandoned as we were by gods and men, we still did not intermit the divine worship.
It is because we acted thus that they have restored to us our native City, and victory and the renown in war which we had lost; but against the enemy, who, blinded by avarice, broke treaty and troth in the weighing of the gold, they have launched terror and rout and death.’