The miraculous attainment of so sudden a victory held even the Gauls in a state of stupefaction. And at first they stood motionless with panic, as if not knowing what had happened; then they apprehended a stratagem; at length they began to collect the spoils of the slain, and to pile up the arms in heaps, as is their custom.
Then, at length, where no appearance of any thing hostile was any where observed having proceeded on their journey, they reach the city of Rome not long before sun-set: where when some horsemen, who had advanced before, brought back word that the gates were not shut, that no guard was posted before the gates, no armed troops on the walls, another cause of amazement similar to the former made them halt;
and dreading the night and ignorance of the situation of the city, they posted themselves between Rome and the Anio, after sending scouts about the walls and the several gates to ascertain what plans the enemy would adopt in their desperate circumstances.
With respect to the Romans, as the greater part had gone to Veii from the field of battle, and no one supposed that any survived except those who had fled back to Rome, being all lamented as lost, both those living and those dead, they caused the entire city to be filled with wailings. The alarm for the public interest stifled private sorrow, as soon as it was announced that the enemy were at hand.
Presently the barbarians patrolling around the walls in troops, they heard their yells and the dissonant clangour of their arms. All the interval up to the next day kept their minds in such a state of suspense, that an assault seemed every moment about to be made on the city:
on their first approach, when they arrived at the city, [it was expected;] for if this were not their design, that they would have remained at the Allia; then towards sunset, because there was not much of the day remaining, they imagined that there would attack them before night; then that the design was deferred until night, in order to strike the greater terror.
At length the approach of light struck them with dismay; and the calamity itself followed closely upon their continued apprehension of it, when the troops entered the gates in hostile array.
During that night, however, and the following day, the state by no means bore any resemblance to that which which had fled in so dastardly a manner at the Allia. For as there was not a hope that the city could be defended, so small a number [p. 372]
of troops now remaining, it was determined that the youth fit for military service, and the abler part of the senate with their wives and children, should retire into the citadel and Capitol;
and having collected stores of arms and corn, and thence from a fortified post, that they should defend the deities, and the inhabitants, and the Roman name: that the flamen [Quirinalis] and the vestal priestesses should carry away far from slaughter and conflagration the objects appertaining to the religion of the state:
and that their worship should not be intermitted, until there remained no one who should continue it.
If the citadel and Capitol, the mansion of the gods, if the senate, the source of public counsel, if the youth of military age, should survive the impending ruin of the city, the loss would be light of the aged, the crowd left behind in the city, and who were sure to perish1
under any circumstances. And in order that the plebeian portion of the multitude might bear the thing with greater resignation, the aged men, who had enjoyed triumphs and consulships, openly declared that they would die along with them,
and that they would not burden the scanty stores of the armed men with those bodies, with which they were now unable to bear arms, or to defend their country. Such was the consolation addressed to each other by the aged now destined to death.