"But the case itself forces us to leave a city desolated by fire and ruin, and remove to Veii, where all things are entire, and not to distress the needy commons by building here.
But that this is only held out as a pretext, rather than that it is the real motive, I think is evident to you, though I should say nothing on the subject; for you remember that before the arrival of the Gauls, when the buildings, both public and private, were still unhurt, and the city still stood in safety, this same question was agitated, that we should remove to Veii. Observe then, tribunes, what a difference there is between my way of thinking and yours.
Ye think that though it may not have been advisable to do it then, still that now it ought certainly to be done; I, on the contrary, (and be not surprised until you shall have heard the state of the case,) admitting it were advisable to remove when the entire city was safe, would not vote for relinquishing these ruins now.
For then victory would be the cause of our removing into a captured city, one that would be glorious to ourselves and our posterity; whilst now this same removal would be wretched and disgraceful to us, and glorious to the Gauls.
For we shall appear not to have left our country as conquerors, but to have lost it from having been vanquished; the flight at Allia, the capture of the city, the blockading of the Capitol, [will seem] to have imposed this necessity on us of forsaking our household gods, of having recourse to exile and flight from that place which we were unable to defend. And have the Gauls been able to demolish Rome, which the Romans shall be deemed to have been unable to restore?
What remains, but that if they should now come with new forces, (for it is evident that their number is scarcely credible,) and should they feel disposed to dwell in this city, captured by them, and deserted by you, would you suffer them?
What, if not the Gauls, but your old enemies, the Aequans and Volscians, should form the design of removing to Rome; would you be willing that they should become Romans, you Veientians? Would ye prefer that this should be a desert in your possession, or a city of the enemy? For my part I can see nothing more impious. Is it because ye are averse to building, ye are prepared to incur this guilt, this disgrace?
Even though no better, no more ample structure could be erected throughout the entire city than that cottage of our founder, is it not bet- [p. 389]
ter to dwell in cottages, like shepherds and rustics, amid your sacred places and your household gods, than to go publicly into exile?
Our forefathers, strangers and shepherds, when there was nothing in these places but woods and marshes, erected a new city in a very short time; do we, with a Capitol and citadel safe, and the temples of the gods still standing, feel it irksome to build up what has been burnt? and what we individually would have done, if our private residence had been burned down, shall we as a body refuse to do in the case of a public conflagration?