But worse than all the evils of the blockade and the war was the famine with which both armies were afflicted.
The Gauls suffered also from a pestilence, being encamped between hills on low ground, parched and heated by the conflagration, where the air was filled with ashes, as well as dust, whenever a breeze sprang up.
These annoyances were intolerable to a race accustomed to damp and cold, and when, distressed by the suffocating heat, they began to sicken of diseases that spread as though the victims had been cattle, they were soon too slothful to bury their dead singly, and piling the bodies up in promiscuous heaps, they burned them, [p. 163]
causing the place to be known from that1
circumstance as the Gallic Pyres.2
A truce was afterwards made with the Romans, and the commanders allowed their soldiers to talk together. Since in these conversations the Gauls used frequently to taunt their enemies with their famished state, and call on them to yield to that necessity and surrender, the Romans are said, in order to do away with this opinion, to have cast bread down from the Capitol in many places, into the outposts of the enemy.
Yet at last they could neither dissemble their hunger nor endure it any longer. The dictator was now holding a levy of his own at Ardea, and having ordered the master of the horse, Lucius Valerius, to bring up his army from Veii, was mustering and drilling a force with which he might cope with the Gauls on equal terms.
But the army on the Capitol was worn out with picket duty and mounting guard; and though they had got the better of all human ills, yet was there one, and that was famine, which nature would not suffer to be overcome.
Day after day they looked out to see if any relief from the dictator was at hand; but at last even hope, as well as food, beginning to fail them, and their bodies growing almost too weak to sustain their armour when they went out on picket duty, they declared that they must either surrender or ransom themselves, on whatever conditions they could make; for the Gauls were hinting very plainly that no great price would be required to induce them to raise the siege.
Thereupon the senate met, and instructed the tribunes of the soldiers to arrange the terms. Then, at a conference between Quintus Sulpicius the tribune and the Gallic chieftain Brennus, the affair [p. 165]
was settled, and a thousand pounds of gold was3
agreed on as the price of a people that was destined presently to rule the nations.
The transaction was a foul disgrace in itself, but an insult was added thereto: the weights brought by the Gauls were dishonest, and on the tribune's objecting, the insolent Gaul added his sword to the weight, and a saying intolerable to Roman ears was heard, —Woe to the conquered!