The wars with the Etruscans went on, and chiefly with the city of Veii, which stood on a hill twelve miles from Rome, and was altogether thirty years at war with it. At last the Romans made up their minds that, instead of going home every harvest-time to gather in their crops, they must watch the city constantly till they could take it, and thus, as the besiegers were unable to do their own work, pay was raised for them to enable them to get it done, and this was the beginning of paying armies.
[Illustration: ARROW MACHINE.]
The siege of Veii lasted ten years, and during the last the Alban lake filled to an unusual height, although the summer was very dry. One of the Veian soldiers cried out to the Romans half in jest, “You will never take Veii till the Alban lake is dry.” It turned out that there was an old tradition that Veii should fall when the lake was drained. On this the senate sent orders to have canals dug to carry the waters to the sea, and these still remain. Still Veii held out, and to finish the war a dictator was appointed, Marcus Furius Camillus, who chose for his second in command a man of one of the most virtuous families in Rome, as their surname testified, Publius Cornelius, called Scipio, or the Staff, because either he or one of his forefathers had been the staff of his father’s old age. Camillus took the city by assault, with an immense quantity of spoil, which was divided among the soldiers.
Camillus in his pride took to himself at his triumph honors that had hitherto only been paid to the gods. He had his face painted with vermilion and his car drawn by milk-white horses. This shocked the people, and he gave greater offence by declaring that he had vowed a tenth part of the spoil to Apollo, but had forgotten it in the division of the plunder, and now must take it again. The soldiers would not consent, but lest the god should be angry with them, it was resolved to send a gold vase to his oracle at Delphi. All the women of Rome brought their jewels, and the senate rewarded them by a decree that funeral speeches might be made over their graves as over those of men, and likewise that they might be driven in chariots to the public games.