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Capitol – The legend of the Capitoline geese

The legend of the Capitol geese is part of Rome’s history.

Tradition says that everything happened around 390 BC. At that time, the hill of the Capitol was occupied by a temple dedicated to the goddess Juno, which housed a series of geese. The geese were sacred animals to the goddess and for this reason considered untouchable.

The Gauls of the leader Brenno besieged Rome and sought a way to penetrate the hill. Here the Romans who had not fled to the cities of Veio and Caere when the attackers arrived had taken refuge. Their only hope was the Roman general Marcus Furius Camillus, who, however, was in exile in Ardea because of his anti-plebeian positions.

But one night, the conflict came to a turning point.

A messenger, who was sent by the Romans to Ardea to recall the general, managed to access the Capitol despite the siege. The Gauls then took the opportunity, followed him and at night they entered too.

Legend has it that the geese, the only animals surviving the hunger of the besieged because sacred to Juno, began to squawk noisily. By doing so, they warned of the danger the former consul Marcus Manlius and the besieged Romans, who repelled the enemy. For his heroic action, Marcus Manlius was later named Capitolinus.

As a result, the Gauls began to suffer the first defeats while the army of Marcus Furius Camillus advanced from Ardea. Therefore, Gauls tried a compromise: to forehead of a tribute equal to thousand gold pounds, they would have removed the siege.

However, the Romans, at the moment of paying, realized that the scales were rigged. As a result, Brenno, in a gesture of challenge, added his sword to the scales claiming a greater weight of gold. Then, he pronounced the phrase “Woe to the vanquished!”

Here the tradition tells a second legendary episode. While the Romans were asking for time to get the missing gold, Camillus reached Rome with his army. Once in front of Brenno, he showed him his sword and shouted in his face: “Not with gold, but with iron, you redeem your country”.

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