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A Smaller History of Greece
Project Gutenberg Etext of A Smaller History of Greece, by Smith
Classical Greek History from Homer to Alexander
Thomas R. Martin, An Overview of Classical Greek History from Homer to Alexander, Perseus Project.
Greek Politics and Wars 500-360 BC
Philip, Demosthenes, and Alexander
Catastrophes of the place
By Gauls, 279 BC
Brennus, the leader of a body of Gauls, who had settled in Pannonia, and who moved
southwards and broke into Greece B. C. 279, one hundred and eleven years after
the taking of Rome.
Pyrrhus of Epeirus was then absent in Italy. The infamous Ptolemy
Ceraunus had just established himself on the throne of Macedon. Athens was again
free under Olympiodorus (Paus. i. 26), and the old Achaean league had been renewed,
with the promise of brighter days in the Peloponnesus, when the inroad of the
barbarians threatened all Greece with desolation.
Brennus entered Paeonia at the same time that two other divisions
of the Gauls invaded Thrace and Macedonia. On returning home, the easy victory
which his countrymen had gained over Ptolemy in Macedon, the richness of the country,
and the treasures of the temples, furnished him with arguments for another enterprise,
and he again advanced southward with the enormous force of 150,000 foot and 61,000
horse (Paus. x. 19).
After ravaging Macedonia (Justin. xxiv. 6) he marched through Thessaly
towards Thermopylae. Here an army of above 20,000 Greeks was assembled to dispute
the pass, while a fleet of Athenian triremes lay close in shore, commanding the
narrow road between the foot of the cliffs and the beach.
On arriving at the Spercheius, Brennus found the bridges broken, and
a strong advanced post of the Greeks on the opposite bank. He waited therefore
till night, and then sent a body of men down the river, to cross it where it spreads
itself over some marshy ground and becomes fordable. On the Gauls gaining the
right bank, the advanced post of the Greeks fell back upon Thermopylae. Brennus
repaired the bridges and crossed the river, and advanced hastily by Heracleia
towards the pass. At daybreak the fight began. But the illarmed and undisciplined
Gauls rushed in vain upon the Grecian phalanx, and after repeated attacks of incredible
fury they were forced to retire with great loss. Brennus then despatched 40,000
of his men across the mountains of Thesssaly into Aetolia, which they ravaged
with horrible barbarity. This had the intended effect of detaching the Aetolians
from the allied army at Thermopylae; and about the same time some Heracleots betrayed
the pass over the mountains by which, two hundred years before, the Persians had
descended on the rear of the devoted Spartans. The Gaul followed the same path.
But the Greeks this time, though again surrounded, escaped; for the Athenian fleet
carried them safely away before the Gauls attacked them (Paus. x. 22).
Brennus, without waiting for those whom he had left on the other side
of the pass, pushed on for the plunder of Delphi. Justin says the barbarians laughed
at the notion of dedication to the gods (xxiv. 6): "The gods were so rich themselves
that they could afford to be givers instead of receivers"; and as he approached
the sacred hill, he pointed out the statues, and chariots, and other offerings,
which were conspicuous around the temple, and which he promised as the golden
prizes of the victory (Justin. xxiv. 8).
The Delphians had collected about 4000 men on the rock -a small number
to oppose the host of Brennus. But they were strongly posted, and the advantage
of the ground, and their own steady conduct, manifestly saved the temple without
the supernatural help of Apollo, which is given to them by the Greek and Roman
historians. As the Gauls rushed on from below, the Greeks plied their darts, and
rolled down broken rocks from the cliff upon them. A violent storm and intense
cold (for it was winter) increased the confusion of the assailants. They nevertheless
pressed on, till Brennus fainted from his wounds, and was carried out of the fight.
They then fled. The Greeks, exasperated by their barbarities, hung on their retreat,
through a difficult and mountainous country, and but few of them escaped to their
comrades, whom they had left behind at Thermopylae (Paus. x. 23).
Brennus was still alive, and might have recovered from his wounds,
but according to Pausanias he would not survive his defeat, and put an end to
his life with large draughts of strong wine -a more probable account than that
of Justin (xxiv. 8), who says that being unable to bear the pain of his wounds,
he stabbed himself.
Cambaules (Kambaules), the leader of a horde of Gauls before they invaded Greece in B. C. 279. The barbarians were at first few in number, but when they reached Thrace their forces had increased to such an extent, that they were divided into three great armies, which were placed under Cerethrius, Brennus, and Bolgius; and Cambaules is no longer heard of. (Paus. x. 19.4)