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Marcus Furius Camillus (Hardback)

The Life of Rome's Second Founder

Ancient History > Rome & the Roman Provinces Military World History > Europe

By Marc Hyden
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 240
ISBN: 9781399055789
Published: 4th August 2023

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Camillus served as a censor, was elected to six consular tribuneships, appointed dictator five times, and enjoyed four triumphs. He toppled mighty Veii, ejected the Senones from Rome following its sacking, and helped orchestrate a grand compromise between the patricians and plebeians. The Romans even considered him Rome’s second founder – a proud appellation for any Roman – and revered him for being an exemplar of Roman virtue. Interestingly, he never held the consulship. Plutarch stated that Camillus had avoided it on purpose, and for good reason. The office was often at the heart of controversy, given that patricians dominated it for most of Camillus’ life.

The appointment of a dictator was an emergency measure taken only in the direst of situations and the fact that Camillus was repeatedly appointed speaks of a period when the young Republic was surrounded by enemies and still fighting for survival. Without Camillus’ efforts the city may never have fulfilled its great destiny. Marc Hyden sifts the fragmentary and contradictory sources and, while acknowledging that much legend and exaggeration quickly accrued around Camillus’ name, presents the story of this remarkable life as the ancient Romans knew it.

Truth be told, I was not very familiar with the Roman Camillus, that is, until I read Marc Hyden’s Marcus Furius Camillus: The Life of Rome’s Second Founder. A Roman historian by passion, Marc has dedicated his research to the lesser known characters of Roman history.

I have always enjoyed the writings of Marc Hyden. In this and all other publications, Marc exhibits the rare skill of storytelling. He is able to gather multiple sources, some of which may be contradictory, and in turn, create a single cohesive narrative. This talent builds a consistent picture and in our current case, we are able to truly understand the life of Camillus within his proper historical context.

Marc sheds light on the life of one of ancient Rome’s most important figures: Marcus Furius Camillus. Who was Camillus? Born in the second half of the 5th century BC and dying in the first half of the 4th century, having conquered numerous Roman enemies on the battlefield and attaining huge political success, he would rise to fame. Using the ancient sources which include Livy, Plutarch and more, Marc starts to put the pieces of a larger puzzle together. But how much of it was legend?

The first couple of chapters set the stage and provide context in the happenings of both the Roman Republic and the Camillus family, giving us insight into the influences driving Camillus and his future military and political careers, all of which he did for the glory of Rome. And even though he made mistakes along the way, he was the embodiment of Roman virtues.

The rest of the book chronologically details the life of Camillus, as it is told by the ancients and where it matters, confirmed by archaeology. The reader follows Camillus from the very beginnings of his political year as Census, through his military successes against Veii, his five dictatorships, six consular tribuneships and more. Camillus was a household name and after reading this, you begin to understand why.

Even after being exiled by his fellow Romans and when Rome needed him most to help drive back the Gauls, his selflessness and sense of duty to the place he continued to call home, helped save Rome.
As always, I was very impressed with Marc Hyden’s attention to detail. This is a very well researched publication and Marc has done a wonderful job transforming that research into something that is extremely easy to follow and understand. I enjoyed reading Marcus Furius Camillus: The Life of Rome’s Second Founder and highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in Roman history.

Petros Koutoupis - Digging up the Past

About Marc Hyden

Marc Hyden is the Director of State Government Affairs at a Washington DC-based think tank, and he graduated from Georgia State University with a degree in philosophy. He has had a long-standing fascination with ancient Rome and has written extensively on various aspects of its history. He is also the author of Gaius Marius: The Rise and Fall of Rome’s Saviour (Pen & Sword, 2017).

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