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[11arg] Of Valerius Corvinus and the origin of his surname,

THERE is not one of the well-known historians who has varied in telling the story of Valerius Maximus, who was called Corvinus because of the help and defence rendered him by a raven. That truly remarkable event is in fact thus related in the annals: 1 In the consulship of Lucius Furius and Appius Claudius, 2 a young man of such a family 3 was appointed tribune of the soldiers. And at that time vast forces of Gauls had encamped in the Pomptine district, and the Roman army was being drawn up in order of battle by the consuls, who were not a little disquieted by the strength and number of the enemy. Meanwhile the leader of the Gauls, a man of enormous size and stature, his armour gleaming with gold, advanced with long strides and flourishing his spear, at the same time casting haughty and contemptuous glances [p. 187] in all directions. Filled with scorn for all that he saw, he challenged anyone from the entire Roman army to come out and meet him, if he dared. Thereupon, while all were wavering between fear and shame, the tribune Valerius, first obtaining the consuls' permission to fight with the Gaul who was boasting so vainly, advanced to meet him, boldly yet modestly. They meet, they halt, they were already engaging in combat. And at that moment a divine power is manifest: a raven, hitherto unseen, suddenly flies to the spot, perches on the tribune's helmet, and from there begins an attack on the face and the eyes of his adversary. It flew at the Gaul, harassed him, tore his hand with its claws, obstructed his sight with its wings, and after venting its rage flew back to the tribune's helmet. Thus the tribune, before the eyes of both armies, relying on his own valour and defended by the help of the bird, conquered and killed the arrogant leader of the enemy, and thus won the surname Corvinus. This happened four hundred and five years after the founding of Rome.

To that Corvinus the deified Augustus caused a statue to be erected in his Forum. 4 On the head of this statue is the figure of a raven, a reminder of the event and of the combat which I have described.

1 e.q. Claud. Quad. Fr. 12, Peter2.

2 349 B.C.

3 That is, as had been described in what preceded.

4 In the colonnades of his Forum Augustus placed statues of “the leaders who had raised the estate of the Roman people from obscurity to greatness”: see Suetonius, Aug. xxxi. 5.

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