The young Roman nobles were for a long time silent. Ashamed to decline the challenge, they were loath to volunteer for a service of transcendent peril.
Then Titus Manlius, the son of Lucius, who had rescued his father from the persecution of the tribune, left his station and went to the dictator. “Without your orders, General,” he said, “I would fain never leave my place to fight, not though I saw that victory was assured;
but if you permit me, I would show that beast who dances out so boldly before the standards of the enemy, that I come of the family that hurled the column of Gauls from the Tarpeian Rock.” To whom the dictator made answer, “Success attend your valour, Titus Manlius, and your loyalty to father and to country!
Go, and with Heaven's help make good the unconquerable Roman name.” The young man's friends then armed him; he assumed the shield of a foot-soldier, and to his side he buckled a Spanish sword, convenient for close fighting.1
Armed and accoutred, they led him forth to the Gaul, who in his stupid glee —for the ancients have thought even this worth mentioning —thrust his tongue out in derision. They then retired to their station, and the two armed men were left by themselves in the midst, like gladiators more than soldiers, and by no means evenly matched, to judge from
outward show. One [p. 387]
had a body extraordinary for its size, and resplendent2
in a coat of shifting hues and armour painted and chased with gold: the other was of a middling stature for a soldier, and his arms were but indifferent to look at, being suitable but
not ornate. He neither sang nor danced about with idle flourishes of his weapons, but his bosom swelled with courage and silent wrath, and all his ferocity was reserved for the crisis of
the combat. When they had taken their ground between the two embattled armies, while the hearts of the surrounding multitude were suspended betwixt hope and fear, the Gaul, whose huge bulk towered
above the other, advanced his shield with the left arm, to parry the attack of his oncoming enemy, and delivered a slashing stroke with his sword, that made a mighty clatter but did
no harm. The Roman, with the point of his weapon raised, struck up his adversary's shield with a blow from his own against its lower edge; and slipping in between the man's sword and his body, so close that no part of his own person was exposed, he gave one thrust and then immediately another, and gashing the groin and belly of his enemy brought him headlong to the ground, where he lay stretched out over a
monstrous space. To the body of his fallen foe he offered no other indignity than to despoil it of one thing —a chain which, spattered with blood, he cast round his
own neck. The Gauls were transfixed with fear and wonder, while the Romans, quitting their station, ran eagerly to meet their champion and brought him with praise and gratulation to
the dictator. Amidst the rude banter thrown out by the soldiers in a kind of verse, was heard the appellation of Torquatus,3
and thereafter [p. 389]
this was given currency as an honoured surname,4
used even by descendants of
the family. The dictator gave him, besides, a golden chaplet, and loudly extolled that fight of his in a public speech.