While they were there quietly passing the time in guard-duty, a Gaul came out to them, remarkable for his great stature and his armour, and, smiting his spear against his shield and thereby obtaining silence, challenged the Romans, through an interpreter, to send a man to fight with him.
There was a young tribune of the soldiers, named Marcus Valerius, who, regarding himself as no less [p. 445]
worthy of that honour than Titus Manlius had been,1
first ascertained the consul's wishes, and then armed himself and advanced into the midst.
But the human interest of the combat was eclipsed by the intervention of the gods; for the Roman was in the very act of engaging, when suddenly a raven alighted on his helmet, facing his adversary.
This the tribune first received with joy, as a heaven-sent augury, and then prayed that whosoever, be it god or goddess, had sent the auspicious bird might attend him with favour and protection.
Marvellous to relate, the bird not only held to the place it had once chosen, but as often as the combatants closed, it rose on its wings and attacked the enemy's face and eyes with beak and talons, till he was terror-struck with the sight of such a portent, and bewildered at once in his vision and his mind, was dispatched by Valerius, —whereupon the raven flew off towards the east and was lost to sight.
Hitherto the outguards on either side had stood quietly by; but when the tribune began to despoil the corpse of his fallen foe, the Gauls remained no longer at their station, and the Romans ran up even more swiftly to the victor.
There a scuffle, arising over the body of the prostrate Gaul, led to a desperate fight that was not long confined to the maniples of the nearest outposts, for the legions, rushing out on both sides, carried on the battle. Camillus ordered his soldiers to fall on, elated as they were by the tribune's victory, elated too by the present assistance of the gods; and pointing to the tribune, decked out in his spoils, he cried, “Here is your pattern, soldiers!
Bring down the Gauls in troops around their prostrate leader!” [p. 447]
Both gods and men helped in that battle, and they2
fought it out with the Gauls to a conclusion that was never doubtful, so clearly had each side foreseen the result implicit in the outcome of the single combat.
Between those who began the fray, and by their conflict drew in the others, there was a bitter struggle; but the rest of the Gallic host turned tail ere they came within the cast of a javelin. At first they scattered among the Volsci and through the Falernian countryside; from there they made their way into Apulia or to the Tuscan Sea.
The consul assembled his soldiers, and having eulogized the tribune, bestowed on him ten oxen and a golden coronet; Camillus himself was commanded by the senate to take charge of the operations on the coast, and accordingly joined forces with the praetor.
The campaign there seemed likely to be long drawn out, for the Greeks were poltroons and refused to risk an engagement.
He therefore, on the authorization of the senate, appointed Titus Manlius Torquatus to be dictator, that an election might be held. The dictator, after naming Aulus Cornelius Cossus master of the horse, presided over a consular election, and announced, amid great popular rejoicings, that the choice had fallen —in his absence —upon a youth of twenty-three, the Marcus Valerius Corvus —for this was his surname from that time —who had rivalled Manlius's own glorious achievement.
As colleague of Corvus they elected the plebeian Marcus Popilius Laenas to be for the fourth time consul. With the Greeks, Camillus fought no memorable action; they were no warriors on land, nor were the Romans on the sea.
In the end, being kept off shore, and their [p. 449]
water giving out, as well as other necessaries, they3
To what people or race their fleet belonged is uncertain. I am most inclined to think that they were Sicilian tyrants; for Greece proper was at that time exhausted with civil wars and trembled, even then, at the power of the Macedonians.