Where when they were spending the time in quiet in their quarters, a Gaul, remarkable for his size and the appearance of his arms, came forward; and striking his shield with his spear, after he had procured silence, through an interpreter he challenged any one of the Romans to contend with him with the sword.
There was a tribune of the soldiers, a young man, Marcus Valerius, who considering himself not less worthy of that distinction than Titus Manlius, having first ascertained the consul's pleasure, advanced fully armed into the middle space.
The human contest was rendered less remarkable by reason of the interposition of the divine power.
For just as the Roman was commencing the encounter, a crow settled suddenly on his helmet, facing the enemy, which, as an augury sent from heaven, the tribune at first received with pleasure. Then he prayed that whatever god or goddess had sent him the auspicious bird, would willingly and kindly aid him.
Wondrous to relate, the bird not only kept the place it had once taken, but as often as the encounter was renewed, raising itself on its wings, it attacked the face and eyes of the foe with its beak and talons, until Valerius slays him, terrified at the sight of such a prodigy, and confounded both in his vision and understanding. The crow soaring out of sight makes towards the east.
Hitherto the advanced guards on both sides remained quiet. When the tribune began to strip the body of the slain enemy, neither the Gauls any longer confined themselves to their post, and the Romans began to run to their successful champion with still greater speed. There a scuffle taking place around the body of the prostrate Gaul, a desperate fight is stirred up.
And now the contest is carried on not by the companies of the nearest posts, but by the legions pouring out from both sides. The soldiers exulting in the victory of the tribune, and also at such favour and attention from the gods, are commanded by Camillus to advance against the enemy: and he, pointing to the tribune distinguished by the spoils, “Soldiers,” said he, “imitate this man; and around their fallen leader strew heaps of Gauls.”
Gods and men assisted at that fight; and the struggle was carried on against the Gauls with a fury by no means equivocal in its result, so thoroughly were both armies impressed with the respective success of the two soldiers, between whom the single combat had taken place.
Among the first party, whose encounter had called out the others, there was a desperate encounter: the rest of the soldiery, before they came within throw of a weapon, turned their backs. At first they were dispersed through the Volscians and the Falernian territory; thence they made for Apulia and the upper sea.
The consul, calling an assembly, after heaping praises on the tribune, bestows on him ten oxen and a golden crown.
He himself, being commanded by the senate to take charge of the maritime war, joined his camp to that of the praetor. There because matters seemed to be delayed by the dastardly conduct of the Greeks, who did not venture into the field, with the approbation of the senate, he nominated Titus Manlius Torquatus dictator.
The dictator, after appointing Aulus Cornelius Cossus his master of the horse, held the consular elections, and with the greatest applause of the people he returned Marcus Valerius Corvus (for that was his surname from thenceforth) as consul though absent, the rival of his own glory, then three and twenty years of age.
As colleague to Corvus, Marcus Popillius Laenas, a plebeian, was assigned to be consul for the fourth time. Nothing memorable occurred between Camillus and the Greeks; neither the one were warriors by land, nor the Romans by sea.
At length, when they were repelled from the shore, among other things necessary for use, water also failing, they abandoned Italy.
To what state or what nation that fleet belonged, there is nothing certain. I would be most inclined to think that they belonged to the tyrants of Sicily; for the farther Greece, being at that time wearied by intestine war, was now in dread of the power of the Macedonians.