It happened that among the other prefects of the troops, who had been sent out in all directions to reconnoitre, Titus Manlius, the consul's son, came with his troop to the back of the enemy's camp, so near that he was scarcely distant a dart's throw from the next post.
In that place were some Tusculan cavalry; they were commanded by Geminus Metius, a man distinguished among his countrymen both by birth and ex- ploits.
When he recognised the Roman cavalry, and con- spicuous among them the consul's son marching at their head, (for they were all known
to each other, especially the men of note,) “Romans, are ye going to wage war with the Latins and allies with a single troop. What in the interim will the con- suls, what will the two consular armies be doing?”
“They will be here in good time,” says Manlius, “and with them will be Jupiter himself, as a witness of the treaties violated by you, who is stronger and more powerful.
If we fought at the lake Regillus until you had quite enough, here also we shall so act, that a line of battle and an encounter with us may afford you no very great gratification.”
In reply to this, Geminus, advancing some distance from his own party, says, “Do you choose then, until that day arrives on which you are to put your armies in motion with such mighty labour, to enter the lists with me, that from the result of a contest between us both, it may be seen how much a Latin excels a Roman horseman?”
Either resentment, or shame at declining the contest, or the invincible power of fate, arouses the determined spirit of the youth. Forgetful therefore of his father's command, and the consul's edict, he is driven headlong to that contest, in which it made not much difference whether he conquered or was conquered.
The other horsemen being removed to a distance as if to witness the sight, in the space of clear ground which lay between them they spurred on their horses against each other; and when they were together in fierce encounter, the spear of Manlius passed over the helmet of his antagonist, that of Me- [p. 512]
Metius across the neck of the other's horse.
Then wheeling round their horses, when Manlius arose to repeat the blow, he fixed his javelin between the ears of his opponent's horse.
When, by the pain of this wound, the horse, having raised his fore-feet on high, tossed his head with great violence, he shook off his rider, whom, when he was raising himself from the severe fall, by leaning on his spear and buckler, Manlius pierced through the throat, so that the steel passed out through the ribs, and pinned him to the earth;
and having collected the spoils, he returned to his own party, and with his troop, who were exulting with joy, he proceeds to
the camp, and thence to the general's tent to his father, ignorant of what awaited him, whether praise or punishment had been merited. “Father,” says he, “that all may truly represent me as sprung from your blood; when challenged, I slew my adversary, and have taken from him these equestrian spoils.”
When the consul heard this, immediately turning away from his son, he ordered an assembly to be summoned by sound of trumpet.
When these assembled in great numbers, “Since you, Titus Manlius,” says he, "revering neither the consular
power nor a father's majesty, have fought against the enemy out of your post contrary to our orders, and, as far as in you lay, have subverted military discipline, by which the Roman power has stood to this day, and have brought me to this necessity, that I must either forget the republic, or myself and mine;
we shall expiate our own transgressions rather than the republic should sustain so serious a loss for our misdeeds. We shall be a melancholy example, but a profitable one, to the youth of future ages.
As for me, both the natural affection for my children, as well as that instance of bravery which has led you astray by the false notion of honour, affects me for you.
But since either the authority of consuls is to be established by your death, or by your forgiveness to be for ever annulled; I do not think that even you, if you have any of our blood in you, will refuse to restore, by your punishment, the military discipline which has been subverted by your misconduct.
Go, lictor, bind him to the stake. All became motionless, more through fear than discipline, astounded by so cruel an order, each looking on the axe as if drawn against himself.
Therefore when they stood in profound silence, suddenly, when the blood spouted from his severed neck, their minds recovering, as it [p. 513]
were, from a state of stupefaction, then their voices arose together in free expressions of complaint, so that they spared neither lamentations nor execrations:
and the body of the youth, being covered with the spoils, was burned on a pile erected outside the rampart, with all the military zeal with which any funeral could be celebrated: and Manlian orders w re considered with horror, not only for the present, but of the most austere severity for future times.