Successful in all directions, the Dictator returned home to enjoy the honour of a triumph granted him by decree of the senate and resolution of the people.
By far the finest sight in the procession was Cossus bearing the spolia opima1
of the king he had slain.
The soldiers sang rude songs in his honour and placed him on a level with Romulus. He solemnly dedicated the spoils to Jupiter Feretrius, and hung them in his temple near those of Romulus, which were the only ones which at that time were called spolia opima prima
. All eyes were turned from the chariot of the Dictator to him; he almost monopolised the honours of the day.
By order of the people, a crown of gold, a pound in weight, was made at the public expense and placed by the Dictator in the Capitol as an offering to Jupiter.
that Cossus placed the spolia opima secunda
in the temple of Jupiter Feretrius when he was a military tribune I have followed all the existing authorities.
But not only is the designation of spolia opima
restricted to those which a commander-in-chief has taken from a commander-in-chief —and we know of no commander-in-chief but the one under whose auspices the war is conducted —but I and my authorities are also confuted by the actual inscription on the spoils, which states that Cossus took them when he was consul.
Augustus Caesar, the founder and restorer of all the temples, rebuilt the temple of Jupiter Feretrius, which had fallen to ruin through age, and I once heard him say that after entering it he read that inscription on the linen cuirass with his own eyes. After that I felt it would be almost a sacrilege to withhold from Cossus the evidence as to his spoils given by the Caesar who restored that very temple.
Whether the mistake, if there be one, may have arisen from the fact that the ancient annals, and the ‘Linen Rolls’ —the lists of magistrates preserved in the temple of Moneta which Macer Licinius frequently quotes as authorities — have an A. Cornelius Cossus as consul with T. Quinctius Poenus, ten years later-of this every man must judge for himself.
For there is this further reason why so famous a battle could not be transferred to this later date, namely, that during the three years which preceded and followed the consulship of Cossus war was impossible owing to pestilence and famine, so that some of the annals, as though they were records of deaths, supply nothing but the names of the consuls.
The third year after his consulship has the name of Cossus as a consular tribune, and in the same year he is entered as Master of the Horse, in which capacity he fought another brilliant cavalry action.
Every one is at liberty to form his own conjecture; these doubtful points, in my belief, can be made to support any opinion. The fact remains that the man who fought the battle placed the newly-won spoils in the sacred shrine near Jupiter himself, to whom they were consecrated, and with Romulus in full view —two witnesses to be dreaded by any forger —and that he described himself in the inscription as ‘A. Cornelius Cossus, Consul.’2