A long silence followed. The best and bravest of the Romans made no sign;they felt ashamed of appearing to decline the challenge, and yet they were reluctant to expose themselves to such terrible danger.
Thereupon T. Manlius, the youth who had protected his father from the persecution of the tribune, left his post and went to the Dictator.‘Without
your orders, General,’ he said, ‘I will never leave my post to fight, no, not even if I saw that victory was certain ; but if you give me permission I want to show that monster as he stalks so proudly in front of their lines that I am a scion of that family which hurled the troop of Gauls from the Tarpeian rock.’
Then the Dictator: ‘Success to your courage, T. Manlius, and to your affection for your father and your fatherland . Go, and with the help of the gods show that the name of Rome is invincible.’
Then his comrades fastened on his armour; he took an infantry shield and a Spanish sword1
as better adapted for close fighting; thus armed and equipped they led him forward against the Gaul, who was exulting in his brute strength, and even —the ancients thought this worth recording —putting his tongue out in derision.
They retired to their posts and the two armed champions were left alone in the midst, more after the manner of a scene on the stage than under the conditions of serious war, and to those who judged by appearances, by no means equally matched.
The one was a creature of enormous bulk, resplendent in a many-coloured coat and wearing painted and gilded armour; the other a man of average height, and his arms, useful rather than ornamental, gave him quite an ordinary appearance. There was no singing of war-songs, 2
no prancing about, no silly brandishing of
weapons. With a breast full of courage and silent wrath Manlius reserved all his ferocity for the actual moment of
conflict. When they had taken their stand between the two armies, while so many hearts around them were in suspense between hope and fear, the Gaul, like a great overhanging mass, held out his shield on his left arm to meet his adversary's blows and aimed a tremendous cut downwards with his
sword. The Roman evaded the blow, and pushing aside the bottom of the Gaul's shield with his own, he slipped under it close up to the Gaul, too near for him to get at him with his sword. Then turning the point of his blade upwards, he gave two rapid thrusts in succession and stabbed the Gaul in the belly and the groin, laying his enemy prostrate over a large extent of
ground. He left the body of his fallen foe undespoiled with the exception of his chain, which though smeared with blood he placed round his own
neck. Astonishment and fear kept the Gauls motionless; the Romans ran eagerly forward from their lines to meet their warrior, and amidst cheers and congratulations they conducted him to the
Dictator. In the doggerel verses which they extemporised in his honour they called him Torquatus (‘adorned with a chain’), and this soubriquet became for his posterity a proud family
name. The Dictator gave him a golden crown, and before the whole army alluded to his victory in terms of the highest praise.