Asellus, who was in the camp, having been informed of this, waited only to ask the consul leave to depart from the ordinary course and fight an enemy who had challenged him.
By his permission, he immediately put on his arms, and riding out beyond the advanced guards called on Taurea by name, and bid him come to the encounter when he pleased.
By this time the Romans had gone out in large bodies to witness the contest, and the Campanians had crowded not only the rampart of the camp, but the walls of the city to get a view of it. After a flourish of expressions of mutual defiance, they spurred on their horses with their spears pointed.
Then evading each other's attacks, for they had free space to move in, they protracted the battle without a wound.
Upon this the Campanian observed to the Roman, “This will be only a trial of skill between our horses and not between horsemen, unless we ride them down from the plain into this hollow way. There, as there will be no room for retiring, we shall come to close quarters.” Almost quicker than the word, Claudius leaped into the hollow way.
Taurea, bold in words more than in reality, said, “Never be the ass in the ditch;” an expression which from this circumstance became a common proverb among rustics.
Claudius having rode up and down the way to a considerable distance, and again come up into the plain without meeting his antagonist, after reflecting in reproachful terms on the cowardice of the enemy, returned in triumph to the camp, amidst great rejoicing and congratulation.
To the [p. 893]
account of this equestrian contest, some histories add a circumstance which is certainly astonishing; how true it is, is an open matter of opinion: that Claudius, when in pursuit of Taurea, who fled back to the city, rode in at one of the gates of the enemy which stood open and made his escape unhurt through another, the enemy being thunderstruck at the strangeness of the circumstance.