it chanced that amongst the other squadron —leaders who had been sent off in all directions to reconnoitre, Titus Manlius the consul's son had ridden out with his troopers beyond the enemy's camp, till he was hardly the cast of a spear from their nearest outpost.
there the Tusculan horse were stationed, under the command of Geminus Maecius, who enjoyed a reputation amongst his [p. 25]
fellows for his achievements no less than for his1
this man recognized the Roman cavalry, and, conspicuous in their van, the consul's son —for they were all known to one another, particularly the men of mark.
“come now,” he cried, “will you Romans wage war on the Latins and their allies with a single squadron? what will the consuls, what will two consular armies be doing in the meantime?”
“they will be here soon enough,” said Manlius, “and with them will be Jupiter himself, the witness of those covenants which you have violated, who is mightier and more powerful than they.
if at Lake Regillus we gave you your fill of fighting, here likewise we shall certainly see to it that you have no great joy of meeting us in the serried ranks of battle.”
at this, Geminus rode out a little in front of his men, and asked, “would you like then, while waiting for that great day to come, when with a mighty effort you are to set your hosts in motion —would you like meanwhile, I say, to do battle with me, yourself, that from the outcome of our duel men may see at once how far the Latin horse surpass the Roman?”
The youth's bold heart was stirred, whether by anger, or by shame at the thought of refusing the combat, or by the irresistible force of destiny. and so, forgetting the commands of his father and the edict of the consuls, he allowed himself to be swept headlong into an encounter where it would make little difference to him whether he won or lost.
they caused the rest of the horsemen to stand back, as though it had been a spectacle, and spurred their steeds against one another across the vacant space between.
with lances levelled they rushed together; but the lance of Manlius glanced off [p. 27]
the helmet of his enemy, and that of Maecius passed2
over the neck of the other's horse. then, as they pulled their horses round, Manlius, who was the first to gather himself up for a second thrust, pricked his enemy's charger between the ears.
The smart of this wound made the horse rear and toss his head so violently that he threw off his rider, who, raising himself with spear and shield, was struggling to his feet after the
heavy fall, when Manlius plunged his lance into his throat so that it came out between the ribs and pinned him to the ground.
he then gathered up the spoils and rode back to his troopers, who attended him with shouts of triumph to the camp, where he sought at once the headquarters of his father, knowing not what doom the future held for him, or whether praise or punishment were his appointed guerdon.
“Father,” he said, “that all men might truly report me to be your son, I bring these equestrian spoils, stripped from the body of an enemy who challenged me.”
on hearing this, the consul straightway turned from his son and commanded a trumpet to sound the assembly. when the men had gathered in full numbers, the consul said, “inasmuch, Titus Manlius, as you
have held in reverence neither consular authority nor a father's dignity, and despite our edict have quitted your place to fight the enemy, and so far as in you lay, have broken military discipline, whereby the Roman state has stood until this day unshaken, thus compelling me to forget either the republic or myself, we will sooner endure the punishment of our wrong —doing
than suffer the republic to expiate our sins at a cost so heavy to herself; we will set a stern example, but a salutary [p. 29]
one, for the young men of the future.
for my own3
part, I am moved, not only by a man's instinctive love of his children, but by this instance you have given of your bravery, perverted though it was by an idle show of honour.
but since the authority of the consuls must either be established by your death, or by your impunity be forever abrogated, and since I think that you yourself, if you have a drop of my blood in you, would not refuse to raise up by your punishment the military discipline which through your misdemeanour has slipped and fallen, —go, lictor, bind him to the stake.”
all were astounded at so shocking a command; every man looked upon the axe as lifted against himself, and they were hushed with fear more than with reverence.
and so, after standing, as if lost in wonder, rooted to the spot, suddenly, when the blood gushed forth from the severed neck, their voices burst out in such unrestrained upbraiding that they spared neither laments nor curses;
and covering the young man's body with his spoils, they built a pyre outside the rampart, where they burned it with all the honours that can possibly attend a soldier's funeral; and the “orders of Manlius” not only caused men to shudder at the time, but became a type of severity with succeeding ages.