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A GLORIOUS deed, by the Gods! and well worthy of the noble strains of Greek eloquence, is that of [p. 257] the military tribune Quintus Caedicius, recorded by Marcus Cato in his Origins. 1 The actual account runs about as follows: In the first Punic war the Carthaginian general in Sicily advanced to meet the Roman army and was first to take possession of the hills and strategic points. As the result of this, the Roman soldiers made their way into a place exposed to surprise and extreme danger. The tribune went to the consul and pointed out that destruction was imminent from their unfavourable position and from the fact that the enemy had surrounded them. “My advice is,” said he, “if you want to save the day, that you order some four hundred soldiers to advance to yonder wart” —for that is Cato's term for a high and rough bit of ground—“and command and conjure them to hold it. When the enemy see that, undoubtedly all their bravest and most active men will be intent upon attacking and fighting with them; they will devote themselves to that one task, and beyond a doubt all those four hundred will be slaughtered. Then in the meantime, while the enemy is engaged in killing them, you will have time to get the army out of this position. There is no other way of safety but this.” The consul replied to the tribune that the plan seemed to him equally wise; “but who, pray,” said he, “will there be to lead those four hundred men of yours to that place in the midst of the enemy's troops?” “If you find no one else,” answered the tribune, “you may use me for that dangerous enterprise. I offer this life of mine to you and to my country.” The consul thanked and commended the tribune. The tribune and his four hundred marched forth to death. The [p. 259] enemy marvelled at their boldness; they were on tiptoe of expectation to see where they would go. But when it appeared that they were on their way to occupy that hill, the Carthaginian commander sent against them the strongest men in his army, horse and foot. The Roman soldiers were surrounded; though surrounded, they resisted; the battle was long and doubtful. At last numbers triumphed. Every man of the four hundred fell, including the tribune, either run through with swords or overwhelmed with missiles. Meanwhile the consul, while the battle was raging there, withdrew to a safe position on high ground. But what, by Heaven's help, befell that tribune, the leader of the four hundred soldiers, in the battle, I have added, no longer using my own words, but giving those of Cato himself, who says: “The immortal gods gave the tribune good fortune equal to his valour; for this is what happened. Although he had been wounded in many places during the battle, yet his head was uninjured, and they recognized him among the dead, unconscious from wounds and loss of blood. They bore him off the field, he recovered, and often after that rendered brave and vigorous service to his country; and by that act of leading that forlorn hope lie saved the rest of the army. But what a difference it makes where you do the same service! 2 The Laconian Leonidas, who performed a like exploit at Thermopylae, because of his valour won unexampled glory and gratitude from all Greece, and was honoured with memorials of the highest distinction; they showed their appreciation of that deed of his by pictures, statues and honorary inscriptions, in their histories, and in other ways; but the tribune [p. 261] of the soldiers, who had done the same thing and saved an army, gained small glory for his deeds.” With such high personal testimony did Marcus Cato honour this valorous deed of Quintus Caedicius the tribune. But Claudius Quadrigarius, in the third book of his Annals, 3 says that the man's name was not Caedicius, but Laberius.
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