On the following day, when Lartius had come up, and the rest of the army was assembled before the consul, Cominius mounted the rostra, and after rendering to the gods the praise that was their due for such great successes, addressed himself to Marcius. In the first place, he rehearsed with praise his astonishing exploits, some of which he had himself beheld in the battle, while to others Lartius bore witness.
Then, out of the abundant treasures and the many horses and prisoners that had been taken, he ordered him to choose out a tenth, before any distribution to the rest of the army; and besides all this, he presented him with a horse, duly caparisoned, as a prize of valour. After the Romans had applauded this speech, Marcius came forward and said that he accepted the horse, and was delighted with the praises of the consul, but that he declined the rest, holding it to be pay, not honour, and would be content with his single share of the booty.
‘But I do ask one special favour,’ he said,
‘and beg that I may receive it. I had a guest-friend among the Volscians, a man of kindliness and probity. This man is now a prisoner, and from wealth and happiness is reduced to subjection. Since, then, many evils have befallen him, let me at least free him from one, that of being sold into bondage.’
At such words as these still louder shouts greeted Marcius, and he found more admirers of his superiority to gain than of the bravery he had shown in war.
For the very ones who secretly felt a certain jealous envy of him for his conspicuous honours, now thought him worthy of great rewards because he would not take them; and they were more delighted with the virtue which led him to despise such great rewards, than with the exploits which made him worthy of them. For the right use of wealth is a fairer trait than excellence in arms; but not to need wealth is loftier than to use it.