He made his first campaign while yet a stripling, when Tarquin, who had been king of Rome, and then had been expelled, after many unsuccessful battles, staked his all, as it were, upon a final throw. Most of the people of Latium and many also of the other peoples of Italy were assisting him and marching with him upon Rome, to reinstate him there, not so much from a desire to gratify him, as because fear and envy led them to try to overthrow the growing power of the Romans.
In the ensuing battle,1
which long favoured now this side and now that, Marcius, who was fighting sturdily under the eyes of the dictator, saw a Roman soldier struck down near by. He ran to him at once, stood in front of him, defended him, and slew his assailant. Accordingly, after the Roman general had won the day, he crowned Marcius, among the first, with a garland of oak leaves.
This is the civic crown which the law bestows upon one who has saved the life of a fellow-citizen in battle, either because the oak was held in special honour for the sake of the Arcadians,2
who were called acorn-eaters in an oracle of Apollo;3
or because they could speedily find an abundance of oak wherever they fought; or because it was thought that the garland of oak leaves, being sacred to Jupiter, the city's guardian, was fittingly bestowed upon one who saved the life of a citizen. The oak, moreover, has the most beautiful fruit of all wild trees, and is the sturdiest of all trees under cultivation.
Its acorn used to be food, and the honey found in it used to be drink4
for men; and it furnished them with the flesh of most grazing creatures and birds, since it bore the mistletoe, from which they made bird-lime for snares.
In the battle of which I was speaking, it is said that Castor and Pollux appeared, and that immediately after the battle they were seen, their horses all a-drip with sweat, in the forum, announcing the victory, by the fountain where their temple now stands.
Therefore the day on which this victory was won, the Ides of July, was consecrated to the Dioscuri.