Among the Volscians, with whom the Romans were at war, the city of Corioli took highest rank. When, therefore, Cominius the consul had invested this place,1
the rest of the Volscians, fearing for its safety, came to its aid against the Romans from all parts, designing to give them battle in front of the city and to attack them on both sides.
Thereupon Cominius divided his forces, going forth himself to meet the Volscians who were coming up outside, and leaving Titus Lartius, one of the bravest Romans of his day, in charge of the siege. Then the men of Corioli, despising the forces that were left, sallied out against them, overcame them in battle at first, and pursued the Romans to their camp.
At this point Marcius darted out with a small band, and after slaying those who came to close quarters and bringing the rest of the assailants to a halt, called the Romans back to the fight with loud cries. For he had, as Cato thought a soldier should have,2
not only a vigour of stroke, but a voice and look which made him a fearful man for a foe to encounter, and hard to withstand. Many of his men rallied to support him, and the enemy withdrew in terror.
With this, however, he was not satisfied, but followed hard upon them, and drove them at last in headlong flight, up to the gate of their city. There, although he saw the Romans turning back from the pursuit, now that many missiles from the walls were reaching them, and although not a man of them dared to think of bursting into the city along with the fugitives, full as it was of enemies in arms, he nevertheless took his stand, and exhorted and encouraged them to the exploit, crying out that fortune had opened the city for the pursuers rather than for the pursued.
Only a few were willing to follow him, but he pushed his way through the enemy, leaped against the gate, and burst in along with them, no man daring to oppose him at first or resist him. Then, however, when the citizens saw that few of the enemy all told were inside, they rallied and attacked them.
Enveloped thus by friends and foes alike, Marcius is said to have waged a combat in the city which, for prowess of arm, speed of foot, and daring of soul, passes all belief; he overwhelmed all whom he assailed, driving some to the remotest parts of the city, while others gave up the struggle and threw down their arms. Thus he made it abundantly safe for Lartius to lead up the Romans who were outside.