But to resume the story, after Flaminius and his colleague had renounced their offices, Marcellus was appointed consul1
by the so-called
‘interreges.’ He took the office, and appointed Gnaeus Cornelius his colleague. Now it has been said that, although the Gauls made many conciliatory proposals, and although the senate was peaceably inclined, Marcellus tried to provoke the people to continue the war.
However, it would seem that even after peace was made the Gaesatae renewed the war; they crossed the Alps and stirred up the Insubrians. They numbered thirty thousand themselves, and the Insubrians, whom they joined, were much more numerous. With high confidence, therefore, they marched at once to Acerrae, a city situated to the north of the river Po.2
From thence Britomartus the king, taking with him ten thousand of the Gaesatae, ravaged the country about the Po.
When Marcellus learned of this, he left his colleague at Acerrae with all the heavy-armed infantry and a third part of the cavalry, while he himself, taking with him the rest of the cavalry and the most lightly equipped men-at-arms to the number of six hundred, marched, without halting in his course day or night, until he came upon the ten thousand Gaesatae near the place called Clastidium, a Gallic village which not long before had become subject to the Romans.
There was no time for him to give his army rest and refreshment, for the Barbarians quickly learned of his arrival, and held in contempt the infantry with him, which were few in number all told, and, being Gauls, made no account of his cavalry. For they were most excellent fighters on horseback, and were thought to be specially superior as such, and, besides, at this time they far outnumbered Marcellus. Immediately, therefore, they charged upon him with great violence and dreadful threats, thinking to overwhelm him, their king riding in front of them.
But Marcellus, that they might not succeed in enclosing and surrounding him and his few followers, led his troops of cavalry forward and tried to outflank them, extending his wing into a thin line, until he was not far from the enemy. And now, just as he was turning to make a charge, his horse, frightened by the ferocious aspect of the enemy, wheeled about and bore Marcellus forcibly back.
But he, fearing lest this should be taken as a bad omen by the Romans and lead to confusion among them, quickly reined his horse round to the left and made him face the enemy, while he himself made adoration to the sun, implying that it was not by chance, but for this purpose, that he had wheeled about; for it is the custom with the Romans to turn round in this way when they make adoration to the gods. And in the moment of closing with the enemy he is said to have vowed that he would consecrate to Jupiter Feretrius the most beautiful suit of armour among them.