[Illustration: CURTIUS LEAPING INTO THE GULF. (From a Bas-Relief.)]
THE DEVOTION OF DECIUS.
Other tribes of the Gauls did not fail to come again and make fresh inroads on the valleys of the Tiber and Anio. Whenever they came, instead of choosing men from the tribes to form an army, as in a war with their neighbors, all the fighting men of the nation turned out to oppose them, generally under a Dictator.
In one of these wars the Gauls came within three miles of Rome, and the two hosts were encamped on the banks of the Anio, with a bridge between them. Along this bridge strutted an enormous Gallic chief, much taller than any of the Romans, boasting himself, and calling on any one of them to come out and fight with him. Again it was a Manlius who distinguished himself. Titus, a young man of that family, begged the Dictator’s permission to accept the challenge, and, having gained it, he changed his round knight’s shield for the square one of the foot soldiers, and with his short sword came forward on the bridge. The Gaul made a sweep at him with his broadsword, but, slipping within the guard, Manlius stabbed the giant in two places, and as he fell cut off his head, and took the torc, or broad twisted gold collar that was the mark of all Gallic chieftains. Thence the brave youth was called Titus Manlius Torquatus—a surname to make up for that of Capitolinus, which had never been used again.
[Illustration: THE APENNINES.]
The next time the Gauls came, Marcus Valerius, a descendant of the old hero Publicola, was consul, and gained a great victory. It was said that in the midst of the fight a monstrous raven appeared flying over his head, resting now and then on his helmet, but generally pecking at the eyes of the Gauls and flapping its wings in their faces, so that they fled discomfited. Thence he was called Corvus or Corvinus. The Gauls never again came in such force, but a new enemy came against them, namely, the Samnites, a people who dwelt to the south of them. They were of Italian blood, mountaineers of the Southern Apennines, not unlike the Romans in habits, language, and training, and the staunchest enemies they had yet encountered. The war began from an entreaty from the people of Campania to the Romans to defend them from the attacks of the Samnites. For the Campanians, living in the rich plains, whose name is still unchanged, were an idle, languid people, whom the stout men of Samnium could easily overcome. The Romans took their part, and Valerius Corvus gained a victory at Mount Gaurus; but the other consul, Cornelius Cossus, fell into danger, having marched foolishly into a forest, shut in by mountains, and with only one way out through a deep valley, which was guarded by the Samnites. In this almost hopeless danger one of the military