Soon after, Sardinia and Corsica were given up to the Romans by the hired armies of the Carthaginians, and as the natives fought hard against Rome, when they were conquered they were for the most part sold as slaves. These two islands likewise had a propraetor.
The Romans now had all the peninsula south of themselves, and as far north as Ariminim (now shortened into Rimini), but all beyond belonged to the Gauls—the Cisalpine Gauls, or Gauls on this side the Alps, as the Romans called them; while those on the other side were called Transalpine Gauls, or Gauls across the Alps. These northern Gauls were gathering again for an inroad on the south, and in the midst of the rumors of this danger there was a great thunderstorm at Rome, and the Capitol was struck by lightning. The Sybilline books were searched into to see what this might mean, and a warning was found, “Beware of the Gauls.” Moreover, there was a saying that the Greeks and Gauls should one day enjoy the Forum; but the Romans fancied they could satisfy this prophecy by burying a man and woman of each nation, slaves, in the middle of the Forum, and then they prepared to attack the Gauls in their own country before the inroad could be made. There was a great deal of hard fighting, lasting for years; and in the course of it the consul, Caius Flaminius, began the great road which has since been called after him the Flaminian Way, and was the great northern road from Rome, as the Appian Way was the southern.
[Illustration: THE WOUNDED GAUL.]
The great hero of the war was Marcus Claudius Marcellus, who had already made himself known for his dauntless courage. As consul, he fought a desperate battle on the banks of the Po with the Gauls of both sides the Alps, and himself killed their king or chief, Viridomar. He brought the spoils to Rome, and hung them in the Temple of Jupiter. It was only the third time in the history of Rome that such a thing had been done. Cisalpine Gaul was thus subdued, and another road was made to secure it; while in the short peace that followed the gates of the Temple of Janus were shut, having stood open ever since the reign of Numa.
The Romans were beginning to make their worship the same with that of the Greeks. They sent offerings to Greek temples, said that their old gods were the same as those of the Greeks, only under different names, and sent an embassy to Epidaurus to ask for a statue of Esculapius, the god of medicine and son of Phoebus Apollo. The emblem of Esculapius was a serpent, and tame serpents were kept about his temple at Epidaurus. One of these glided into the Roman galley that had come for the statue, and it was treated with great respect by all the crew until they sailed up the Tiber, when it made its way out of the vessel and swam to the island which had been formed by the settling of the mud round the heap of corn that had been thrown into the river when Porsena wasted the country. This was supposed to mean that the god himself took possession of the place, and a splendid temple there rose in his honor.