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History of duel of Marcus Valerius Corvus

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)


Titus Livius mentions an interesting clash. In 349 BCE Roman Republic was still conducting numerous wars with its neighbours, aimed at gaining dominance in Italy. There were also fights with the Gauls – from the beginning of the 4th century, the deadly enemies of Roma. When the Romans were encamped near the Pontic marshes, columns of Gauls were about to approach them.

Among them, a warrior (traditionally for this people) stepped forward, striking the spear against the shield and challenging the bravest of the Romans to a duel. A certain Marcus Valerius – a military tribune who served under consul Lucius Furius Camillus reported.

When the warriors faced each other and their fight began, something happened that Livy attributes to the action of the gods – a raven was to sit on the Roman’s helmet. Marcus Valerius immediately interpreted this sign as a good omen and asked the gods for support in the further part of the duel.

Then the bird began to literally take part in the fight – again and again it rose into the air and attacked Gaul’s face with its beak and claws. The weakened and blinded enemy was pierced by Valerius with his sword. Then the raven flew away. For the victory in this duel, the Romans received 10 oxen, a golden crown and a new nickname – Corvus, simply “Raven”.

  • Titus Livy, Periochae, 7:10.

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