Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
TWO HEROES OF ROME
 NOT very long after the departure of the Gauls, and the
tragic end of Manlius Capitolinus, the Romans
were terrified to see a great gap or chasm in the
middle of the Forum. This hole was so deep that the
bottom could not be seen; and although the Romans made
great efforts to fill it up, all their work seemed to
be in vain.
In their distress, the people went to consult their
priests, as usual, and after many ceremonies, the
augurs told them that the chasm would close only when
the most precious thing in Rome had been cast into its
The women now flung in their trinkets and jewels, but
the chasm remained as wide as ever. Finally, a young
man named Curtius said that Rome's most precious
possession was her heroic men; and, for the good of
the city, he prepared to sacrifice himself.
Clad in full armor, and mounted upon a fiery steed, he
rode gallantly into the Forum. Then, in the presence of
the assembled people, he drove the spurs deep into his
horse's sides, and leaped into the chasm, which closed
after him, swallowing him up forever.
Curtius leaping into the Chasm.
 Now while it is hardly probable that this story is at
all true, the Romans always told it to their children,
and Curtius was always held up as an example of great
patriotism. The place where he was said to have
vanished was swampy for a while, and was named the
Curtian Lake; and even after it had been drained, it
still bore this name.
The same year that Curtius sacrificed himself for the
good of the people, Camillus also died. He was
regretted by all his fellow-citizens, who called him
the second founder of Rome, because he had encouraged
the people to rebuild the city after the Gauls had
burned it to the ground.
Several great events are related by the Roman writers
as having taken place at about this time, and among
them is the fight between Valerius and a gigantic Gaul.
It seems that this barbarian, who towered head and
shoulders above everybody else, was in the habit of
stepping out of the ranks and daily challenging the
Romans to come and fight him.
Afraid of meeting a warrior so much taller and stronger
than they, the soldiers held back. But one of them,
named Valerius, was so annoyed by the Gaul's taunts
that he finally took up the challenge, and bravely made
ready to fight. Although much smaller than his
opponent, Valerius had one advantage, because
he was helped by a tame
raven which he had trained to peck out an enemy's eyes.
The Gaul fancied that he would win an easy victory over
the small Roman, and boasted very freely; but before he
had time to strike a blow, Valerius and the
 raven both attacked him. In trying to avoid the bird's
beak, the Gaul forgot to parry the blows of Valerius;
and he soon fell to the ground dead.
In memory of this duel with the Gaul, and of the help
which he had received from the tame bird, Valerius ever
after bore the surname of Corvus, which is the Latin
word for raven.