THE CURTIAN LAKE
 THE pestilence, to which Camillus fell a prey, did not
cease until 361 B.C.
During the second year, the superstitious folk, of whom
there were many, were startled by strange omens.
The Tiber overflowed its banks. This was perhaps not
so unusual as to alarm the citizens of Rome, but when
the waters streamed into the Circus it was certainly
strange. For at that very time games were being held
there, in the hope of propitiating the gods, so that
the pestilence might be stayed.
But the flood speedily put an end to the games, and the
people wondered if this was the answer of the gods.
The flood was alarming, but still more so was an
earthquake that took place before the people had
forgotten their fears. It is supposed that the
earthquake gave rise to the well-known legend of the
For it was after the shock that a gulf wide and deep
yawned in the Forum. The Romans believed that the gods
who had sent the pestilence had now opened this
terrible abyss in their market-place.
In vain the terrified people tried to fill up the gulf.
However much they threw into it, there it was, deep,
dark, mysterious as before.
Then the Romans went to their priests and begged them
to learn from the gods how the gulf might be closed.
The answer, when it came, seemed almost as perplexing
as had been the problem. "Never will the awful chasm
 disappear until into it has been thrown the best and
truest strength of Rome."
What was the true strength of the city? With grave
faces and anxious hearts the people pondered the answer
of the gods.
Suddenly the truth flashed into the mind of a noble
youth named Curtius, who was known among his fellows as
a brave and gallant soldier.
"The true strength of Rome," said Curtius, "can lie in
naught save in the arms and in the valour of her
children. To think otherwise would shame us all."
So, believing that he had discovered the will of the
gods, the noble youth donned his armour, mounted his
steed, and plunged headlong into the abyss.
A great crowd had gathered in the Forum to see what
Curtius meant to do. For a moment the people stood in
silence, awed by the fate of the young Roman, and full
of admiration for his deed.
Then, rousing themselves, they took offerings of gold
and precious ornaments and flung them after the bold
rider and his horse, and as they did so, slowly the
gulf closed. And since that day the place where once
the chasm yawned has been called the Curtian Lake.
Before the plague was subdued, in 361
B.C., the Gauls once more invaded
Roman lands, and a terrible battle was again fought,
near the river Anio.
Titus Manlius engaged in single combat with one of the
barbarians, who was strong and tall as a giant. Yet so
bravely did the Roman fight that the giant was slain.
Then Manlius took from the neck of his foe a gold
collar. As the Latin word for necklet is "torques," Manlius and his descendants were ever after called
When the Gauls saw that their champion was slain, they
retreated; yet for a year and a half they continued to
harass the Romans. But in 358 B.C. they were defeated so severely that those who were left
after the battle were glad to escape from the
neighbourhood of Rome.
 Ten years later, however, the Gauls were once again
laying waste the plains and coasts of Latium.
Furius Camillus, son of the great Camillus, was Consul,
and as his colleague had died, he alone was responsible
for the safety of the State.
He, like his father, was a brave soldier, and his army
soon scattered the Gauls.
During the battle, as Valerius fought in single combat
with one of the strongest of the barbarians, a strange
sight was seen.
A crow circled over the heads of the combatants, then
suddenly it flew down and perched on the helmet of the
The clashing of swords, the cries of the barbarians,
did not disturb the bird. It sat on the helmet of
Valerius as still as though it was perched on a tree in
But by and by this strange crow began to watch what
Valerius and the Gaul were doing. Seizing its chance,
it darted again and again between the combatants,
flapping its wings and tearing with beak and claws at
the face and eyes of the barbarian.
Unable to see what he was doing with his sword, as well
as unable to avoid the thrusts of his foe, the Gaul
tried in vain to get rid of the bird.
At length, worn out with the unequal struggle, the
barbarian fell, and Valerius was hailed as victor.
The crow, as though content with the result of the
battle, now flew away and was seen no more; but from
that time Valerius was called Corvus, corvus being the
Latin word for a crow.
After the victory of Camillus, the Gauls left Rome
undisturbed until the end of the third Samnite war, in
About the Samnite wars I am now going to tell you.