Spoila Opima: Marcus Claudius Marcellus (271-208 b.c.)

Spoila Opima - Marcus Claudius Marcellus
“He attacks out of confidence when he is winning, and out of shame whe he is beaten.” – Hannibal on Marcellus

Marcus Claudius Marcellus was five time Roman consul. He was respected by his enemy for his tenacity. Known as the “Sword of Rome” in comparison to Fabius Maximus (“The Shield of Rome”) for his offensive military strategies. Marcellus was awarded the most prestigious award for a Roman military leader the spoila opima for killing the opposing general and king in hand to hand combat.

Plutarch on Marcellus achieving spoila opima:

“The most generally accepted account is that the only spoils which rank as opima are those which are captured in a pitched battle before the fighting begins, when the general kills the opposing commander with his own hand.”

Plutarch – Markers of Rome

“It was now that the king of the Gauls first saw Marcellus. He guessed from his badges of rank that this was the Roman commander, and riding dar out in front of his men he made directly for him, shouting out a challenge and brandishing his lance. He stood out among the rest of the Gauls, not only for his size but for his complete suit of armor, which was embossed with gold and silver and decorated with brilliant colours and elaborate designs, so that is glittered like lightning. As Marcellus glanced along the enemy’s ranks, he though that this was the finest armour of all, and concluded that it must be the offering which he had vowed to the god. So he charged the Gaul and pierced his breast plate with his lance: the impetus of his horse hurled his opponent to the ground still living, and a second and third blow immediately dispatched him. Thereupon Marcellus lea[ed from his horse and laying his hands on the dead man’s armour, he gazed up to heavens and and cried:

“Jupiter Feretrius, you who judge the great deeds of generals and captains in war and on the battlefield, I call upon you to witness that I, a Roman general and a consul, have killed with my own hand a general and a king, that I am the third Roman commander to do this, and that I dedicate to you the first and finest of the spoils. I pray that you will grant us no less good fortune as we fight out the rest of this war.”

Plutarch – Makers of Rome

To learn more check out: Plutarch’s Maker’s of Rome on Amazon.