Marcellus av Claudii, född -268
i Roma, Lazio, Italien, död -208
i Venosa, Potenza, Basilicata, Italien.
Consul of the Roman Republic in 222, 215, 214, 210, and 208 BC.
Marcus Claudius Marcellus was five times elected as consul and an important Roman military leader during the Gallic War of 225
BC and the Second Punic War.
Marcellus gained the most prestigious award a Roman general could earn, the spolia opima, for killing the Gallic military leader
and king Viridomarus in hand-to-hand combat in 222 BC at the battle of Clastidium. Furthermore, he is noted for having
conquered the fortified city of Syracuse in a protracted siege during which Archimedes, the famous inventor, was killed.
The final period of Marcus Claudius Marcellus’ life began with his fourth election to Roman consul in 210 BC. Marcellus’ election
to office sparked much controversy and resentment towards Marcellus because of accusations by political opponents that his actions
in Sicily were excessively brutal. Representatives of Sicilian cities presented themselves before the senate to complain about
Marcellus' past actions. The complaints prevailed and Marcellus was forced to switch control of provinces with his colleague, so
that Marcellus was not the consul in control of Sicily.
On switching provinces, Marcellus took command of the Roman army in Apulia, leading it to many decisive victories against the
Carthaginians. First, Marcellus took the city of Salapia and then continued along his way by conquering two cities in the region of
Samnium. Next, when the army of Cn. Fulvius, another Roman general, was completely dismantled by Hannibal, Marcellus and
his army stepped in to check the progress of the Carthaginian leader. Then Marcellus and Hannibal fought a battle at Numistro,
where a clear victory could not be decided, although Rome claimed a victory. Following this battle, Marcellus continued to keep
Hannibal in check, yet the two armies never met in a decisive battle.
In 209 BC, Marcellus was named as a proconsul and retained control of his army. During that year, the Roman Army under
Marcellus faced Hannibal's forces in a series of skirmishes and raids, without being drawn into open battle. Marcellus defended his
actions and tactics in front of the senate and he was named a consul for the fifth time for the year 208 BC.
After entering his fifth consulship Marcellus, re-entered the field and took command of the army at Venusia. While on a
reconnaissance mission with his colleague, T. Quinctius Crispinus, and a small band of 220 horsemen, the group was ambushed
and nearly completely slaughtered by a much larger Carthaginian force of Numidian horsemen. Marcellus was impaled by a spear
and died on the field. In the following days, Crispinus died of his wounds.
In the year 23 BC, Emperor Augustus recounted that Hannibal had allowed Marcellus a proper funeral and even sent the ashes
back to Marcellus’ son. The loss of both consuls was a major blow to Roman morale, as the Republic had lost its two senior
military commanders in a single battle, while the formidable Carthaginian army was still at large in Italy.
Marcus Claudius Marcellus' winning of the spolia opima earned him great fame in his lifetime. The spolia opima was one of the
highest honors that could be bestowed on a Roman general. Plutarch informs how the spolia opima was acquired. He stated that,
“only those spoils are ‘opima’ which are taken first, in a pitched battle, where general slays general.” Only two others in Roman
history, Romulus, the founder of Rome, and Aulus Cornelius Cossus, were allegedly honored with this prize. Marcellus is the only
one of the three whose achievement has been historically confirmed. In terms of the history of the spolia opima, Marcellus holds
great significance because he reinvigorated the meaning of the honored prize. Prior to Marcellus, the spolia opima was not of
special importance in the minds of Romans because it had happened only twice before, if at all. Furthermore, the actual ritual of
the spolia opima was not confirmed until Marcellus made it customary to dedicate the armor to Jupiter Feretrius. No one else
accomplished the same feat to continue the tradition. In this way, Marcellus publicized the winning of the spolia opima and turned
it into a legend.
Marcellus was an important general during the Second Punic War and his five time election as a consul has its place in Roman
history. His decisive victories in Sicily were of history altering proportions, while his campaigns in Italy itself gave Hannibal
himself pause and reinvigorated the Roman Senate. But it is Marcellus’ triumph as a warrior and winner of a spolia opima that
confirmed his place in ancient Roman history. Due to all of this, he is known as the Sword of Rome.
Marcellus av Claudii, född -239, död -177