I seem to have come to a discrepancy, as I'm sure a lot have, concerning the event in which Marcus Claudius Marcellus is supposedly meant to have slain the King of the Insubres in 222 B.C.E.

Plutarch tells us in his book 'Life of Marcellus' p. 449 - 451

"From thence Britomartus the king, taking with him ten thousand of the Gaesatae, ravaged the country about the Po." - p.449

"Meanwhile the king of the Gauls [Britomartus] espied him, and judging from his insignia that he was the commander, rode far out in front of the rest and confronted him, shouting challenges and brandishing his spear. His stature exceeded that of the other Gauls, and he was conspicuous for a suit of armour which was set off with gold and silver and bright colours and all sorts of broideries; it gleamed like lightning. 2 Accordingly, as Marcellus surveyed the ranks of the enemy, this seemed to him to be the most beautiful armour, and he concluded that it was this which he had vowed to the god. He therefore rushed upon the man, and by a thrust of his spear which pierced his adversary's breastplate, and by the impact of his horse in full career, threw him, still living, upon the ground, where, with a second and third blow, he promptly killed him." -p.451

"The first [to win the Spolia Opima] was Romulus, who despoiled Acron the Caeninensian the second was Cornelius Cossus, who despoiled Tolumnius the Tuscan; and after them Marcellus, who despoiled Britomartus, king of the Gauls; but after Marcellus, no man." - p.455

Florus tells us in his writings 'Epitome of Roman History' Chap. IV.

Although apparently sourced mainly from Livy - Florus tells us that:

"When Viridomarus was their king, they vowed the arms of the Romans to Vulcan; but their vows had a very different result; for Marcellus, having killed their king, hung up his arms to Jupiter Feretrius, being the third spolia opima since those of Romulus, the father of the city."

Livy Tells us in an excerpt of Book XX - The History of Rome 'Periochae'

He claims:

"Gauls from across the Alps invaded Italy and were defeated. It is said that during this war, the Roman people and its Latin allies employed 800,000 soldiers. For the first time, Roman armies crossed the Po and the Gallic Insubres, defeated in battle, were defeated in a series of battles. They surrendered. Consul Marcus Claudius Marcellus killed the leader of the Gallic Insubres, Vertomarus, and returned with the supreme booty."

Adrian Goldsworthy seems to source Plutarch, suggesting that his argument might be more reliable.

Has there been any recent conclusive evidence, or is this chiefly a mix up of name as opposed to character?

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    No, Plutarch continues to differ from other sources on this point. I don't think he will change his mind. :-) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Clastidium Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 6:25
  • Okay, I understand that he can't. I also don't understand why you've linked me to the wikipedia article of the battle. The sources were added by me on the same day.
    – user2948
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 17:06

1 Answer 1


There is enough similarity in the names that this would appear to be a transcription error, for which true resolution would require referencing the oldest extant manuscripts for both sources. Manuscript transcription is an extremely complex process, and many medieval monks performing transcription are now believed to have been only marginally literate; errors were common.

  • Thank you for your answer. It has been suggested that if you take away the vowels you are left with 'brt/vrd/vrt' which might imply a slight difference of translation somewhere down the line.
    – user2948
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 18:34

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