== Middle life: the spolia opima ==
Following the end of the [[First Punic War]], in which Marcellus fought as a soldier, the [[Gauls]] of northern Italy declared war on Rome in 225 BC. In the fourth and final year of the war, Marcellus was elected consul with Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus. The previous consuls had
The confrontation, as told by Plutarch, is so heavy in detail that one might question the veracity of his narration. Plutarch recounts that, prior to the battle, Viridomarus spotted Marcellus, who wore commander's insignia on his armor, and rode out to meet him. Across the battlefield, Marcellus viewed the beautiful armor on the back of the enemy riding toward him. Marcellus concluded that this was the nicest armor, which he had previously prayed would be given by him to the gods. The two engaged in combat whereupon, Marcellus, “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.”<ref name=Plutarch/> Marcellus extracted the armor from his fallen foe, upon which he pronounced it as the ''spolia opima''. The ''spolia opima'', meaning "ultimate spoil," is known in Roman history as the most prestigious and honorable prize that a general can earn. Only a general who kills the leader of the opposing army prior to a battle may be honored with taking a ''spolia opima''.