Really some of Pliny’s best writing in the Natural History:
But, although these cases exhibit great achievements of valour, yet they involve still greater achievements of fortune; whereas nobody, in my judgement at all events, can rightly rank any human being above Marcus Sergius, albeit his great-grandson Catiline diminishes the credit of his name. Sergius in his second campaign lost his right hand; in two campaigns he was wounded twenty-three times, with the result that he was crippled in both hands and both feet, only his spirit being intact; yet although disabled, he served in numerous subsequent campaigns. He was twice taken prisoner by Hannibal (for it was with no ordinary foe that he was engaged), and twice escaped from Hannibal’s fetters, although he was kept in chains or shackles on every single day for twenty months. He fought four times with only his left hand, having two horses he was riding stabbed under him. He had a right hand of iron made for him and going into action with it tied to his arm, raised the siege of Cremona, saved Piacenza, captured twelve enemy camps in Gaul: all of which exploits are testified by his speech delivered during his praetorship when his colleagues wanted to debar him from the sacrifices as infirm—a man who with a different foe would have accumulated what piles of wreaths! inasmuch as it makes the greatest difference with what period of history a particular man’s valour happens to coincide. What civic wreaths were bestowed by Trebbia or Ticino or Trasimeno? what crown was won at Cannae, where successful flight was valour’s highest exploit? All other victors truly have conquered men, but Sergius vanquished fortune also.
Just reminded me of conversations about how Veterans are treated depending on the public’s perception of the war in question. WWII vets as the greatest generation vs. Vietnam vets fighting for POWs to be remembered. The stigma of PTSD for the soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
At least Sergius got a coin in the end. Notice he holds his sword in his left hand. (As well as the decapitated head.)
Shame about his great grandson.
VAN LOMMEL, K. Heroes and outcasts : ambiguous attitudes towards impaired and disfigured Roman veterans. The Classical world. 109, (1)1, 91-117, ISSN: 00098418.