The temple on the Capitol which King Tarquin began had never yet been consecrated. Then Valerius and Horatius drew lots which should be the consecrator, and the lot fell on Horatius.
Continuing Romans Establish Republic,
our selection from A History of Rome by Henry George Liddell published in 1855. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in eight easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Romans Establish Republic.
Time: 510 BC
After the death of Brutus, Publius Valerius ruled the people for a while by himself, and he began to build himself a house upon the ridge called Velia, which looks down upon the Forum. So the people thought that he was going to make himself king; but when he heard this, he called an assembly of the people, and appeared before them with his fasces lowered, and with no axes in them, whence the custom remained ever after, that no consular lictors wore axes within the city, and no consul had power of life and death except when he was in command of his legions abroad. And he pulled down the beginning of his house upon the Velia, and built it below that hill. Also he passed laws that every Roman citizen might appeal to the people against the judgment of the chief magistrates. Wherefore he was greatly honored among the people, and was called “Poplicola,” or “Friend of the People.”
After this Valerius called together the great Assembly of the Centuries, and they chose Sp. Lucretius, father of Lucretius, to succeed Brutus. But he was an old man, and in not many days he died. So M. Horatius was chosen in his stead.
The temple on the Capitol which King Tarquin began had never yet been consecrated. Then Valerius and Horatius drew lots which should be the consecrator, and the lot fell on Horatius. But the friends of Valerius murmured, and they wished to prevent Horatius from having the honor; so when he was now saying the prayer of consecration, with his hand upon the doorpost of the temple, there came a messenger, who told him that his son was just dead, and that one mourning for a son could not rightly consecrate the temple. But Horatius kept his hand upon the doorpost, and told them to see to the burial of his son, and finished the rites of consecration. Thus did he honor the gods even above his own son.
In the next year Valerius was again made consul, with T. Lucretius; and Tarquinius, despairing now of aid from his friends at Veii and Tarquinii, went to Lars Porsenna of Clusium, a city on the river Clanis, which falls into the Tiber. Porsenna was at this time acknowledged as chief of the twelve Etruscan cities; and he assembled a powerful army and came to Rome. He came so quickly that he reached the Tiber and was near the Sublician Bridge before there was time to destroy it; and if he had crossed it the city would have been lost. Then a noble Roman, called Horatius Codes, of the Lucerian tribe, with two friends — Sp. Lartius, a Ramnian, and T. Herminius, a Titian — posted themselves at the far end of the bridge, and defended the passage against all the Etruscan host, while the Romans were cutting it off behind them. When it was all but destroyed, his two friends retreated across the bridge, and Horatius was left alone to bear the whole attack of the enemy. Well he kept his ground, standing unmoved amid the darts which were showered upon his shield, till the last beams of the bridge fell crashing into the river. Then he prayed, saying, “Father Tiber, receive me and bear me up, I pray thee.” So he plunged in, and reached the other side safely; and the Romans honored him greatly: they put up his statue in the Comitium, and gave him as much land as he could plough round in a day, and every man at Rome subscribed the cost of one day’s food to reward him.
Then Porsenna, disappointed in his attempt to surprise the city, occupied the Hill Janiculum, and besieged the city, so that the people were greatly distressed by hunger. But C. Mucius, a noble youth, resolved to deliver his country by the death of the king. So he armed himself with a dagger, and went to the place where the king was used to sit in judgment. It chanced that the soldiers were receiving their pay from the king’s secretary, who sat at his right hand splendidly apparelled; and as this man seemed to be chief in authority, Mucius thought that this must be the king; so he stabbed him to the heart. Then the guards seized him and dragged him before the king, who was greatly enraged, and ordered them to burn him alive if he would not confess the whole affair. Then Mucius stood before the king and said: “See how little thy tortures can avail to make a brave man tell the secrets committed to him”; and so saying, he thrust his right hand into the fire of the altar, and held it in the flame with unmoved countenance. Then the king marvelled at his courage, and ordered him to be spared, and sent away in safety: “for,” said he, “thou art a brave man, and hast done more harm to thyself than to me.” Then Mucius replied: “Thy generosity, O king, prevails more with me than thy threats. Know that three hundred Roman youths have sworn thy death: my lot came first. But all the rest remain, prepared to do and suffer like myself.” So he was let go, and returned home, and was called “Scævola,” or “The Left-handed,” because his right hand had been burnt off.
King Porsenna was greatly moved by the danger he had escaped, and perceiving the obstinate determination of the Romans, he offered to make peace. The Romans gladly gave ear to his words, for they were hard pressed, and they consented to give back all the land which they had won from the Etruscans beyond the Tiber. And they gave hostages to the king in pledge that they would obey him as they had promised, ten youths and ten maidens. But one of the maidens, named Cloelia, had a man’s heart, and she persuaded all her fellows to escape from the king’s camp and swim across the Tiber. At first King Porsenna was wroth; but then he was much amazed, even more than at the deeds of Horatius and Mucius. So when the Romans sent back Cloelia and her fellow-maidens–for they would not break faith with the king–he bade her return home again, and told her she might take whom she pleased of the youths who were hostages; and she chose those who were yet boys, and restored them to their parents.
So the Roman people gave certain lands to young Mucius, and they set up an equestrian statue to the bold Cloelia at the top of the Sacred Way. And King Porsenna returned home; and thus the third and most formidable attempt to bring back Tarquin failed.
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