Table of Contents
The Horatii and the Curiatii
Brutus and His Sons
How Lars Porsenna Besieged Rome
Caius Marcius and His Mother
The Deeds of the Fabii
The Battle of Corbio
How the Romans Won Two Cities
The Taking of Rome
The Gulf in the Forum
The Story of Titus Manlius
The Death of Decius
The Caudine Forks
The Two Fabii
How Pyrrhus Fought against Rome
THE HORATII AND THE CURIATII
 IN the reign of King Tullus Hostilius there
was a quarrel between the people of Rome
and the people of Alba. The Romans and
the Albans were generally very friendly to
each other. They were of the same race ; their
way of living was the same, and they spoke
the same language. Some of the Romans
had married Alban women, and some of the
Albans had married Roman women, so that
each people had friends and relations in the
But now there was a quarrel betwen them,
and the Roman army with King Tullus at
 its head marched out to meet the Albans,
who were commanded by their Dictator, Mettius
When the armies came near together, the
Alban Dictator sent a messenger to King
Tullus. The messenger came to the Roman
army, and was led before the king, who was
preparing himself for the battle.
Now, Tullus was a brave warrior; he was
young and strong, and eager to win glory in
war; but still he was wise, and he did not
refuse to listen to the message of Mettius.
"O Tullus," said the messenger, "I am sent
to you by the Dictator of the Albans. He
bids me tell you, that it will be much for
the good of Rome as well as for the good
of Alba if you will come out in front of
your army, and speak with him before the
Tullus agreed to do as Mettius asked. The
two armies took their places, and all was
made ready for battle; and then Mettius and
 Tullus, followed by some of their nobles, advanced
midway between the armies, and Mettius
spoke these words,—
"Hear me, King Tullus, and you nobles of
Rome. It seems to me that the only cause of
our quarrel is that we know not whether Rome
or Alba is the stronger, and which town shall
be the master of the other. Can we not decide
this in some other way than by the death of all
the brave men who must be slain if we begin
The thought pleased King Tullus, and after
consulting together, they fixed upon a plan.
It was agreed that three Romans should fight
against three Albans, and that if the Romans
conquered, Rome should govern Alba; but if
the Albans were victorious, then Alba should
It happened that in the Roman army there
were three brothers called Horatius, all strong
men and brave soldiers. They were the sons
of an old Roman named Publius Horatius,
 who had taught them, as Roman fathers in
those days taught their sons, that they ought
to be ready to die for the good of their
people and their dear city of Rome. That
was the first duty of every Roman, and you
shall hear how the Horatii kept their father's
The Roman army felt that they could choose
no better champions than these three brothers.
And the Horatii proudly and gladly agreed to
fight, and each in his heart resolved to do
his very best to save his country from being
subject to Alba.
Now in the Alban army there were also
three brothers, whose name was Curiatius.
They too were good soldiers, and their countrymen
chose them to fight for Alba. These
three brothers were friends of the Horatii,
such. dear friends that one of them had promised
to marry the sister of Horatius. But
they loved their town of Alba, and like the
Romans they felt that they must lose their
 own lives, or take those of their friends, for
the sake of their country.
When the Roman King and the Alban Dictator
had promised solemnly that Rome and
Alba should keep the agreement, the three
brothers on each side took their weapons and
marched out between the two armies. The
soldiers of both towns sat down on each side,
to watch the fight, with anxious hearts, knowing
that the fate of their country depended
on the courage and skill of those few men.
At first the battle seemed very equal, for
the six were all good soldiers and full of
bravery; their hearts were set on winning the
victory, and they were not thinking of the
wounds or death that they might suffer in the
struggle. But soon it seemed that the Albans
were getting the better, for two of the Romans
were killed, but the Albans were all wounded.
The Alban army shouted for joy; they thought
their victory was won, as they saw the three
Curiatii surround the one Horatius who was
 still alive and unhurt. But cries of anger
broke from the Romans when they saw their
last champion turn and fly from his enemies.
"Shame on the coward!" they cried; "the
name of Horatius is disgraced for ever. Better
he had died gloriously doing his duty like his
But they soon saw that Horatius was no
coward, and that his flight was only a way to
separate the three Albans, who all together
would have been more than a match for him.
Horatius knew that all the Curiatii were
wounded. As he fled they followed him, and
soon the one who was least wounded came up
to him. Horatius turned instantly to attack
him. The combat was fierce, and lasted for
some time; the Roman and Alban armies
eagerly watched the two champions, and the
two other Curiatii tried hard to reach their
brother to help him. But they were wounded
and could not move fast, and before they
could come up they saw their brother fall.
 Still they came forward ; the one who was
least wounded hastened on, and Horatius,
joyful with his victory, stepped out to meet
him. The Alban, bleeding and out of breath
with the haste he had made, had no chance
with the conqueror; and the third brother,
dragging himself on with difficulty, yet with
no thought of yielding, saw him die, and knew
that he was left alone.
Then Horatius sprang forward to meet him,
"Two of these brothers have died by my
hand. Now the third shall follow them, that
Rome may rule over Alba!"
Having said this he stabbed Curiatius, and
so died the last of the Alban brothers.
When the Romans saw that their enemies
were slain they shouted for joy, and Mettius
the Alban Dictator came to King Tullus,
and asked him if he had any commands for
him; for he remembered the agreement that
had been made between them before the fight
 began. Tullus told him to take his army safely
back to Alba, but he said that the Albans
must keep themselves ready to help him in
war, if he should want them.
So the armies departed to their homes, after
having buried the five brothers who had fallen.
The graves of the two Romans were together;
those of the Albans were separate, in the places
where they died. Hundreds of years afterwards
their tombs were still to be seen.
Great was the joy in Rome when news
came from the camp that Horatius was
victorious; the people decked their houses
with garlands and hung them with
bright-coloured cloths, and came in crowds flocking to
see the brave man who had saved Rome.
The army marched in at the gate of the city,
and in the front came Horatius, carrying in
his hands the swords of the three Curiatii,
and wearing on his shoulders the mantle that
one of them had worn. And the people cried
to the gods to bless their champion, and the
 women threw flowers and laurel boughs on his
helmet and under his feet as he went along.
But there was one person in Rome whose
heart was sad that day, and that was the
sister of Horatius, when she heard that her
brother had killed the man who was in a little
while to have been her husband. In her grief
and despair she ran out to meet Horatius,
with her head uncovered and her hair loose on
her shoulders ; and when she met him she saw
that he was wearing the mantle that she herself
had embroidered and given to Curiatius.
Then, in a voice of sorrow, she called out the
name of Curiatius, and told Horatius that he
was a cruel brother to her, because he had
killed the man she loved so well.
The words she said made Horatius very
"What," cried he, "do you forget your
two brothers who are dead, and your brother
who is still alive, and your country, which I
have this day saved!"
 Then in his rage he drew his sword, and
stabbed his sister to the heart, so that she
"So may it be done to every maid who is a
Roman, and weeps for the death of an enemy!"
The people of Rome were very much shocked
at what Horatius had done, and they took him
and led him before the king, who then spoke
to the people, and said,—
"I will choose two judges to judge this
man, and to say what shall be done to him."
And so he did. Then the judges said that
Horatius must be slain. But he cried out, and
"Let me be tried by the whole people, and
let them say if I deserve to be punished."
So the king called the people to meet
together to try Horatius for having killed his
sister. And when the people were assembled
Horatius came before them, and with him was
his old father, Publius Horatius.
In Rome a father was able to do as he
 pleased with his son, even after the son had
grown up to be a man—he could sell him as
a slave, or put him to death, or punish him
in any way he chose; but Publius Horatius
did not wish to give his son a severe punishment,
for he thought that his daughter deserved
to die. The father and the son were of the
same temper—they loved their country better
than they loved their family.
The old man stood up before the people
and spoke to them.
"My daughter," said he, "has been rightly
punished, for she forgot her duty, and loved
a stranger better than she loved Rome. Do
not take away from me my last child, but
remember that I have already lost two brave
sons, who died in battle for their country."
Then he threw one arm round his son, and
pointing with the other hand to the armour
and weapons of the Curiatii, which had been
hung up on a pillar in the open square where
the people were met,—
 "O Romans," he cried, "could you bear to
see this young man die shamefully, whom you
saw a little while ago marching as a victor
through the streets of Rome? Would you
chain these hands which have just won freedom
and empire for the Roman people? Where
would you kill him? Inside the walls where
you see the spoils and weapons which he won
from your enemies, or outside the city in sight
of the graves where the Curiatii lie buried?"
The people were sorry to see his father's
tears, and were surprised that Horatius himself
showed no fear of death; they wondered at
his courage, and remembered that he had
saved them from being subjects of Alba, and
"We will pardon Horatius, because he has
done such great things for the good town of