|The Story of the Romans|
|by Helene A. Guerber|
| Elementary history of Rome, presenting short stories of the great heroes, mythical and historical, from Aeneas and the founding of Rome to the fall of the western empire. Around the famous characters of Rome are graphically grouped the great events with which their names will forever stand connected. Vivid descriptions bring to life the events narrated, making history attractive to the young, and awakening their enthusiasm for further reading and study. Ages 10-14 |
THE DEFENSE OF THE BRIDGE
 VALERIUS, as you have seen, received the honors of the
first triumph which had ever been awarded by the Roman
Republic. By the death of Brutus, also, he was left to
rule over the city alone. As he was very rich, he now
began to build himself a new and beautiful house.
The people of Rome had never seen so handsome a
dwelling built for a private citizen; so they began to
grow very uneasy, and began to whisper that perhaps
Valerius was going to try to become king in his turn.
These rumors finally came to the ears of the consul;
and he hastened to reassure the people, by telling them
that he loved Rome too well to make any attempt to
change its present system of government, which seemed
to him very good indeed.
Tarquin, as we have seen, had first gone to the people
of Veii for help; but when he found that they were not
strong enough to conquer the Romans, he began to look
about him for another ally. As the most powerful man
within reach was Porsena, king of Clusium, Tarquin
sent a message to him to ask for his aid.
Porsena was delighted to have an excuse for fighting the
Romans; and, raising an army, he marched straight
towards Rome. At his approach, the people fled, and the
senate soon saw that, unless a speedy attempt was made
to check him, he would be in their city before they had
finished their preparations for defense.
The army was therefore sent out, but was soon driven
back towards the Tiber. This river was spanned by a
 wooden bridge which led right into Rome. The consul at
once decided that the bridge must be sacrificed to save
the city; and he called for volunteers to stand on the
other side and keep Porsena's army at bay while the
workmen were cutting it down.
A brave Roman, called Horatius Cocles, or the
One-eyed, because he had already lost one eye in
battle, was the first to step forward and offer his
services, and two other men promptly followed him.
These three soldiers took up their post in the narrow
road, and the rest of the Romans hewed madly at the
The two companions of Horatius, turning their heads,
saw that the bridge was about to fall; so they darted
across it, leaving him to face the armed host alone.
But Horatius was too brave to flee, and in spite of the
odds against him, he fought on until the bridge crashed
down behind him.
Horatius at the Bridge.
As soon as the bridge was gone there was no way for the
enemy to cross the river and enter Rome. Horatius,
therefore ceased to fight, and, plunging into the
Tiber, swam bravely to the other side, where his
fellow-citizens received him with many shouts of joy.
In reward for his bravery they gave him a large farm,
and erected a statue in his honor, which represented
him as he stood alone near the falling bridge, keeping
a whole army at bay.
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