|The Story of Rome|
|by Mary Macgregor|
|A vivid account of the story of Rome from the earliest times to the death of Augustus, retold for children, chronicling the birth of a city and its growth through storm and struggle to become a great world empire. Gives short accounts of battles and campaigns, and of the men who expanded the borders of the Roman empire to include all lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Ages 10-14 |
GAIUS MUCIUS BURNS HIS RIGHT HAND
 LARS PORSENNA had been repulsed, but he had not been
defeated. He now besieged Rome so closely, that the
people were soon suffering all the horrors of famine.
Then a youth, named Gaius Mucius, determined to save
Rome by killing Lars Porsenna.
Gaining the consent of the Senate to his scheme, he
disguised himself as a countryman, and found his way
into the camp of the enemy. Beneath the folds of his
simple dress, Mucius had concealed a dagger.
It had been easy to enter the camp, but now the lad was
in a difficult position, for he did not know the king,
nor did he dare to ask any one to point him out.
But seeing a courtier wearing a purple robe and
distributing money to the soldiers, he believed he had
found him. Drawing near, he stealthily drew his dagger
and stabbed—not Lars Porsenna, but his treasurer.
Before he had time to escape, Mucius was seized and
taken before the king.
The king threatened the young noble with torture, even
with death, in order to make him reveal the condition
of the Roman army. But Mucius thrust his right hand
into a flame that was alight on an altar beside him,
and held it there until it was burned to ashes. This
he did without flinching, that Lars Porsenna might see
that he feared no torture. As for death, when it came,
he would bear it as a Roman should.
But the king, amazed at the courage of the youth,
forgot his anger, and bade him return unharmed to Rome.
 Then Mucius, touched by the kindness of the king, told
him that three hundred Roman youths had sworn to take
his life, and would not rest until one of them had
succeeded in doing so.
Lars Porsenna was a wise king. He listened to the
warning given to him by Mucius, and offered terms to
the starving city, promising if they were accepted to
withdraw with his army. But the terms were hard, for
the king demanded that Tarquin's possessions should be
sent to him, that the Romans should give up all their
dominions on the right bank of the Tiber, that they
should not use iron save to cultivate the ground, and
that ten noble youths and maidens should be sent to him
With starvation staring them in the face, the Romans
were forced to agree to these terms, and the hostages
that he had demanded were sent to the king as a pledge
of good faith.
Among the hostages was a noble maiden named Clœlia.
In the Etruscan camp she pined for the freedom of her
own home, for the joy of seeing her own friends, and at
length she determined to escape.
So one night, when it grew dark, she slipped out of the
camp unnoticed, and found her way to the edge of the
Without hesitation she plunged into the water and swam
across to the other side—to home, to freedom.
But a sad disappointment was in store for the maiden.
The Romans refused to allow her to stay in Rome, for
although they admired her courage, their treaty with
Lars Porsenna must be kept.
So poor Clœlia was sent back to the king. But he,
pleased that the Romans had behaved so honourably, set
Clœlia free, and allowed her to take many of the other
hostages back with her to Rome.
Soon after this, Lars Porsenna refused to help Tarquin
the Proud any longer, and breaking up his camp on the
Janiculum he went back to his own country. His tents,
 which were full of corn and provisions, he gave to the
So grateful were the Romans for the food that they
rewarded Lars Porsenna with royal gifts—a throne
and sceptre of ivory, a golden crown, and a purple
And these gifts the king well deserved, for he had
proved a generous foe.
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