HOW BRAVE HORATIUS KEPT THE BRIDGE
 THE banished King Tarquin did not lightly yield his
realm. He roused the neighboring cities against Rome
and fought fiercely for his throne. Soon after he was
exiled from Rome he sent messengers there for his
goods. These the senate decreed should be given him.
But his messengers had more secret work to do. They
formed a plot with many of the young nobles to bring
back the king, and among these traitors were Titus and
Tiberius, the sons of Brutus.
A slave overheard the conspirators and betrayed them to
the consuls, and they were seized and brought to the
judgment-seat in the Forum. Here Brutus, sitting in
judgment, beheld his two sons among the culprits. He
loved them, but he loved justice more, and though he
grieved deeply inwardly, his face was grave and stern
as he gave judgment that the law must take its course.
So the sons of this stern old Roman were scourged with
rods before his eyes, and then, with the other
conspirators, were beheaded by the lictors, while he
looked steadily on, never turning his eyes from the
dreadful sight. But men could see that his heart bled
for his sons.
 Soon afterwards Tarquin led an army of Etruscans
against Rome, and the two consuls marched against them
at the head of the Roman army. In the battle that
followed Brutus met Aruns, the king's son, in advance
of the lines of battle. Aruns, seeing Brutus dressed in
royal robes and attended by the lictors of a king, was
filled with anger, and levelled his spear and spurred
his horse against him. Brutus met him in mid-career
with levelled spear. Both were run through, and
together fell dead upon the field.
The day ended with neither party victors. But during
the night a woodland deity was heard speaking from a
forest near by. "One man more has fallen of the
Etruscans than of the Romans," it said; "the Romans are
to conquer." This strange oracle ended the war. It was
a reason, surely, for which war was never ended before
or since. The Etruscans, affrighted, marched hastily
home; while the Romans carried home their slain
patriot, for whom their women mourned a whole year, in
honor of his noble service in avenging Lucretia.
The banished king still craved his lost kingdom, and
made other efforts to regain it. Having failed in his
first attempt, he went to another city, named Clusium,
in the distant part of Etruria, and here besought Lars
Porsenna, the king of that city, to aid him recover his
throne. Lars Porsenna, with a fellow-feeling for his
dethroned brother king, raised a large army and marched
with Tarquin and his fellow-exiles against defiant
The Romans now awaited him at home, and the
 two armies met on the hill called Janiculum, beyond the
river from the city. Here came the crash of battle, but
the men of Clusium proved the stronger, and after a
sharp struggle the Romans gave way and were driven
pell-mell down the hill and across the bridge which
spanned the Tiber at this point. This was a wooden
bridge on which the Romans set great store, as it was
their only means of crossing the stream. But it now was
likely to serve as a means of the loss of their city.
Their flying army was pouring in panic across it, with
the Etruscans in hot pursuit, seeking strenuously to
win the bridge.
The bridge must be speedily destroyed or the city would
be lost, but it seemed too late for this; unless the
enemy could in some way be kept back till the bridge
was cut down, Tarquin and his allies would be in the
streets of Rome.
At this juncture a brave and stalwart son of Rome,
Horatius Codes by name, stepped forward and offered his
life in his city's defence. "Cut away with all haste,"
he said; "I will keep the bridge until it falls." Two
others, Spurius Lartius and Titus Herminius, sprang to
his side, and the three, fully armed and stout of
heart, ranged themselves across the narrow causeway,
while behind them the axes of the Romans played
ringingly upon the supports of the bridge.
On came the Etruscans in force. But the bridge was so
narrow that only a few could advance at once, and these
found in the way the sharp spears and keen-edged blades
of the patriot three. Down went the leading Etruscans,
and others pressed on,
 only to fall, till the defenders of the bridge had a
bulwark of the slain in their front.
And now the bridge creaked and groaned as the axes kept
up their lively play, the ring of steel finding its
chorus in the cheering shouts of the Romans on the
"Back! back!" cried the axemen. "It will be down in a
minute more; back for your lives!"
"Back!" cried Horatius to his comrades, and they
hastily retreated; but he stood unmoving, still boldly
facing the foe.
"Fly! It is about to fall!" was the shout.
"Let it," cried Horatius, without yielding a step.
And there he stood alone, defying the whole army of the
Etruscans. From a distance they showered their javelins
on him, but be caught them on his shield and stood
unhurt. Furious that they should be kept from their
prey by a single man, they gathered to rush upon him
and drive him from his post by main force; but just
then the creaking beams gave way, and the half of the
bridge behind him fell with a mighty crash into the
HORATIUS KEEPING THE BRIDGE.
The Etruscans paused in their course at this crashing
fall, and gazed, not without admiration, at the
stalwart champion who had stayed an army in its
victorious career. He was theirs now; he could not
escape; his life should pay the penalty for their
But Horatius had no such thought. He looked down on the
stream, and prayed to the god of the river, "O Father
Tiber, I pray thee to receive these
 arms and me who bear them, and to let thy waters
befriend and save me."
Then, with a quick spring, he plunged, heavy with
armor, into the swift flowing stream, and struck out
boldly for the shore. The foemen rushed upon the bridge
and poured their darts thick about him; yet none struck
him, and he swam safely to the shore, where his waiting
friends drew him in triumph from the stream.
For this grand deed of heroism the Romans set up a
statue to Horatius in the comitium, and gave him in
reward as much land as he could drive his plough round
in the space of a whole day. Such deeds cannot be fitly
told in halting prose, and Lord Macaulay, in his "Days
of Ancient Rome," has most ably and picturesquely told
"How well Horatius kept the bridge
In the brave days of old."
But though Rome was saved from capture by assault, the
war was not ended, and other deeds of Roman heroism
were to be done. Porsenna pressed the siege of the city
so closely that hunger became his ally, and the Romans
suffered greatly. Then another patriot devoted his life
to his city's good. This man, a young noble named Caius
Mucius, went to the senate and offered to go to the
Etruscan camp and slay Lars Porsenna in the midst of
His proposal acceded to, he crossed the stream by
stealth and slipped covertly into the camp, through
which he made his way, seeking the king. At length
 he saw a man dressed in a scarlet robe and seated on a
lofty seat, while many were about him, coming and
going. "This must be King Porsenna," he said to
himself, and he glided stealthily through the crowd
until he came near by, when, drawing a concealed dagger
from beneath his cloak, he sprang upon the man and
stabbed him to the heart.
But the bold assassin had made a sad mistake. The man
he had slain was not the king, but his scribe, the
king's chief officer. Being instantly seized, he was
brought before Porsenna, where the guards threatened
him with sharp torments unless he would truly answer
all their questions.
"Torments!" he said. "You shall see how little I care
And he thrust his right hand into the fire that was
burning on the altar, and held it there till it was
King Porsenna looked at him with an admiration that
subdued all anger. Never had he seen a man of such
"Go your way," he cried, "for you have harmed yourself
more than me. You are a brave man, and I send you back
to Rome free and unhurt."
"And you are a generous king," said Caius, "and shall
learn more from me for your kindness than tortures
could have wrung from my lips. Know, then, that three
hundred noble youths of Rome have bound themselves by
oath to take your life. I am but the first; the others
will in turn lie in wait for you. I warn you to look
well to yourself."
He was then set free, and went back to the city,
 where he was afterwards known as Scævola, the
The warning of Caius moved King Porsenna to offer the
Romans terms of peace, which they gladly accepted. They
were forced to give up all the land they had conquered
on the west bank of the Tiber, and to agree not to use
iron except to cultivate the earth. They were also to
give as hostages ten noble youths and as many maidens.
These were sent; but one of the maidens, Cloelia by
name, escaped from the Etruscan camp, and, bidding the
other maidens to follow, fled to the river, into which
they all plunged and swam safely across to Rome.
They were sent back by the Romans, whose way it was to
keep their pledges; but King Porsenna, admiring the
courage of Cloelia, set her free, and bade her choose
such of the youths as she wished to go with her. She
chose those of tenderest age, and the king set them
The Romans rewarded Caius by a gift of land, and had a
statue made of Cloelia, which was set up in the highest
part of the Sacred Way. And King Porsenna led his army
home, with Tarquin still dethroned.