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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Horatius Cocles at the Sublician Bridge
By Livy (59 B.C.–17 A.D.)
 
From the Second Book of the ‘History of Rome’: Translation of Daniel Spillan

THE SUBLICIAN bridge well-nigh afforded a passage to the enemy, had there not been one man, Horatius Cocles (that defense the fortune of Rome had on that day), who, happening to be posted on guard at the bridge, when he saw the Janiculum taken by a sudden assault, and that the enemy were pouring down from thence in full speed, and that his own party in terror and confusion were abandoning their arms and ranks,—laying hold of them one by one, standing in their way, and appealing to the faith of gods and men, he declared “That their flight would avail them nothing if they deserted their post; if they passed the bridge and left it behind them, there would soon be more of the enemy in the Palatium and Capitol than in the Janiculum: for that reason he advised and charged them to demolish the bridge, by their sword, by fire, or by any means whatever; that he would stand the shock of the enemy as far as could be done by one man.” He then advanced to the first entrance of the bridge, and being easily distinguished among those who showed their backs in retreating from the fight, facing about to engage the foe hand to hand, by his surprising bravery he terrified the enemy. Two indeed a sense of shame kept with him,—Spurius Lartius and Titus Herminius; men eminent for their birth, and renowned for their gallant exploits. With them he for a short time stood the first storm of the danger, and the severest brunt of the battle. But as they who demolished the bridge called upon them to retire, he obliged them also to withdraw to a place of safety on a small portion of the bridge still left. Then casting his stern eyes round all the officers of the Etrurians in a threatening manner, he sometimes challenged them singly, sometimes reproached them all: “the slaves of haughty tyrants, who, regardless of their own freedom, came to oppress the liberty of others.” They hesitated for a considerable time, looking round one at the other, to commence the fight: shame then put the army in motion, and a shout being raised, they hurl their weapons from all sides on their single adversary; and when they all stuck in the shield held before him, and he with no less obstinacy kept possession of the bridge with firm step, they now endeavored to thrust him down from it by one push, when at once the crash of the falling bridge, at the same time a shout of the Romans raised for joy at having completed their purpose, checked their ardor with sudden panic. Then Cocles says, “Holy father Tiberinus, I pray that thou wouldst receive these arms and this thy soldier in thy propitious stream.” Armed as he was, he leaped into the Tiber, and amid showers of darts hurled on him, swam across safe to his party, having dared an act which is likely to obtain more fame than belief with posterity. The State was grateful towards such valor: a statue was erected to him in the Comitium, and as much land was given to him as he plowed around in one day. The zeal of private individuals also was conspicuous among the public honors. For amid the great scarcity, each person contributed something to him according to his supply at home, depriving himself of his own support.  1
  Porsena being repulsed in his first attempt, having changed his plans from a siege to a blockade, after he had placed a garrison in Janiculum, pitched his camp in the plain and on the banks of the Tiber. Then sending for boats from all parts, both to guard the river so as not to suffer any provision to be conveyed to Rome, and also to transport his soldiers across the river to plunder different places as occasion required,—in a short time he so harassed the entire country round Rome, that not only everything else from the country, but even their cattle, was driven into the city, and nobody durst venture thence without the gates. This liberty of action was granted to the Etrurians, not more through fear than from policy; for Valerius, intent on an opportunity of falling unawares upon a number of them, and when straggling, a remiss avenger in trifling matters, reserved the weight of his vengeance for more important occasions. Wherefore, to decoy the pillagers, he ordered his men to drive their cattle the next day out at the Esquiline gate, which was farthest from the enemy; presuming that they would get intelligence of it, because during the blockade and famine some slaves would turn traitors and desert. Accordingly they were informed of it by a deserter; and parties more numerous than usual, in hopes of seizing the entire body, crossed the river. Then Publius Valerius commanded Titus Herminius with a small body of men to lie concealed two miles from the city, on the Gabian road, and Spurius Lartius with a party of light-armed troops to post himself at the Colline gate, till the enemy should pass by, and then to throw himself in their way so that there might be no return to the river. The other consul, Titus Lucretius, marched out of the Nævian gate with some companies of soldiers; Valerius himself led some chosen cohorts down from the Cœlian Mount, and they were first descried by the enemy. Herminius, when he perceived the alarm, rose out of ambush and fell upon the rear of the Tuscans, who had charged Valerius. The shout was returned on the right and left, from the Colline gate on the one hand and the Nævian on the other. By this stratagem the plunderers were put to the sword between both, they not being a match in strength for fighting, and all the ways being blocked up to prevent escape: this put an end to the Etrurians strolling about in so disorderly a manner.  2
  Nevertheless the blockade continued, and there was a scarcity of corn, with a very high price. Porsena entertained a hope that by continuing the siege he should take the city; when Caius Mucius, a young nobleman, to whom it seemed a disgrace that the Roman people, who when enslaved under kings had never been confined within their walls, in any war nor by any enemy, should now, when a free people, be blocked up by these very Etrurians whose armies they had often routed,—thinking that such indignity should be avenged by some great and daring effort, at first designed of his own accord to penetrate into the enemy’s camp. Then, being afraid if he went without the permission of the consuls, or the knowledge of any one, he might be seized by the Roman guards and brought back as a deserter, the circumstances of the city at the time justifying the charge, he went to the Senate: “Fathers,” says he, “I intend to cross the Tiber, and enter the enemy’s camp, if I can; not as a plunderer, or as an avenger in our turn of their devastations. A greater deed is in my mind, if the gods assist.” The Senate approved his design. He set out with a sword concealed under his garment. When he came thither, he stationed himself among the thickest of the crowd, near the King’s tribunal. There, where the soldiers were receiving their pay, the King’s secretary, sitting beside him dressed nearly in the same style, was busily engaged (and to him they commonly addressed themselves); being afraid to ask which of them was Porsena, lest by not knowing the King he should discover himself, as fortune blindly directed the blow he killed the secretary instead of the King. Then as he was going off thence, where with his bloody dagger he had made his way through the dismayed multitude, a concourse being attracted at the noise, the King’s guards immediately seized and brought him back, standing alone before the King’s tribunal; even then, amid such menaces of fortune, more capable of inspiring dread than of feeling it,—“I am,” says he, “a Roman citizen; my name is Caius Mucius: an enemy, I wished to slay an enemy; nor have I less of resolution to suffer death than I had to inflict it. Both to act and to suffer with fortitude is a Roman’s part. Nor have I alone harbored such feelings towards you; there is after me a long train of persons aspiring to the same honor. Therefore, if you choose it, prepare yourself for this peril, to contend for your life every hour; to have the sword and the enemy in the very entrance of your pavilion: this is the war which we, the Roman youth, declare against you; dread not an army in array, nor a battle,—the affair will be to yourself alone and with each of us singly.”  3
  When the King, highly incensed, and at the same time terrified at the danger, in a menacing manner commanded fires to be kindled about him, if he did not speedily explain the plots which by his threats he had darkly insinuated against him, then Mucius said, “Behold me, that you may be sensible of how little account the body is to those who have great glory in view;” and immediately he thrusts his right hand into the fire that was lighted for the sacrifice. When he continued to broil it as if he had been quite insensible, the King, astonished at this surprising sight, after he had leaped from his throne and commanded the young man to be removed from the altar, says, “Begone, having acted more like an enemy towards thyself than me. I would encourage thee to persevere in thy valor, if that valor stood on the side of my country. I now dismiss thee untouched and unhurt, exempted from the right of war.” Then Mucius, as if making a return for the kindness, says, “Since bravery is honored by you, so that you have obtained by kindness that which you could not by threats, three hundred of us, the chief of the Roman youth, have conspired to attack you in this manner. It was my lot first. The rest will follow, each in his turn, according as the lot shall set him forward, unless fortune shall afford an opportunity of slaying you.”  4
  Mucius being dismissed,—to whom the cognomen of Scævola was afterwards given, from the loss of his right hand,—ambassadors from Porsena followed him to Rome. The risk of the first attempt, from which nothing had saved him but the mistake of the assailant, and the risk to be encountered so often in proportion to the number of conspirators, made so strong an impression upon him [Porsena], that of his own accord he made propositions of peace to the Romans.  5
 
 
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