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Horatius at the Bridge : Horatius Cocles was the last man standing between Rome’s republic and the return of totalitarian government in 509 BC.
Horatius at the Bridge

Abridged from ‘Young Folks' History of Rome’, by Charlotte Mary Yonge (1823-1901).

Before it became a republic, Rome was ruled by seven kings, absolute monarchs. The last of these was King Tarquin the Proud, who was forced out in 509 BC. He was not the man to give up his throne easily.

TARQUIN found a friend in the Etruscan king called Lars Porsena, who brought an army to besiege Rome and restore him to the throne. He advanced towards the gate called Janiculum upon the Tiber, and drove the Romans out of the fort on the other side the river.

The Romans then retreated across the bridge,* placing three men to guard it until all had crossed over: Horatius, Lartius, and Herminius. At last the weapons of Lartius and Herminius were broken, and Horatius bade them hasten over the bridge while it could still bear their weight.

Horatius himself fought on till he was wounded in the thigh, and the last timbers of the bridge were falling into the stream. Then he leapt into the river and swam across amid a shower of arrows, one of which put out his eye, and he was lame for life. A statue of him ‘halting on his thigh’ was set up in the temple of Vulcan.

* The Pons Sublicius.

Abridged from ‘Young Folks' History of Rome’, by Charlotte Mary Yonge (1823-1901).

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Picture: © Gobbler, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: CC-BY-SA 3.0. View original
The modern Ponte Sublicio was built in 1918. Remains of the ancient bridge, which was made entirely of wood so it could be easily broken in the face of invasion, were visible until the 1890s. © Gobbler, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: CC-BY-SA 3.0.

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