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Quote of the day: He was a man who masked a savage temper
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History of Rome (Ab Urbe Condita) by Livy
Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book II Chapter 10: The Story of Horatius Cocles.[508 BC]
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On the appearance of the enemy the country people fled into the City as best they could. The weak places in the defences were occupied by military posts; elsewhere the walls and the Tiber were deemed sufficient protection. The enemy would have forced their way over the Sublician Bridge had it not been for one man, Horatius Cocles. The good fortune of Rome provided him as her bulwark on that memorable day. He happened to be on guard at the bridge when he saw the Janiculum taken by a sudden assault and the enemy rushing down from it to the river, whilst his own men, a panic-struck mob, were deserting their posts and throwing away their arms. He reproached them one after another for their cowardice, tried to stop them, appealed to them in heaven's name to stand, declared that it was in vain for them to seek safety in flight whilst leaving the bridge open behind them, there would very soon be more of the enemy on the Palatine and the Capitol than there were on the Janiculum. So he shouted to them to break down the bridge by sword or fire, or by whatever means they could, he would meet the enemies' attack so far as one man could keep them at bay. He advanced to the head of the bridge. Amongst the fugitives, whose backs alone were visible to the enemy, he was conspicuous as he fronted them armed for fight at close quarters. The enemy were astounded at his preternatural courage. Two men were kept by a sense of shame from deserting him -- Spurius Lartius and Titus Herminius -- both of them men of high birth and renowned courage. With them he sustained the first tempestuous shock and wild confused onset, for a brief interval. Then, whilst only a small portion of the bridge remained and those who were cutting it down called upon them to retire, he insisted upon these, too, retreating. Looking round with eyes dark with menace upon the Etruscan chiefs he challenged them to single combat, and reproached them all with being the slaves of tyrant kings and whilst unmindful of their own liberty coming to attack that of others. For some time they hesitated, each looking round upon the others to begin. At length shame roused them to action, and raising a shout they hurled their javelins from all sides on their solitary foe. He caught them on his outstretched shield, and with unshaken resolution kept his place on the bridge with firmly planted foot. They were just attempting to dislodge him by a charge when the crash of the broken bridge and the shout which the Romans raised at seeing the work completed stayed the attack by filling them with sudden panic. Then Cocles said, Tiberinus, holy father. I pray thee to receive into thy propitious stream these arms and this thy warrior." So, fully armed, he leaped into the Tiber, and though many missiles fell over him he swam across in safety to his friends: an act of daring more famous than credible with posterity. The State showed its gratitude for such courage; his statue was set up in the Comitium, and as much land given to him as he could drive the plough round in one day. Besides this public honour, the citizens individually showed their feeling; for, in spite of the great scarcity, each, in proportions to his means, sacrificed what he could from his own store as a gift to Cocles.

Events: War of Porsena against Rome., Horatius Cocles defends the Sublician bridge

Cum hostes adessent, pro se quisque in urbem ex agris demigrant; urbem ipsam saepiunt praesidiis. Alia muris, alia Tiberi obiecto uidebantur tuta: pons sublicius iter paene hostibus dedit, ni unus uir fuisset, Horatius Cocles; id munimentum illo die fortuna urbis Romanae habuit. Qui positus forte in statione pontis cum captum repentino impetu Ianiculum atque inde citatos decurrere hostes uidisset trepidamque turbam suorum arma ordinesque relinquere, reprehensans singulos, obsistens obtestansque deum et hominum fidem testabatur nequiquam deserto praesidio eos fugere; si transitum ponte a tergo reliquissent, iam plus hostium in Palatio Capitolioque quam in Ianiculo fore. Itaque monere, praedicere ut pontem ferro, igni, quacumque ui possint, interrumpant: se impetum hostium, quantum corpore uno posset obsisti, excepturum. Vadit inde in primum aditum pontis, insignisque inter conspecta cedentium pugna terga obuersis comminus ad ineundum proelium armis, ipso miraculo audaciae obstupefecit hostes. Duos tamen cum eo pudor tenuit, Sp. Larcium ac T. Herminium, ambos claros genere factisque. Cum his primam periculi procellam et quod tumultuosissimum pugnae erat parumper sustinuit; deinde eos quoque ipsos exigua parte pontis relicta reuocantibus qui rescindebant cedere in tutum coegit. Circumferens inde truces minaciter oculos ad proceres Etruscorum nunc singulos prouocare, nunc increpare omnes: seruitia regum superborum, suae libertatis immemores alienam oppugnatum uenire. Cunctati aliquamdiu sunt, dum alius alium, ut proelium incipiant, circumspectant; pudor deinde commouit aciem, et clamore sublato undique in unum hostem tela coniciunt. Quae cum in obiecto cuncta scuto haesissent, neque ille minus obstinatus ingenti pontem obtineret gradu, iam impetu conabantur detrudere uirum, cum simul fragor rupti pontis, simul clamor Romanorum, alacritate perfecti operis sublatus, pauore subito impetum sustinuit. Tum Cocles "Tiberine pater" inquit, "te sancte precor, haec arma et hunc militem propitio flumine accipias." Ita sic armatus in Tiberim desiluit multisque superincidentibus telis incolumis ad suos tranauit, rem ausus plus famae habituram ad posteros quam fidei. Grata erga tantam uirtutem ciuitas fuit; statua in comitio posita; agri quantum uno die circumarauit, datum. Priuata quoque inter publicos honores studia eminebant; nam in magna inopia pro domesticis copiis unusquisque ei aliquid, fraudans se ipse uictu suo, contulit.