#6 Horatius, Defending the Bridge to Protect Romans

Today we will speak about a story of a repeating pattern in many other different stories. But a legendary one.

Horatius, a Roman that fought against the Etruscans to defend a bridge, lived before holding off was cool. The story is older than the 300 Spartans against the Persians. And definitely much older than Hodor holding the door.

As a summary, the Roman king, Tarquinius Superbus losses his legitimacy after his son’s shameful act against a noble Roman woman. Romans get furious, they push him out of Rome by rage, and they swear not to have another king. Ever!

Tarquinius Superbus is not to let his sovereignty go away just like that, since he is Etruscan, he goes and makes a deal with Porsena, the Etruscan king of Clusium city.

Etruscans outnumber the Romans, and the only thing that separates them is the Sublicius Bridge on the Tiber river. The Roman right wing collapses under heavy pressure, but a young officer Horatius takes over and continues resisting the Etruscans, using dead bodies on the bridge. This shames two commanders, and they start assisting Horatius on the bridge. In the meanwhile, Horatius orders his men to destroy the bridge, so that there is nothing left for Etruscans to continue their assault on.

Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
“To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his Gods.”
Lays of Ancient Rome

According to Dionysius, he was awarded with “as much of the public land as he himself could plow around in one day with a yoke of oxen,”, meanwhile Polybius takes a more dramatic road and says, he saved the others devoting himself to an inevitable death. At the end, he threw himself to the river with his armor on, and died.

There are of course credibility problems with the story since this wasn’t recorded on Roman annals. It is possible that it was a way of cleaning the shame of being overrun by Etruscans. But the similar could be said about the Spartans also. The Greek states always saw the Spartans as outsiders, and Spartans always behaved like outsiders. Maybe that myth was a way of creating a longer lasting bond between, to make an alliance possible.

I think this is one of the most popular story genres for all ancient/modern nations. There are many real, made or half made stories all over the world. The theme is the same, life-sacrificing level of devotion to support the rest.



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