According to Roman legend, the Sublician bridge in Rome was defended against the entire Etruscan army under Porsena by Horatius the “one-eyed” hero, along with Sp. Lartius and T. Herminius.

The Battle

During the battle, the Romans broke down the bridge behind the defenders as Horatius held off the enemy. When the bridge was destroyed, Horatius prayed to Tiberinus, jumped into the river, and swam to safety while being shot at by the enemy.

Recognition of Bravery

In recognition of his bravery, the Roman state erected a statue in Horatius’ honor in the Comitium and granted him a plot of land as large as he could plow in one day. The citizens also supported him during a time of famine by sacrificing their own food.

Controversy Surrounding the Statue

The statue was later struck by lightning and, according to Aulus Gellius, moved to a spot where it was not in the sun by envious Etruscan haruspices.

However, their treachery was discovered and they were put to death, and the statue was moved to a higher spot in the Vulcanal above the Comitium, which was said to bring good fortune to Rome.

Pliny mentions that the statue still existed in his time, providing some evidence for the truth of the legend.

Different Versions of the Legend

Polybius relates a slightly different version of the story, in which Horatius defended the bridge alone and died in the river. It is possible, as Mr. Macauley suggests, that there were two separate Roman lays about the defense of the bridge, one of which attributed the entire feat to Horatius and was favored by the Horatian house.

The featured image at the beginning of this post is from the Google Art Project of WikiMedia.