Before they parted from thence, when Mettus, in conformity to the treaty which had been concluded, asked what orders he had to give, Tullus orders him to keep the youth in arms, that he designed to employ them, if a war should break out with the Veientes.
After this both armies returned to their homes. Horatius marched foremost, carrying before him the spoils of the three brothers: his sister, a maiden who had been betrothed to one of the Curiatii, met him before the gate Capena: and having recognized her lover's military robe, which she herself had wrought, on her brother's shoulders, she tore her hair, and with bitter wailings called by name on her deceased lover.
The sister's lamentations in the midst of his own victory, and of such great public rejoicings, raised the indignation of the excited [p. 36]
Having therefore drawn his sword, he run the damsel through the body, at the same time chiding her in these words: “Go hence, with thy unseasonable love to thy spouse, forgetful of thy dead brothers, and of him who survives, forgetful of thy native country.
So perish every Roman woman who shall mourn an enemy.” This action seemed shocking to the fathers and to the people; but his recent services outweighed its guilt. Nevertheless he was carried before the king for judgment. The king, that he himself might not be the author of a decision so melancholy, and so disagreeable to the people, or of the punishment consequent on that decision, having summoned an assembly of the people, says, “I appoint, according to law, duumvirs to pass sentence on Horatius for 1
The law was of dreadful import.2
“Let the duumvirs pass sentence for treason. If he appeal from the duumvirs, let him contend by appeal; if they shall gain the cause,3
cover his head; hang him by a rope from a gallows; scourge him either within the pomœrium or without the pomœrium.”
When the duumvirs appointed by this law, who did not consider that, according to the law, they could 4
acquit even an innocent person, had fond him guilty; one of them says, “P. Horatius, I judge thee guilty of treason.
Go, lictor, bind his hands.” The lictor had approached him, and was fixing the rope. Then Horatius, lay the advice of Tullus,5
a favourable interpreter of the law, says, “I appeal.”
Accordingly the matter was contested by appeal to the people. On that trial persons were much affected, especially by P. Horatius the father declaring, that he considered his daughter deservedly slain; were it not so, that he would by his authority as a father have inflicted punishment on his son.6
He then en- [p. 37]
treated that they would not render childless him whom but a little while ago they had beheld with a fine progeny.
During these words the old man, having embraced the youth, pointing to the spoils of the Curiatii fixed up in that place which is now called Pila Horatia, “Romans,” said he, “can you bear to see bound beneath a gallows amidst scourges and tortures, him whom you just now beheld marching decorated (with spoils) and exulting in victory; a sight so shocking as the eyes even of the Albans could scarcely endure.
Go, lictor, bind those hands, which but a little while since, being armed, established sovereignty for the Roman people. Go, cover the head of the liberator of this city; hang him on the gallows; scourge him, either within the pomœrium, so it be only amid those javelins and spoils of the enemy; or without the pomœrium, only amid the graves of the Curiatii. For whither can you bring this youth, where his own glories must not redeem him from such ignominy of punishment?”
The people could not withstand the tears of the father, or the resolution of the son, so undaunted in every danger; and acquitted him more through admiration of his bravery, than for the justice of his cause. But that so notorious a murder might be atoned for by some expiation, the father was commanded to make satisfaction for the son at the public charge.
He, having offered certain expiatory sacrifices, which were ever after continued in the Horatian family, and laid a beam across the street, made his son pass under it as under a yoke, with his head covered. This remains even to this day, being constantly repaired at the expense of the public; they call it Sororium Tigillum.
A tomb of square stone was erected to Horatia in the place where she was stabbed and fell.