1 C. MUCIUS SCAEVOLA. When King Porsenna was blockading Rome, C. Mucius, a young man of the patrician class, went out of the city with the approbation of the senate, after telling them that he was not going for plunder, but, with the aid of the gods, to perform some nobler deed.
With a dagger hid beneath his dress, he approached the place where Porsenna was sitting, with a secretary (scriba) by his side, dressed nearly in the same style as the king himself. Mistaking the secretary for the king, Mucius killed him on the spot.
He was seized by the king's guards, and brought before the royal seat, when he declared his name, and his design to kill the king himself, and told him that there were many more Romans ready to attempt his life.
The king in his passion and alarm ordered him to be burnt alive, unless he explained more clearly what he meant by his vague threats, upon which Mucius thrust his right hand into a fire which was already lighted for a sacrifice, and held it there without flinching.
The king, who was amazed at his firmness, ordered him to be removed from the altar, and bade him go away, free and uninjured. To make some return to the king for his generous behaviour, Mucius told him that there were three hundred of the first youths of Rome who had agreed with one another to kill the king, that the lot fell on him to make the first attempt, and that the rest would do the same when their turn came.
Mucius received the name of Scaevola, or lefthanded, from the circumstance of the loss of his right hand. Porsenna being alarmed for his life, which he could not secure against so many desperate men, made proposals of peace to the Romans, and evacuated the territory.
The patricians or the senate, for it is impossible to say which body Livy means (2.13, comp. 2.12), gave Mucius a tract of land beyond the Tiber, which was thenceforward called Mucia Prata.
Such is the substance of Livy's story. Dionysius tells it with tedious prolixity, as usual; but he omits all mention of the king's threat to burn Mucius, and of Mucius burning his right hand. (See Niebuhr's Remarks on the story of C. Mucius Scaevola, Lectures, " Earliest Times to the First Punic War,"
1848; and Niebuhr, Roman Hist.
vol. i., " The War with Porsenna.
The Mucius of this story is called a patrician ; and the Mucii of the historical period were plebeians.
This is urged as an objection to assuming the descent of the historical Mucii from the Mucius of B. C. 509.
But independent of this minor difliculty, we do not concern ourselves about the descent of the illustrious Mucii of the later Republic from the half-fabulous man with the left hand who assisted at its birth.
According to Varro (de Ling. Lat.
6.5) the surname of the Mucii (scaevola
) signified an amulet.
The word scaevola is a diminutive. (See Facciol. Lex. s. v. Scaeva.
The following appear to be the only Mucii of whom any thing worth knowing is recorded.