The temple of Jupiter Capitolinus had been vowed by Tarquin, the son of Demaratus, when he was at war with the Sabines, but it was actually built by Tarquinius Superbus, the son, or grandson, of him who vowed it. He did not, however, get so far as to consecrate it, but was driven out before it was quite completed. Accordingly, now that it was completely finished and had received all time ornaments that belonged to it, Publicola was ambitious to consecrate it.
But this excited the jealousy of many of the nobility. They could better brook his other honours, to which, as legislator and military commander, he had a rightful claim. But this one they thought he ought not to have, since it was more appropriate for others, and therefore they encouraged and incited Horatius to claim the privilege to consecrating the temple. At a time, then, when Publicola was necessarily absent on military service, they got a vote passed that Horatius should perform the consecration, and conducted him up to the Capitol, feeling that they could not have gained their point had Publicola been in the city.
Some, however, say that Publicola was designated by lot, against his inclination, for the expedition, and Horatius for the consecration.1
And it is possible to infer how the matter stood between them from what happened at the consecration. It was the Ides of September, a day which nearly coincides with the full moon of the Attic month Metageitnion;
the people were all assembled on the Capitol, silence had been proclaimed, and Horatius, after performing the other ceremonies and laying hold upon the door of the temple, as the custom is, was pronouncing the usual words of consecration. But just then Marcus, the brother of Publicola, who had long been standing by the door and was watching his opportunity, said:
‘O Consul, thy son lies dead of sickness in the camp.’
This distressed all who heard it; But Horatius, not at all disturbed, merely said:
‘Cast forth the dead then whither ye please, for I take no mourning upon me,’ and finished his consecration. Now the announcement was not true, but Marcus thought by his falsehood to deter Horatius from his duty. Wonderful, therefore, was the firm poise of the man, whether he at once saw through the deceit, or believed the story without letting it overcome him.2