But to return to Tarquin, after the great battle in which he lost his son in a duel with Brutus, he fled for refuge to Clusium, and became a suppliant of Lars Porsena, the most powerful king in Italy, who was thought also to be a man of worth and noble ambitions. He promised Tarquin his aid and assistance. So in the first place he sent to Rome and ordered them to receive Tarquin as their king. Then when the Romans refused, he declared war upon them, proclaimed the time and place of his attack, and marched thither with a great force.1
Publicola was chosen consul for the second time, in his absence, and Titus Lucretius as his colleague. Returning, therefore, to Rome, and wishing, in the first place, to surpass Porsena in the loftiness of his spirit, he built the city of Sigliuria, although his adversary was already near at hand. After he had fortified it at great expense, he sent to it a colony of seven hundred men, indicating that he had no concern or fear about the war.
However, a sharp assault was made upon its wall by Porsena, and its garrison was driven out. They fled to Rome, where the pursuing enemy almost followed them into the city. But Publicola promptly sallied out to their aid in front of the gate, joined battle by the river side with the enemy, who pressed on in great numbers, and held out against them until he was desperately wounded and carried bodily out of the battle.
The same fate overtook Lucretius, his colleague, also, so that dismay fell upon the Romans, and they fled for safety towards the city. But as the enemy were forcing their way onto the wooden bridge, Rome was in danger of being taken by storm. Horatius Cocles,2
however, first, and with him two of the most illustrious men of the city, Herminius and Lartius, defended the wooden bridge against them.
Horatius had been given his surname of Cocles because he had lost one of his eyes in the wars. Some, however, say that his nose was flat and sunken, so that there was nothing to separate his eyes, and his eye-brows ran together, and that for this reason the multitude wished to call him Cyclops, but by a slip of the tongue the name of Cocles became generally prevalent instead.
This Cocles, standing at the head of the bridge, kept the enemy back until his companions had cut the bridge in two behind him. Then, all accoutred as he was, he plunged into the river and swam across to the other side, in spite of a wound in the buttocks from a Tuscan spear.
Publicola, out of admiration for his valour, proposed that every Roman should at once contribute for him as much provision as each consumed in a day, and that afterwards he should be given as much land as he could plough round in a day. Besides this, they set up a bronze statue of him in the temple of Vulcan, to console him with honour for the lameness consequent upon his wound.