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XIV. VALERIA AND CLOELIA1

The two things that brought about the expulsion of Tarquinius Superbus, seventh king of Rome from Romulus, were arrogance and the virtue of Lucretia, a woman married to a distinguished man of royal lineage. For she was outraged by one of Tarquini sons who had been welcomed as a guest at her home. She told her friends and family what had been done to her, and immediately slew herself. Deposed from power, Tarquin waged various wars in his endeavours to regain his sovereignty. Finally he persuaded Porsena, ruler of the Etruscans, to march against Rome with a great force.2 At the same time with the war famine also attacked3 the Romans, and they, learning that Porsena was not merely a great soldier but a just and fair man as well, wished to make him judge in their case against Tarquin. But Tarquin was stubborn, saying that Porsena, if he did not remain faithful as an ally, would not be a just judge either; and so Porsena renounced him and made it his endeavour that when he went away he should be a friend of the Romans, and should get back such part of the land as they had cut off from the Etruscans, and also the prisoners of war. To confirm these [p. 515] terms hostages were given to him, ten youths and ten maidens, among whom was Valeria, the daughter of Publicola the consul, whereupon Porsena at once remitted all his preparation for the war, although the agreement was not yet consummated.

The maidens went down to the river as if to bathe, a short distance away from the camp. At the instigation of one of them, Cloelia, they fastened their clothes to their heads, and took the risk of breasting a swift current and deep-whirling eddies, and by swimming close together they reached the other side by dint of a hard struggle, and with many a chance of failure. There are those who say that Cloelia procured a horse and, mounting it, swam it across slowly, acting as guide for the others, and encouraging and helping them as they were swimming. The argument with which they support this I will mention in a moment.

When the Romans saw them safe and sound, they admired the maidens' bravery and daring, yet did not like their coming back, nor could endure to prove themselves less honourable than one man in keeping faith. Accordingly they commanded the girls to go back again, and sent men with them to see that they got there. Tarquin set an ambush for these when they had crossed the river,4 and came very near getting the maidens in his power. But Valeria, daughter of the consul, Publicola, with three servants succeeded in escaping to the camp of Porsena, and the others Porsena's son, Aruns, rescued from the enemy by hastening with all speed to their assistance.

[p. 517] When they were brought to the camp, Porsena, with a look at them, bade them say which one of them was the instigator and leader in the plan. The others, for fear regarding Cloelia, said not a word; but Cloelia of her own accord said that it was herself, and Porsena, in admiration of her, ordered a horse to be brought, fittingly caparisoned, and presented it to her, and then sent them all back kindly and humanely. Many make of this an indication that Cloelia rode across the river on a horse. Others, however, say this is not so, but that Porsena, because he admired her strength and daring as above that of a woman, deemed her worthy of a gift fitting for a warrior. At all events, there stood an equestrian statue of a woman5 close beside the Sacred Way, as it is called, and some say that this is the statue of Cloelia, others of Valeria.

1 The story is told (with interruptions) by Plutarch in his Life of Publicola, chaps. xvii-xix. (106-107) as well as by many other writers. Cf., for example, Livy, ii. 13; Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, v. 32-34; Seneca, Consolatio ad Marciam, 16. 2; Valerius Maximus, iii. 2. 2; Polyaenus, Strategemata, viii. 31.

2 Cf. Livy, ii. 9.

3 Ibid. 11.

4 His purpose, according to other accounts, was to prevent the return of the hostages, and so to make it appear that the Romans had not kept faith.

5 Cf. Plutarch's Life of Publicola, chap. xix. (107 c); Livy, ii. 13, who gives a slightly different explanation of the ‘ virgo insidens equo ’ Pliny, Natural History, xxxiv. 13 (28-29).

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