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Porsena

or Porsenna, Lars. A king of the Etruscan town of Clusium, who marched against Rome at the head of a vast army, in order to restore Tarquinius Superbus to the throne. He took possession of the hill Ianiculum, and would have entered the city by the bridge which connected Rome with the Ianiculum, had it not been for the superhuman prowess of Horatius Cocles, who kept the whole Etruscan army at bay while his comrades broke down the bridge behind him. (See Cocles.) The Etruscans proceeded to lay siege to the city, which soon began to suffer from famine. Thereupon a young Roman, named C. Mucius, resolved to deliver his country by murdering the invading king. He accordingly went over to the Etruscan camp, but, ignorant of the person of Porsena, killed the royal secretary instead. Seized, and threatened with torture, he thrust his right hand into the fire on the altar, and there let it burn, to show how little he heeded pain. Astonished at his courage, the king bade him depart in peace; and Scaevola, as he was henceforward called, told him, out of gratitude, to make peace with Rome, since three hundred noble youths had sworn to take the life of the king, and he was the first upon whom the lot had fallen. Porsena thereupon made peace with the Romans and withdrew his troops from the Ianiculum after receiving twenty hostages from the Romans. Such was the tale by which Roman vanity concealed one of the earliest and greatest disasters of the city (Livy, ii. 9-15). The real fact is, that Rome was completely conquered by Porsena. This is expressly stated by Tacitus ( Hist. iii. 72), and is confirmed by other writers (Dionys. v. 34). Pliny tells us that so thorough was the subjection of the Romans that they were expressly prohibited from using iron for any other purpose but agriculture ( H. N. xxxiv. 139). The Romans, however, did not long remain subject to the Etruscans. After the conquest of Rome, Aruns, the son of Porsena, proceeded to attack Aricia, but was defeated before the city by the united forces of the Latin cities, assisted by the Greeks of Cumae. The Etruscans appear, in consequence, to have been confined to their own territory on the right bank of the Tiber, and the Romans to have availed themselves of the opportunity to recover their independence. Remains of the magnificent tomb of Porsena still exist at Chiusi, the ancient Clusium. See Tarquinius.

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