After these stipulations had been carried out, and when Porsena had already remitted all his warlike preparations through his confidence in the treaty, these Roman maidens went down to the river to bathe, at a place where the curving bank formed a bay and kept the water especially still and free from waves. As they saw no guard near, nor any one else passing by or crossing the stream, they were seized with a desire to swim away, notwithstanding the depth and whirl of the strong current.
And some say that one of them, named Cloelia, crossed the stream on horseback, exhorting and encouraging the rest as they swam. But when they were come in safety to Publicola, he bestowed no admiration or affection upon them, but was distressed because he would be thought less true to his word than Porsena, and because the daring exploit of the maidens would be called a base fraud on the part of the Romans. He seized them, therefore, and sent them back again to Porsena.
But Tarquin and his men got timely intelligence of this, set an ambush for the convoy of the maidens, and attacked them in superior numbers as they passed along. The party attacked defended themselves, nevertheless, and Valeria, the daughter of Publicola, darted through the combatants and fled, and with the help of three attendants who broke through the crowd with her, made good her escape. The rest of the maidens were mingled with the combatants and in peril of their lives. But Aruns, the son of Porsena, learning of the affair, came with all speed to their assistance, put their enemies to flight, and rescued the Romans.
When Porsena saw the maidens thus brought back, he asked for the one who had begun the enterprise and encouraged the rest in it. And when he heard Cloelia named as the one, he looked upon her with a gracious and beaming countenance, and ordering one of the royal horses to be brought, all fittingly caparisoned, he made her a present of it. Those who say that Cloelia, and Cloelia alone, crossed the river on horseback, produce this fact in evidence.
Others dispute the inference, and say that the Tuscan merely honoured in this way the maiden's courage. But an equestrian statue of her stands by the Via Sacra, as you go to the Palatine, though some say it represents not Cloelia, but Valeria.1
Porsena, thus reconciled with the Romans, gave the city many proofs of his magnanimity. In particular, he ordered his Tuscan soldiers,
when they evacuated their camp, to take within them their arms only, and nothing else, leaving it full of abundant provisions and all sorts of valuables, which he turned over to the Romans. Therefore it is that down to this very day, when there is a sale of public property, Porsena's goods are cried first, and thus the man's kindness is honoured within perpetual remembrance. Moreover, a bronze statue of him used to stand near the senate-house, of simple and archaic workmanship.2