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Patriotism and Purity At Rome

The story goes that Horatius Cocles, while fighting
Horatius Cocles.
with two enemies at the head of the bridge over the Tiber, which is the entrance to the city on the north, seeing a large body of men advancing to support his enemies, and fearing that they would force their way into the city, turned round, and shouted to those behind him to hasten back to the other side and break down the bridge. They obeyed him: and whilst they were breaking the bridge, he remained at his post receiving numerous wounds, and checked the progress of the enemy: his opponents being panic stricken, not so much by his strength as by the audacity with which he held his ground. When the bridge had been broken down, the attack of the enemy was stopped; and Cocles then threw himself into the river with his armour on and deliberately sacrificed his life, because he valued the safety of his country and his own future reputation more highly than his present life, and the years of existence that remained to him.1 Such is the enthusiasm and emulation for noble deeds that are engendered among the Romans by their customs.

1 Livy (2, 10) makes Cocles succeed in reaching the bank alive.

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  • Cross-references in notes from this page (1):
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 10
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