ONCE there was a war between the Roman people and the
The Romans did not have very many fighting men at that time, and they knew that they were not strong enough to meet the Etruscans in open battle. So they kept themselves inside of their walls, and set guards to watch the roads.
One morning the army of
"What shall we do?" said the white-haired Fathers who made
the laws for the Roman
Now, among the guards at the bridge, there was a brave man
"Hew down the bridge with all the speed that you can!" he cried. "I, with the two men who stand by me, will keep the foe at bay."
Then, with their shields before them, and their long spears in their hands, the three brave men stood in the road, and kept back the horsemen whom Porsena had sent to take the bridge.
On the bridge the Romans hewed away at the beams and posts. Their axes rang, the chips flew fast; and soon it trembled, and was ready to fall.
"Come back! come back, and save your lives!" they cried to
But just then Porsena's horsemen dashed toward them again.
"Run for your lives!" said Horatius to his friends. "I will keep the road."
They turned, and ran back across the bridge. They had hardly reached the other side when there was a crashing of beams and timbers. The bridge toppled over to one side, and then fell with a great splash into the water.
When Horatius heard the sound, he knew that the city was
safe. With his face still toward Porsena's men, he moved
"And he spake to the noble river
That rolls by the walls of Rome:
'O Tiber! father Tiber!
To whom the Romans pray,
A Roman's life, a Roman's arms,
Take thou in charge to-day.' "
He leaped into the deep, swift stream. He still had his
heavy armor on; and when he sank out of sight, no one
thought that he would ever be seen again. But he was a
strong man, and the best swimmer in Rome. The next
minute he rose. He was
Soon he reached the farther side, where his friends stood ready to help him. Shout after shout greeted him as he climbed upon the bank. Then Porsena's men shouted also, for they had never seen a man so brave and strong as Horatius. He had kept them out of Rome, but he had done a deed which they could not help but praise.
As for the Romans, they were very grateful to Horatius for
having saved their city. They called him Horatius
"With weeping and with laughter,
Still was the story told,
How well Horatius kept the bridge
In the brave days of old."