Horatius Cocles

Publius Horatius Cocles

A legendary military hero of early Rome.  He is from the same family as the Horatii.

At the urging of Tarquinius Superbus, the exiled king of Rome, the powerful Lars Porsena, king of the Etruscan town of Clusium, attacked the Romans in 506 BC.  When the army of Porsena approached, the Romans abandoned their fields and retreated behind the walls of the city.

On three sides, Rome was protected by walls.  The other side was guarded by the Tiber River, with a lone bridge spanning it at the Tiber River.  It was on this side that the Etruscans appeared.  Upon seeing this great army most of the Romans soldiers fled headlong back to Rome.  Only Horatius Cocles, kept his wits about him.  He stopped at the middle of the bridge, and ordered his fleeing companions to destroy the bridge behind him.  As Cocles fought on alone, Romans from behind began to destroy the bridge.  He held back the enemy for a while, and just when it seemed he was about to be overwhelmed by their sheer numbers, the bridge at last gave way and they all plunged into the river.  Miraculously, the fully-armored Cocles managed to swim back to the Roman side, as Etruscan arrows fell all around him.  For his efforts, Cocles was later given all the land he could drive a plow around in one day, and a statue of him was placed in the forum.

Source(s):

  1. Livy Ab Urbe Condita.