Story of Rome - Mary Macgregor

Gaius Mucius Burns His Right Hand

Lars Porsenna had been repulsed, but he had not been defeated. He now besieged Rome so closely, that the people were soon suffering all the horrors of famine.

Then a youth, named Gaius Mucius, determined to save Rome by killing Lars Porsenna.

Gaining the consent of the Senate to his scheme, he disguised himself as a countryman, and found his way into the camp of the enemy. Beneath the folds of his simple dress, Mucius had concealed a dagger.

It had been easy to enter the camp, but now the lad was in a difficult position, for he did not know the king, nor did he dare to ask any one to point him out.

But seeing a courtier wearing a purple robe and distributing money to the soldiers, he believed he had found him. Drawing near, he stealthily drew his dagger and stabbed—not Lars Porsenna, but his treasurer.

Before he had time to escape, Mucius was seized and taken before the king.

The king threatened the young noble with torture, even with death, in order to make him reveal the condition of the Roman army. But Mucius thrust his right hand into a flame that was alight on an altar beside him, and held it there until it was burned to ashes. This he did without flinching, that Lars Porsenna might see that he feared no torture. As for death, when it came, he would bear it as a Roman should.

But the king, amazed at the courage of the youth, forgot his anger, and bade him return unharmed to Rome.

Then Mucius, touched by the kindness of the king, told him that three hundred Roman youths had sworn to take his life, and would not rest until one of them had succeeded in doing so.

Lars Porsenna was a wise king. He listened to the warning given to him by Mucius, and offered terms to the starving city, promising if they were accepted to withdraw with his army. But the terms were hard, for the king demanded that Tarquin's possessions should be sent to him, that the Romans should give up all their dominions on the right bank of the Tiber, that they should not use iron save to cultivate the ground, and that ten noble youths and maidens should be sent to him as hostages.

With starvation staring them in the face, the Romans were forced to agree to these terms, and the hostages that he had demanded were sent to the king as a pledge of good faith.

Among the hostages was a noble maiden named Clœlia. In the Etruscan camp she pined for the freedom of her own home, for the joy of seeing her own friends, and at length she determined to escape.

So one night, when it grew dark, she slipped out of the camp unnoticed, and found her way to the edge of the river.

Without hesitation she plunged into the water and swam across to the other side—to home, to freedom.

But a sad disappointment was in store for the maiden. The Romans refused to allow her to stay in Rome, for although they admired her courage, their treaty with Lars Porsenna must be kept.

So poor Clœlia was sent back to the king. But he, pleased that the Romans had behaved so honourably, set Clœlia free, and allowed her to take many of the other hostages back with her to Rome.

Soon after this, Lars Porsenna refused to help Tarquin the Proud any longer, and breaking up his camp on the Janiculum he went back to his own country. His tents, which were full of corn and provisions, he gave to the starving city.

So grateful were the Romans for the food that they rewarded Lars Porsenna with royal gifts—a throne and sceptre of ivory, a golden crown, and a purple robe.

And these gifts the king well deserved, for he had proved a generous foe.


Front Matter

The Lady Roma
The She-Wolf
The Twin Boys
Numitor's Grandson
The Sacred Birds
The Founding of Rome
The Sabine Maidens
The Tarpeian Rock
The Mysterious Gate
The King Disappears
The Peace-Loving King
Horatius Slays His Sister
Pride of Tullus Hostilius
King Who Fought and Prayed
The Faithless Friend
A Slave Becomes a King
Cruel Deed of Tullia
Fate of the Town of Gabii
Books of the Sibyl
Industry of Lucretia
Death of Lucretia
Sons of Brutus
Horatius Cocles
Mucius Burns Right Hand
The Divine Twins
The Tribunes
Coriolanus and His Mother
The Roman Army in a Trap
The Hated Decemvirs
The Death of Verginia
The Friend of the People
Camillus Captures Veii
The Statue of the Goddess
Schoolmaster Traitor
Battle of Allia
The Sacred Geese
The City Is Rebuilt
Volscians on Fire
Battle on the Anio
The Curtian Lake
Dream of the Two Consuls
The Caudine Forks
Caudine Forks Avenged
Fabius among the Hills
Battle of Sentinum
Son of Fabius Loses Battle
Pyrrhus King of the Epirots
Elephants at Heraclea
Pyrrthus and Fabricius
Pyrrhus is Defeated
Romans Build a Fleet
Battle of Ecnomus
Roman Legions in Africa
Regulus Taken Prisoner
Romans Conquer the Gauls
The Boy Hannibal
Hannibal Invades Italy
Hannibal Crosses the Alps
Battle of Trebia
Battle of Lake Trasimenus
Hannibal Outwits Fabius
Fabius Wins Two Victories
Battle of Cannae
Despair of Rome
Defeat of Hasdrubal
Claudius Enjoy a Triumph
Capture of New Carthage
Scipio Sails to Africa
Romans Set Fire to Camp
Hannibal Leaves Italy
The Battle of Zama
Scipio Receives a Triumph
Flamininus in Garlands
Death of Hannibal
Hatred of Cato for Carthage
The Stern Decree
Carthaginians Defend City
Destruction of Carthage
Cornelia, Mother of Gracchi
Tiberius and Octavius
Death of Tiberius Gracchus
Death of Gaius Gracchus
The Gold of Jugurtha
Marius Wins Notice of Scipio
Marius Becomes Commander
Capture of Treasure Towns
Capture of Jugurtha
Jugurtha Brought to Rome
Marius Conquers Teutones
Marius Mocks the Ambassadors
Metellus Driven from Rome
Sulla Enters Rome
The Flight of Marius
Gaul Dares Not Kill Marius
Marius Returns to Rome
The Orator Aristion
Sulla Besieges Athens
Sulla Fights the Samnites
The Proscriptions of Sulla
The Gladiators' Revolt
The Pirates
Pompey Defeats Mithridates
Cicero Discovers Conspiracy
Death of the Conspirators
Caesar Captured by Pirates
Caesar Gives up Triumph
Caesar Praises Tenth Legion
Caesar Wins a Great Victory
Caesar Invades Britain
Caesar Crosses Rubicon
Caesar and the Pilot
The Flight of Pompey
Cato Dies Rather than Yieldr
Caesar is Loaded with Honours
Nobles Plot against Caesar
The Assassination of Caesar
Brutus Speaks to Citizens
Antony Speaks to Citizens
The Second Triumvirate
Battle of Philippi
Death of Brutus
Antony and Cleopatra
Battle of Actium
Antony and Cleopatra Die
Emperor Augustus