Collatinus put off the further judgment in hopes to save his nephews, and Brutus told them that he had put them to death by his own power as a father, but that he left the rest to the voice of the people, and they were sent into banishment. Even Collatinus was thought to have acted weakly, and was sent into exile—so determined were the Romans to have no one among them who would not uphold their decrees to the utmost. Tarquin advanced to the walls and cut down all the growing corn around the Campus Martius and threw it into the Tiber; there it formed a heap round which an island was afterwards formed. Brutus himself and his cousin Aruns Tarquin soon after killed one another in single combat in a battle outside the walls, and all the women of Rome mourned for him as for a father.
Tarquin found a friend in the Etruscan king called Lars Porsena, who brought an army to besiege Rome and restore him to the throne. He advanced towards the gate called Janiculum upon the Tiber, and drove the Romans out of the fort on the other side the river. The Romans then retreated across the bridge, placing three men to guard it until all should be gone over and it could be broken down.
[Illustration: Brutus condemning his sons.]
There stood the brave three—Horatius, Lartius, and Herminius—guarding the bridge while their fellow-citizens were fleeing across it, three men against a whole army. At last the weapons of Lartius and Herminius were broken down, and Horatius bade them hasten over the bridge while it could still bear their weight. He himself fought on till he was wounded in the thigh, and the last timbers of the bridge were falling into the stream. Then spreading out his arms, he called upon Father Tiber to receive him, leapt into the river and swam across amid a shower of arrows, one of which put out his eye, and he was lame for life. A statue of him “halting on his thigh” was set up in the temple of Vulcan, and he was rewarded with as much land as one yoke of oxen could plough in a day, and the 300,000 citizens of Rome each gave him a day’s provision of corn.
Porsena then blockaded the city, and when the Romans were nearly starving he sent them word that he would give them food if they would receive their old masters; but they made answer that hunger was better than slavery, and still held out. In the midst of their distress, a young man named Caius Mucius came and begged leave of the consuls to cross the Tiber and go to attempt something to deliver his country. They gave leave, and creeping through the Etruscan camp he came into the king’s tent just as Porsena was watching his troops pass by in full order. One of his counsellors was sitting beside him so richly dressed that Mucius did not know which was king, and leaping towards them, he stabbed the counsellor to the heart. He was seized at once and dragged before the king, who fiercely asked who he was, and what he meant by such a crime.