Thursday, July 15, 2004

Lays of Ancient Rome

By THOMAS B. MACAULAY

Lays of Ancient Rome: "There can be little doubt that among those parts of early Roman history which had a poetical origin was the legend of Horatius Codes. We have several versions of the story, and these versions differ from each other in points of no small importance. Polybius, there is reason to believe, heard the tale recited over the remains of some consul or praetor descended from the old Horatian patricians; for he introduces it as a specimen of the narratives with which the Romans were in the habit of embellishing their funeral oratory. It is remarkable that, according to him, Horatius defended the bridge alone, and perished in the waters. According to the chronicles which Livy and Dionysus followed, Horatius had two companions, swam safe to shore, and was loaded with honors and rewards.

It is by no means unlikely that there were two old Roman lays about the defense of the bridge; and that, while the story which Livy has transmitted to us was preferred by the multitude, the other, which ascribed the whole glory to Horatius alone, may have been the favorite with the Horatian house."
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