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Your Paranormal

Marvels and Mysteries of the Unexplained

Horatius at the Bridge

Last Updated May 30, 2023 by . First Published in 2013.

1,695 words, estimated reading time 6 minutes.

Horatius at the Bridge

Horatius stands alone against an army to preserve Rome despite all odds!

"They're coming! They're coming!"

The sentry's warning yell boomed down from the Watchtower high above Rome. The sentinel dashed down the stairwell to report to the Roman army commander, Lucius Junius Brutus.

"A thousand, perhaps fifteen hundred men," the sentry said breathlessly to Lucius. "Spearmen, swordsmen, and horsemen are all available. I'd guess a league away - maybe three thousand paces."

Lucius turned to face the rows of warriors in front of him, all armed, armoured, and ready to fight.

"You've heard the news," Lucius said. "King Tarquinius and his friend, King Porsenna of Clusium, are marching in force. Tarquinius wants his throne back; he wants to be King of Rome once more and control us as harshly as he once did! Will we let him succeed?"

"No! No!" The soldiers responded with a resounding yell. "We've had it with rulers! We kicked Tarquinius out of Rome, and he can stay out!"

Lucius grinned. He was proud to be the commander of such a brave and spirit-filled army. Lucius knew his commanders, young men like Horatius and Gaius Mucius, were excellent leaders, and the troops they were to lead were formidable fighters. What more could an army commander want?

'But, defeating Tarquinius and Porsenna will not be easy,' Lucius reasoned. There was one certainty. The enemy must not cross the Tiber River via the Sublican Bridge. If that happened, Rome would be in grave peril, and its earth barriers might not be enough to keep Tarquinius out.

That was why Lucius had assigned Horatius and his troops to patrol the Sublican. Horatius was the only one who could keep that bridge safe and secure. A terrifying wailing sound suddenly entered Lucius' ears. A massive boulder thudded down to earth and landed around twenty paces outside the walls. The assault had begun, and the enemy was employing stone-throwing and other siege machinery.

"Onward to your posts!" Lucius commanded his soldiers. He pulled his short sword from its scabbard and held it above his head. "Battle to the death for Rome!" he exclaimed.

Lucius nodded to Horatius and Gaius Mucius as the men dashed to their positions along the ramparts. It was the signal that the two young Roman commanders had been anticipating. Horatius took Gaius' hand in his. "Tarquinius must die!" Horatius stated emphatically. "May the gods keep you safe, Gaius, my friend!"

"The gods keep you safe, Horatius," Gaius responded. "You are in desperate need of their protection."

Horatius thought to himself as he led his fifty soldiers out of the city and down the Palatine Hill towards the Tiber and the Sublican Bridge that Gaius was correct. The gods of Rome would have to fight hard for him because protecting the bridge was a dangerous task. It lacked adequate defences. With the River and the bridge behind them, all Horatius and his troops could do was stand and fight.

The bridge was constructed of thick, sturdy wooden planks. The bridge has been washed away by floods numerous times since it was first built by Ancius, the fourth King of Rome. But this was not one of those occasions. As Horatius marched across, the Sublican stood steady, and the river flowed calmly beneath it.

"Over there, Spearmen - swordsmen on this side!" Horatius promptly directed his men to their assigned positions. He concentrated half of his force at the bridge's end and the rest along the river's banks on either side. Tarquinius and Porsenna's armies were now very close, so close that Horatius could see the designs engraved on their shields. Horatius attempted to count the opposing soldiers, but there were just too many of them.

Horatius was startled to hear the whistling sound of a spear slashing through the air towards him. He jumped aside to dodge it, and the spearhead struck and became caught on the bridge. A swordsman charged at him, roaring frightening battle cries and swinging his sword in the air. The two swords collided with a loud metallic clang as Horatius rushed forward, thrusting his blade up.

As the swordsman whipped his blade away, there was a scraping sound. He raised his sword to deliver another stroke at Horatius, but Horatius leapt forward and plunged his blade into the man's breast. The man slumped to the ground with a dreadful gurgling moan.

Horatius took a quick look around. Down the riverbank, violent battles raged, with two or more enemy warriors lunging at each Roman with swords and spears.

The air was filled with the sounds and yells of war, the clash of swords, the whistle of javelins flying through the air, and the loud clank and thud of the enemy's siege devices from some distance in front of Horatius. Horatius witnessed big boulders and stones flying above his head several times. The boulders dropped into the river behind him, but Horatius recognised the enemy's plan.

'They're attempting to get rid of us all quickly - one of those boulders could crush five guys,' Horatius worried.

For the time being, the men operating the siege machines' aim was inaccurate. All their missiles landed in the Tiber or on the other side of the river.

If they reduced their range or moved their siege machines back a little...

Then something happened. A huge boulder rolled over and struck half a dozen of Horatius' spearmen, who were holding a group of enemy soldiers at bay with their javelins. As the spearmen were crushed to the ground by the massive weight, there was a loud crash and terrible screaming.

Horatius became aware of a burning odour. He scanned the riverbank swiftly. Many Romans, their garments on fire, were rushing into the River to extinguish the fires. What had transpired was evident. The siege machines were now hurling blazing torches.

Then Horatius witnessed something even more heinous. Not a single one of his fifty soldiers survived. Their bodies were strewn on the ground, floating in the river, or splayed out on the sloping riverbanks.

Horatius was the last man left in his entire force!

"All right, then!" Horatius sobbed. "If that's how the gods want it, I'll defend the bridge by myself!"

Horatius grabbed a nearby javelin and leapt a few metres back along the bridge. He stood there, sword in one hand, javelin in the other, shield firmly looped over one arm. Horatius hissed at the oncoming swarm of enemy warriors.

The enemy soldiers were so taken aback that they did not move for a moment.

Suddenly one of them started laughing.

"He's mad!" he exclaimed. "Imagine a single man versus all of us!"

Several soldiers joined in the yelling and began to taunt Horatius. "You're insane!" they exclaimed. "You should go jump in the river and cool off!"

Horatius remained firm, his eyes black with rage and resolve. "You must not cross!" he yelled. He charged at one of the enemy soldiers who was ready to leap onto the bridge in front of him. The enemy retreated quickly, back to the shelter of the crowd at the bridge's end.

Horatius realised the troops were terrified of him. They felt he was insane and feared fighting against a lunatic. But it couldn't go on much longer. Someone would toss a spear or a sword, and the end would come.

Gaius Mucius, fortunately, had observed what was going on from the ramparts above. He directed his warriors to open the gates so they might proceed to Horatius' rescue.

"Go get some axes!" Gaius gave the order. "Just one path can save Horatius - and Rome. That bridge must be demolished."

Horatius' position was becoming increasingly perilous. One of the opposing soldiers leapt at Horatius with his sword as Gaius and his men burst out of the gates and began rushing down towards the bridge. Horatius was able to wrench the man's blade from his grip and throw him back. Gaius understood that if the enemy attacked in force, Horatius would be overrun in seconds.

Gaius arrived at the bridge and began hacking away at the planks that held it to the river bank. Four or five other people were doing the same thing. The planks began to break and split apart gradually. Horatius felt the bridge tremble, and when the first four planks were cut through, the entire structure began to sway.

When the enemy soldiers observed what was going on, they moved back from the bridge's end, frightened of being flung into the sea if it fell.

Gaius and his men continued hacking away at the boards, rotating the axe blades to break the wood until only one plank remained. The bridge was now shaking dangerously. Gaius struck the bridge with his axe, and as the blade cut through the last plank, the bridge tipped backwards.

It toppled down towards the river with a loud creaking, groaning, and splintering. Horatius was thrown away. He dove into the sea and vanished, his heavy armour weighing him down. Gaius feared Horatius had drowned for a terrifying minute. Then, suddenly, he was back on the surface, swimming furiously towards the riverbank. Gaius ran forward, grabbing Horatius' hand and pulling him out of the water.

"There," Horatius said, pointing to the confused crowd of enemy soldiers staring at the shattered bridge. "I told them they wouldn't make it."

The Romans were rejoicing and screaming Horatius' name all over the ramparts. When he returned to the city, Lucius Junius Brutus greeted him and congratulated him on his excellent feat. Lucius adorned Horatius' head with a laurel wreath and told him, "This is the mark of a Roman hero.

Horatius, you will be remembered as one of Rome's greatest heroes. Tarquinius will never return now that he has to battle with Romans like you."

Lucius was correct. After witnessing what transpired at the Sublican Bridge, Tarquinius' ally, King Porsenna, became scared to fight the Romans.

Porsenna returned to Clusium, leaving Tarquinius without troops to fight for him.

Tarquinius had lost his throne for good, and the Romans would never be ruled by Kings again.

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