Horatius Cocles


Horatius Cocles

In the historical legends of ancient Rome, Horatius Cocles, Latin for "Horatius the one-eyed" (Cocles itself a shortening of the Greek word 'Cyclops'), was a hero who, on his own, defended the Pons Sublicius, the bridge that led across the Tiber to Rome, against the Etruscans. It is said that there were other men with Horatius at the time, but they either fled in panic at the sight of the enemy or Horatius asked them to leave on his own accord.

In Livy's account it is stated that there were two men (Titus Herminius & Spurius Lartius) who stayed with Horatius while the others fled. The other two eventually left at Horatius' request.

As he defended the bridge, the Romans destroyed it behind him. When they were done, he either swam to safety on the Roman side (according to Livy), or was drowned in the Tiber (according to Polybius).

According to Livy, Horatius was rewarded with as much land as he could plough around in a single day and a statue of him was erected in the temple of Vulcan.

It is not known to what extent the story is based on real events, but it has been suggested that it was a legend that arose to explain a one-eyed statue in the temple of Vulcan that stood near the Vatican Hill.

The story is retold in "" from the "Lays of Ancient Rome" by Lord Macaulay, a poem of great popularity in the late nineteenth century.

References in popular culture

The theme of a hero (whether protagonist or otherwise) making a lone stand against impossible odds is a recurring one in books, film and television.

In some of these, the hero is able to defeat swarms of enemies with apparent ease, never really seeming in danger (e.g., the character Rambo, or some of the military-style heroes played by Arnold Schwarzenegger or Chuck Norris).

More realistic interpretations occur in the setting of deliberate self-sacrifice, and have the hero perishing or being captured in the process; for example:

* In C. S. Lewis' "Perelandra" the hero - a Cambridge professor transported to the planet Venus - takes "Horatius on the bridge" as one of his examples, when having to screw up his courge to face a Satanic opponent in all-out battle.

* In the novel "Dune", by Frank Herbert, the Swordmaster Duncan Idaho makes a gallant last stand to enable those he serves to escape. This self-sacrifice was made out of loyalty and gratitude to a noble family that had rescued him from slavery.

* In the Star Wars novel "Traitor", by Matthew Stover, Jedi Knight Ganner Rhysode stands his ground against a legion of Yuuzhan Vong warriors, allowing his comrade Jacen Solo time to interact with the World Brain and escape Coruscant with Vergere.

* In the "Doctor Who" episode "Underworld", the Minyan Herrick performs a similar, though not ultimately fatal, feat to enable the escape of his colleagues. A warrior by nature, he utters the words "I've waited a long time for this" as he steps forward to meet his destiny. Whether it is a good fight, or death itself, that he has awaited, is not completely clear. It may well be both: he is near-immortal, able to regenerate his dying body with advanced technology, and it is possible that this "last battle" offers him an honourable way out of an eternal existence that sickens him.

* In the film "Excalibur", a re-interpretation of the Arthurian legend, Sir Lancelot returns towards the end of the final battle, taking many enemies at the cost of his own life. This appears to be an act of redemption.

*In the novel "The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas, père, the Morrels' accountant and house servant was nicknamed "Cocles" because he had only one eye. Moreover, like the legendary Horatius Cocles, he stayed faithfully while others fled: When employees quit the Morrel household because of financial ruin, he remained a loyal servant.

*The song "A Nation Once Again" alludes to Horatio Cocles.

*In the novel "Starship Troopers" by Robert A. Heinlein, Horatius Cocles is mentioned. A recruit questions the need to learn fighting using knives when more advanced "dangerous" weaponry is available. The instructor corrects the recruit by pointing out that the point of the training is to make the recruits dangerous and able to kill under any circumstances. The instructor recommends the book "Horatius at the Bridge".

*In the video games Dynasty Warriors 4, 5 and 6, made by KOEI, the Shu officer Zhang Fei defends a bridge against many enemy soldiers to aid the escape of his lord, Liu Bei.

ee also

* Cúchulainn, a character in Irish legend who defended Ulster in a similar way, single-handedly defeating hundreds of enemy soldiers at a ford.
*Pierre Terrail, the Chevalier Bayard, who did the same historically in 1508.

External links

* [http://www.livius.org/ho-hz/horatius/cocles.html Livius.org: Horatius Cocles]


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Look at other dictionaries:

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