(E2) Lesson 1.3 Cloelia

For the first two hundred years after Romulus founded Rome, the city was governed by kings. The very last rex, who lived around 500 BCE, was called Tarquinius Superbus. The people of Rome did not like him at all because he took power without the citizens’ approval and ruled the city with force. In fact, it’s no coincidence that the Romans called him Superbus, which means “arrogant” in Latin.

Rōma multōs rēgēs habet. Tarquinius Superbus malus rēx est.

Eventually the people of Rome decided that they did not want to be ruled by kings anymore, and that a form of government that allowed more people to participate in politics would be more fair. So they decided to make Rome a rēs pūblica, or republic, and they rebelled and forced Tarquinius Superbus out of the city.

Valē, Tarquinī et valēte, rēgēs! Necesse nōn est habēre rēgēs.

However, not everyone in Italy was happy after this decision. North of Rome there was an area called Etruria, where the Etruscan people lived. Since they lived so close to Rome, the Etruscans were often involved in the politics of the city. When Tarquinius Superbus was sent away from Rome, an Etruscan rex named Lars Porsenna came to his defense. Lars Porsenna brought his armies and tried to invade the urbs of Rome, but was unsuccessful.

Lars Porsenna et Tarquinius Superbus amīcī sunt. Rēx et mīlitēs prope urbem sunt.

The Romans finally made a peace treaty with him. In exchange for his withdrawal, the Romans would hand over young Roman puerī and puellae as hostages to Lars Porsenna. One of the hostages was a brave puella named Cloelia. Unhappy about her situation, she decided to escape and led a handful of other young girls to flee with her.

Rēx Rōmānōs multōs puellās et puerōs habet. Cloelia Rōmāna puella est.

Cloelia: “Pessimē valeō! Necesse est fugere nunc!”

While the Etruscan guards were not looking, Cloelia and a group of puellae jumped in the Tiber river and began to swim across. When the guards noticed, they became angry and started hurling javelins and arrows at the escaping hostages, but Cloelia and her friends were so brave and strong that they kept going. They made it across the river unharmed, where Cloelia made sure the other puellae were reunited with their familiae.

Familiae fīliās habent. Cloelia laeta est, sed Lars Porsenna nōn laetus est.

However, her escape meant that the peace treaty was broken. Cloelia soon realized this, and returned to the Etruscan king of her own will. Lars Porsenna had been angry when she first escaped, but he was so impressed by Cloelia’s bravery and honor in returning that he let her go, and even let her choose a new handful of hostages that could also return to Rome with her. The Roman people praised her virtue and built a statue to commemorate her accomplishment, a public honor that the Romans typically only bestowed on men. Because of her act of bravery and resistance, Lars Porsenna made peace with the new Roman Republic. Soon after that, the people of Rome came up with the Twelve Tables so that they could live by their own laws instead of following the laws of a king.

Familiae Rōmānae: Quaesō, Cloelia, necesse est revēnīre revēnīre.

Cloeliā: Certē!

Lars Porsenna: Puella honesta et valida es. Rōmānī validī sunt.