Cloelia – The Bravest Of Ancient Roman Women

After making peace with Rome and evacuating Roman territory, the Etruscans under Lars Porsena set up a camp on the banks of the river Tiber. With him he had a number of Roman hostages taken as a guarantee of the peace.

One day one of the Roman hostages, a young girl named Cloelia, thought how easy it would be to swim across the river and escape the Etruscan camp. Following the legendary lead of Horatius Cocles, and likely inspired by the recent bravery of Mucius Scaevola, she lead a small band of Roman girls into the river and onwards to Rome.

Porsenna, upon hearing of the escape, was enraged, and sent emissaries to Rome to demand that Cloelia be sent back to him – as for the other girls, he did not show much interest. After calming down, the Etruscan king changed his mind. He grew an admiration of the young Roman woman, asserting that her bravery was even greater than that of Horatius and Mucius. He still demanded that according to the peace terms, Cloelia must be returned to him. He promised, however not to punish the young girl.

The Romans, bound to the peace terms, agreed to the Etruscans demands and returned Cloelia to Porsena. The king then set her free. He praised her heroism and honoured her by presenting her with half of the hostages. Being allowed to choose, she picked the young boys, taking them back to Rome.

The Romans went on to honour Cloelia by dedicating and equestrian statue in her honour, located on the summit of the Via Sacra, i.e Sacred Way. This may be very well be the only instance of a Roman woman being honoured in this way.

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