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In ancient times the Romans greatly valued heroes, but was Gaius Mucius Scaevola a genuine hero of the 500’s B.C.E.? Gaius Mucius Scaevola was an interesting man who did not receive much recognition for all accomplishments. He is said to have helped save Rome, as well as to have fought against injustice, which is one way he influenced “Roman History.” Gaius was heroic, courageous, and loyal to Rome. The strength that Gaius brought forth to fight for the the Romans was irreplaceable. The Romans greatly valued these traits. They wanted to know someone would bravely and fearlessly fight for Rome. He had a unique mindset for the time. Not many people thought like him, and Gaius challenged them to think outside of what they were told to consider. These may just merely be stories that have been passed down. It is unclear whether Gaius was fictional or a real life person.
Gaius Mucius Scaevola may have been born around 524 B.C.E. He is described as a noble, heroic, brave man who saved Rome and “A legendary Roman hero” (The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica 1.) In 509 B.C.E., Rome ended their monarchy and then Lars Porsena dominated. Around 508 B.C.E., Lars Porsena, an Etruscan king, bombarded and occupied Rome.
This caused an uproar of anger from the Romans. Horatius Cocles, an average man, guarded the one weak spot the enemies had not protected. Horatius Cocles “the one eyed hero” (Cartwright 2) was waiting for the enemies to come. When the enemies crossed the bridge, he was ready to fight and take back the country where he lived. Although this was noble, this plan was not the best idea. When the Etruscans, a wealthy community who supported Lars, crossed the bridge, they saw Horatius and threw spears at him. Horatius prayed, as many Romans were very religious, and threw himself into the river. Whether or not he survived is still unknown, but after this incident, the Etruscans besieged the Romans. (Livy 11:9-13)
Gaius Mucius Scaevola, frustrated with the recent events, asked the Senate if he could spy on the enemies’ camp. This was also where Lars Porsena was living. The Senate agreed that Lars Porsena needed to die. With this information, Gaius volunteered to kill Lars Porsena because he was tired of him ruling over Rome. The Etruscans, a wealthy and vigorous community, were helping Lars Porsena rule over Rome. Gaius did not want either to be in charge of Rome. “Gaius brought his sword and strategically hid it behind hid tunic, setting out to kill Lars Porsena, when he was startled by a huge problem” (Ancient History Encyclopedia, Cartwright.)
Gaius’s plan was incredibly flawed. He did not know what Lars Porsena looked like, so he had to choose between two men who could have been the king. Two men looked oddly similar and they were both on the throne. As well as looking similar, they also dressed identically. With this problem, Gaius took a guess who was king, but his guess was incorrect. Gaius stabbed and killed Lars Porsena’s steward by accident.
After this incident, Gaius tried to flee, but he was immediately caught. He was held prisoner, but had no problem proclaiming his innocence. When brought to The Etruscan Royal Tribunal he told everyone he was not the only person who wanted Lars Porsena dead. Proclaiming his name and plan, Gaius said, “I am a Roman, my name is Gaius Mucius. I came here to kill you—my enemy I have as much courage to die as to kill. Nor am I alone in my resolve against your life; behind me is a long line of men eager for the same honor. Brace yourself, if you will, for the struggle—a struggle for your like from hour to hour, with an armed enemy always at your door.” (Livy 1)
Gaius exclaimed nowhere in Rome was safe for Lars Porsena. With passion in his heart, Gaius stuck his right hand in a burning fire and held his hand in the fire until it was completely burned. Gaius said that this pain was nothing. Lars Porsena, impressed, astonished, and intrigued by his bravery and courage, which the Romans valued, set him free in 508 B.C.E. As well as witnessing Gaius’s bravery, he was also worried others would come and attempt to kill him. Lars Porsena also told about a quarter of his army to back off and they moved to Aricia in 509 B.C.E. With the brutal news that three hundred more people were going to attempt to kill him, Lars decided to send a messenger to Rome asking for forgiveness and recognition of peace.
Gaius, although possibly fictional, has been credited with the prevention of the fall of Rome. The cognomen, “Scaevola” translates to “left handed” because he burned his right hand. As well as being honored with this cognomen, Gaius was rewarded with the land past the Tiber river. This is where Horatius Cocles had guarded at the very beginning of Lars Porsena’s siege. Gaius may have helped save Rome from Lars Porsena’s wrath and helped stopped the fighting.
Gaius was important because he was an excellent example of what the Romans viewed as honorable. He fought for the people, was heroic, and very loyal. Although Gaius may be fictional, if Gaius was a real man, he is a genuine a hero of Rome.