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Porsena

PORSENA (or PORSENNA), LARS, king of Clusium in Etruria. He is said to have undertaken an expedition against Rome in order to restore the banished Tarquinius Superbus to the throne. He gained possession of the Janiculum, and was prevented from entering Rome only by the bravery of Horatius Codes (q.v.). Porsena then laid siege to the city, but was so struck by the courage of Mucius Scaevola that he made peace on condition that the Romans restored the land they had taken from Veii and gave him twenty hostages. He subsequently returned both the land and the hostages (Livy, ii. 0-15; Dion. Halic., v. 21-34; Plutarch, Poplicola, p. 16-19). This story is probably an attempt to conceal a great disaster and to soothe the vanity of the Romans by accounts of legendary exploits. According to other authorities, the Romans were obliged to surrender the city, to acknowledge Porsena's supremacy by sending him a sceptre, a royal robe, and an ivory chair, to abandon their territory north of the Tiber, to give up their arms, and in future to use iron for agricultural purposes only. It is curious that, in spite of his military success, Porsena made no attempt to restore the Tarquinian dynasty. Hence it is suggested that the attack on Rome was merely an incident of the march of the Etruscans, driven southward by the invasion of upper Italy by the Celts, through Latium on their way to Campania. This would account for its transitory effects, and the speedy recovery of the Romans from the blow. With the departure of Porsena all traces of Etruscan sovereignty disappear and Rome is soon vigorously engaged in the prosecution of various wars (see Tacitus, Hist. iii. 72; Pliny, Nat. Hist, xxxiv. 39 [14]; Dion. Halic. v. 35, 36, vii. 5). The tomb at Chiusi described by Pliny (Nat. Hist, xxxvi. 19) as that of Porsena cannot have been his burial-place (see CLUSIUM).

For a critical examination of the story, see Schwegler, Romische Geschichte, bk. xxi. 18; Sir G. Cornewall Lewis, Credibility of Early Roman History, ch. xii. 5 ; W. Ihne, Hist, of Rome, vol. i. ; E. Pais, Storia di Roma, i. ch. iv. (1898). Macaulay's Lays of Ancient Rome gives a dramatic version of the story.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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