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Jason Verbitsky

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  [A Picture of me (Jason) and my cat (Horatio) ca. 1998]

Horatio: The Name

My cat Horatio, or more properly Horatius, is named after an ancient Roman soldier; here are some sources that refer to my Horatio's namesake:

Horatio of the Bridge

Horatius Cocles held Lars Porsena's Etruscan army at bay while the Romans cut down the Sublician Bridge (connecting Rome with the road westward) behind them. Horatius swam the Tiber River to safety and received as much land as he could plow around in a day.

This story is told by the Historians Livy and Polybius, and the Poet Macaulay.

Horatio of the Horatii

Another Reason I named him Horatio was because when I was taking Latin I always liked names that ended in "ii" and since he was one of three brothers it reminded me of a famous painting of three legendary Roman brothers: The Oath of the Horatii.

Livy's Account of Horatio at the Bridge

"... On the approach of the Etruscan army, the Romans abandoned their farmsteads and moved into the city. Garrisons were posted. In some sections the city walls seemed sufficient protection, in others the barrier of the Tiber. The most vulnerable point was the wooden bridge, and the Etruscans would have crossed it and forced an entrance into the city, had it not been for the courage of one man, Horatius Cocles - that great soldier whom the fortune of Rome gave to be her shield on that day of peril. Horatius was on guard at the bridge when the Janiculum was captured by a sudden attack. The enemy forces came pouring down the hill, while the Roman troops, throwing away their weapons, were behaving more like an undisciplined rabble than a fighting force. Horatius acted promptly: as his routed comrades approached the bridge, he stopped as many as he could catch and compelled them to listen to him. 'By God,' he cried, 'can't you see that if you desert your post escape is hopeless? If you leave the bridge open in your rear, there will soon be more of them in the Palatine and the Capitol than on the Janiculum.' Urging them with all the power at his command to destroy the bridge by fire or steel or any means they could muster he offered to hold up the Etruscan advance, so far as was possible, alone. Proudly he took his stand at the outer end of the bridge; conscious amongst the rout of fugitives, sword and shield ready for action, he prepared himself for close combat, one man against an army. The advancing enemy paused in sheer astonishment at such reckless courage. Two other men, Spurius Lartius and Titus Herminius, both aristocrats with a fine military record, were ashamed to leave Horatius alone, and with their support he won through the first few minutes of desperate danger. Soon, however, he forced them to save themselves and leave him; for little was now left of the bridge, and the demolition squads were calling them back before it was too late. Once more Horatius stood alone; with defiance in his eyes he confronted the Etruscan chivalry, challenging one after another to single combat, and mocking them all as tyrants' slaves who, careless their own liberty, were coming to destroy the liberty of others. For a while they hung back, each waiting for his neighbour to make the first move, until shame at the unequal battle drove them to action, and with a fierce cry they hurled their spears at the solitary figure which barred their way. Horatius caught the missiles on his shield and, resolute as ever, straddled the bridge and held his ground. The Etruscans moved forward, and would have thrust him aside by the sheer weight of numbers, but their advance was suddenly checked by the crash of the falling bridge and the simultaneous shout of triumph from the Roman soldiers who had done their work in time. The Etruscans could only stare in bewilderment Horatius, with a prayer to Father Tiber to bless him and the missiles which fell thick about him, safely to the other side where his friends were waiting to receive him. It was a noble piece of work - legendary, maybe, but destined to be celebrated in story through the years to come. ..."

Livy II.10 (Penguin's The Early History of Rome, p.116)

Polybius' Account of Horatio at the Bridge

"... Horatius Cocles was engaged in combat with two of the enemy at the far end of the bridge over the Tiber which gives entrance to city on the west, he saw a large body of reinforcements approaching. Fearing that they would succeed in forcing the passage and entering the city, he turned round and shouted to those behind him to retire at once and make haste to break down the bridge. His comrades obeyed, and all the time that they were demolishing it Horatius stood his ground. He suffered many wounds, but he held back the enemy's attack and astounded them not so much by his physical strength as by his endurance and courage. Once the bridge was cut the enemy's advance was halted, whereupon Cocles threw himself into the river still wearing his armour and weapons. He deliberately sacrificed himself because he valued the safety of his country and the glory which would later attach itself to his name more than his present existence and the years of life that remained to him. ..."

Polybius VI.55 (Penguin The Rise the Roman Empire, p.348)

For a more poetic account of "How well Horatius kept the bridge In the brave days of old." see Thomas Babbington Macaulay's Lays of Ancient Rome.

Jacques-Louis David's 'The Oath of the Horatii'

The Oath of the Horatii
Jacques-Louis David
Musée du Louvre

For more information on this Search Google.

There are, of course, many other famous Horatio's whom I admire greatly and may well have influenced my choice of name (such as Horatio Hornblower) but they are not those whom my great cat is named after.

| Hierax | Horatio | Name |