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Spurius Lartius

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Title: Spurius Lartius  
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Subject: Horatius Cocles, Titus Lartius, Pons Sublicius, Lays of Ancient Rome, Roman-Etruscan Wars
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Spurius Lartius

Spurius Lartius, surnamed either Flavus or Rufus, was one of the leading men of the early Roman Republic, of which he was twice consul. However, his greatest fame was won as one of the defenders of the Sublician bridge against the army of Lars Porsena, the King of Clusium.[1]


The Lartii, whose nomen is also spelled Larcius and Largius, were an Etruscan family at Rome during the early years of the Republic. Their nomen is derived from the Etruscan praenomen Lars. Spurius' brother, Titus Lartius, was twice consul, in 501 and 498 BC, and was nominated the first dictator.[2][3][4][5]

War with Clusium

Following the expulsion of the king Lucius Tarquinius Superbus from Rome in 509 BC, Lars Porsena, the King of Clusium, resolved to conquer Rome, either to restore the Etruscan monarchy, or possibly for himself. The following year he went to war with Rome, and advanced with his army upon the city. After successfully capturing those parts of the city on the Etruscan side of the Tiber, including the Janiculum, the Clusian army approached the Pons Sublicius, a wooden bridge leading into the city proper. The Roman forces withdrew to the eastern side of the river, as engineers began the work of destroying the bridge's supports. Three Romans remained on the bridge to fend off the Etruscans: Publius Horatius Cocles, Titus Herminius Aquilinus, and Spurius Lartius.

Niebuhr suggests a symbolic importance to these three men: each represented one of the three ancient tribes making up the Roman populace: the Ramnes, or Latins, represented by Horatius; the Titienses, or Sabines, represented by Herminius, and the Luceres, or Etruscans, represented by Lartius.[6][7][8]

The bridge was too narrow for more than a few of the approaching army to advance upon its defenders at once, and according to the legend, they held their ground until the bridge was about to collapse. Horatius then urged his colleagues to retreat to safety, leaving him alone on the bridge. There he remained, fighting off one attacker after another, until the bridge at last gave way and plunged into the river. Horatius then jumped into the river. Accounts vary as to whether Horatius survived and swam to shore, or was drowned in the Tiber; in most accounts he survived, but according to Polybius, he defended the bridge alone, and perished in the river.[9][10][11][12][13]

Lartius and Herminius appear again in the war with Clusium, commanding troops as part of a trap devised by the consul Publius Valerius Publicola to capture Etruscan raiding parties.[14]


Lartius was elected consul in 506 BC, the fourth year of the Republic, with Titus Herminius, his companion on the bridge, as his colleague. No significant events occurred during their year of office, and Niebuhr suggests that their names may have been inserted in the consular fasti to fill the gap of one year (perhaps due to Lars Porsena holding the city). Their successors sent a delegation to meet with the envoys of Porsena, and established a treaty, by which the Etruscan King gave up his claims to Rome.[15][16]

Lartius was consul for the second time in 490 BC, with Quintus Sulpicius Camerinus Cornutus. He was also warden of the city, and when Gaius Marcius Coriolanus advanced upon Rome with at the head of a Volscian army, Lartius and his former colleague, Sulpicius, were amongst the envoys sent to treat with him. In 480, he was appointed interrex to hold the consular elections. The same year, he is said to have urged war with the nearby Etruscan city of Veii.[17]

In literature

The stand of Lartius and his companions against Lars Porsena at the Sublician Bridge in 508 BC is celebrated in Macaulay's Lays of Ancient Rome, the most famous of which is Horatius.[18][19]

See also


Preceded by
Publius Valerius Poplicola and Marcus Horatius Pulvillus
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Titus Herminius Aquilinus
506 BC
Succeeded by
Marcus Valerius Volusus and Publius Postumius Tubertus
Preceded by
Marcus Minucius Augurinus and Aulus Sempronius Atratinus
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Quintus Sulpicius Camerinus Cornutus
490 BC
Succeeded by
Gaius Julius Iulus and Publius Pinarius Mamercinus Rufus
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