Zonaras 7.12 Part V: How Mucius Scaevola Got His Name

Mucius Scaevola drives Porsenna from the siege of Rome:

Tarquinius, following the great battle in which he had lost his son who fought against Brutus, fled to Clusium where he supplicated Klars Porsinna [*Lars Porsenna] the man with the greatest power among all of the Italic kings; Porsenna then offered to assist him. First, he sent to Rome ordering the Romans to receive Tarquinius, and when they did not obey, he set out with a large force. Valerius Publicola, chosen as consul for a second time and committing himself to the battle, was wounded and drawn from the battle in a litter. As Porsenna was besieging the city, a plague fell upon the Romans. Either from some event, or – as is more likely – from a consideration of the likely outcome, Porsenna broke off the war against the Romans. For a man known as Mucius Cordus, a good man in every way and the noblest warrior, who possessed the cognomen Scaevola (which means either ‘one-handed’ or ‘left-handed’) conceived a plan of assassinating Porsenna. He went into the field wearing Etruscan clothing and feigning an Etruscan accent. Because he did not know Porsenna’s appearance and was afraid to ask, he drew his sword and killed the secretary sitting beside Porsenna and wearing the same type of garment. He was captured and interrogated. A brazier was prepared nearby because Porsenna had been about to make a sacrifice; Scaevola held his hand over the fire, and as his flesh melted away he looked at Porsenna with an unflinching countenance (from this burnt hand his cognomen was derived) until Porsenna, in his astonishment, freed him. Scaevola, however, tried in another way to trick Porsenna and said, “Having conquered your fear, Porsenna, I am your inferior in virtue, and I will therefore disclose freely what I would not have disclosed under compulsion. Three hundred other Romans with the same intention as mine await in the field; I am but the first, having drawn the first lot. I do not feel grieved by fortune, having missed the mark of a good man and one more properly friendly to the Romans than hostile.” Thereupon, Porsenna became even more favorably disposed to making a treaty.

῾Ο δὲ Ταρκύνιος μετὰ τὴν μεγάλην μάχην, ἐν ᾗ καὶ τὸν υἱὸν ἀπέβαλε μαχεσάμενον Βρούτῳ, καταφυγὼν εἰς τὸ Κλούσιον ἱκέτευε Κλάραν Πορσίναν, ἄνδρα μεγίστην ἔχοντα δύναμιν τῶν ᾿Ιταλικῶν βασιλέων· καὶ ὃς αὐτῷ βοηθήσειν ὑπέσχετο. καὶ πρῶτον μὲν ἔπεμψεν εἰς ῾Ρώμην κελεύων δέχεσθαι τὸν Ταρκύνιον, ὡς δὲ οὐχ ὑπήκουσαν, ἀφίκετο μετὰ βαρείας δυνάμεως. Ποπλικόλας δὲ Οὐαλέριος εἰς ἀρχὴν τὸ δεύτερον αἱρεθεὶς καὶ μάχην συνάψας καὶ τραυματισθεὶς φοράδην τῆς μάχης ἐξεκομίσθη. ἐπικειμένου δὲ τοῦ Πορσίνα τῇ πόλει λιμὸς ἥπτετο τῶν ῾Ρωμαίων. ἔκ τινος δὲ συμβεβηκότος ἢ μᾶλλον ἐκ προνοίας γενομένου ὁ Πορσίνας τὸν πρὸς ῾Ρωμαίους κατέλυσε πόλεμον. ἀνὴρ γάρ τις Μούκιος Κόρδος, εἰς πᾶσαν ἀρετὴν ἀγαθός, ἐν δὲ τοῖς πολεμικοῖς ἄριστος, Σκαιόλας τὴν ἐπίκλησιν, ὃ δηλοῖ τὸν μονόχειρα ἢ μὴ ἀρτιόχειρα, τὸν Πορσίναν ἀνελεῖν βουλευσάμενος παρῆλθεν εἰς τὸ ἐκείνου στρατόπεδον, Τυρσηνίδα φορῶν ἐσθῆτα καὶ ὁμοίᾳ κεχρημένος φωνῇ. καὶ σαφῶς μὲν τὸν Πορσίναν οὐκ εἰδώς, ἐρέσθαι δὲ δεδιώς, τὸν γραμματέα αὐτοῦ συγκαθήμενον αὐτῷ καὶ ὁμοίως ἔχοντα τῆς στολῆς σπασάμενος τὸ ξίφος ἀπέκτεινε, καὶ συλληφθεὶς ἀνεκρίνετο· ἐσχαρίδος δέ τινος τῷ Πορσίνᾳ μέλλοντι θύειν τότε κεκοσμημένης, ὑπερσχὼν τὴν χεῖρα καιομένης τῆς σαρκὸς εἱστήκει πρὸς τὸν Πορσίναν ἀποβλέπων ἀτρέπτῳ προσώπῳ, ὅθεν αὐτῷ τῆς χειρὸς φθαρείσης ἐγένετο ἡ ἐπίκλησις, μέχρι θαυμάσας ἐκεῖνος ἀφῆκεν αὐτόν. ὁ δὲ Σκαιόλας ἕτερον τρόπον ἐσοφίσατο τὸν ἐχθρόν, καὶ εἶπε “τὸν φόβον σου, Πορσίνα, νενικηκὼς ἥττημαί σου τῆς ἀρετῆς, καὶ χάριτι μηνύω ἃ πρὸς ἀνάγκην οὐκ ἂν ἐξηγόρευσα. τριακόσιοι ῾Ρωμαίων τὴν αὐτὴν ἐμοὶ γνώμην ἔχοντες ἐν τῷ στρατοπέδῳ σου διατρίβουσιν, ὧν ἐγὼ προεπιχειρήσας κλήρῳ λαχὼν οὐκ ἄχθομαι τῇ τύχῃ, διαμαρτὼν ἀνδρὸς ἀγαθοῦ καὶ φίλου μᾶλλον ἢ πολεμίου ῾Ρωμαίοις εἶναι προσήκοντος.” ἐντεῦθεν ὁ Πορσίνας πρὸς τὰς συμβάσεις ἐγένετο προθυμότερος.

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