Mucius Scaevola

When king Porsena was besieging Rome, Gaius Mucius went out of the city with the intention of killing him, but by mistake stabbed the king's secretary instead of Porsena himself. The king in his passion and alarm ordered him to be burned alive, upon which Mucius thrust his right hand into a fire which was already lighted for a sacrifice, and held it there without flinching. The king, amazed at his firmness, ordered him to be removed from the altar, and bade him go away free and uninjured. To make some return for his generous behaviour, Mucius told him that there were three hundred of the first youths of Rome who had agreed with one another to kill the king; that the lot fell on him to make the first attempt, and that the rest would do the same when their turn came. Porsena being alarmed for his life, which he could not secure against so many desperate men, made proposals of peace to the Romans, and evacuated the territory. Mucius received the name of Scaevola, or "left-handed," from the loss of his right hand.

As a reward for his valor, Mucius was given some land on the other size of the Tiber, which was afterward called the Mucian meadows.



  • Cicero. For Sestius, 21.48.
  • Florus. Epitome Rerum Romanorum i, 10.
  • Livy. History of Rome ii, 12, 13.

This article incorporates text from Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898) by Harry Thurston Peck, which is in the public domain.