Untold Stories: Cloelia the Hostage

This story starts long before Rome became the seat of a huge empire, long before Cloelia herself was born, back to the reign of it’s first king, Romulus. The Etruscans, who lived on the other side of the Tiber River, decided that Rome was a threat and attacked it, laying waste to its territory. This was the start of many wars between the Roman and Etruscan people, wars that would constantly occur until the 8th century B.C, until the fall of the Roman monarchy.

In 509 B.C, the Roman monarchy fell and the Republic was formed. Trying to get his throne back, the toppled king, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, allied himself with Lars Porsena, the leader of an Etruscan city. Lars Porsena was powerful, and the Roman senate had their hands full warding off his attacks.

In 508 B.C., a peace treaty was brokered between Porsena and the Romans. Part of the agreement was that Rome would give Lars hostages, including a number of Roman virgins. Cloelia was one of these hostages. She, along with the other women, were taken to the enemy camp across the Tiber river and held prisoner there.

SF 11.126.2

Cloelia, not being the type of woman to just let herself get traded away, decided that she was going home.

In the dead of the night, she slipped out of her bonds and rescued several other Roman women. Together, they snuck free of the camp and started to sprint towards the Tiber river.

The Etruscan guards noticed them running and sprinted after them. With just enough of a head start, Cloelia and her friends reached the banks of the river.

At her urging, they jumped into the freezing cold water and started to swim desperately to the Roman shore, with the soldiers shooting arrows and missiles at their heads.

Miraculously, they made it. Dragging themselves out of the water, they staggered back to their homes.


Naturally, Lars Porsena was enraged and vowed to attack Rome again. He demanded to speak to the woman behind this daring escape.

Cloelia, having had quite enough of this already, went to meet with him.

No one knows exactly what went down, but Lars was so impressed by the bravery of this teenage girl that not only released her but let her take back even more of the Roman hostages.

He left and never attacked Rome again.


You Control Your Destiny

We’re telling stories of historical badass women like Cloelia, because these women are the original spitfires. Just like Cloelia, you control your destiny, and have the power to make the future for yourself that you want.

Let’s build a future where women build strength and power together. Let’s build a community of women who can help each other take control of their lives, like the heroines before us.

Join our community of badass spitfires. Let’s make this vision come to life. Start by backing us on Kickstarter today.


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