Mucius Scaevola

In existographies, Mucius Scaevola (c.526-508BC), or "Gaius Mucius", was a Roman assassin, possibly mythical, characteristically described as a person possessing the rarest and firmest of wills.

In 9BC, Livy, in his History of Rome, stated that Scaevola was the first of three hundred Roman youths to volunteer for the task of assassinating Porsena, the king of Clusium, whom Rome was at war with. During the assassination attempt, however, Scaevola, accidently killed the king’s scribe. When he was caught, he boasted:

“I am Gaius Mucius, a citizen of Rome. I came here as an enemy to kill my enemy, and I am as ready to die as I am to kill. We Romans act bravely and, when adversity strikes, we suffer bravely.”

Scaevola, to prove his bravery, then thrust his right hand in a fire that was lit for sacrifice, holding it there without giving any indication of pain; commenting:

“Watch, so that you know how cheap the body is to men who have their eye on great glory.”


In 1320BC, Dante Alighieri, in his Divine Comedy, refers to Scaevola burning hand, and along with St. Lawrence (225-258AD), he is described as a person possessing the rarest and firmest of wills.

In c.1724, Jean Rousseau, c. age 12, states, as discussed in his Confessions (1769), as a child, he attempted to replicate Mucius' action by placing his hand over a chafing dish.

In 1856, Friedrich Nietzsche, aged 12, attempting to prove the story could be true to his classmates at Schulpforte, burnt his outstretched palm over a book of burning matches without expression of pain and was only saved from serious harm by the school's prefect. [2]

1. Livy. (9BC). History of Rome (§:2.21) (Ѻ). Publisher.
2. Levine, Peter. (1995). Nietzsche and the Modern Crisis of the Humanities (pg. 3). State University of New York Press.

Quotes | On
The following are quotes on Scaevola:

“When Mucius Scaevola held his hand in the fire, he was as much acting under the influence of necessity (caused by interior motives) that urged him to this strange action, as if his arm had been held by strong men: pride, despair, the desire of braving his enemy, a wish to astonish him, an anxiety to intimidate him, were the invisible chains that held his hand bound to the fire.”
Baron d’Holbach (1770), The System of Nature (pg. 96)

External links

Mucius Scaevola – Wikipedia.

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