According to Roman legend, the Horatii were triplets who defended Rome against Alba Longa. To avoid a costly battle, the two cities decided to settle their dispute with a duel between champions from each side.
The Horatii brothers fought against triplets from Alba Longa called the Curiatii. After two of the Horatii were killed, the third, Publius Horatius, pretended to flee. The Curiatii pursued him but could not stay together because of their wounds. Horatius turned and attacked them one at a time and killed all three. Although Horatius won the contest, his sister was overcome with grief. She had been engaged to one of the Curiatii, and she wept when she realized her brother had killed her husband-to-be. Seeing her tears, Horatius stabbed her, saying, "So perish any Roman woman who mourns the enemy."
Horatius was sentenced to die for his act, but he successfully appealed to the people to spare his life. Some scholars believe that the story was created to explain the origin of the Roman tradition by which condemned prisoners could appeal to the public to avoid a death sentence.
See also Roman Mythology.