She was one of the women taken hostage by Lars Porsena, as a part of the peace treaty which ended the war between Rome and Clusium in 508 BC. She escaped from the Etruscan camp, leading away a group of Roman virgins. According to Valerius Maximus, she fled upon a horse, and swam across the river Tiber through a barrage of hostile darts thus bringing her band of girls to safety.
When Porsena learnt of their escape, he quickly sent emissaries to Rome demanding her return. However, Porsena soon reconsidered deciding that her deeds were worthy of admiration, equal to that of Cocles and Mucius. He declared to the Romans that if she were restored to him he would send her back to Rome safe and inviolate, but if his demands were not met he should regard the treaty as broken.
The Romans agreed to the conditions and returned the pledge of peace, as the treaty required. Porsena praised Cloelia on her arrival and as a reward for her heroism, promised to release half the share of his hostages of her choice. It is said that she selected the young boys, as was unanimously decided by the hostages, since they were particularly in at the risk of abuse.
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