753-509 B.C.

The foundation of Rome

Origin of the Roman people

By looking at your maps, you will soon find in Europe a peninsula, shaped somewhat like a boot, and surrounded on three sides by the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas. This peninsula is Italy. To the north are the snow-topped Alps, a chain of high mountains which separate this country from the rest of Europe; and through the peninsula run the Apennines, a less lofty mountain range.

As Italy is in the southern part of Europe, it has a very mild and delightful climate. The tall mountains in the north prevent the cold winds from sweeping down upon it, and many plants which you see here in hothouses grow there in the open ground.

Orange and almond trees, camellias and pomegranates, are all covered with fruit or flowers, and the vine and olive both yield rich harvests in this beautiful land. The soil is so rich that people do not need to work very hard in order to have fine crops, and, as the weather is generally clear, they can live out of doors almost all the year round.

As the climate is so pleasant, the land so fertile, the skies so blue, and the views so beautiful, travelers have always liked to visit Italy, and have spoken about its charms to all they met. It is no wonder, therefore, that many people have gone to settle there, and you will easily understand that the whole country was occupied long, long ago.

So many years ago that no one can really tell when it was, Italy was already inhabited by a people who, judging from what we have heard of them, must once have lived in Central Asia. These people were probably crowded at home, and left their native land in search of good pasture for their cattle, and a fertile country where they might dwell.

In the center of Italy, between the Apennines mountains and the Mediterranean, lies a vast plain crossed by high hills and called Latium. This plain, watered at one end by the Tiber, is extremely fertile. Thus Latium had, from the earliest antiquity, a large population. There were no less than 30 cities. The most famous was the Alba longa, so called because it extended on the slopes of Mount Alban. Rome will succeed to his power.

The Romans surrounded by tradition the cradle of their origin. In the beginning, they said, there reigned over the natives of Latium, a foreign king, son of Apollo, Janus. He gave to Saturn, dispossessed by Jupiter, the Capitoline Hill, and the god, for the price of this hospitality, taught the Latins the art of cultivating wheat and the vine. Janus succeeded Picus, Faunus and Arcadian Evandra, who built a city on the Palatine. Hercules also came to Latium, where he abolished human sacrifices, and killed the brigand Cacus on the Aventine. Rome therefore placed gods, half-gods and heroes at the origin of its history.

about 1185 B.C.

Virgil and the Aeneid

The Aeneid is a poem written by Publius Virgilius Maro or Virgil (70-19 BC) in the last ten years of his life.

After the capture and destruction of Troy by the Greeks, Aeneas, the son of Anchises and Venus fled to Carthage, in Africa, where he was received and entertained in a hospitable manner by Queen Dido; he made no long stay here, but deserted her and sailed to Italy, on the coasts of Latium with his son Ascanius, the gods Penates and the Palladium1 of Troy. Aeneas married the daughter of a neighboring king Latinus, Lavinia and built a city in which he and his descendants reigned, Lavinium.

In a battle against the Rutuli, Aeneas, winner of Turnus, disappears amid the waves of Numicus, whose holy water has since been used for the cult of Vesta. The gods had received the hero. He was worshiped under the name of Jupiter Indiges.

His son Ascanius (also known as Iulius, Iule, Julius or Ascanius Julius) continued the war, and in a singular fight, killed Mezence the ally of Turnus. Leaving the insalubrious coast where his father had founded Lavinium, he went to build Alba Longa on Mount Alban. Twelve kings of the blood of Aeneas succeeded one another; the last, Procas, left two sons, Numitor and Amulius.

This epic is located between the twelfth and eighth century BC. Julius or Iulius (or Julius) Caesar, of the Julian family claimed to descend from Iule, the son of Aeneas.

1. The Palladium was a statue of Pallas, which was said to have fallen from heaven, and to which, it was said, the destinies of Troy were attached. Ulysses thought it pleased her, but Aeneas won in Italy, and from Alba she went to Rome where she was kept in a secret place which the Great Pontiff alone and the great vestal knew.

794-735 B.C.

Numitor and Amulius

The king of Alba Longa, city founded by Ascanius, the son of Aeneas, was called Procas. He had two sons, Numitor and Amulius.

Numitor, the fifteenth king of Alba Longa from Aeneas was deposed by his brother Amulius; his son was put to death, and his daughter Rhea Sylvia obliged to become a vestal virgin in order that she might not marry and have children. One day Mars, the god of war, saw Rhea Silvia and fell in love with her.

Later, Rhea happened to bear two sons, and Amulius on hearing of their birth, ordered them to be thrown into the river Tiber, and Rhea to be buried alive according to the strict laws of the Vesta cult. The babes were put in a basket and placed by the water, that when the river rose it might float them away and drown them, but the basket swam and they were saved.

They floated down the river. They landed safely on the banks of the Palatine Hill at the foot of a wild fig tree1. A she-wolf rescued the two babies and looked after them. A shepherd called Faustulus saw the she-wolf with the baby boys. He took them home to his wife, Acca Larentia. The two boys were named Romulus and Remus, and on growing up became shepherds and hunters.

Finally they were told of their high birth, and informed that in right of their mother they ought to be kings of the country. Upon this they collected their friends, and made war against their uncle who had usurped the throne; they defeated and killed him, and their old grandfather Numitor was restored.

1. The ficus Ruminalis, religiously preserved for centuries. Ruma or rumis has the meaning of mamma (Varro, de Re rust., II, I, 20), and the Tiber called itself Rumon, that is to say the river with fertilizing waters (Serv. Æn., VIII, 65). From there came the names of Rome, Romulus, and Remus (Philargyr, in Virg., Ecl., I, 20).

753 B.C.

Romulus and Remus : the foundation of Rome

Romulus et Remus

As Numitor was in possession of the kingdom, Romulus and Remus decided to move back to the place where Faustulus had found them and build their own city. Indeed, the place is propitious, because it is located on the edge of the largest river of the Italian peninsula, a short distance from the sea and on the border of three peoples, the Sabines, the Latins and the Etruscans, to from which it will be easy in the future to grow. In addition several hills arranged in semicircles, make this place remarkably well located, and very easy to defend. Romulus wanted to build the city on the Palatine Hill and Remus wanted to build it on the Capitoline Hill.

In order to proceed to this undertaking with all possible solemnity, the two brothers were advised by the king Numitor to take an omen, according to the custom of the country, from the flight of birds, and that he whose omen should be most favorable, should direct the other. In compliance with this advice, they both took their stations upon different hills (Romulus the Palatine, Remus on the Capitoline Hill).

To Remus appeared six vultures; to Romulus, twice that number; so that each one thought himself victorious; the one having the first omen, the other, the most complete. Romulus thus prevails: the chosen location is the Palatine and the future city receives the name of Rome1. Respecting the Etruscan rites and customs, Romulus harnesses a bullock and a stubble heifer to a plow, and with the help of a plinth of brass he draws a furrow around the Palatine which represents the circuit of the walls, the enclosure sacred: the Pomerium2. (April 21, 753 BC). This produced a contest, which ended in a battle, in which Remus was slain; and it is said that he was killed by his brother, who being provoked at his leaping over the city wall, struck him dead upon the spot, saying 'So perish all that shall dare to insult the walls of Rome?'

Historians date the creation of the city on April 21, 753 BC.

A religious ceremony, the festival of Lemurs (Lemuria) is instituted by Romulus to appease the manes of his brother.

Romulus became King of the new city, which was called Rome in his honour.

1. Rome, in Greek, means force, and its secret name was perhaps Valentia, of the verb Valere which has the same meaning. The profane name was Roma, the priestly name Flora; there was a third secret name, perhaps Amor, anagram of Roma, and it was forbidden to pronounce on pain of death (Munter, De occulto urbis Romo nomine). Others say Valentia or Angeroma. See Maury, memory on Servius Tullius. Great care was taken to hide this name, says Pline (Hist, nat., XXVIII, 4), because it was at the same time that of the tutelary deity of the city. As long as it remained unknown, the enemy priests could not decide this god to abandon his people, by promising him in their city greater honors, ampliorem cultum, which, according to the ideas of the ancients, was the determining reason of the favor of the gods.

2. Under Servius, six hills were enclosed in the pomerium; until Claude, the Aventine remained outside this enclosure.

753-715 B.C.

Rome of kings

Romulus, first king of Rome

Rome was founded by Romulus, 753 years B. C. Romulus, who was the chief of a small tribe, gave his name to the people, who were called Romans; and laid the foundation of a city and empire, destined to render his name famous in every subsequent age. Romulus was the first king of Rome, and enjoyed a long and prosperous reign of thirty seven years.

Romulus, being sole commander, and eighteen years of age, began the foundation of a city, that was one day to give laws to the world. It was called Rome, after the name of the founder, and built upon the Palatine hill, on which he had taken his successful omen. This city was at first almost square, containing about a thousand houses.

It was nearly a mile in compass, and had a small territory round it of about eight miles in extent. The first method practised to increase its numbers, was the opening of a sanctuary for all malefactors, slaves, and such as were desirous of novelty; these came in great multitudes.

Scarcely was the city raised above its foundation, when its rude inhabitants began to think of giving some form to their constitution. Romulus left them at liberty to choose their own king; and they elected their founder; he was acknowledged as sovereign magistrate of Rome, and general of the army.

Besides a guard to attend his person, he was preceded wherever he went by twelve men, called lictors, armed with axes, and who were to serve as executioners of the law, and to impress his new subjects with an idea of his authority.

The senate, which was to act as a body of counsellors to the king, was composed of an hundred of the principal citizens of Rome, consisting of men whose ages, wisdom, or valor, gave them a natural authority over their fellow subjects; and the king named the first senator and appointed him to the government of the city, whenever war required his own absence. The senators were called Patres or Fathers.

The Plebeians, who composed the third part of the legislature, assumed the power of authorizing those laws, which were passed by the king or the senate. All things relating to peace or war, the election of magistrates, and the choosing of a king, were confirmed by their suffrages.

The first care of the new created king, was to attend to the interests of religion; but the precise form of their worship is unknown. The greatest part of the religion of that age consisted in firm reliance upon the credit of their soothsayers, who pretended, from observations on the flight of birds, and the entrails of beasts, to direct the present, and to dive into futurity. Romulus, by an express law, commanded that no election should be made, or enterprise undertaken, without first consulting them.

Wives were forbidden to separate from their husbands; but the husband was empowered to divorce his wife, and even in some cases, to put her to death. The laws respecting children and their parents were still more severe; the father had entire power over his offspring, both of fortune and life; he could sell or imprison them at any age (Pater familias).

The army consisted of three thousand foot, and about as many hundred horsemen. These were divided equally into three tribes. Each of these tribes was subdivided into ten curiae or companies, consisting of an hundred men each, with a centurion to command it; a priest called Curio, to perform the sacrifices; and two of the principal inhabitants, called duumviri, to distribute justice. By these regulations, each day added strength to the new city.

Romulus sent deputies to the Sabines, a neighboring nation, offering to form a strict confederacy with them, but the Sabines, who were then considered as the most warlike people of Italy, rejected the proposal with disdain. Romulus proclaimed a feast in honor of Neptune throughout all the neighboring villages. These feasts were generally preceded by sacrifices, and ended in shows of wrestlers, gladiators, and chariot races.

The Sabines as he had expected, were among the foremost who came to be spectators, bringing their wives and daughters to share the pleasure of the sight. The games began, and while the strangers were most intent upon the spectacle, a number of Roman youth rushed in among them with drawn swords, seized the youngest and most beautiful women, and carried them off by violence.

A bloody war ensued. Several nations resolved to revenge the common cause, which the Sabines seemed too dilatory in pursuing. But all these were conquered by Romulus, who made merciful use of his victory. Instead of destroying their towns, he placed colonies of Romans in them to serve as a frontier to repress more distant invasions.

Tatius, king of Cures, a Sabine city, was the last, who undertook to revenge the disgrace of his country. He entered the Roman territories at the head of twenty five thousand men, and not content with a superiority of forces, he added stratagem. Tarpeia, who was daughter to the commander of the Capitoline hill, happened to fall into his hands as she went without the walls of the city to bring water.

Upon her he prevailed by means of large promises, to betray one of the gates to his army. The reward she demanded was what the soldiers wore on their arms; by which she meant their bracelets. They, either mistaking her meaning, or willing to punish her perfidy, threw their bucklers upon her as they entered, and crushed her to death.

The Sabines being thus possessed of the Capitoline, an engagement ensued, which was renewed for several days, and neither could think of submitting.

The engagement had become general, when the Sabine women, who had been carried off by the Romans, rushed in between the combatants, and with loud outcries, implored their husbands and their children to desist.

Upon this, the combatants let fall their weapons; an accommodation ensued, by which it was agreed that Romulus and Tatius should reign jointly in Rome, with equal power and prerogative; that an hundred Sabines should be admitted into the Senate; that the city should still retain its former name, but that the citizens should be called Quirites, after Cures, the principal town of the Sabines, and that such of the Sabines as chose, should be admitted to live in Rome and enjoy all the privileges of citizens of that city.

Tatius was killed, about five years after, by the Lavinians, and Romulus once more saw himself sole monarch of Rome.

Success produced pride in the conqueror, and he began to affect absolute sway. The Senate was particularly displeased at his conduct, finding themselves only used as instruments to ratify his commands. We are not told the precise manner which they employed to get rid of him; some say that he was torn in pieces in the senate house; others, that he disappeared while reviewing his army.

They persuaded the multitude that he was taken up into heaven; being thus content to worship him as a god, whom they could not serve as a king. Romulus reigned thirty seven years, and after his death a temple was built to his memory.

715-673 B.C.

Numa Pompilius

After the death of Romulus, there was an interregnum of one year; then Numa, a Sabine, was elected king, 715 B.C. Numa was the second king of Rome, and was distinguished for his pious and pacific disposition. He reigned prosperously and peaceably 43 years.

Upon the death of Romulus, the city seemed greatly divided in the choice of a successor. The Sabines were for having a king chosen from their body; but the Romans could not bear the thoughts of advancing a stranger to the throne. The Senators undertook to supply the place of the king, by taking the government each of them in his turn, for five days, and during that time, enjoying all the honors and privileges of royalty.

This new form of government continued for a year, but the Plebeians, who saw that this method of transferring power was only multiplying their masters, insisted upon altering the mode of government. The Senate being thus driven to an election, at length chose Numa Pompilius, a Sabine; and their choice was received with universal approbation by the people.

Numa Pompilius, who was now about forty years of age, had long been eminent for his piety, justice, moderation, and exemplary life.

He was skilled in all the learning and philosophy of the Sabines, and lived at home at Cures, contented with a private fortune, unambitious of higher honors. He pretended to divine inspiration in order to give the greater authority to his laws, which in themselves were excellent. He multiplied the national gods, built temples, and instituted different classes of priests, Flamines, salii... and a variety of religious ceremonies.

The flamines officiated each in the service of a particular deity; the salii guarded the sacred bucklers; the vestals cherished the sacred fire; and augurs divined future events from the flight of birds, and the entrails of victims.

The temple of Janus was open in war, and shut during peace. Numa reformed the calendar, dividing the year into twelve lunar months, and distinguishing the days for civil occupation (called fasti) from those dedicated to religious rest (called nefasti) Agriculture was lawful on the latter, as a duty of religion.

Having arrived at the age of fourscore years, and having reigned forty three in profound peace, Numa died, ordering his body to be buried in a stone coffin, contrary to the custom of the times, and his books of ceremonies which consisted of twelve in Latin, and as many in Greek, to be buried by his side in another.

673-641 B.C.

Tullus Hostilius

Oath of the Horatii
Oath of the Horatii
David, Musée du Louvre

Tullus Hostilius was the successor of Numa, and was of a warlike disposition. He commenced his reign 673 years B.C. He died 640 years before the Christian era, after a reign of thirty two years.

After the death of Numa, the government once more devolved upon the Senate, and continued till the people elected Tullus Hostilius for their king. This monarch was every way unlike his predecessor, being entirely devoted to war.

The Albans were the first people who gave him an opportunity of indulging his favorite inclinations. The forces of these two states met about five miles from Rome, and prepared to decide the fate of their respective kingdoms. The two armies were drawn out in array, awaiting the signal to begin, when an unexpected proposal from the Alban general prevented the onset.

Stepping in between both armies, he made the Romans an offer of deciding the dispute by single combat; adding, that the side whose champion was overcome, should submit to the conqueror. A proposal like this, suited the impetuous temper of the Roman king, and was embraced with joy by his subjects, each of whom hoped that he should be chosen to fight the cause of his country.

There were, at this time, three twin brothers in each army; those of the Romans were called Horatii, and those of the Albans, Curiatii, all six remarkable for their courage, strength, and activity; and to these it was resolved to commit the management of the combat. At length the champions met, and each, totally regardless of his own safety, only sought the destruction of his opponent.

The spectators, in horrid silence, trembled at every blow, and wished to share the danger, till fortune seemed to decide the glory of the field. Victory appeared to declare against the Romans; they beheld two of their champions lying dead upon the plain, and the three Curiatii who were wounded, slowly endeavoring to pursue the survivor, who seemed by flight to beg for mercy.

They soon perceived that his flight was only pretended, in order to separate his antagonists, whom he was unable to oppose united; for quickly stopping, and turning upon him who followed most closely, he laid him dead at his feet; the second brother, who came on to assist him who had fallen, only shared the same fate; and now there remained but the last Curiatius to conquer, who, fatigued and quite disabled with his wounds, slowly came up to offer an easy victory. He was killed almost unresisting, while the conqueror offered him as a victim to the superiority of the Romans, whom now the Alban army consented to obey.

The very hand that in the morning was exerted to save his country, was before night imbrued in the blood of his sister. For, returning triumphant from the field, it raised his indignation to behold her lamenting the loss of her lover, one of the Curiatii, to whom she was betrothed. This provoked him so that he slew her in a rage. An act which greatly displeased the senate and drew on him the condemnation of the magistrates, but he was pardoned upon his appeal to the people.

Hostilius died, after a reign of thirty two years; some say by lightning, others, with more probability, by treason.

641-616 B.C.

Ancus Martius (or Marcius)

Ancus Martius, the grandson of Numa, was elected king of Rome, on the death of Tullus, 641 years B.C. He inherited the piety and virtues of his grandfather, and joined to these the talents of a warrior. He reigned gloriously twenty five years.

After an interregnum, as in the former case1, Ancus Martius (Marcius), the grandson of Numa, was elected king by the people, and the choice was confirmed by the senate. He instituted the sacred ceremonies, which were to precede a declaration of war; he took every occasion to advise his subjects to return to the arts of agriculture, and to lay aside the less useful stratagems of war.

The Latins began to make incursions upon his territories, but Ancus conquered them, destroyed their cities, removed their inhabitants to Rome, and increased his territories by the addition of part of theirs.

He quelled also an insurrection of the Veii, the Fidenates, and the Volscians, and obtained a second triumph over the Sabines.

But his victories over the enemy were by no means comparable to his works at home, in raising temples, fortifying the city, making a prison for malefactors, and building a seaport at the mouth of the Tiber, called Ostia, by which he secured to his subjects the trade of that river and that of the salt pits adjacent. Thus having enriched his subjects, and beautified the city, he died after a reign of twenty four years.

1. After the death of Romulus, there was an interregnum of one year. An interregnum is the time that elapses between the death or removal of a king and the beginning of the next reign.

616-575 B.C.

Tarquinius Priscus, first Etruscan king of Rome

Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, a citizen of Corinth, was elected to the vacant throne 616 years B. C. He was distinguished for his wealth and liberality, and was victorious in war, but was assassinated in the thirtyeighth year of his reign.

Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, whose original name was Lucumon, a citizen of Corinth, was appointed guardian to the sons of the late king (Ancus Martius). He took the name of Tarquinius, from the city in which he resided.

He was advised by his wife Tanaquil to transfer his residence to Rome, where merit alone was sufficient to give a man distinction. As he approached the gate of the city, an eagle stooped from the air, and took his hat from his head; he flew round the chariot with it for some time, making a loud noise, and then replaced it.

Tanaquil his wife, who was skilled in augury, interpreted this as a presage that he should one day wear the crown; it was probably this which first aroused his ambition.

After the death of Ancus, the government as usual, devolving upon the senate, Tarquin used every exertion to have the king's children set aside, and himself elected to the throne. Being guardian to the king's sons, he contrived on the day of election to have them sent out of the city, and in a speech to the people made a representation of his friendship for them, the riches he had spent among them, and his knowledge of their government : on these accounts he offered himself as their king. He was unanimously elected.

Although he obtained the kingdom in this indirect manner, yet he governed with equity. In the beginning of his reign, with a view to recompense his friends, he added an hundred members more to the senate, which made them in all three hundred. But his peaceful endeavors were soon interrupted by the inroads of his restless neighbors, particularly the Latins, whom he defeated and forced to beg a peace. He then turned his arms against the Sabines, who had risen once more, and had passed over the river Tiber; Tarquin, attacking them with vigor, routed their army; and many who escaped the sword, were drowned in attempting to cross the stream, while their bodies and armor, floating down to Rome, carried news of the victory before the messengers could arrive that were sent with the tidings.

Tarquin having thus forced his enemies into submission, undertook and perfected several public works for the convenience and embellishment of the city.

In his time, the augurs came into great reputation, and he found it his interest to promote the superstition of the people, as this would increase their obedience. Tanaquil, his wife, was a great pretender to this art, but Accius Naevius was the most celebrated soothsayer in Rome.

Upon a certain occasion, Tarquin, being resolved to try the augur's skill, asked him whether what he was then pondering in his mind could be effected ?

Naevius having examined his auguries, boldly affirmed that it might. "Why then," replied the king, "I had thought of cutting this whetstone with a razor." " Cut boldly," replied the augur; and the king cut it through accordingly. Thenceforward nothing was undertaken in Rome without consulting the augurs, and obtaining their advice and approbation.

Tarquin was not content with the kingdom without the ensigns of royalty; and in imitation of the Lydian kings, he assumed a crown of gold, an ivory throne, a sceptre surmounted by an eagle, and robes of purple. It was the splendor of these royalties that first raised the envy of the late king's sons, who had for above thirty seven years, quietly submitted to his government.

His design also of adopting Servius Tullius, his son-in-law for his successor, might have contributed to inflame their resentment. They resolved to destroy him; and at last found means to effect their purpose, by hiring two ruffians, who demanded to speak with the king, pretending that they came for justice, and struck him dead in his palace with the blow of an axe.

The lictors, who attended the king, seized the murderers, who were afterwards put to death; but the sons of Ancus who were the instigators, saved themselves by flight. Such was the end of Lucius Tarquinius, who was surnamed Priscus, or the first, to distinguish him from one of his successors of the same name : he fell at the age of eighty years, having reigned thirty eight.

Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, a citizen of Corinth, was elected to the vacant throne 616 years B. C. He was distinguished for his wealth and liberality, and was victorious in war, but was assassinated in the thirtyeighth year of his reign.

575-535 B.C.

Servius Tullius

Servius Tullius, who married the daughter of Tarquin, secured by his address, and the intrigues of his mother-in-law, his election, as king ot Rome, 575 years B. C. Servius was munificent to the poor. He was assassinated after a reign of forty years, by the aid of Tullia, his daughter, who married Lucius Tarquinius, grandson of Priscus.

The report of the murder of Tarquin, filled all his subjects with indignation. In this tumult, Tanaquil, widow of the late king (Tarquinius Priscus), considering the danger she must incur in case the conspirators should succeed to the crown, and desirous of having her son-in-law for his successor, with great art dissembled her sorrows as well as the king's death.

She assured the people, from one of the windows of the palace, that he was not killed, but stunned by the blow; that he would shortly recover; and that he had deputed his power to Servius Tullius, his son-in-law. Servius accordingly issued from the palace, adorned with the ensigns of royalty, and preceded by his lictors, went to dispatch some affairs that related to the public safety, pretending that he took his instructions from the king.

This scene of dissimulation continued till he had made a party among the nobles, when the death of Tarquin being publicly ascertained, Servius came to the crown, solely by the senate's appointment, and without the suffrages of the people.

Servius was the son of a bondwoman. While an infant, a flame was said to have played round his head, which Tanaquil converted into an omen of his future greatness.

Upon being acknowledged king, his chief exertions were employed to increase the power of the senate, by depressing that of the people.

In order to ascertain the increase or diminution of his subjects and their fortunes, he instituted a regulation, which he called a lustrum. By this all the citizens were to assemble in the Campus Martius, in complete armor, once in five years, to give an exact account of their families and property.

Having enjoyed a long reign, spent in settling the domestic policy of the kingdom, and not inattentive to foreign concerns, he had hopes of concluding it with tranquillity and ease. He had even thoughts of laying down his power, and, having formed the kingdom into a Republic, to retire into obscurity; but so generous a design was frustrated.

In the beginning of his reign, to secure his throne by every precaution, he had married his two daughters to the two grandsons of Tarquin; and as he knew the two women were of opposite dispositions, as well as their intended husbands, he resolved to curb their tempers by giving each of them to a husband of a contrary turn of temper; by this he supposed each would correct the failings of the other, and the mixture would be productive of concord. The event proved otherwise.

Lucius, his haughty son-in-law, soon grew displeased with the meekness of his consort, and placed his whole affection upon Tullia, his brother's wife, who answered his passion with sympathetic ardor. As their wishes were ungovernable, they soon resolved to break through every restraint that prevented their union; both undertook to murder their consorts, which they effected, and were soon married.

After the destruction of their consorts, they conspired against the life of the king. They began by raising factions against him, alleging his illegal title to the crown. Lucius claimed it, as heir to Tarquin.

When he found the senate ripe for seconding his views, he entered the senate house, adorned with all the ensigns of royalty, and placing himself upon the throne, began to harangue them upon the obscurity of the king's birth, and the injustice of his title.

While he was speaking, Servius entered, attended by a few followers, and seeing his throne thus rudely invaded, offered to push the usurper from his seat; and Tarquin threw the old man down the steps, and some of his adherents followed the king, as he was feebly attempting to get to the palace, and despatched him by the way, throwing his body, all mangled and bleeding, as a public spectacle, into the street.

Tullia, burning with impatience for the event, was informed of what her husband had done, and resolving to be among the first who should salute him as a monarch, ordered her chariot to the senate house: - but as her charioteer approached the place where her father's body lay exposed, the man offered to turn another way-, this served to increase the fierceness of her anger; she threw the footstool at his head and ordered him to drive over the dead body. Such was the end of Servius Tullius, a prince eminent for justice and moderation, after a useful and prosperous reign of forty four years.

535-509 av. J.C.

Lucius Tarquinius Superbus or Tarquin the Proud

Le Viol de Lucrèce
The Rape of Lucretia
Titien, 1571, Fitzwilliam Museum

Lucius Tarquinius Superbus or Tarquin the Proud (so called for his pride and insolence) was the grandson of Tarquinius Priscus. He ascended the throne after his father-in-law, Servius Tullius, 535 years B.C. and "was the seventh and last king of Rome". Tarquin was tyrannical, and was expelled after a reign of 25 years.

Having obtained the crown irregularly and wickedly, Tarquin feared to call together any of the constitutional assemblies, and governed by his own authority only : his character will be well understood from the story of his younger son Sextus. Tarquin was of a warlike disposition, and conquered many of the neighboring states; the people of Gabii were more obstinate in their resistance than the rest, and Tarquin resolved to bring them into subjection by stratagem; his son Sextus, instructed by his father, hastened to Gabii, and related to him a crafty tale, how cruelly Tarquin had treated him, and how he was bent on revenge. The innocent Gabians believed him, and gave him the command of their forces. Tarquin suffered himself to be defeated in two or three inconsiderable actions, and the Gabians congratulated themselves on their security and wisdom.

In this circumstance, Sextus sent a secret embassy to his father to inquire what he should do next. The messenger on his return related with astonishment, that he could not get a word from the proud king of Rome.

Tarquin had led him into his garden, and heard all he had to say, but instead of paying him any attention, only amused him the while, by striking off with his cane the head of every flower, that by accident was taller than its neighbor. Sextus well understood the meaning of his father; he destroyed the most eminent men of Gabii one after another, and reconciled the common people to his measure by dividing the wealth of the deceased among the poorer citizens; when he had done enough of this, and there was not a man of character left, he delivered the city without resistance into the hands of Tarquin the Proud.

Tarquin had now reigned several years, and the people of Rome were tired of his tyranny, when the flame of hatred broke out against him, and his power was destroyed, by an accident. In one of his military expeditions, the young officers, kinsmen of the king, were drinking together, when the conversation happened to turn on the merit of their wives; after disputing some time, one of them said : "What signifies wrangling ? if we mount our horses, we can be at Rome, and back again, before morning. We may then observe the beauty and employment of each, and compare them on the spot". This was agreed to, and put in execution. All the ladies of rank, except one, were found in the midst of feasts, entertainments, and luxury. Lucretia, the wife of Collatinus, the most beautiful of all, was discovered in the midst of her maids, at midnight, employed in works of industry. Every one yielded the preference to this exemplary matron; she received her guests politely, and prepared every thing with alacrity for their entertainment.

Sextus Tarquin viewed this scene with other eyes than the rest, and fell violently in love with the virtuous Lucretia. A few nights after, he came alone to her residence, and disclosed his passion; she received his propositions with scorn; he affirmed that if she offered to resist, he would murder her on the spot, together with one of her slaves, and assure her husband that he had discovered and killed them together. Lucretia was terrified into submission by this villanous menace, and Sextus returned to the camp before morning.

The next day, Lucretia sent for her father and husband, determined to disclose everything. They found her with her hair dishevelled, sitting among ashes. She expressed the utmost horror at what had passed; declared that she was disgraced for ever; and saying this, drew forth a dagger which she had concealed, and struck it to her heart.

The father and the husband were motionless with astonishment. The first person aroused by this dreadful act, was Lucius Junius Brutus, whose mother was the sister of Tarquin; his father and elder brother had been put to death by the tyrant for the sake of their wealth. Brutus to save his own life, had pretended to be a simpleton. This man, hitherto deemed an idiot, suddenly drew forth the dagger dropping with blood, from the body of Lucretia, and holding it up to the view of all, exclaimed : "By this most chaste blood, which, but for royal crime had never been defiled, I swear, and call the immortal Gods to witness, that henceforth I will not cease to pursue the tyrant and his race, with fire, sword, and every imaginable hostility; nor will I endure them, or any other man to reign in Rome, from this time for ever."

The abhorrence conceived by the Romans against the government of the Tarquins, was now at its height; there needed nothing but so striking an event to cause it to break out into open defiance; the city and the camp declared almost at the same time against the tyrants. Tarquin hastened to Rome, to quell the insurrection, but the gates were shut against him. He turned back to the camp, to bring up the army against the citizens, but he was forbidden to enter; and thus, in the year, according to the vulgar computation, 244 from the building of the city, royalty perished in Rome, and the republican government began.

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