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.
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.
They traveled on and on, day after day, and coming finally to the great mountains, some of them climbed up to see what was on the other side. When they beheld the green valleys of Italy, and saw how beautiful the country was, they told their companions, and all made haste to cross the mountains.
These people traveled on foot, with their families, cattle, and all their household goods; and they were very rude and uncivilized. Little by little, however, they learned to build houses, to cook their food, to make rude pottery from the clay they found in the valleys, to spin and weave the wool from their sheep, and to fashion this homemade stuff into garments.
Although each family at first lived by itself, they soon discovered that if several families joined together, they could cultivate the ground better, could hunt more successfully, and that in time of danger they could more easily defend themselves.
Thus several families would form a tribe under the strongest and cleverest man among them, whom they chose as their leader. These leaders selected the best place for them to settle in, told them what to do in time of war, and thus became chiefs or kings over their own tribes.
There were a number of such little kingdoms scattered throughout Italy, and as the people grew richer, wiser, and more numerous, they occupied more and more land.
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.
After many days of sailing thus on the blue waters of the Mediterranean, and after much suffering in the different islands where they stopped to rest, AEneas and his companions came at last to the island of Sicily. This, as you will see on your maps, is a three-cornered piece of land, near the toe of the boot formed by the Italian peninsula. While the Trojans were resting here, poor old Anchises died, and was buried by his sorrowing son. But as soon as the funeral rites were ended, AEneas prepared to sail away, for he knew that this was not the place where he was to make his new home.
Unfortunately for AEneas, some of the gods whom his people had so long worshiped had taken a dislike to all the Trojan race. It was these gods who made him suffer so much, and one of them now stirred up a terrible tempest.
The boats were tossed up and down on the waves, and driven apart by the fierce winds, and some of them sank under the water. The other vessels would have been dashed to pieces, and all the men on board would have perished, had not a second god interfered in favor of AEneas, and suddenly stilled the awful storm.
The wind was so high, the darkness so great, and the lightning flashes so blinding, that Ăneas had lost his bearings. When the storm was over, he sailed for the nearest land, and came to the coast of what is now Tunis; but he had no idea where he was. He therefore bade his companions remain on the ships, while he went ashore with only one man,-the faithful Achates, who always went with him, and was his devoted friend. So these two men started out and began cautiously to explore the country where they had landed, trying to find some one who could tell them where they were.
Before long they met a beautiful woman. This was Venus, the mother of AEneas, in disguise. She had come there to tell her son all about the place where he had landed, and to give him some good advice; but she did not wish to have him know her at first.
Venus, therefore, began to speak to AEneas as if he were a stranger, and in answer to his questions said that he had landed in Africa, near the new city of Carthage. This town, she said, was ruled by Dido, a beautiful queen, who had also come from the coast of Asia, but from a spot southeast of the ruined city of Troy.
Dido's husband had been murdered by her brother, and she had fled in the night, upon one of her vessels, carrying off all her treasures; for she knew that her brother would soon try to kill her also. Many of her faithful subjects followed her, swearing that they would settle wherever she wished, and promising to help her found a new kingdom of which she should be queen.
When Dido reached the coast of Africa, near the present city of Tunis, and saw how beautiful the country seemed, she wished to settle there; but the people refused to sell her the land on which to build a city. She tried in vain to persuade them, and finally made up her mind to secure the land by a clever trick. She therefore asked the people if they would be willing to sell her as much land as an oxhide would inclose. The rude people were quite ready to part with a few measures of dirt; so the bargain was at once made.
Imagine their surprise, however, when Dido had a large ox skin cut up into very narrow strips, drew these around a vast tract of land, and claimed it as her own! As the land had certainly been inclosed by an oxhide, they could not dispute her right to it, and Dido at once began to build a beautiful city, about which you will hear many tales.
Venus went away after telling her son the story of the oxhide and of the founding of Carthage; and AEneas, following her advice, then walked on to the city. Here he was kindly received by the beautiful queen, who made him and all his companions welcome in her palace. While there AEneas told her all about the long siege of Troy, the taking of the city, his escape by night, his long wanderings on the sea, and his shipwreck near her city.
These stories greatly interested Dido, and she kept Ăneas in her palace almost a whole year. As she had fallen in love with him, she would have liked to keep him there always; but the gods had decided that Ăneas should again set sail, and one day they sent him orders to depart at once.
Ăneas knew that Dido would do her best to keep him in Carthage, so he stole away while she slept, without even bidding her good-by. When she awoke and asked for him his ships were almost out of sight.
In her grief at his departure, Dido made up her mind to die. She gave orders that all the things he had used during his visit should be placed on a great pile of wood. Then she set fire to it with her own hand, and, stabbing herself, sprang into the flames, where she died.
Ăneas and his companions, having left Carthage, now sailed back to Sicily, where they visited the tomb of Anchises just one year after his death. To show respect for his father's memory, Ăneas ordered the celebration of games, as was the custom among the Trojans. The men strove with one another in a boat race, a foot race, in boxing and archery matches; and the boys took part in a drill and sham battle on horseback.
After the games were over, Ăneas coasted along the shore of Italy for some time, and finally came to the mouth of the Tiber River to Italy, on the coasts of Latium with his son Ascanius, the gods Penates and the Palladium1 of Troy. When Ăneas saw the fair country that stretched out before him, he bade his men sail up the stream, and towards evening they all went ashore to cook their food. Some flat cakes were baked, and as they had no dishes with them, Iulus (Ascanius) proposed that these should serve as plates.
The men all sat down around the fire; and Iulus, who was very hungry indeed, quickly ate his share of meat, and then devoured the cake on which it had been placed. As he swallowed the last mouthful he cried: Just see how hungry I was! I have eaten even the board on which my meal was served!
At these words Ăneas sprang to his feet, and cried that the prophecy was fulfilled at last, and that now they could settle in the beautiful country they had reached. The next day they were welcomed by Latinus, King of Latium, who, after hearing their story, remembered his dream, and promised that Ăneas should have his daughter Lavinia in marriage.
Although Ăneas had been so kindly welcomed to Latium by the king, his troubles were not yet ended. Turnus, the young king who had been engaged to Lavinia, was angry at her being given to another, and, in the hope of winning her still, he declared war against the Trojan strangers.
During the war Ăneas and Turnus both won much glory by their courage. At last they met in single combat, in which Turnus was conquered and slain; and Ăneas, having thus got rid of his rival, married the fair princess 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. The Trojans and Latins were now united, and during the next four hundred years the descendants of Ăneas continued to rule over them; for this was the kingdom which the gods had promised him when he fled from Troy. 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.
The king of Alba Longa, city founded by Ascanius, the son of Aeneas, was called Procas. He had two sons, Numitor and Amulius.
The throne finally came to Numitor, the fifteenth king of Alba Longa from Aeneas, a good and wise monarch. He had a son and a daughter, and little suspected that any one would harm either of them.
Unfortunately for him, however, his brother Amulius was anxious to secure the throne. He took advantage of Numitor's confidence, and, having driven his brother away, killed his nephew, and forced his niece, Rhea Sylvia, to become a servant of the goddess Vesta.
The girls who served this goddess were called Vestal Virgins. They were obliged to remain in her temple for thirty years, and were not allowed to marry until their time of service was ended. They watched over a sacred fire in the temple, to prevent its ever going out, because such an event was expected to bring misfortune upon the people.
If any Vestal Virgin proved careless, and allowed the sacred fire to go out, or if she failed to keep her vow to remain single, she was punished by being buried alive. With such a terrible fate in view, you can easily understand that the girls were very obedient, and Amulius thought that there was no danger of his niece's marrying as long as she served Vesta.
We are told, however, that Mars, the god of war, once came down upon earth. He saw the lovely Rhea Sylvia, fell in love with her, wooed her secretly, and finally persuaded her to marry him without telling any one about it.
For some time all went well, and no one suspected that Rhea Sylvia, the Vestal Virgin, had married the god of war. But one day a messenger came to tell Amulius that his niece was the mother of twin sons.
The king flew into a passion at this news, and vainly tried to discover the name of Rhea Sylvia's husband. She refused to tell it, and Amulius gave orders that she should be buried alive. Her twin children, Romulus and Remus, were also condemned to die; but, instead of burying them alive with their mother, Amulius had them placed in their cradle, and set adrift on the Tiber River.
The king thought that the babes would float out to sea, where they would surely perish; but the cradle drifted ashore before it had gone far. They landed safely on the banks of the Palatine Hill at the foot of a wild fig tree1. There the cries of the hungry children were heard by a she-wolf. This poor beast had just lost her cubs, which a cruel hunter had killed. So instead of devouring the babies, the she-wolf suckled them as if they were the cubs she had lost; and the Romans used to tell their children that a woodpecker brought the twins fresh berries to eat.
Thus kept alive by the care of a wolf and a bird, the children remained on the edge of the river, until a shepherd (called Faustulus) passed that way. He heard a strange noise in a thicket, and, on going there to see what was the matter, found the children with the wolf. Of course the shepherd was greatly surprised at this sight; but he took pity on the poor babies, and carried them home to his wife (Acca Larentia), who brought them up.
Remus and Romulus, the twins who had been nursed by the she-wolf, grew up among the shepherds. They were tall and strong, and so brave that all their companions were ready to follow them anywhere. One day, when they were watching their flocks on the hillside, their pasture was claimed by the shepherds who were working for Numitor.
The young men were angry at this, and as the shepherds would not go away, they began to fight. As they were only two against many, they were soon made prisoners, and were led before Numitor.
Their strong resemblance to the royal family roused the old man's suspicions. He began to question them, and soon the young men found out who they were. Then they called together a few of their bravest companions, and entered the city of Alba, where Amulius dwelt. The unjust king, taken by surprise, was easily killed; and the brothers made haste to place their grandfather, Numitor, again on the throne.
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. Ăn., VIII, 65). From there came the names of Rome, Romulus, and Remus (Philargyr, in Virg., Ecl., I, 20).
Remus and Romulus were too restless and fond of adventure to enjoy the quiet life at Alba, so they soon left their grandfather's court to found a kingdom of their own. They had decided that they would settle in the northern part of Latium, on the banks of the Tiber, in a place where seven hills rose above the surrounding plain, to move back to the place where Faustulus had found them. Here the two brothers said that they would build their future 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.
Before beginning, however, they thought it would be well to give the city a name. Each wanted the honor of naming it, and each wanted to rule over it when it was built. As they were twins, neither was willing to give up to the other, and as they were both hot-tempered and obstinate, they soon began to quarrel.
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.
The next thing was to draw a furrow all around the hill chosen as the most favorable site. The name of this hill was the Palatine. 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?'
Although this was a horrible crime, Romulus felt no remorse, and went on building his capital. All the hot-headed and discontented men of the neighboring kingdoms soon joined him; and the new city, which was founded seven hundred and fifty-three years before Christ, thus became the home of lawless men.
The city of Rome was at first composed of a series of mud huts, and, as Romulus had been brought up among shepherds, he was quite satisfied with a palace thatched with rushes. As the number of his subjects increased, however, the town grew larger and richer, and before long it became a prosperous city, covering two hills instead of one. On the second hill the Romans built a fortress, or citadel, which was perched on top of great rocks, and was the safest place in case of an attack by an enemy.
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.
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.
The new king of Rome was a pious man, and he built many temples for the worship of the gods. One of these was round, and was set aside for the service of Vesta, the goddess of the hearth, whose fire was guarded night and day by the Vestal Virgins.
Numa also built a square temple, in honor of the double-faced god Janus. This god was supposed to be the patron of all beginnings, and it is for this reason that the first month of the year was called January, or the month of Janus.
The second king of Rome was so wise that many people fancied that he was advised by a nymph, or water fairy, called Egeria. They said that this nymph lived in a fountain near Rome, in a beautiful spot which the king liked to visit; and whenever he went there to be quiet and think, they declared that it was to consult Egeria.
Numa Pompilius was not at all ambitious, and he had no wish to be king. He had accepted the office, therefore, only on condition that the people would obey him, and would try to be good.
Now, as you know, the Romans were a fighting people, and until then they had always been at war with some of their neighbors. But the new king made them keep the peace, and closed the gates of the Temple of Janus. Then he taught the Romans how to plow their fields, bade them sow and harvest grain, and showed them that farming was a far better and wise occupation than war.
The people were very superstitious, and thought that the stars, the weather, the flight of birds, and the actions of certain animals were signs of what would happen, if you could only understand them aright. Numa, therefore, said that there should be two companies of priests, whose duty it should be to tell what the gods wished, in a way that the people could understand.
In the first place, there were the Pontiffs,-priests who had general charge of all public worship, and who told the people which days would be lucky and which ones unlucky.
The other company of priests were called Augurs. They watched the changes in the weather, the flight of the birds, and the behavior of the geese which they kept in the temple. By observing these things carefully, they thought they could tell the future; and the people often asked them the meaning of certain signs, such as the sudden appearance of some bird or animal on their right or left side when they were starting out on a journey.
Besides the pontiffs and augurs, there was a lower class of priests, called Haruspices, who told the future by means of sacrifices. In those days the Romans used to offer up bulls, goats, sheep, and other animals, on the altars of their gods. It was the duty of these priests to kill the animals, open them, burn certain parts, and carefully examine the insides of the victims.
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 built in the form of a gateway; and the king ordered that its doors should be open in time of war, so that the people could go in freely to pray, and closed only in time of peace, when they felt no need of the god's help. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (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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