The regal government being abolished, two Consuls were chosen to govern the republic. Lucius Junius Brutus, and Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus were the first who were chosen to this office. These Consuls displayed great firmness in the support of the new republic, by the execution of the sons of Brutus and the nephew of Collatinus for entering into a conspiracy with Tarquin against the Romans.
Although the Romans in anger had vowed that they would never have any more kings, they would willingly have let Brutus rule them. He was too good a citizen, however, to accept this post; so he told them that it would be wiser to give the authority to two men, called Consuls, whom they could elect every year.
Brutus, the deliverer of his country, and Collatinus the husband of Lucretia, were the first Consuls in Rome.
This plan pleased the Romans greatly, and the government was called a Republic, because it was in the hands of the people themselves. The first election took place almost immediately, (the centuries of the people chose from among the senators annually, two magistrates called Consuls) and Brutus and Collatinus were the first two consuls.
The new rulers of Rome were very busy. Besides governing the people, they were obliged to raise an army to fight Tarquin, who was trying to get his throne back again.
The first move of the exiled king was to send messengers to Rome, under the pretext of claiming his property. But the real object of these messengers was to bribe some of the people to help Tarquin recover his lost throne.
Some of the Romans were so wicked that they preferred the rule of a bad king to that of an honest man like Brutus. Such men accepted the bribes, and began to plan how to get Tarquin back into the city. They came together very often to discuss different plans, and among these traitors were the sons of Brutus, and the Aquilii, the nephews of Collatinus.
One day they and their companions were making a plot to place the city again in Tarquin's hands. In their excitement, they began to talk aloud, paying no attention to a slave near the open door, who was busy sharpening knives.
Although this slave seemed to be intent upon his work, he listened to what they said, and learned all their plans. When the conspirators were gone, the slave went to the consuls, told them all he had heard, and gave them the names of the men who were thus plotting the downfall of the republic.
When Brutus heard that his two sons were traitors, he was almost broken-hearted. But he was so stern and just that he made up his mind to treat them exactly as if they were strangers; so he at once sent his guards to arrest them, as well as the other conspirators.
The young men were then brought before the consuls, tried, found guilty, and sentenced to the punishment of traitors-death. Throughout the whole trial, Brutus sat in his consul's chair; and, when it was ended, he sternly bade his sons speak and defend themselves if they were innocent.
As the young men could not deny their guilt, they began to beg for mercy; but Brutus turned aside, and sternly bade the lictors do their duty. "Now," cried he, "it is your part to perform the rest." The executioners having stripped them, and scourged them with rods, presently beheaded them. Brutus beheld the cruel spectacle with an unaltered countenance, while the multitude gazed on with pity, terror, and admiration.
The people now hated the Tarquins more than before, and made a law that their whole race should be banished forever. Collatinus, you know, was a most bitter enemy of the exiled king's family; but, as he was himself related to them, he had to give up his office and leave Rome. The people then chose another noble Roman, named Valerius, to be consul in his stead.
When Tarquin heard that the Romans had found out what he wanted to do, and that he could expect no help from his former subjects, he persuaded the people of Veii to join him, and began a war against Rome.
Tarquin having failed in his conspiracy, prevailed upon the Veians and one of the kings of Etruria, to aid him in recovering his throne, 508 years B. C.
Tarquin was resolved to make an attempt for his throne by foreign assistance. He prevailed upon the Veians to aid him, and advanced with an army towards Rome.
The consuls made ready to oppose him. Valerius commanding the foot, and Brutus the cavalry, went out to meet him on the Roman borders. Aruns, the son of Tarquin, who commanded the cavalry for his father, seeing Brutus at a distance, resolved to decide the fate of the day before the armies engaged, and made towards him with fury.
Brutus came out from the ranks to meet him; they met with rage, and both fell dead upon the field together. As Brutus had died before the battle was even begun, the command of the Roman army had fallen to his fellow-consul, Valerius, who was an able man. A bloody battle ensued, with equal slaughter on both sides : but the Romans remaining in possession of the field, claimed the victory, and Valerius returned in triumph to Rome.
When a Roman general had won a victory, or taken possession of a new province, the news was of course sent at once to the senate at Rome. If the people were greatly pleased by it, the senate decided that the victorious commander should be rewarded by a grand festival, or triumph, as soon as he returned to Rome.
The day when such a general arrived was a public holiday, and the houses were hung with garlands. The Romans, who were extremely fond of processions and shows of all kinds, put on their festive attire, and thronged the streets where the returning general was expected to pass. They all bore fragrant flowers, which they strewed over the road.
A noisy blast of trumpets heralded the coming of the victor, who rode in a magnificent gilded chariot drawn by four white horses. He wore a robe of royal purple, richly embroidered with gold, and fastened by jeweled clasps on his shoulder; and in his hand he held an ivory scepter.
On the conqueror's head was a crown of laurel, the emblem of victory, and the reward given to those who had served their country well. The chariot was surrounded by the lictors, in festive array, bearing aloft their bundles of rods and glittering axes.
In front of, or behind, the chariot, walked the most noted prisoners of war, chained together like slaves, and escorted by armed soldiers. Then came a long train of soldiers carrying the spoil won in the campaign. Some bore gold and silver vases filled with money or precious stones; others, pyramids of weapons taken from the bodies of their foes.
These were followed by men carrying great signs, on which could be seen the names of the cities or countries which had been conquered. There were also servants, carrying the pictures, statues, and fine furniture which the victor brought back to Rome. After the conqueror's chariot came the victorious army, whose arms had been polished with extra care for this festive occasion.
The procession thus made its solemn entrance into the city, and wound slowly up the hill to the Capitol, where the general offered up a thanksgiving sacrifice to the gods. The victim on the occasion of a triumph was generally a handsome bull, with gilded horns, and decked with garlands of choice flowers.
Servants were placed along the road, with the golden dishes in which they burned rare perfumes. These filled the air with their fragrance, and served as incense for the victor, as well as for the gods, whom he was thought to equal on that day.
Of course all the spectators cheered the victorious general when he thus marched through Rome in triumph; and they praised him so highly that there was some danger that his head would be turned by their flattery.
To prevent his becoming too conceited, however, a wretched slave was perched on a high seat just behind him. This slave wore his usual rough clothes, and was expected to bend down, from time to time, and whisper in the conqueror's ear: Remember you are nothing but a man.
Then, too, a little bell was hung under the chariot, in such a way that it tinkled all the time. This ringing was to remind the conqueror that he must always be good, or he would again hear it when he was led to prison, or to gallows; for the passage of a criminal in Rome was always heralded by the sound of a bell.
If the victory was not important enough to deserve a triumph, such as has just been described, the returning general sometimes received an ovation. This honor was something like a triumph, but was less magnificent, and the animal chosen as the victim for sacrifice was a sheep instead of a bull.
The Roman who received an ovation came into the city on foot, wearing a crown of myrtle, and escorted by flute players and other musicians. The procession was much smaller than for a triumph, and the cheers of the people were less noisy.
Now you must not imagine that it was only the generals and consuls who were publicly honored for noble deeds. The Romans rewarded even the soldiers for acts of bravery. For instance, the first to scale the walls of a besieged city always received a crown representing a wall with its towers. This was well known as a mural crown, and was greatly prized. But the man who saved the life of a fellow-citizen received a civic crown, or wreath of oak leaves, which was esteemed even more highly.
All those who fought with particular bravery were not only praised by their superiors, but also received valuable presents, such as gold collars or armlets, or fine trappings for their horses. The soldiers always treasured these gifts carefully, and appeared with them on festive occasions. Then all their friends would admire them, and ask to hear again how they had been won.
All Roman soldiers tried very hard to win such gifts. They soon became the best fighters of the world, and are still praised for their great bravery.
Valerius, as you have seen, received the honors of the first triumph which had ever been awarded by the Roman Republic. By the death of Brutus, also, he was left to rule over the city alone. As he was very rich, he now began to build himself a new and beautiful house.
The people of Rome had never seen so handsome a dwelling built for a private citizen; so they began to grow very uneasy, and began to whisper that perhaps Valerius was going to try to become king in his turn.
These rumors finally came to the ears of the consul; and he hastened to reassure the people, by telling them that he loved Rome too well to make any attempt to change its present system of government, which seemed to him very good indeed.
The body of Brutus was carried back to Rome, and placed in the Forum, where all the people crowded around it in tears. Such was the respect which the Romans felt for this great citizen that the women wore mourning for him for a whole year, and his statue was placed in the Capitol, among those of the Roman kings.
The Roman children were often brought there to see it, and all learned to love and respect the stern-faced man with the drawn sword; for he had freed Rome from the tyranny of the kings, and had arranged for the government of the republic he had founded.
These rumors finally came to the ears of the consul; and he hastened to reassure the people, by telling them that he loved Rome too well to make any attempt to change its present system of government, which seemed to him very good indeed.
Tarquin, as we have seen, had first gone to the people of Veii for help; but when he found that they were not strong enough to conquer the Romans, he began to look about him for another ally. As the most powerful man within reach was Porsena, king of Clusium, Tarquin sent a message to him to ask for his aid.
Porsena was delighted to have an excuse for fighting the Romans; and, raising an army, he marched straight towards Rome. At his approach, the people fled, and the senate soon saw that, unless a speedy attempt was made to check him, he would be in their city before they had finished their preparations for defense.
The army was therefore sent out, but was soon driven back towards the Tiber. This river was spanned by a wooden bridge which led right into Rome. The consul at once decided that the bridge must be sacrificed to save the city; and he called for volunteers to stand on the other side and keep Porsena's army at bay while the workmen were cutting it down.
A brave Roman, called Horatius Cocles, or the One-eyed, because he had already lost one eye in battle, was the first to step forward and offer his services, and two other men promptly followed him. These three soldiers took up their post in the narrow road, and the rest of the Romans hewed madly at the bridge.
The two companions of Horatius, turning their heads, saw that the bridge was about to fall; so they darted across it, leaving him to face the armed host alone. But Horatius was too brave to flee, and in spite of the odds against him, he fought on until the bridge crashed down behind him.
As soon as the bridge was gone there was no way for the enemy to cross the river and enter Rome. Horatius, therefore ceased to fight, and, plunging into the Tiber, swam bravely to the other side, where his fellow-citizens received him with many shouts of joy.
In reward for his bravery they gave him a large farm, and erected a statue in his honor, which represented him as he stood alone near the falling bridge, keeping a whole army at bay.
Hindered from marching into Rome as easily as he had expected, Porsena prepared to surround and besiege it. The prospect of a siege greatly frightened the people; for they had not much food in the city, and feared the famine which would soon take place.
The Romans were, therefore, placed on very short rations; but even so, the famine soon came. All suffered much from hunger,-all except Horatius Cocles, for the starving Romans each set aside a small portion of their scanty food, and bade him accept it. It was thus that they best showed their gratitude for the service he had done them, for they proved that they were brave enough to deny themselves in order to reward him.
The Romans were still unwilling to surrender, but they feared that Porsena would not give up until he had taken possession of the city. Some of the young men, therefore, made up their minds to put an end to the war by murdering him. A plot was made to kill the King of Clusium by treachery; and Mucius, a young Roman, went to his camp in disguise.
When Mucius came into the midst of the enemy, he did not dare ask any questions, lest they should suspect him. He was wandering around in search of Porsena, when all at once he saw a man so splendidly dressed that he was sure it must be the king. Without waiting to make sure, he sprang forward and plunged his dagger into the man's heart.
The man sank lifeless to the ground, but Mucius was caught and taken into the presence of Porsena. The king asked him who he was, and why he had thus murdered one of the officers. Mucius stood proudly before him and answered: I am a Roman, and meant to kill you, the enemy of my country.
When Porsena heard these bold words, he was amazed, and threatened to punish Mucius for his attempt by burning him alive. But even this threat did not frighten the brave Roman. He proudly stepped forward, and thrust his right hand into a fire that was blazing near by. He held it there, without flinching, until it was burned to a crisp; and then he said: Your fire has no terrors for me, nor for three hundred of my companions, who have all sworn to murder you if you do not leave Rome.
When Porsena heard these words, and saw the courage that Mucius displayed, he realized for the first time how hard it would be to conquer the Romans, and made up his mind to make peace. So he sent Mucius away without punishing him, for he admired the courage of the young man who loved his country so truly.
Mucius returned to Rome, and there received the nickname of Scævola, or the Left-handed. Soon after, Porsena began to offer peace, and the Romans were only too glad to accept it, even though they had to give him part of their land, and send some of their children into his camp as hostages.
Porsena treated these young people very kindly; but they soon grew homesick, and longed to return home. One of the hostages, a beautiful girl named Clolia, was so anxious to go back to Rome that she sprang upon a horse, plunged into the Tiber, and boldly swam across it. Then she rode proudly into the city, followed by several of her companions, whom she had persuaded to imitate her.
The Romans were delighted to see their beloved children again, until they heard how they had escaped. Then they sadly told the hostages that they would have to return to Porsena. Clolia and her companions objected at first; but they finally consented to go back, when they understood that it would be dishonorable if the Romans failed to keep the promises they had made, even to an enemy.
The king, who had witnessed their escape with astonishment, was even more amazed at their return. Full of admiration for Clolia's pluck and for the honesty of the Romans, he gave the hostages full permission to go home, and left the country with all his army.
In consequence of the disagreement between the Plebeians and the Senators, it was agreed to appoint a magistrate with absolute power, and Lartius was accordingly chosen first Dictator, 498 (or 496?) B.C.
Tarquin had now made two unsuccessful attempts to recover the throne. But he was not yet entirely discouraged; and, raising a third army, he again marched toward Rome.
Tarquin by means of his son in-law, Manilius, stirred up the Latins to espouse his interests, and took the most convenient opportunity of practising his design when the Plebeians were at variance with the Senators, concerning the payment of their debts. The Plebeians refused to go to war unless their debts were remitted upon their return; so that the consuls, finding their authority insufficient, offered the people to erect a temporary magistrate, who should have absolute power, not only over all ranks of people, but even over the laws themselves.
The Plebeians readily consented, willing to give up their own power for the sake of abridging that of their superiors. In consequence of this Lartius was chosen first dictator of Rome.
The first dictator immediately took command of the army, and went to meet Tarquin. The two forces came face to face near Lake Regillus, not very far from the city. Here a terrible battle was fought, and here the Romans won a glorious victory. Their writers have said that the twin gods, Castor and Pollux, came down upon earth to help them, and were seen in the midst of the fray, mounted upon snow-white horses.
When the fight was over, and the victory gained, these gods vanished from the battlefield; but shortly after, they came dashing into Rome, and announced that the battle was won. Then they dismounted in the Forum, in the midst of the people, watered their horses at the fountain there, and suddenly vanished, after telling the Romans to build a temple in their honor.
Full of gratitude for the help of the twin gods, without whom the battle would have been lost, the Romans built a temple dedicated to their service. This building was on one side of the Forum, on the very spot where the radiant youths had stood; and there its ruins can still be seen.
The Romans were in the habit of calling upon these brothers to assist them in times of need; and in ancient tombs there have been found coins bearing the effigy of the two horsemen, each with a star over his head. The stars were placed there because the Romans believed that the twin gods had been changed into two very bright and beautiful stars.
It is said that Tarquin managed to escape alive from the battle of Lake Regillus, and that he went to live at Cumæ, where he died at a very advanced age. But he never again ventured to make war against the Romans, who had routed him so sorely.
The old consul Valerius continued to serve his native city, and spent his money so lavishly in its behalf that he died very poor. Indeed, it is said that his funeral expenses had to be paid by the state, as he did not leave money enough even to provide for his burial.
After Lartius had resigned the dictatorship, the people succeeded in procuring certain officers called Tribunes, to be annually chosen from among themselves to take care of their interests.
Now that the war against Tarquin was over, the Romans fancied that they would be able to enjoy a little peace. They were greatly mistaken, however; for as soon as peace was made abroad, trouble began at home.
There were, as you have already heard, two large classes of Roman citizens: the patricians, or nobles, and the plebeians, or common people. They remained distinct, generation after generation, because no one was allowed to marry outside his own class.
The patricians alone had the right to be consuls and senators; they enjoyed many other privileges, and they owned most of the land.
The plebeians, on the other hand, were given only a small share in the government, although they were called upon to pay a large part of the taxes. They suffered much from the patricians, who considered them not much better than slaves. Of course this state of affairs was not pleasant for the plebeians; still they remained very quiet until matters grew much worse.
As the plebeians were obliged to pay taxes, they had to have money; and, when their farms did not yield enough, they were forced to borrow from the patricians. The patricians were always ready to lend money, because the laws were in their favor. Thus if a plebeian could not pay his debts, the lender could seize the poor man's farm, and even sell the man himself as a slave.
The patricians were very cruel; they often kept the poor debtors in prison, and beat and illtreated them constantly. The plebeians were so indignant at all this that they finally rebelled, and, when war broke out with the Volscians, they refused to go and fight.
The consuls coaxed and threatened, but the plebeians would not stir. When asked why they would no longer go with the army, they answered that since the patricians claimed all the spoil taken in war, they might do all the fighting.
To pacify the plebeians, the magistrates promised to make laws in their favor as soon as the war was over, if they would only fight as usual; so the men took up their arms and went to battle. But, when the war was ended, the magistrates made no changes in favor of the plebeians, and allowed the patricians to illtreat them as much as ever.
The discontent had reached such a pitch that it was very evident some outbreak would soon take place. One day an unhappy debtor escaped from prison, and, rushing out into the Forum, showed his bruises to the people, and began to tell them his pitiful tale.
He said that he was a plebeian, and that he had run into debt because, instead of cultivating his farm, he had been obliged to leave home and go with the army. Scarcely was one war over than another began, and at that time the Roman soldiers received no pay. Although he fought hard, and could show the scars of twenty battles, he had gained nothing for it all except a little praise.
Then, upon returning home, a patrician put him in prison, because he could not pay the money he owed. The debtor had been treated with the most horrible cruelty, and would probably have died there had he not succeeded in making his escape.
Now there had been several cases like this, even before the war with the Volscians. This time, however, the plebeians were so indignant at the sight of the man's bruises, and at the hearing of his wrongs, that they all marched out of the city, vowing that they would never come back until they were sure of fair treatment.
After leaving Rome, the plebeians, under the conduct of Sicurius, camped upon a neighboring hill, which was afterwards known as Sacred Mountain (Mons Sacer), on the banks of the river Anio, three miles from Rome. When they were gone, the patricians, who had so illtreated them, began to feel their absence. As the patricians scorned all work, and never did anything but fight, they were sorely taken aback when there were no farmers left to till their ground, no market men to supply their tables, and no merchants from whom they could buy the articles they needed.
The senate saw that it was impossible to get along without the plebeians. One message after another was sent, imploring them to return; but the people said that they had suffered enough, and would never again trust in promises, since they would not be kept.
Now although the plebeians were so obstinate in their refusal to return to Rome, and although they openly rejoiced when they heard that the patricians were in distress, they were nearly as badly off themselves. They had managed to bring only a very little food with them, and, as they had no money, starvation was staring them in the face.
Both parties were suffering, and no one knew how to put an end to this distressing state of affairs. At last a wise Roman, named Menenius Agrippa who had been a Plebeian, and knew what kind of eloquence was most likely to please the people, offered to go and speak to the people and persuade them to come back to Rome.
The senators, who had made so many vain efforts, and had talked until they were tired, were delighted when they heard this offer, and bade Menenius go and do his best. This wise man, therefore, went to the Sacred Mountain, advanced into the midst of the crowd, and began to address them.
He had noticed that the poor people did not understand the long speeches made by the senators; so he began to tell them a simple story.
My friends, said he, all the different parts of the body once refused to work, saying that they were tired of serving the stomach. The legs said: 'What is the use of running about from morning till night, merely to find food enough to fill it?
We won't work for that lazy stomach either! said the hands and arms. Legs, if, you'll keep still, we won't move either.
We are tired, too, said the teeth. It is grind, grind, grind, all day long. The stomach can do its own work hereafter.
All the other parts of the body had some complaint to make about the stomach, and all agreed that they would not work any more to satisfy its wants. The legs ceased walking, the hands and arms stopped working, the teeth did not grind any more, and the empty stomach clamored in vain for its daily supply of food.
All the limbs were delighted at first with their rest, and, when the empty stomach called for something to eat, they merely laughed. Their fun did not last very long, however, because the stomach, weak for want of food, soon ceased its cries. Then, after a while, the hands and arms and legs grew so weak that they could not move. All the body fell down and died, because the stomach, without food, could no longer supply it with strength to live.
Now, my friends," continued Menenius, "this is just your case. The state is the body, the patricians are the stomach, and you are the limbs. Of course, if you refuse to work, and remain idle, the patricians will suffer, just as the stomach did in the story I told you.
But, if you persist in your revolt, you will soon suffer also. You will lose your strength, and before long the body, our glorious Roman state, will perish.
The plebeians listened to this story very attentively, understood the illustration, and saw the sense of all that Menenius said. They began to realize that they could not get along without the patricians any better than the patricians could get along without them.
So, after talking the matter over a little, they all told Menenius that they were willing to go back to Rome. He was very glad when he heard this; and, to prevent them from again being used so badly, he made the senate give them officers who should look after their rights. Appius alone protesting against the measure.
These new magistrates were called Tribunes. They had the right to interfere and change the decision of the consul or any other officer, whenever it was necessary to protect a plebeian from ill treatment. If a man was in debt, therefore, the tribune could excuse him from going to war; and, if the creditor was trying to make him a slave, the tribune could free him.
The Tribunes of the people were at first five in number, and afterwards increased to ten. They were annually elected by the people, and generally from their body. They at first had their seats placed before the door of the senate house, and being called in, were to examine every decree, annulling it by the word Veto, I forbid it; or confirming it by signing the letter T, the first letter of their name, which gave the law validity.
This word (Veto) is now used also in English, and you will see in your United States histories that the President has the right of veto, or of forbidding the passage of any law to which he objects. The tribunes were at first two in number, but later there were ten of them. They were always the friends of the people.
Two other officers were also elected by the plebeians. They were called Ædiles, and their duty was to help the tribunes, and also to care for the public buildings, to see that the Romans had clean houses and good food, and to look after the welfare of the poor people. Thus, you see, the plebeians were far better off than they had ever been before, and were now provided with magistrates whose sole business it was to look after their interests.
This new office being thus instituted, Sicinius Bellutus, Lucius Junius, Caius Lucinius, Albinus, and Icilius Ruga, were the first Tribunes chosen by the suffrages of the people. The senate made an edict confirming the abolition of debts; and now all things being adjusted, the people, after having sacrificed to the gods of the mountain, returned to Rome.
Coriolanus, being banished from Rome, united with the Volscians, in a war against the Romans, 490. B.C.
The plebeians returned to Rome as soon as they were sure that their rights would be respected. They had no sooner arrived, however, than they once more armed themselves, and went out to fight the Volscians, who had taken advantage of the revolt to rise up against Rome. The victory was soon won, and the army came back to the city, where, in spite of the tribunes efforts, new quarrels arose between the patricians and plebeians.
One of the principal causes of discontent was that the patricians now regretted having given any rights to the plebeians, and were always seeking some good excuse to reduce them to their former state of subjection.
Three years after the revolt of the plebeians, there was a great famine in Rome. The poor, as usual, suffered the most, and they were almost starved, when a king of Sicily took pity upon them and gave them a great quantity of wheat.
The wheat was sent to the senate, with a request that it should be divided among the suffering plebeians. Now, as you surely remember, none but the patricians were allowed to belong to the senate, and they gladly took charge of the wheat. But, instead of distributing it immediately, they kept it, saying that it would be given to the poor only on condition that they gave up the right of electing tribunes and ædiles.
The plebeians were in despair. They were unwilling to lose their dearly-won rights, and still they were so hungry that they could scarcely resist the temptation to do as the senators wished, for the sake of getting food for themselves and their families. They were very indignant that such a cruel advantage should be taken of their misery; and, when they found that the plan had been suggested by a Roman named Coriolanus, they hated him. Coriolanus incurred their resentment, by insisting that the wheat should not be distributed till the grievances of the senate were removed. For this the Tribunes summoned him to a trial before the people.
When the appointed day was come, Coriolanus presented himself before the people, with a degree of intrepidity, that merited a better fortune. His person, his eloquence, the cries of those he had saved from the enemy, inclined the auditors to relent. But being unable to answer what was alleged against him, and confounded with a new charge of having embezzled the plunder of Antium, the Tribunes immediately took the votes, and Coriolanus was condemned to perpetual exile.
This sentence against their bravest defender, struck the whole body of the senate with consternation, and regret. Coriolanus alone, in the midst of the tumult, seemed an unconcerned spectator. He returned home, followed by the lamentation of hundreds of the most respectable Romans, to take leave of his wife, his children, and his mother Veturia. Recommending his little children to the care of heaven, he left the city alone, to take refuge with Tullus Attius, a man of great power among the Volscians, who took him under his protection and espoused his cause.
The Volscians were the enemies of Rome. They had already made war against the proud city, and had lost part of their lands. They therefore received Coriolanus with joy, and gave him the command of their army; for they knew that he was an excellent warrior.
The first thing proposed, was to induce the Volscians to break the league with Rome, and Tullus sent many of his people thither to see some games; but in the meantime, gave the senate information that the strangers had intentions of burning the city. This had the desired effect; the senate issued an order, that all strangers should depart from Rome before sunset.
This order Tullus represented to his countrymen as an infraction of the treaty, and procured an embassy to Rome, complaining of the breach, and redemanding all the territories that belonged to the Volscians, declaring war in case of a refusal; but this message was treated by the senate with contempt.
War being thus declared on both sides, Coriolanus and Tullus were made generals of the Volscians, and invaded the Roman territories, ravaging all such lands as belonged to the Plebeians but letting those of the senators remain untouched. In the meantime the levies went on slowly at Rome. The two consuls who were re-elected by the people, seemed but little skilled in war, and feared to encounter a general whom they knew to be their superior in the field.
Coriolanus met with success in every expedition; and he was now so famous for his victories, that the Volscians left their towns defenceless, to follow him into the field. The very soldiers of his colleague's army came over to him, and would acknowledge no other general. Thus finding himself unopposed in the field, and at the head of a numerous army, he resolved to besiege Rome.
When the people saw them return they gave themselves up for lost. Their temples were filled with old men, women, and children, who prostrate at their altars, put up their ardent prayers for the preservation of their country. Nothing was to be heard, but anguish and lamentation; and nothing to be seen but scenes of affright and distress. The Romans were in despair. They thought their last hour had come, but they made a final effort to disarm the anger of Coriolanus, by sending his mother, wife, and children, at the head of all the women of Rome, to intercede for them.
Veturia, the mother of Coriolanus made some hesitation to undertake such a work, knowing the inflexible temper of her son, and fearing only to make him show his disobedience by rejecting the commands of a parent; however, she undertook the embassy, accompanied by many of the principal matrons of Rome, with Volumnia his wife, and his two children.
Coriolanus, who at a distance discovered these matrons, was resolved to give them a denial, and called his officers around him to witness his resolution; but when told that his mother and his wife were among the number, he instantly came down from his tribunal to meet and embrace them. Then the women all fell at his feet, and begged him so fervently to spare their country that the tears came to his eyes.
Coriolanus seemed agitated by contending passions : while his mother seconded her words by the most persuasive eloquence, her tears : his wife and children hung round him entreating for protection and pity; while her companions, added their lamentations, and deplored their own and their country's distress.
He would not yield, however, until his mother exclaimed: My son, thou shall enter Rome only over my dead body!
These words almost broke his heart, for he was a good son, and dearly loved Veturia. He could no longer resist her prayers, in spite of his oath and promises to the Volscians that he would make them masters of Rome. Bursting into tears, he cried: Mother, thou hast saved Rome and lost thy son.
The tears of the Roman women now gave way to cries of joy, and the procession returned in triumph to Rome. Only Veturia and Volumnia were sad, because Coriolanus could not accompany them, and because they could not forget his exclamation, and feared for his life.
When the women were gone, Coriolanus led his disappointed army home. Some historians say that he dwelt quietly among the Volscians until he died of old age, while others declare that they were so angry with him for betraying them and sparing Rome, that they put him to death.
According to a third version of the story, Coriolanus died of grief, because he had left Rome and nearly caused her ruin, and because to save his native city he had been obliged to betray the Volscians who had trusted him.
The spot where Veturia and Volumnia had knelt in tears before Coriolanus was considered as hallowed ground. Here the Romans built a temple dedicated to the Fortune of Women. They never forgot how generously Coriolanus had spared them, when they were at his mercy; and when he died, all the women of the city wore mourning for him, as they had worn it for Brutus.
Thus, you see, even in those ancient times the people knew that it was nobler to conquer one's own evil passions than to win a great victory; and that a man who is brave enough to own himself in the wrong and to do right, is more worthy of honor than many another hero.
A dispute arising between the Tribunes and the Consuls, on the subject of the Agrarian law, it was agreed to appoint a Dictator, and Cincinnatus was chosen to that office, 458 years B.C. which, having restored peace, he soon resigned.
The Romans were so warlike a people that they were hardly ever at peace. As soon as one battle was ended, they prepared for the next, and after defeating one people they immediately tried their arms against another.
When not busy making war abroad, they often quarreled at home; for, as you have already heard, the patricians and plebeians were too jealous of each other to agree for any length of time. In all this fighting, many soldiers were slain, and when the people of Veii once began to rise up against Rome, the senate was dismayed to find that there was no army ready to meet them.
There were great rejoicings at Rome upon the retreat of the Volscian army; but their joy was soon clouded by the intrigues of Spurius Cassius, who, wanting to make himself despotic by means of the people, was found guilty of a number of crimes, all tending towards the alteration of the government, and was thrown headlong from the Tarpeian rock, by those whose power he had endeavored to extend.
The year following, the two consuls of the former year, Manlius and Fabius, were cited by the Tribunes to appear before the people. The Agrarian law, which had been proposed, for dividing equally the lands of the commonwealth, among the people, was the object perpetually in view, and they were accused of having made unjustifiable delays in putting it off. The Agrarian law was a grant which the senate could not think of making to the people. The consuls made many delays and excuses.
Cincinnatus determined to side with neither, but by a strict attention to the common interest, to gain the esteem of all. He prevailed with the Tribunes to put off their law for a time, and conducted himself in such a manner as to inspire the multitude with awe whenever they were disinclined to enlist. Having restored that tranquillity to the people which he so much loved himself, he returned to his farm.
In this time of danger, a noble patrician, named Fabius, stood up in the senate, and said that he and his family would at once arm, and go forth and fight for the city. Early the next day, three hundred and six men, all related to one another, and all bearing the name of Fabius, marched out of Rome to meet the foe.
In the first battle the Fabii won a glorious victory; but later on in the campaign they were led into an ambush, and were all slain. When the news of their death was brought into the city the people burst into tears, and the gate through which they had passed was called the Unlucky.
The day of their death was marked in the Roman calendar as also unlucky, and the people publicly mourned the loss of such good and brave men, who had left only a few little children, too young to bear arms, for the defense of their country.
The Romans, however, soon won a great victory over the people of Veii, and the two cities made a long truce. But the wars with other peoples still went on, and among the worst enemies of Rome were the Æquians. Minutius, one of the consuls, was sent to oppose them, but being timid and irresolute, his army was driven into a defile between two mountains, from which there was no egress.
The Roman army was so hemmed in on every side, that nothing remained but submission to the enemy, famine, or immediate death. Some knights, who found means of escaping privately through the enemy's camp, were the first that brought the account of this disaster to Rome.
Five horsemen, however, managed to escape, and hurried to warn the senate of the army's peril. The people were horrified at these tidings, and, knowing that the second consul was no more of a general than the first, insisted that a dictator should be chosen.
Cincinnatus, the only person on whom Rome could now place her whole dependence, retired to his little farm, was found by the messengers of the senate, laboring in his little field. He appeared little elevated with the ceremony they observed towards him, and the gorgeous habits they presented; upon hearing the will of the senate, he testified only a concern that his aid should be wanted, preferring the charms of a country retirement to the fatiguing splendors of office. He said to his wife as they were conducting him away, "I fear, my Attilla, that for this year our little field must remain unsown." Thus taking a tender leave of his family, he departed for Rome, where the parties were strongly inflamed against each other. Being once more possessed of absolute power, and called upon to nominate the master of his horse, he chose a poor man named Tarquitius, who, like himself despised riches, when they led to dishonor. Thus the saving of a great nation devolved upon a husbandman taken from the plough, and an obscure sentinel found among the dregs of the army.
Upon entering the city, the Dictator put on a serene look, and entreated all those who were able to bear arms to repair before sunset to the Campus Martius, (the place where the levies were made,) with necessary arms, and provisions for five days.
By walking all night, Cincinnatus brought his men in the rear of the Æquians, who, at dawn, found that the tables were turned, and that they were now between two armies of angry Romans.
They soon saw that resistance would be useless, and, without striking a single blow, offered to surrender. Cincinnatus gladly accepted their offers of peace, but let them go only after they had given up their arms and spoil, and had gone through a ceremony called "passing under the yoke." This was considered a great disgrace, and the Æquians would never have submitted to it had they not been compelled to do so in order to save their lives.
The yoke was made by standing up two spears in the ground, and tying a third across their tops. The Roman soldiers were drawn up in two long lines facing each other, and the enemy marched between them and under the yoke, a prey to the taunts, and even to the blows, of their conquerors.
After thus rescuing the Roman army from certain death, Cincinnatus brought them back to the city, and enjoyed the honors of a triumph. Then, seeing that his country no longer needed him, he laid aside the title of dictator, which he had borne for only a few days. The senate would have enriched him, but he declined their offers, choosing to retire once more to his farm and cottage, content with temperance and fame. Joyfully hastening back to his farm, he took up his plowing where he had dropped it; and he went on living as quietly and simply as if he had never been called upon to serve as dictator, and to receive the honors of a grand triumph.
This man is admired quite as much for his simplicity and contentment as for his ability and courage. He was greatly esteemed by the Romans, and in this country his memory has been honored by giving his name to the thriving city of Cincinnati.
But this repose from foreign invasion, did not lessen the tumults of the city. The clamors on account of the Agrarian law continued, and still more fiercely, when Sicinius Dentatus a Plebeian, advanced in years, but of an admirable person and military deportment came forward to enumerate his hardships and his merits. This old soldier made no scruple of extolling the various achievements of his youth.
He had served his country in the wars forty years, and had been an officer thirty; first a centurion, and then a tribune; he had fought one hundred and twenty battles; in which by the force of his single arm, he had saved a multitude of lives; he had gained fourteen civic1, three mural and eight golden crowns, besides eighty three chains, sixty bracelets, eighteen gilt spears, and twenty three horse trappings, whereof nine were for killing the enemy in single combat. He had received forty five wounds before and none behind.
These were his honors; yet he had never received any share of the lands won from the enemy, but continued a life of poverty, while others possessed those very territories, which his valor had gained. A case of so much hardship had a strong effect upon the multitude; they unanimously demanded that the law should pass, and that such merit should not go unrewarded.
It was in vain that some of the senators rose up to speak against it; their voices were drowned by the cries of the people. When reason could no longer be heard, passion succeeded; and the young patricians running into the throng, broke the balloting urns, and put off the Agrarian law.
1. A civic crown was given to an individual for saving the life of a fellow citizen in battle. It was so called from the word civis, citizen. A mural crown was given to him who first scaled the enemy's wall. The word is derived from murus, a wall. A golden crown was given for an act of distinguished bravery.
The Laws of the Twelve Tables were collected, and it was agreed that ten of the principal Senators should be chosen annually with the power of consuls and kings, called the Decemviri1, 451 years B.C.
It is much to be regretted that all the Romans were not as good and simple and unselfish as Cincinnatus; but the fact remains that there were many among them who thought only of themselves, and did not care what happened to the rest. The patricians, in particular, were much inclined to pride themselves upon their position and wealth, and to show themselves both haughty and cruel.
As they oppressed their poorer neighbors, the plebeians grew more and more discontented, until the senate saw that they would again rebel if something were not quickly done to pacify them. There was now no Menenius to plead with the plebeians, and the senators remembered only too clearly how useless all their long speeches had been.
To avoid an open outbreak, the senators therefore proposed to change the laws. In the first place, they sent three senators, Posthumius, Sulpicius, and Manlius to Athens, which was also a republic; here they were to study the government, and to get a copy of the laws of Solon, which were the most famous in all the world. While they were upon this embassy a dreadful plague depopulated the city.
When the three men came home, they brought with them the laws of the Athenians, and of many other nations. Ten men were then elected to read them all, and choose the best for the new Roman code of laws. When adopted, the new laws were divided into ten tables, and two more being added, made that celebrated code, called the laws of the Twelve Tables. They were set up in the Forum, so that all the people could read them whenever they pleased.
Thus the whole constitution of the state at once took a new form, and a hazardous experiment was to be tried, of governing one nation by laws of another.
The ten men, or Decemvirs as they were called, were granted full power for a year. They were very careful to be just in judging between the patricians and plebeians, and they soon won the people's confidence and respect.
The authority which they thus held pleased them so much that they wanted to keep it. At the end of the year, the laws were written on the brazen tablets, and set up in the Forum; but the men pretended that their work was not yet done, and asked that decemvirs should be elected for a second year.
The people believed them, and the election took place; but only one of the ten men, Appius Claudius, was chosen again. The new rulers were not as careful as the first; in fact, they were very proud and wicked, and soon began to act like tyrants.
Strange to say, Appius Claudius was more unpleasant than all the rest. While he severely punished all the Romans who did not mind the laws, he paid no attention to these laws himself. He took whatever suited him, did anything that he liked, and treated the people with great cruelty.
1. This word is compounded of two Latin words, viz. - decem ten; and viri men.
The arbitrary power assumed by the Decemviri, caused a tumult among the people; this occasioned an attack from the Volsci and AEqui, which was successful against the Romans.
The Decemviri being now invested with absolute power agreed to take the reins of government by turns, and that each should administer justice for a day.
These magistrates for the first year wrought with great industry, and their work being finished, it was expected they would be content to give up their offices; but havings known the charms of power, they were unwilling to resign it; they pretended that some laws were wanting to complete their design, and entreated the senate for a continuance of their offices, to which that body assented.
But they soon threw off the mask, and regardless of the senate or the people, resolved to continue themselves in the decemvirate. This was followed by new acts of oppression.
In this state of slavery, proscription, and mutual distrust, these tyrants ruled without control, being guarded not with their lictors alone, but by a numerous crowd of dependants, clients, and even patricians, whom their vices had gathered round them. The AEqui and Volscians, the constant enemies of Rome, resolved to profit by the intestine divisions of the people, and advanced within about ten miles of the city.
The Decemviri being in possession of all the military and civil power, divided their army into three parts; one commanded by Appius remained in the city to keep it in awe; the other two were commanded by his colleagues, and marched one against the AEqui, and the other against the Sabines. The Roman soldiers shamefully abandoned their camp upon the approach of the enemy.
Never was the news of a victory more joyfully received at Rome than the tidings of this defeat. The generals were blamed for the treachery of their men; some demanded that they should be deposed, others cried out for a dictator to lead the troops to conquest; but among the rest, old Sicinius Dentatus, the tribune, spoke his sentiments with his usual openness; and treating the generals with contempt, showed all the faults of their discipline in the camp and their conduct in the field.
Sicinius Dentatus the tribune, was treacherously slain for having spoken his sentiments against the Generals, whose armies were defeated by the AEqui and Samnites.
Appius was not remiss in observing the disposition of the people. Dentatus in particular was marked out for vengeance, and under pretence of doing him particular honor, he was appointed legate, and put at the head of the supplies which were sent from Rome to reinforce the army. The office of legate was held sacred among the Romans, as in it were united the authority of a general, with the reverence due to the priesthood.
Dentatus, not suspecting his design, went to the camp with alacrity, where he was received with all the external marks of respect. But the generals soon found means of indulging their desire of revenge. He was appointed at the head of an hundred men to go and examine a more commodious place for encampment, as he had assured the commanders, that their present situation was wrong.
The soldiers who were sent as his attendants, were assassins, who had heen ministers of the vengeance of the decemviri, and engaged to murder him. With these designs, they led him from the way into a retired mountain, and set upon him from behind.
Dentatus too late perceived this treachery, and was resolved to sell his life dearly. He put his back to a rock, and defended himself against those who pressed most closely. Though grown old, he retained his former valor, and killed fifteen of the assailants, and wounded thirty with his own hand. Finally, his assailants ascending the rock against which he stood, poured down stones upon him from above. The old soldier fell, after having shown by his death, that he owed it to his courage, and not to fortune, that he had come off so many times victorious. The decemviri pretended to join in the general sorrow for the loss of so brave a man, and decreed him a funeral with military honors.
The conduct of Appius Claudius to Virginia caused his own ruin and that of his colleagues in the decemvirate, with the abolition of that office 449 years B. C.
The decemvirs had not expected a revolt, and had made no preparations to defend the city. The army therefore marched in unhindered, and Appius was flung into prison. There he was found soon after, strangled to death; but no one ever took the trouble to inquire how this accident had happened.
One day, while sitting in the Forum, he saw a beautiful girl, called Virginia, pass by on her way to school. She was so pretty that Appius took a fancy to her, and made up his mind to have her for his slave, although she was the daughter of a free Roman citizen. She was engaged to marry Icilius, formerly a tribune of the people.
After making a few inquiries, he found that Virginius, the girl's father, was away at war. Thinking that Virginia would have no one to protect her, he called one of his clients, said that he wanted the girl, and gave the man the necessary directions to secure her.
Now the clients at Rome were a kind of plebeians who belonged to certain families of patricians, and always worked for them. The client of Appius Claudius, therefore, promised to do exactly as he was told. When Virginia crossed the Forum, on the next day, he caught her and claimed her as one of his slaves.
The girl's uncle, however, sprang forward, and said that his niece was not a slave. He appealed to the law, and finally succeeded in having the girl set free, on condition that she should appear before Appius Claudius on the next day, when the matter would be decided in court.
Virginia's uncle knew that there was some plot to get possession of the beautiful girl intrusted to his care. Without losing a moment, therefore, he sent a messenger to her father, imploring him to come home and save his daughter from falling into the hands of wicked men.
The next day, at the appointed hour, the client appeared before Appius Claudius, and claimed Virginia as his property, saying that her mother had once been his slave. Now this was not true, and Virginia's uncle protested against such a judgment; but Appius declared at once that the girl must go with the client. He said this because he had arranged that the man should give Virginia to him; and he fancied that no one would guess his motive or dare to resist.
The client laid hands upon the unwilling Virginia, and was about to drag her away by force, when her unfortunate father appeared. Breathless with the haste he had made to reach Rome in time to save his child, he began to plead with Appius Claudius to set her free. He soon saw, however, that all his prayers were vain, and that in spite of all he could say or do his daughter would be taken away from him, and given over to the mercy of those wicked men.
In his despair, he now asked that he might, at least, be allowed to take leave of Virginia, and he sadly led her to one side. He knew that none of the spectators would have the courage to help him save her, and that death was far better than the life which awaited her in the house of Appius Claudius. All at once, he caught up a knife from a neighboring butcher's shop, and stabbed her to the heart, saying: Dear little daughter, only thus can I save you.
Then, drawing the bloody dagger from her breast, he rushed through the guards, who did not dare to stop him, and left Rome, vowing that he would be avenged. When he reached the army, and told his companions about the base attempt of Appius Claudius, they all swore to help him, and marched towards Rome.
The decemvirs had not expected a revolt, and had made no preparations to defend the city. The army therefore marched in unhindered, and Appius was flung into prison. There he was found soon after, strangled to death; but no one ever took the trouble to inquire how this accident had happened.
The decemvirs were now entirely set aside, and the government was restored as it had been before; but the brazen tablets remained, and the laws which the tyrants had chosen continued to be enforced, because they were, in general, good and just for all the people.
He, therefore, to get possession of the lovely virgin, procured a base dependant to claim her as his slave. The claim was made before Appius himself, who pronounced an infamous decree, by which she was declared to be the property of this profligate minion. Virginius, her father, who was falsely sworn to have stolen her from the dependant of Appius, was at a distance in the army, but hastened to Rome on receiving this intelligence.
Finding that he could not preserve her from the licentious decemvir, he begged to give her his parting embrace. His request was granted. Virginius clasped his child in his arms, whilst she wet his cheeks with her tears, and tenderly kissing her, plunged a dagger into her bosom, saying, "Oh ! my child, by this means only can I give thee freedom." Then holding up the bloody knife, he cried to Appius, "By this innocent blood I devote thy head to the infernal gods." Appius called out to have him arrested, but the people made way for him, and he hastened with the fatal instrument in his hand to the camp. His tears and despair won every heart. He pathetically intreated them not to banish him from their society as the murderer of his child; they all swore to avenge his wrong, and raising their standards, marched immediately to Rome. The decemviri were deposed, Appius and one of his colleagues put to death, and the rest banished.
The war with the AEqui and the Volscians was continued, and the military Tribunes created, 445 years B. C.
These intestine tumults produced weakness within the state, and confidence in the enemy. The wars with the AEqui and the Volscians still continued; they at last advanced so far as to make their incursions to the very walls of Rome.
About this time the inhabitants of two neighboring cities, Ardea and Aricia, had a contest about some lands that had been claimed by both. Being unable to agree, they referred it to the senate, and people of Rome.
The senate had some of the principles of primitive justice remaining, and refused to determine the dispute. But the people undertook the decision : and one Scaptius, an old man, declaring that these very lands of right belonged to Rome, they voted themselves to be the legal possessors, and sent home the former litigants, thoroughly convinced of their own folly, and of the Roman injustice.
The tribunes now grew more turbulent; they proposed two laws, one to permit Plebeians to intermarry with Patricians, and the other to admit them to the consulship. The senators received these proposals with indignation, and resolved to undergo the utmost extremities, rather than submit to them. Finding their resistance to increase the commotions of the people, they consented to the law concerning marriages, hoping this would satisfy them; but they were appeased only for a short time, returning to their old custom of refusing to enlist upon the approach of an enemy.
Genetus proposed, that six governors should annually be chosen, with consular authority; three from the senate, and three from the people. This was eagerly embraced by the people; yet so fickle were the multitude, that though many of the Plebeians stood, the choice fell wholly upon the Patricians, who offered themselves as candidates.
These new magistrates were called Military Tribunes; they were, at first, three in number, and afterwards increased to four, and at length to Six. The first that were chosen, continued in office only three months; the augurs having found something amiss in the ceremonies of their election.
444 av. J.C.
The Censors, two magistrates of great authority, were first created at Rome, 444 years B.C. The two first Censors were Papirius and Sempronius, both patricians; and from this order they continued to be elected for nearly an hundred years.
The military tribunes being deposed, the consuls once more came into office. In order to lighten the weight of business which they were obliged to sustain, a new office was erected, namely, that of Censors, who were chosen every fifth year. Their business was to make an estimate of the number and estates of the people, and to distribute them into their proper classes; to inspect the manners of their fellow citizens; to degrade senators and knights for misconduct; and turn down plebeians to inferior tribes in case of misdemeanor.
This new establishment served to restore peace for some time; and a triumph gained over the Volscians, by Gaganius the consul, added to the general satisfaction.
Spurius Maelius, a Roman knight, was slain for a conspiracy against the liberties of Rome. Cincinnatus was the second time chosen dictator.
This state of tranquillity endured not long, for a famine pressing hard upon the poor, the usual complaints against the rich were renewed; and these proving ineffectual, produced new seditions. The consuls were accused of neglect in not having laid in proper quantities of corn; they disregarded the murmurs of the population, content with exerting all their care in attempts to supply the public necessities.
But, though they did all that could be expected from active magistrates, in providing and distributing provisions to the poor, yet Spurius Maelius, a rich knight, who had purchased all the corn of Tuscany, by far outshone them in liberality. This demagogue inflamed with a secret desire of becoming powerful by the contentions in the state, distributed corn in greater quantities among the poorer sort, each day, till his house became an asylum for all such as wished to exchange a life of labor for one of lazy dependence.
When he had thus gained a sufficient number of partizans, he procured large quantities of arms to be brought into his house by night, and formed a conspiracy to obtain the command, while some of the tribunes, whom he had corrupted, were to act under him in destroying the liberties of his country. Minucius soon discovered the plot; and informing the senate, they immediately formed the resolution of creating a dictator to quell the conspiracy without appealing to the people.
Cincinnatus, now 80 years of age, was once more chosen to rescue his country from the impending danger. He began by summoning Maelius to appear before him, but he refused to obey. He next sent Ahala, his master of the horse, against him. Ahala met him in the forum, and finding persuasion of no avail, killed him on the spot. The Dictator applauded the act, and ordered the goods of the conspirator to be sold, and his house to be demolished. His stores were distributed among the people.
The Tribunes of the people were much enraged at the death of Maelius; and to punish the senate, at the next election, instead of consuls, insisted upon restoring their military tribunes. The senate were obliged to comply. The next year, the government returned to its ancient channels, and consuls were chosen.
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