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 Æneas 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 Æneas 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 Æneas should again set sail, and one day they sent him orders to depart at once.
Æneas 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.
Æneas 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, Æneas 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, Æneas 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 Æneas 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 Æneas 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 Æneas should have his daughter Lavinia in marriage.
Although Æneas 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 Æneas and Turnus both won much glory by their courage. At last they met in single combat, in which Turnus was conquered and slain; and Æneas, 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 Æneas 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. Æn., 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.
The haruspices thought that they could see signs in the bodies of the animals they had sacrificed, and that these signs gave them very important knowledge. Of course this was all humbug, but the early Romans believed that the priests could thus learn much about the future.
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.
Numa Pompilius, who was now about forty years of age, had long been eminent for his piety, justice, moderation, and exemplary life.
For a long time the Roman people were in the habit of burying their dead; but by and by they began to burn the bodies, and keep the ashes in little urns.
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.
Many years later, so the Romans said, a farmer in plowing came across the tomb. He opened it, and found in the coffin, besides the king's bones, a number of old books. In them were written the laws which Numa Pompilius had made for his people, and an account of the religious ceremonies of his day.
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.
Numa Pompilius had no son to take his place on the throne, so the senators elected Tullus Hostilius, a patrician, as the third king of Rome. Unlike the former king, the new ruler was proud and quarrelsome; and, as he enjoyed fighting, the Romans were soon called to war. This monarch was every way unlike his predecessor, being entirely devoted to war.
Tullus first quarreled with his neighbors in Alba, the city where Amulius and Numitor had once reigned. Neither people was willing to yield to the other, and yet each disliked to begin the bloodshed; for they saw that they were about equally matched, and that their fighting would end only with their lives. 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. The two parties finally decided to settle their quarrel by a fair fight between three picked warriors on either side.
The Albans selected as their champions three brothers named Curiatius, all noted for their strength, their courage, and their great skill in handling arms. The Romans made an equally careful choice, and selected three brothers from the Horatius family. These six men are called the Curiatii and the Horatii, because these are the plural forms of their names in Latin, which was the language of both Rome and Alba.
Now, in the peaceful days of Numa Pompilius, long before there had been any thought of war, the Romans and Albans had often visited each other, and the Horatii and Curiatii were great friends. Indeed, the two families were so intimate that one of the Curiatii was engaged to marry Camilla, the sister of the Horatii.
In spite of this long-standing friendship, both families would have considered it a disgrace not to fight, when selected as their country's champions; and in spite of Camilla's tears and entreaties, all six young men prepared for the coming contest.
Poor Camilla was in despair, for either her brothers would kill her lover, or he would kill them. No matter which way the battle ended, it could not fail to bring sorrow and loss to her, for she was deeply attached to her brothers and lover; and she tried again and again to make them give up this fight.
The Romans and Albans had all assembled to view the battle between their champions, and were eagerly awaiting the struggle which was to decide their fate. They had agreed that the nation which won should rule over the one which was worsted in the fight that was about to begin.
Encouraged to do their best by the feeling that so much depended upon their valor, the Horatii and Curiatii met. The Romans and Albans, stationed on either side, watched the encounter with breathless interest and in anxious silence.
The six young men were equally brave and well trained, but before long two of the Horatii fell, never to rise again. Only one of the Roman champions was left to uphold their cause; but he was quite unhurt, while all three of his enemies had received severe wounds.
The Curiatii were still able to fight, however, and all three turned their attention to the last Horatius. They hoped to dispatch him quickly, so as to secure the victory for Alba before the loss of blood made them too weak to fight.
The Roman champion knew that he would not be able to keep these three foes at bay, and he noticed how eager they were to bring the battle to a speedy close. To prevent that, he made up his mind to separate them, if possible, in order to fight them one by one.
He therefore made believe to run away, and was followed, as quickly as their strength allowed, by the Curiatii, who taunted him for his cowardice, and bade him stand and fight. The three wounded men ran on, as fast as they could, and were soon some distance apart; for the one whose wounds were slightest had soon left the others behind.
Horatius turned his head, saw that his enemies were now too far apart to help one another, and suddenly rushed back to attack them. A short, sharp encounter took place, and the first of the Curiatii fell, just as one of his brothers came to help him.
To kill this second foe, weakened as he was by the loss of blood and by the efforts he had made to hurry, was but the work of a moment. The second Curiatius sank beneath his enemy's sword just as the last of the Alban brothers appeared beside him. With the courage of despair, this Curiatius tried to strike a blow for his country; but he too fell, leaving the victory to Horatius, the sole survivor among the six brave warriors who had begun the fight.
The Romans had seen two of their champions fall, and the third take refuge in what seemed to be cowardly flight; and they fancied that their honor and liberty were both lost. Imagine their joy, therefore, when they saw Horatius turn, kill one enemy after another, and remain victor on the field! Shout after shout rent the air, and the Romans were almost beside themselves with pride and gladness when the Alban king came over and publicly said that he and his people would obey Rome.
Leaving the Albans to bury their dead and bewail the loss of their liberty, the Romans led their young champion back to the city, with every sign of approval and joy. Compliments and praise were showered upon the young man, who, in token of victory, had put on the embroidered mantle of one of his foes.
Every one received him joyfully as he entered the city,-every one except his sister Camilla. When she saw the mantle which she had woven and embroidered for her betrothed, she burst into tears. In her sorrow she could not hold her tongue, and bitterly reproached her brother for killing her lover.
Horatius, angry at being thus reproved, roughly bade Camilla dry her tears, and told her she was not worthy of being a Roman, since she welcomed her country's triumph with tears. As she kept on crying, after this harsh reproof, Horatius suddenly raised his hand and struck her a deadly blow with the same sword which had taken her lover's life.
The sight of this heartless murder made the Romans so angry that they wanted to put the young man to death, in spite of the service he had just rendered his country. But his aged father implored them to spare his life. He said that two of his sons were lying on the battlefield, where they had given their lives for Rome; that his lovely daughter Camilla was no more; and that the people ought to leave his only remaining child as a prop for his old age.
When Tullus Hostilius heard this pitiful request, he promised to forgive Horatius upon condition that he would lead the Roman army to Alba, and raze the walls of that ancient city, as had been agreed. The Albans were then brought to Rome, and settled at the foot of the Cælian hill, one of the seven heights of the city.
By other conquests, Tullus increased the number of his people still more. But as the streets were not yet paved, and there were no drains, the town soon became very unhealthful. A plague broke out among the people, many sickened and died, and among them perished Tullus Hostilius.
Hostilius died, after a reign of thirty two years.
Ancus Martius, the grandson of Numa, was elected king of Rome, on the death of Tullus, 641 years B.C.
As Tullus Hostilius was dead, the Romans wished to elect a new king. 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. The new ruler was very wise and good. Although he could not keep peace with all his neighbors, as his grandfather had done, he never went to war except when compelled to do so. 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.
There were now so many people in Rome that it was not easy to govern them as before. In fact, there were so many wrongdoers that Ancus was soon forced to build a prison, in which the criminals could be put while awaiting judgment. The prison was made as solid as possible, with thick stone walls. It was so strong that it still exists, and one can even now visit the deep and dark dungeons where the prisoners used to be kept more than six hundred years before Christ.
During the reign of Ancus Martius, as in those of the kings before him, many strangers came to settle in Rome. They were attracted thither by the rapid growth of the city, by the freedom which the citizens enjoyed, and by the chances offered to grow rich and powerful.
Among these strangers was a very wealthy Greek, who had lived for some time in a neighboring town called Tarquinii. This man is known in history as Tarquinius Priscus, or simply Tarquin, a name given him to remind people where he had lived before he came to Rome.
As Tarquin was rich, he did not come to Rome on foot, but rode in a chariot with his wife Tanaquil. As they were driving along, an eagle came into view, and, after circling for a while above them, suddenly swooped down and snatched Tarquin's cap off his head. A moment later it flew down again, and replaced the cap on Tarquin's head, without doing him any harm.
This was a very strange thing for an eagle to do, as you can see, and Tarquin wondered what it could mean. After thinking the matter over for a while, he asked his wife, Tanaquil, who knew a great deal about signs; and she said it meant that he would sometime be king of Rome. This prophecy pleased Tarquin very much, because he was ambitious and fond of ruling.
Tarquin and his wife were so rich and powerful that they were warmly welcomed by the Romans. They took up their abode in the city, spent their money freely, tried to make themselves as agreeable as possible, and soon made a number of friends among the patricians.
Ancus Martius became acquainted with Tarquin, and, finding him a good adviser, often sent for him to talk about the affairs of state. Little by little, the man grew more and more intimate with the king; and when Ancus died, after a reign of about twenty-four years, no one was surprised to hear that he had left his two young sons in Tarquin's care.
As you have seen, the Romans were generally victorious in the wars which they waged against their neighbors. They were so successful, however, only because they were remarkably well trained.
Not very far from the citadel there was a broad plain, bordered on one side by the Tiber. This space had been set aside, from the very beginning, as an exercising ground for the youths of Rome, who were taught to develop their muscles in every way. The young men met there every day, to drill, run races, wrestle, box, and swim in the Tiber.
These daily exercises on the Field of Mars, as this plain was called, soon made them brave, hardy, and expert; and, as a true Roman considered it beneath him to do anything but fight, the king thus had plenty of soldiers at his disposal.
Ancus Martius had greatly encouraged the young men in all these athletic exercises, and often went out to watch them as they went through their daily drill. He also took great interest in the army, and divided the soldiers into regiments, or legions as they were called in Rome.
As the city was on a river, about fifteen miles from the sea, Ancus thought it would be a very good thing to have a seaport connected with it; so he built a harbor at Ostia, a town at the mouth of the Tiber. Between the city and the port there was a long, straight road, which was built with the greatest care, and made so solidly that it is still in use to-day.
To last so long, a road had to be made in a different way from those which are built to-day. The Romans used to dig a deep trench, as long and as wide as the road they intended to make. Then the trench was nearly filled with stones of different sizes, packed tightly together. On top of this thick layer they laid great blocks of stone, forming a strong and even pavement. A road like this, with a solid bed several feet deep, could not be washed out by the spring rains, but was smooth and hard in all seasons.
Little by little the Romans built many other roads, which ran out of Rome in all directions. From this arose the saying, which is still very popular in Europe, and which you will often hear, "All roads lead to Rome."
The most famous of all the Roman roads was the Appian Way, leading from Rome southeast to Brundusium, a distance of three hundred miles. This road, although built about two thousand years ago, is still in good condition, showing how careful the Romans were in their work.
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.
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, 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. As he was anxious to be king of Rome himself, he said that these lads were far too young to reign wisely, and soon persuaded the people to give him the crown instead.
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.
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.
Although Tarquin thus gained his power wrongfully, he proved to be a very good king, and did all he could to improve and beautify the city of Rome. To make the place more healthful, and to prevent another plague like the one which had killed Tullus Hostilius, he built a great drain, or sewer, all across the city.
This drain, which is called the Cloaca Maxima, also served to carry off the water from the swampy places between the hills on which Rome was built. As Tarquin knew that work properly done will last a long while, he was very particular about the building of this sewer. He had it made so large that several teams of oxen could pass in it abreast, and the work was so well done that the drain is still perfect to-day, although the men who planned and built it have been dead more than twenty-four hundred years. Strangers who visit Rome are anxious to see this ancient piece of masonry, and all of them praise the builders who did their work so carefully.
One place which this great sewer drained was the Forum,-an open space which was used as a market place, and which Tarquin surrounded with covered walks. Here the Romans were in the habit of coming to buy and sell, and to talk over the news of the day. In later times, they came here also to discuss public affairs, and near the center of the Forum was erected a stand from which men could make speeches to the people.
Tarquin also built a huge open-air circus for the Romans, who loved to see all sorts of games and shows. In order to make the city safer, he began to build a new and solid fortress in place of the old citadel. This fortress was sometimes called the Capitol, and hence the hill on which it stood was named the Capitoline. The king also gave orders that a great wall should be built all around the whole city of Rome.
As this wall was not finished when Tarquin died, it had to be completed by the next king. The city was then so large that it covered all seven of the hills of Rome,-the Palatine, Capitoline, Quirinal, Cælian, Aventine, Viminal, and Esquiline.
Soon after Tarquin came to the throne, he increased the size of the army. He also decided that he would always be escorted by twelve men called Lictors, each of whom carried a bundle of rods, in the center of which there was a sharp ax. The rods meant that those who disobeyed would be punished by a severe whipping; and the axes, that criminals would have their heads cut off.
During the reign of Tarquin, 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. The augurs often said that the signs were against the things which the king wanted to do. This made Tarquin angry, and he was very anxious to get rid of the stubborn priests; for, by pretending that they knew the will of the gods, they were really more powerful than he.
The chief of these augurs, Attus Navius, was one of the most clever men of his time; and Tarquin knew that if he could only once prove him wrong, he would be able to disregard what any of them said. The king therefore sent for the augur one day, and asked him to decide whether the thing he was thinking about could be done or not.
The augur consulted the usual signs, and after due thought answered that the thing could be done.
"But," said Tarquin, drawing a razor and a pebble out from under the wide folds of his mantle, "I was wondering whether I could cut this pebble in two with this razor."
"Cut!" said the augur boldly.
We are told that Tarquin obeyed, and that, to his intense surprise, the razor divided the pebble as neatly and easily as if it had been a mere lump of clay. After this test of the augurs' power, Tarquin no longer dared to oppose their decisions; and although he was king, he did nothing without the sanction of the priests.
Tarquin was called upon to wage many wars during his reign. He once brought home a female prisoner, whom he gave to his wife as a servant. This was nothing unusual, for Romans were in the habit of making slaves of their war prisoners, who were forced to spend the rest of their lives in serving their conquerors.
Shortly after her arrival in Tarquin's house, this woman gave birth to a little boy; and Tanaquil, watching the babe one day, was surprised to see a flame hover over its head without doing it any harm. Now Tanaquil was very superstitious, and fancied that she could tell the meaning of every sign that she saw. She at once exclaimed that she knew the child was born to greatness; and she adopted him as her own son, calling him Servius Tullius.
The child of a slave thus grew up in the king's house, and when he had reached manhood he married Tanaquil's daughter. This marriage greatly displeased the sons of Ancus Martius. The young princes had hoped that they would be chosen kings as soon as Tarquin died; but they saw that Servius Tullius was always preferred to them. They now began to fear that he would inherit the throne, and they soon learned to hate him.
To prevent Servius from ever being king, they resolved to get rid of Tarquin and to take possession of the crown before their rival had any chance to get ahead of them. A murderer was hired to kill the king; and as soon as he had a good chance, he stole into the palace and struck Tarquin with a hatchet.
As the murderer fled, Tarquin sank to the ground; but in spite of this sudden attempt to murder her husband, Tanaquil did not lose her presence of mind. She promptly had him placed upon a couch, where he died a few moments later. Then she sent word to the senate that Tarquin was only dangerously ill, and wished Servius to govern in his stead until he was better.
She managed so cleverly, that no one suspected that the king was dead. The sons of Ancus Martius fled from Rome when they heard that Tarquin was only wounded, and during their absence Servius Tullius ruled the Romans for more than a month.
He was so wise and careful in all his dealings with the people that they elected him as the sixth king of Rome, when they finally learned that Tarquin was dead. It was thus that the two wicked princes lost all right to the kingdom which they had tried to obtain by such a base crime as murder.
Although Servius Tullius was the son of a slave, and had won the crown by a trick, he proved an excellent king. As he had once been poor himself, he was very thoughtful for the lower classes of Rome. He not only helped the poor to pay their debts, but also gave orders that some of the public land should be divided among the plebeians, so that they could support themselves by farming.
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.
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.
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.
Although Servius Tullius was the son of a slave, and had won the crown by a trick, he proved an excellent king. As he had once been poor himself, he was very thoughtful for the lower classes of Rome. He not only helped the poor to pay their debts, but also gave orders that some of the public land should be divided among the plebeians, so that they could support themselves by farming.
Once a slave himself, he also took pity upon the hard life of the Roman slaves, and made laws in their favor. He even said that they should be set free if they served their masters faithfully for a certain length of time, or if they paid a sufficient sum of money.
Slaves who had thus gained their liberty were called freedmen. Although they often stayed in their masters' employ, they were no longer treated as slaves, but were paid for all they did. Little by little the number of these freedmen grew greater, and slavery was no longer considered so terrible, since there was a chance of some time being free.
By order of Servius Tullius, all the Romans came together, in complete armor, once in every five years on the Field of Mars. Here they were carefully counted, and every man was called upon to give an exact account of his family and of his property. In this way, the king knew just how many patricians, plebeians, freedmen, and slaves were to be found in Rome; and the process of thus counting the people was called taking a census.
Before the assembled Romans were allowed to leave the Field of Mars and return to their homes, the priests held a religious ceremony to purify the whole state. This was called a Lustrum. As five years elapsed from one such ceremony to another, the Romans sometimes counted time by lustrums, just as we use the word decade instead of ten years.
Servius would probably have made many more reforms in Rome, had he not been forced to lay down the crown with his life, as you will soon see. Although he had no sons to succeed him, he had two grown-up daughters, of very different dispositions. One of them was very gentle and good, while the other was wicked and had a violent temper.
Servius was anxious to settle both these daughters comfortably, so he gave them in marriage to the sons of Tarquin. These young men were also very different in character. One was so cruel and proud that he came to be called Tarquin the Haughty, or Tarquinius Superbus, in order to distinguish him from his father, Tarquin the Elder. To this prince Servius gave his gentle daughter.
The wicked daughter, Tullia, was then provided with a good-natured husband; but she despised him on account of his kindly and gentle ways. Tullia and Tarquinius Superbus were so alike in character and tastes that they soon fell in love with each other and wished to marry.
As they were both married already, it was very wicked for them even to think of such a thing; but they were so bad that they agreed to murder their gentle partners, and then to become husband and wife. This plan was quickly carried out; and, as one wicked deed leads to another, they were no sooner married than they began to plot a second crime.
Both Tarquinius Superbus and Tullia, his wife, were very ambitious, and anxious to occupy the throne; and they soon arranged to murder Servius Tullius, so that they might reign in his stead.
According to the plan which they had made, Tarquin drove off to the senate one day; and there, walking boldly up to Servius Tullius, he publicly claimed the crown. He said that he had the best right to it because he was the true heir of Tarquin the Elder.
Servius paid no heed to this insolent demand, and Tarquin, seeing that his father-in-law did not move, suddenly caught him by the feet, dragged him from the throne, and flung him down the stairs into the street.
This terrible fall stunned the king, and for a while every one thought that he was killed. His friends were about to carry him away, when he slowly opened his eyes. Tarquin, seeing that Servius was not dead, now gave orders to his servants to kill the king, and loudly proclaimed that any one who ventured to interfere should die too.
Frightened by this terrible threat, none of the Romans dared to move, and Servius was killed before their eyes. They did not even venture to touch the bleeding and lifeless body of their murdered king, but left it lying in the middle of the street. Then they obediently followed the cruel Tarquin into the senate house, where he took his place on the vacant throne, as the seventh king of Rome.
In the mean while, Tullia was anxiously awaiting news of her father's murder, and was wondering if anything had happened to spoil the plans which she had helped her husband to make. Too impatient to wait any longer, she finally ordered her servants to get her chariot ready, and then drove off to find Tarquin.
When the chariot had turned into the narrow street which led to the senate, the driver suddenly pulled up his horses. Tullia then asked him why he did not go on. The man told her that he could not pass because the king's body lay across the street; but when she heard this, she haughtily bade him drive over it. We are told that the inhuman daughter was splashed with her father's blood when she appeared in the senate to congratulate her wicked husband upon the success of their plan. This horrible act of cruelty was never forgotten in Rome, and the street where the murder took place was known as Wicked Street, and was always considered unlucky.
The new king soon showed that he had a full right to the surname of Superbus, which meant insolent as well as haughty. When the people came to ask his permission to bury the dead king, he said, Romulus, the founder of Rome, did without a funeral; Servius needs none.
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.
A man who did not scruple to commit murder in order to obtain the throne, must have been very bad at heart, and Tarquin soon became extremely cruel in the way he governed the people of Rome. The poor were obliged to work day and night on the buildings which he wished to erect; and he treated many of the nobles so rudely that they left Rome and went to live in the neighboring city of Gabii.
One of the principle edifices built by Tarquin, at the cost of so much suffering to the poor, was a temple for the service of the god Jupiter. It seems that as the builders were digging for the foundations, they suddenly came across a very well-preserved skull.
As the Romans were very superstitious, they immediately sent for the augurs to tell them the hidden meaning of the discovery. After some thought, the augurs said it was a sign that the gods were going to make this place the head of the world.
Now the Latin word for head is caput, and the Romans in later times thought that this was what gave its name to Capitol, as the Temple of Jupiter was always called. This famous building stood on the Capitoline hill, not far from the citadel of which you have already heard. Every year there was a great festival, in which all the Romans marched up the hill and went into the temple. There, in the presence of the people, one of the priests drove a nail into the wall, to keep a record of the time which had passed since the building of the temple.
Tarquinius Superbus had partly finished the Capitol, when he received a very strange visit. The Sibyl, or prophetess, who dwelt in a cave at Cumæ, came to see him. She carried nine rolls, or books, which she offered to sell him for three hundred pieces of gold.
Tarquin asked what the books contained, and she replied that it was prophecies about Rome. He wished to see them, but the Sibyl would not let him look at a single page until he had bought them. Now, although the king knew she was a prophetess, he did not want to pay so much; and when he told the woman so, she went away in anger.
Not long after, the Sibyl again visited Tarquin. This time, she brought only six books, for which, however, she demanded the same price as for the nine. Tarquin, surprised, asked her what had become of the other volumes; and she answered shortly that they were burned.
Tarquin again wanted to see the books, and was again refused even a glimpse into them. Then he found fault with the price, and again Sibyl grew angry, and went away with her six volumes.
Although the king fancied that he would never see her again, she soon returned with only three volumes. She said that all the others were burned, and asked him three hundred pieces of gold for those that were left. The king, awed by her manner, bought them without further ado.
When the priests opened the mysterious volumes, they said that the prophecies concerning Rome were too wonderful for any one but themselves to see. The books were therefore placed in a stone chest in the Capitol, where the priests guarded them night and day.
From time to time, whenever any great trouble occurred, and the people did not know what to do, the augurs peeped into these volumes. Here they said they always found some good advice; but we now think that they pretended to read from the volume whatever they wished the Romans to do.
Tarquinius Superbus, the seventh king of Rome, was not only a builder, but also a great warrior. During his reign he made war against the Volscians, and he also besieged the city of Gabii, where the patricians who did not like him had taken refuge.
This city was so favorably situated, and so well fortified, that Tarquin could not make himself master of it, although his army was unusually well trained.
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.
When the Gabians heard the pitiful tale which Sextus told, they not only let him into the city, but also revealed to him their secrets. Then they made him general of their army, and even gave him the keys of the gates. Sextus was now all-powerful at Gabii, but he did not know exactly what to do next, so he sent a messenger to his father, to tell him all that had happened, and to ask his advice.
The messenger found Tarquin in his garden, slowly walking up and down between the flower borders. He delivered all his messages, and then asked what reply he should carry back to Sextus at Gabii.
Instead of answering the man, Tarquin slowly turned and walked down the garden path, striking off the heads of the tallest poppies with his staff. The messenger waited for a while in silence, and then again asked what answer he should take to his master.
Tarquin came back to him, and carelessly said: Go back to Gabii, and tell my son that I had no answer to send him, but be sure to tell him where you found me, and what I was doing.
The man went back to Sextus, and reported all he had seen. After thinking the matter over for a little while, Sextus understood why no verbal message had been sent. It was for fear their plans would become known; and then he decided that his father, by striking off the heads of the tallest flowers, meant to advise him to get rid of the principal men in the city.
This advice pleased the young prince, who now sought, and soon found, a pretext for getting rid of all the most prominent people of Gabii, without arousing any suspicions. When all the bravest men had been either exiled or slain, there was no one left who dared to oppose him. Then Sextus opened the gates of the city and handed it over to the Romans.
A wicked man is never really happy; and Tarquin, who had committed so many crimes, could not find much enjoyment in life. His conscience troubled him, his sleep was haunted by bad dreams, and he felt so restless that he did not know what to do.
As the Romans believed that dreams were sent by their gods to warn them of the future, Tarquin was very anxious to have an explanation of the visions which disturbed his rest. He asked the Roman priests, but they failed to give him a satisfactory answer; so he decided to send to Delphi, in Greece, and to ask the noted oracle there to interpret these bad dreams.
Now, as you may know, Delphi was a place in the mountains of Greece where there was a temple dedicated to the service of Apollo, god of the sun. In this temple lived a priestess called the Pythoness, who was supposed to converse with the gods, and to make their wishes known to all who consulted her. Any priest who did this was known as an oracle; and at the same time the answers given out were also called oracles.
Now one of Tarquin's crimes was the murder of a nephew. His widowed sister, it seems, had two sons, who were very rich. As the king wanted to get their money, he killed one of them, and spared the other only because he thought him an idiot. In fact, the Romans used to say that this nephew's name, Brutus, was given him because of his brutelike stupidity. The young man, however, was only pretending to be stupid; he was really very intelligent, and was patiently waiting for a chance to avenge his brother's death.
Tarquinius Superbus selected two of his own sons to carry his offerings to the temple of Delphi, and sent Brutus with them as an attendant. After giving the king's offerings, and obtaining an oracle for him, the three young men resolved to question the Pythoness about their own future.
Each gave a present to the priestess. The two princes offered rich gifts, but Brutus gave only the staff which he had used on the journey thither. Although this present seemed very mean, compared with the others, it was in reality much the most valuable, because the staff was hollow, and full of gold.
The young men now asked the Pythoness the question which all three had agreed was the most important. This was the name of the next king of Rome. The priestess, who rarely answered a question directly, replied that he would rule who first kissed his mother on returning home.
Tarquin's sons were much pleased by this answer, and each began to plan how to reach home quickly, and be the first to kiss his mother. Brutus seemed quite indifferent, as usual; but, thanks to his offering, the priestess gave him a hint about what he should do.
Their mission thus satisfactorily ended, the three young men set out for Rome. When they landed upon their native soil, Brutus fell down upon his knees, and kissed the earth, the mother of all mankind. Thus he obeyed the directions of the Pythoness without attracting the attention of the two princes. Intent upon their own hopes, the sons of Tarquin hurried home, kissed their mother at the same moment on either cheek.
Tarquin had now reigned several years, and was so cruel and tyrannical that he was both feared and disliked by the Romans. They would have been only too glad to get rid of him, but they were waiting for a leader and for a good opportunity.
During the siege of a town called Ardea, the king's sons and their cousins, Collatinus, once began to quarrel about the merit of their wives. 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. Each one boasted that his was the best, and to settle the dispute they agreed to leave the camp and visit the home of each, so as to see exactly how the women were employed during the absence of their husbands.
They found that the daughters-in-law of the king were idle and frivolous, for they were all at a banquet; but they saw Lucretia, the wife of Collatinus, spinning in the midst of her maidens, and teaching them while she worked.
This woman, so usefully employed, and such a model wife and housekeeper, was also very beautiful. When the princes saw her, they all said that Collatinus was right in their dispute, for his wife was the best of all the Roman women.
Lucretia's beauty had made a deep impression upon one of the princes. This was Sextus Tarquinius, who had betrayed Gabii, and he slipped away from the camp one night and went to visit her.
He waited till she was alone, so that there might be no one to protect her, and then he insulted her grossly; for he was as cowardly as he was wicked. 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.
Lucretia, as we have seen, was a good and pure woman, so, of course, she could neither tell a lie, nor hide anything from her husband which she thought he should know. She therefore sent a messenger to Collatinus and to her father, bidding them come to her quickly.
Collatinus came, accompanied by his father-in-law and by Brutus, who had come with them because he suspected that something was wrong. 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 Romans believed that it was a far nobler thing to end their lives by violence than to suffer trouble or disgrace. Lucretia's action was therefore considered very brave by all the Romans, whose admiration was kindled by her virtues, and greatly increased by her tragic death.
Collatinus and Lucretia's father were at first speechless with horror; but Brutus, the supposed idiot (Brutus to save his own life, had pretended to be a simpleton), 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, drew the bloody dagger from her breast. He swore that her death should be avenged, and that Rome should be freed from the tyranny of the wicked Tarquins, who were all unfit to reign. This oath was repeated by Collatinus and his father-in-law.
By the advice of Brutus, Lucretia's dead body was laid on a bier, and carried to the market place, where all might see her bleeding side. There Brutus told the assembled people that this young and beautiful woman had died on account of the wickedness of Sextus Tarquinius, and that he had sworn to avenge her. Brutus 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."
Excited by this speech, the people all cried out that they would help him, and they voted that the Tarquin family should be driven out of Rome. Next they said that the name of the king should never be used again.
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.
When the news of the people's fury reached the ears of Tarquin, he fled to a town in Etruria. Sextus, also, tried to escape from his just punishment, but he went to Gabii, where the people rose up and put him to death. 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, 243 from the building of the city (509 B.C.), royalty perished in Rome, and the republican government began.
It was thus that the Roman monarchy ended, after seven kings had occupied the throne. Their rule had lasted about two hundred and forty-five years; but although ancient Rome was for a long time the principal city in Europe, it was never under a king again.
The exiled Tarquins, driven from the city, were forced to remain in Etruria. But Brutus, the man whom they had despised, remained at the head of affairs, and was given the title Deliverer of the People, because he had freed the Romans from the tyranny of the Tarquins.
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