Historic Tales, Volume 11 (of 15) - The Romance of Reality
by Charles Morris
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Historical Tales

The Romance of Reality



Author of "Half-Hours with the Best American Authors," "Tales from the Dramatists," etc.


Volume XI



Copyright, 1896, by J.B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY.

Copyright, 1904, by J.B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY.

Copyright, 1908, by J.B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY.






































































Very far back in time, more than twenty-six hundred years ago, on the banks of a small Italian river, known as the Tiber, were laid the foundations of a city which was in time to become the conqueror of the civilized world. Of the early days of this renowned city of Rome we know very little. What is called its history is really only legend,—stories invented by poets, or ancient facts which became gradually changed into romances. The Romans believed them, but that is no reason why we should. They believed many things which we doubt. And yet these romantic stories are the only existing foundation-stones of actual Roman history, and we can do no better than give them for what little kernel of fact they may contain.

In our tales from Greek history it has been told how the city of Troy was destroyed, and how AEneas, one of its warrior chiefs, escaped. After many adventures this fugitive Trojan prince reached Italy and founded there a new kingdom. His son Ascanius afterwards built the city of Alba Longa (the long white city) not far from the site of the later city of Rome. Three hundred years passed away, many kings came and went, and then Numitor, a descendant of AEneas, came to the throne. But Numitor had an ambitious brother, Amulius, who robbed him of his crown, and, while letting him live, killed his only son and shut up his daughter Silvia in the temple of the goddess Vesta, to guard the ever-burning fire of that deity.

Here Silvia had twin sons, whose father was said, in the old superstitious fashion, to be Mars, the God of War. The usurper, fearing that these sons of Mars might grow up and deprive him of his throne, ordered that they and their mother should be flung into the Tiber, then swollen with recent rains. The mother was drowned, but destiny, or Mars, preserved the sons. Borne onward in their basket cradle, they were at length swept ashore where the river had overflown its banks at the foot of the afterwards famous Palatine Hill. Here the cradle was over-turned near the roots of a wild fig-tree, and the infants left at the edge of the shallow waters.

What follows sounds still more like fable. A she-wolf that came to the water to drink chanced to see the helpless children, and carried them to her cave, where she fed them with her milk. As they grew older a woodpecker brought them food, flying in and out of the cave. At length Faustulus, a herdsman of the king, found these lusty infants in the wolf's den, took them home, and gave them to his wife Laurentia to bring up with her own children. He gave them the names of Romulus and Remus.

Years went by, and the river waifs grew to be strong, handsome, and brave young men. They became leaders among the shepherds and herdsmen, and helped them to fight the wild animals that troubled their flocks. Their home was on the Palatine Hill, and the cattle and sheep for which they cared were those of the wicked king Amulius. Near by was another hill, called the Aventine, and on this the deposed king Numitor fed his flocks. In course of time a quarrel arose between the herdsmen on the two hills, and Numitor's men, having laid an ambush, took Remus prisoner and carried him to Alba, where their master dwelt. This no sooner became known to Romulus than he gathered the young men of the Palatine Hill, and set out in all haste to the rescue of his brother.

Meanwhile, Remus had been taken before Numitor, who gazed on him with surprise. His face and bearing were rather those of a prince than of a shepherd, and there was something in his aspect familiar to the old king. Numitor questioned him closely, and Remus told him the story of the river, the wolf, and the herdsman. Numitor listened intently. The story took him back to the day, many years before, when his daughter Silvia and her twin sons had been thrown into the swollen stream. Could the children have escaped? Could this handsome youth be his grandson? It must be so, for his age and his story agreed.

But while they talked, Romulus and his followers reached the city, and, being forbidden entrance, made an assault on the gates. In the conflict that ensued Amulius took part and was killed, and thus Numitor and his daughter were at last revenged. Seeking Remus, the victorious shepherd prince found him with Numitor, who now fully recognized in the twin youths his long-lost grandsons. Romulus, who was now master of the city, restored his royal grandfather to the throne.

As for Romulus and Remus, their life as shepherds was at an end. It was not for youths of royal blood and warlike aspirations to spend their lives in keeping sheep. But Numitor had been restored to the throne of Alba, and they decided to build a city of their own on those hills where all their lives had been passed and on which they preferred to dwell. The land belonged to Numitor, but he willingly granted it to them, and they led their followers to the spot.

Here a dispute arose between the brothers. The story goes that Romulus wished to have the city built on the Palatine Hill, Remus on the Aventine Hill; and that, as they could not agree, they referred the matter to their grandfather, who advised them to settle it by augury,—or by watching and forming conclusions from the flight of birds. This long continued the favorite Roman mode of settling difficult questions. It was easier than the Greek plan of going to Delphi to consult the oracle.

The two brothers now stationed themselves on the opposite hills, each with a portion of their followers, and waited patiently for what the heavens might send. The day slowly waned, and they waited in vain. Night came and deepened, and still their vigil lasted. At length, just as the sun of a new day rose in the east, Remus saw a flight of vultures, six in all. He exulted at the sight, for the vulture, as a bird which was seldom seen and did no harm to cattle or crops, was looked upon as an excellent augury. Word of his success was sent to Romulus, but he capped the story with a better one, saying that twelve vultures had just passed over his hill.

The dispute was still open. Remus had seen the birds first; Romulus had seen the most. Which had won? The question was offered to the decision of their followers, the majority of whom raised their voices in favor of Romulus. The Palatine Hill was therefore chosen as the city's site. This event took place, so Roman chronology tells us, in the year 753 B.C.

The day fixed for the beginning of the work on the new city—the 21st of April—was a day of religious ceremony and festival among the shepherds. On this day they offered sacrifices of cakes and milk to their god Pales, asked for blessings on the flocks and herds, and implored pardon for all offences against the dryads of the woods, the nymphs of the streams, and other deities. They purified themselves by flame and their flocks by smoke, and afterwards indulged in rustic feasts and games. This day of religious consecration was deemed by Romulus the fittest one for the important ceremony of founding his projected city.

Far back in time as it was when this took place, Italy seems to have already possessed numerous cities, many of which were to become enemies of Rome in later days. The most civilized of the Italian peoples were the Etruscans, a nation dwelling north of the Tiber, and whose many cities displayed a higher degree of civilization than those around them. From these the Romans in later days borrowed many of their religious customs, and to them Romulus sent to learn what were the proper ceremonies to use in founding a city.

The ceremonies he used were the following. At the centre of the chosen area he dug a circular pit through the soil to the hard clay beneath, and cast into this, with solemn observances, some of the first fruits of the season. Each of his men also threw in a handful of earth brought from his native land. Then the pit was filled up, an altar erected upon it, and a fire kindled on the altar. In this way was the city consecrated to the gods.

Then, having harnessed a cow and a bull of snow-white color to a plough whose share was made of brass, Romulus ploughed a furrow along the line of the future walls. He took care that the earth of the furrow should fall inward towards the city, and also to lift the plough and carry it over the places where gates were to be made. As he ploughed he uttered a prayer to Jupiter, Mars, Vesta, and other deities, invoking their favor, and praying that the new city should long endure and become an all-ruling power upon the earth.

The Romans tell us that his prayer was answered by Jupiter, who sent thunder from one side of the heavens and lightning from the other. These omens encouraged the people, who went cheerfully to the work of building the walls. But the consecration of the city was not yet completed. Its walls were to be cemented by noble blood. There is reason to believe that in those days the line of a city's walls was held as sacred, and that it was desecration to enter the enclosure at any place except those left for the gates. This may be the reason that Romulus gave orders to a man named Celer, who had charge of the building of the walls, not to let any one pass over the furrow made by the plough. However this be, the story goes that Remus, who was still angry about his brother's victory, leaped scornfully over the furrow, exclaiming, "Shall such defences as these keep your city?"

Celer, who stood by, stirred to sudden fury by this disdain, raised the spade with which he had been working, and struck Remus a blow that laid him dead upon the ground. Then, fearing vengeance for his hasty act, he rushed away with such speed that his name has since been a synonyme for quickness. Our word "celerity" is derived from it. But Romulus seems to have borne the infliction with much of that spirit of fortitude which distinguished the Romans in after-times. At least, the only effect the death of his brother had upon him, so far as we know, was in the remark, "So let it happen to all who pass over my walls!" Thus were consecrated in the blood of a brother the walls of that city which in later years was to be bathed in the blood of the brotherhood of mankind, and from which was destined to outflow a torrent of desolation over the earth.


A tract of ground surrounded by walls does not make a city. Men are wanted, and of these the new city of Rome had but few. The band of shepherds who were sufficient to build a wall, or perhaps only a wooden palisade, were not enough to inhabit a city and defend it from its foes. The neighboring people had cities of their own, except bandits and fugitives, men who had shed blood, exiles driven from their homes by their enemies, or slaves who had fled from their lords and masters. These were the only people to be had, and Romulus invited them in by proclaiming that his city should be an asylum for all who were oppressed, a place of refuge to which any man might flee and be safe from his pursuers. He erected a temple to a god named Asylaeus,—from whom comes the word asylum,—and in this he "received and protected all, delivering none back, neither the servant to his master, the debtor to his creditor, nor the murderer into the hands of the magistrate, saying that it was a privileged place, and they could so maintain it by an order of the holy oracle, insomuch that the city grew presently very populous."

It was a quick and easy way of peopling a city. Doubtless the country held many such fugitives,—men lurking in woods or caves, hiding in mountain clefts, abiding wherever a place of safety offered,—hundreds of whom, no doubt, were glad to find a shelter among men and behind walls of defence. But it was probably a sorry population, made up of the waifs of mankind, many of whom had been slaves or murderers. There were certainly no women among this desperate horde, and Romulus appealed in vain to the neighboring cities to let his people obtain wives from among their maidens. It was not safe for the citizens of Rome to go abroad to seek wives for themselves; the surrounding peoples rejected the appeal of Romulus with scorn and disdain; unless something was done Rome bade fair to remain a city of bachelors.

In this dilemma Romulus conceived a plan to win wives for his people. He sent word abroad that he had discovered the altar of the god Consus, who presided over secret counsels, and he invited the citizens of the neighboring towns to come to Rome and take part in a feast with which he proposed to celebrate the festal day of the deity. This was the 21st of August, just four months after the founding of the city,—that is, if it was the same year.

There were to be sacrifices to Consus, where libations would be poured into the flames that consumed the victims. These would be followed by horse-and chariot-races, banquets, and other festivities. The promise of merry-making brought numerous spectators from the nearer cities, some doubtless drawn by curiosity to see what sort of a commonwealth this was that had grown up so suddenly on the sheep pastures of the Palatine Hill; and they found their wives and daughters as curious and eager for enjoyment as themselves, and brought them along, ignoring the scorn with which they had lately rejected the Roman proposals for wives. It was a religious festival, and therefore safe; so visitors came from the cities of Coenina, Crustumerium, and Antemna, and a multitude from the neighboring country of the Sabines.

The sacrifices over, the games began. The visitors, excited by the races, became scattered about among the Romans. But as the chariots, drawn by flying horses, sped swiftly over the ground, and the eyes of the visitors followed them in their flight, Romulus gave a preconcerted signal, and immediately each Roman seized a maiden whom he had managed to get near and carried her struggling and screaming from the ground. As they did so, each called out "Talasia," a word which means spinning, and which afterwards became the refrain of a Roman marriage song.

The games at once broke up in rage and confusion. But the visitors were unarmed and helpless. Their anger could be displayed only in words, and Romulus told them boldly that they owed their misfortune to their pride. But all would go well with their daughters, he said, since their new husbands would take the place with them of home and family.

This reasoning failed to satisfy the fathers who had been robbed so violently of their daughters, and they had no sooner reached home than many of them seized their arms and marched against their faithless hosts. First came the people of Coenina; but the Romans defeated them, and Romulus killed their king. Then came the people of Crustumerium and Antemna, but they too were defeated. The prisoners were taken into Rome and made citizens of the new commonwealth.

But it was the Sabines who had most to deplore, for they had come in much the greatest number, and it was principally the Sabine virgins whom the Romans had borne off from the games. Titus Tatius, the king of the Sabines, therefore resolved upon a signal revenge, and took time to gather a large army, with which he marched against Rome.

The war that followed was marked by two romantic incidents. Near the Tiber is a hill,—afterwards known as the Capitoline Hill,—which was divided from the Palatine Hill by a low and swampy valley. On this hill Romulus had built a fortress, as a sort of outwork of his new city. It happened that Tarpeius, the chief who held this fortress, had a daughter named Tarpeia, who was deeply affected by that love of finery which has caused abundant mischief since her day. When she saw the golden collars and bracelets which many of the Sabines wore, her soul was filled with longing, and she managed to let them know that she would betray the fortress into their hands if they would give her the bright things which they wore upon their arms.

They consented, and she secretly opened to them a gate of the fortress. But as they marched through the gate, and the traitress waited to receive her reward, the Sabine soldiers threw on her the bright shields which they wore on their arms, and she was crushed to death beneath their weight. The steep rock of the Capitoline Hill from which traitors were afterwards thrown was called, after her, the Tarpeian Rock.

The fortress thus captured, the valley between the hill and the city became the scene of battle. Here the Sabines repulsed the Romans, driving them back to one of their gates, through which the fugitives rushed in confusion, shutting it hastily behind them. But—if we may trust the legend—the gate refused to stay shut. It opened again of its own accord. They closed it twice more, and twice more it swung open. The victorious Sabines, who had now reached it, began to rush in; but just then, from the Temple of Janus, near by, there burst forth a mighty stream of water, which swept the Sabines away and saved Rome from capture. Therefore, in after-days, the gates of the Temple of Janus stood always wide open in time of war, that the god might go out, if he would, to fight for the Romans.

Another battle took place in the valley, and the Romans again began to flee. Romulus now prayed to Jupiter, and vowed to erect to him a temple as Jupiter Stator,—that is, the "stayer,"—if he would stay the Romans in their flight. Jupiter did so, or, at any rate, the Romans turned again to the fight, which now waxed furious. What would have been its result we cannot tell, for it was brought to an end by the other romantic incident of which we have spoken.

In fact, while the fathers of the Sabine virgins retained their anger against the Romans, the virgins themselves, who had now long been brides, had become comforted, most of them being as attached to their husbands as they had been to their parents before; and in the midst of the furious battle between their nearest relatives the lately abducted damsels were seen rushing down the Palatine Hill, and forcing their way, with appealing eyes and dishevelled hair, in between the combatants.

"Make us not twice captives!" they earnestly exclaimed, saying pathetically that if the war went on they would be widowed or fatherless, both of which sad alternatives they deplored.

The result of this appeal was a happy one. Both sides let fall their arms, and peace was declared upon the spot, it being recognized that there could be no closer bond of unity than that made by the daughters of the Sabines and wives of the Romans. The two people agreed to become one, the Sabines making their new home on the Capitoline and Quirinal Hills, and the Romans continuing to occupy the Palatine. As for the women, there was established in their honor the feast called Matronalia, in which husbands gave presents to their wives and lovers to their betrothed. Romulus and Tatius were to rule jointly, and afterwards the king of Rome should be alternately of Roman and Sabine birth.

After five years Tatius was killed in a quarrel, and Romulus became sole king. Under him Rome grew rapidly. He was successful in his wars, and enriched his people with the spoils of his enemies In rule he was just and gentle, and punished those guilty of crime not by death, but by fines of sheep or oxen. It is said, though, that he grew somewhat arrogant, and was accustomed to receive his people dressed in scarlet and lying on a couch of state, where he was surrounded by a body of young men called Celeres, from the speed with which they flew to execute his orders.

For nearly forty years his reign continued, and then his end came strangely. One day he called the people together in the Field of Mars. But suddenly there arose a frightful storm, with such terrible thunder and lightning and such midnight darkness that the people fled homeward in affright through the drenching rain. That was the last of Romulus. He was never seen in life again. He may have been slain by enemies, but the popular belief was that Mars, his father, had carried him up to heaven in his chariot. All that the people knew was that one night, when Proculus Julius, a friend of the king, was on his way from Alba to Rome, he met Romulus by the way, his stature beyond that of man, and his face showing the beauty of the gods.

Proculus asked him why he had left the people to sorrow and wicked surmises, for some said that the senators had made away with him. Romulus replied that it was the wish of the gods that, after building a city that was destined to the greatest empire and glory, he should go to heaven and dwell with the gods.

"Go and tell my people that they must not weep for me any more," he said; "but bid them to be brave and warlike, and so shall they make my city the greatest on the earth."

This story satisfied the people that their king had been made a god; so they built a temple to him, and always afterwards worshipped him under the name of the god Quirinus. A festival called the Quirinalia was celebrated each year on the 17th of February, the day on which he had vanished from the eyes of men.


Romulus was succeeded by a king named Numa Pompilius, of Sabine origin, who so loved peace that during his reign Rome had no wars and no enemies, so that the doors of the Temple of Janus were never once opened while he was on the throne. He built a temple to Faith, that men might learn to avoid falsehood and to act honestly. He taught the people to sacrifice nothing but the fruits of the earth, cakes of flour, and roasted corn, and to shed no blood upon the altars. And so Home was peaceful and prosperous throughout his long reign, and grew rapidly in wealth and population. He died at length when eighty years of age, and was succeeded by Tullus Hostilius, a king of Roman birth.

The new king loved war as much as the gentle Numa had loved peace. Under his rule the gates of the Temple of Janus were soon thrown open again, long to remain so. His first war was with the city of Alba Longa, the foster-parent of Rome. Some border troubles brought on hostilities, war broke out, and an Alban army marched until within fifteen miles of Rome. And here took place a celebrated incident. The two armies were drawn out on the field, and were about to plunge into the dreadful work of battle, when the Alban king, to whom the war seemed a foolish and useless one, stood out between the two armies and spoke in the hearing of both.

He reminded them that the Romans and Albans were of the same origin, and that they were surrounded by nations who would like to see both of them weakened. He proposed, therefore, that the dispute between them should be decided not by battle, but by a duel between a few soldiers, and that the side which won should rule the other. This proposal seemed to Tullus a sensible one, and he accepted it, offering as the combatants on his side three brothers known as the Horatii.

The Alban army had also three brave brothers, of about the same age as the Roman champions, known as the Curiatii, and these were chosen to uphold the honor and dominion of Alba against Rome. So, with the two armies as spectators, and a broad space between for the deadly duel, the six champions, fully armed, faced each other in the field.

The onset was fierce, and set every heart in the two armies throbbing in hope or dread. But after a short time a shout of triumph went up from the Alban host. Two of the Horatii lay stretched in death on the field. The Curiatii were all wounded, but they were now three to one, so the remaining Horatius turned and fled, though he was still unhurt. Dismay fell on the Romans as they saw their single champion in full flight, pursued by his opponents. The glad shouts of the Albans redoubled.

Suddenly a change came. The fugitive, whose flight had been a feint, to separate his foes, now turned and saw that the wounded men were lagging in pursuit and were widely separated. Running quickly back, he met the nearest, and killed him with a blow. The other two were met and slain in succession before they could aid each other. Then, holding up his bloody sword in triumph, the victor invited the plaudits of his friends, while shedding dismay on Alban hearts.

The Romans, now lords of the Albans, returned to Rome in triumph, their advent to the city being marked by the first of those pompous processions which in after-years became known as Roman Triumphs, and were celebrated with the utmost splendor and costliness of display.

But the affair of the Horatii and Curiatii was not yet at an end. It was to be finished in blood and crime. A sister of the Horatii was the affianced bride of one of the Curiatii, and as she saw her victorious brother enter the city, bearing on his shoulders the military cloak which she had wrought for her lover with her own hands, she broke into wild invectives, tearing her hair, and upbraiding her brother with bitter words. Roused to fury by this accusation, the victor, in a paroxysm of rage, struck his sister to the heart with the sword which had slain her lover, crying out, "So perish the Roman maiden who shall weep for her country's enemy."

This dreadful deed filled with horror the hearts of all who beheld it. Men cried that it was a crime against the law and the gods, too great to be atoned for by the victor's services. He was seized and dragged to the tribunal of the two judges who dealt with crimes of bloodshed. These heard the evidence of the crime, and condemned him to death, in despite of what he had done for Rome.

But the Roman law permitted an appeal from the judges to the people. This appeal Horatius made, and it was tried before the assembly of Romans. Here his father spoke in his favor, saying that in his opinion the maiden deserved her fate. Remembrance of the great service performed by Horatius was also strong with the people, and the voice of the assembly freed him from the sentence of death. But blood had been shed, and blood required atonement, so a sum of money was set aside to pay for sacrifices to atone for this dreadful deed. Ever afterwards these sacrifices were performed by members of the Horatian clan.

In a later war the Albans failed to aid the Romans, as they were required to do by the terms of alliance. As a result the city of Alba was destroyed, and the Albans forced to come and live in Rome, the Caelial Hill being given them for a dwelling-place.


The tale we have now to tell forces us to pass rapidly over years of history. After several kings of Roman and Sabine birth had reigned, a foreigner, of Greek descent, came to the throne of Rome. This was one Lucomo, the son of a native of Corinth, who had settled at Tarquinii in Italy. Growing weary of Tarquinii, Lucomo left that city, with his family and wealth, and made his way to Rome. As he came near the gates of the city an eagle swooped down, lifted the cap from his head, and, bearing it high into the air, descended and placed it on his head again. His wife Tanaquil, who was skilled in augury, told him this was a happy omen, and that he was destined to become great.

And so he did. His riches, courage, and wisdom brought him great favor in Rome, and on the death of their king Ancus the people chose Lucius Tarquinius—as they called him, from his native city—to reign over them in his stead. He proved a valiant and successful warrior, and in times of peace did noble work. He built great sewers to drain the city, constructed a large circus or race-course, and a forum or market-place, and built a wall of stone around the city in place of the old wooden wall. He also began to build a great temple on the Capitoline Hill, which was designed to be the temple of the gods of Rome. In the end Lucius was murdered by the sons of King Ancus, who declared that he had robbed them of the throne.

There is a story of the deed of an augur in his reign which is worth repeating, whether we believe it or not. Lucius had little trust in the augur, and said to him, "Come, tell me by your auguries whether the thing I have in my mind may be done or not." "It may," said Attus, the augur. "It is this," said the king, laughing: "it was in my mind that you should cut this whetstone in two with this razor. Take them and see if you can do it."

Attus took the razor and whetstone, and with a bold stroke cut the latter in two. From that time on Lucius did nothing without first consulting the augurs, and testing the purposes of the gods by the flight of birds, and—so say the legends—he prospered accordingly.

The cause of the death of Lucius was this. One day a boy who dwelt in the palace fell asleep in its portico, and as he lay there some attendants who passed by saw a flame playing lambently around his head. Alarmed at the sight, they were about to throw water upon him to extinguish the flame, when Tanaquil, the queen, who had also seen it, forbade them. She told the king of what had happened, and said that the boy whom they were bringing up so meanly was destined to become great and noble. She bade him, therefore, to rear the child in a way befitting his destiny.

The boy, whose name was Servius Tullius, was thereupon brought up as a prince, and when old enough married the king's daughter. Lucius reigned forty years, and then the sons of Ancus, fearing to be robbed of their claim to the throne by young Servius, who had become very popular, managed to get an audience with and kill the king.

The murderers gained nothing by their deed of blood. Queen Tanaquil shrewdly told the people that Lucius was only stunned by the blow, and that he wished them to obey the orders of Servius. To the young man she said, "The kingdom is yours; if you have no plans of your own, then follow mine." For several days Servius acted as king, and then, the people and senate having grown used to seeing him on the throne, the death of Lucius was declared and Servius proclaimed king. He had the consent of the senate, but had not asked that of the people, being the first king of Rome who reigned without the votes of the assembly of the Roman people.

Servius Tullius reigned long and won victories, but his greatest triumphs were those of peace. He formed a league with the thirty cities of Latium, and is said to have taken a census of the people of the city, which was found to have eighty-three thousand inhabitants. To strengthen his power he married his two daughters to two sons of Lucius Tarquinius, a well-intended act which led to a tragic and dreadful deed.

The daughters of Servius were very unlike in nature, and the same may be said of their husbands, and they became unequally mated. Lucius Tarquinius was proud and full of evil, while his wife, the elder Tullia, was good and gentle. Aruns Tarquinius was of a mild and kindly nature, while his wife, the younger Tullia, was cruel and ambitious. They were thus sadly mismated. But the evil pair saw in each other kindred spirits, and in the end Lucius secretly killed his wife, and the younger Tullia her husband. The wicked pair then married, and proceeded to carry out the purposes of their base hearts.

Servius, being himself of humble birth, had favored the people at the expense of the nobles. He even made a law that no king should rule after him, but that two men chosen by the people should govern them year by year. Thus it was that the commons came to love him and the nobles to hate him, and when he asked for a vote of the people on his king-ship there was not a voice raised against him.

Lucius, whom his wicked wife steadily goaded to ambitious aims, conspired with the nobles against the king. There were brotherhoods of the young nobles, pledged to support each other in deeds of oppression. These he joined, and gained their aid. Then he waited till the harvest season, when the commons were in the fields, gathering the ripened corn.

This absence of the king's friends gave him the opportunity he wished. Gathering a band of armed men, he suddenly entered the Forum, and took his seat on the king's throne, before the door of the senate-chamber, from which Servius was accustomed to judge the people. Word of this act of treason was borne to the old king, who at once hastened to the Forum and sternly asked the usurper why he had dared to take that seat.

Lucius insolently answered that it was his father's throne, and that he had the best right to it. Then, as the aged and unguarded king mounted the steps of the senate-house, his ambitious son-in-law sprang up, caught him by the middle, and flung him headlong down the steps to the ground. Then he went into the senate-chamber and called the senators together, as though he were already king.

The old monarch, sadly shaken by his fall, rose to his feet and made his way slowly towards his home on the Esquiline Hill. But when he came near it he was overtaken by some bravos whom Lucius had sent in pursuit. These killed the unprotected old man, and left him lying in his blood in the middle of the street.

And now was done a deed which has aroused the execrations of mankind in all later ages. Tullia, who had instigated her husband to the murder of her father, waited with impatience until it was performed. Then, mounting her chariot, she bade the coachman to drive to the Forum, where, heedless of the crowd of men who had assembled, she called Lucius from the senate-house, and cried to him, in accents of triumph, "Hail to thee, King Tarquinius!"

Wicked as Lucius was, he was not as shameless as his wife, and sternly bade her to go home. She obeyed, taking the same street as her father had followed. Soon reaching the spot where the bleeding body of the old king lay stretched across the way, the coachman drew up his horses and pointed out to Tullia the dreadful spectacle.

"Drive on," she harshly commanded. "I cannot," he replied. "The street is too narrow to pass without crushing the king's body." "Drive on," she again fiercely ordered, and the coachman did so. Tullia went to her home with her father's blood upon the wheels of her chariot, and with the execration of all good men upon her head. And thus it was that Lucius Tarquinius and his wicked wife succeeded the good king Servius upon the throne.

We may tell here briefly the end of this evil pair. Tarquin the Proud, as he is known in history, reigned as a tyrant and oppressor, while his wife was viewed with horror by all virtuous matrons. At length the people rose against a base deed of the tyrant's son, and the wicked Tullia fled in terror from her house. No one sought to stop her in her flight; but all, men and women alike, cursed her as she passed, and prayed that the furies of her father's blood might take revenge for her dreadful deed.

She never saw Rome again. Tarquin sought long to regain his crown, but in vain, and the wicked usurpers died in exile. No king ever again ruled over the Romans. Tarquin's tyranny had given the people enough of kings, and the law of good Servius Tullius was at last carried out.


While Tarquin the Proud was king a strange thing happened at Rome. One day an unknown woman came to the king, bearing in her arms nine books, which she offered to sell to him at a certain price. She told him that they contained the prophecies of the Sibyl of Cumae, and that from them might be learned the destiny of Rome and the way to carry out this destiny.

But the price she asked for her books seemed to the king exorbitant, and he refused to buy them, whereupon the woman went away from the palace and burned three of the volumes. She then returned with six only and offered them to the king, but demanded the same price for the six as she had before done for the nine. King Tarquin heard this demand with laughter and mockery, and again refused to buy. The woman once more left the palace, and burned three more of the books.

To the king's astonishment his strange visitor soon returned, bearing the three books that remained. On being asked their price, she named the same sum as she had demanded for the six and the nine. This was ceasing to be matter for mockery. There might be some important mystery concealed behind this strange demand. The king sent for the augurs of the court, told them what had happened, and asked what he should do. They told him that he had done very wrong. In refusing the books he had refused a gift of the gods. By all means he must buy the books that were left. He bought them, therefore, at the Sibyl's price. As for the woman, she was never seen again.

The books were placed in a chest of stone, and kept underground in the great temple which his father had begun on the Capitoline Hill, and which he had completed. Two men were appointed to guard them, who were called the two men of the sacred books; and no treasure could have been kept with more care and devotion than these mysterious rolls.

The temple in which these books were kept was the grandest edifice Rome had yet known. When Tarquin proposed to build it he found the chosen site already occupied by many holy places, sacred to the gods of the Sabines, the first dwellers on the Capitoline Hill. The augurs consulted the gods to see if these holy places could safely be removed, to make room for the new temple. The answer came that they might take away all except the holy places of the god of Youth and of Terminus, the god of boundaries. This was accounted a happy augury, for it seemed to mean that the city should always retain its youth and that no enemy should remove its boundaries. And when the foundations of the temple were dug a human head was found, which was held to be a sign that the Capitoline Hill should be the head of all the earth. So a great temple was built, and consecrated to Jupiter and to Juno and to Minerva, the greatest of the Etruscan gods. This edifice, afterwards known as the Capitol, was the most sacred and revered edifice of later Rome.

In the vaults of this temple the sacred books of the Sibyl were sedulously kept, and here they were consulted from time to time, as occasions arose in the history of the city when divine guidance seemed necessary. None of the people were permitted to gaze within the sacred cell in which they lay. Only the augurs consulted them, and the word of the augurs had to be taken for what they revealed. It may be that the augurs themselves invented all that they told, for the books at length perished in the flames, and no man knows what secret lore they really contained.

It was during the wars of Sulla and Marius (83 B.C.) that this disaster occurred. The Capitol was burned, and with it those famous oracles, which had so long directed the counsels of the nation. Their loss threw Rome into the deepest consternation, the loss of the Capitol itself seeming small beside that of these famous scrolls.

To replace them as far as possible, the senate sent ambassadors to the various temples of Italy, Greece, and Asia Minor, within which were Sibyls, or oracle-speaking priestesses. These collected such oracles referring to Rome as they could find, about one thousand lines in all, and brought them to Rome, where they were placed in the same locality in the new Capitol that they had occupied in the old.

These oracles do not appear to have predicted future events, but were consulted to discover the religious observances necessary to avert great calamities and to expiate prodigies. During the reign of Augustus they were removed to the Temple of Apollo on the Palatine Hill, and all the false Sibylline leaves which were extant were collected and burned. They remained here until shortly after the year 400 A.D., when they were publicly burned by Stilicho, a famous general of Christian Rome, as impious documents of heathen times.


We have next to tell how Tarquin the Proud lost his throne, through his own tyranny and the criminal action of his son. Once upon a time, when this king was at the height of his power, he, as was usual, offered sacrifices to the gods on the altar in the palace court-yard. But from the altar there crawled out a snake, which devoured the offerings before the flames could reach them.

This was an alarming omen. The augurs were consulted, but none of them could explain it. So Tarquin sent two of his sons to the Temple of Delphi, in Greece, whose oracle was famous in all lands, to ask counsel of Apollo concerning this prodigy. With these two princes, Titus and Aruns by name, went their cousin, Lucius Junius, a youth who seemed so lacking in wit that men called him Brutus,—that is, the "Dullard." One evidence of his lack of wit was that he would eat wild figs with honey. Just in what way this was an evidence of want of good sense we do not know, though doubtless the Romans did.

But Brutus was by no means the fool that men fancied him. He was shrewd instead of stupid. His father had left him abundant wealth, to which his uncle, King Tarquin, might at any time take a fancy, and sweep him away to enjoy it. The king had killed his brother for his wealth, and would be likely to serve him in the same way if he deemed him wise enough to fight for his inheritance. So, preferring life to money, Brutus feigned to be wanting in sense.

When he went to Delphi he took with him a hollow staff of horn, which he had filled with gold, and offered this staff to the oracle as a likeness of himself,—perhaps as one empty of wit and whose whole merit lay in his gold. When the three young men had performed the bidding of the king, and asked the oracle the meaning of the prodigy, they were told that it portended the fall of Tarquin. Then they said, "O Lord Apollo, tell us which of us shall be king of Rome." From the depth of the sanctuary there came a voice in reply, "The one among you who shall first kiss his mother."

This was one of those enigmas in which the Delphian oracle usually spoke, saying things with a double meaning, and which men were apt to take amiss. It was so now. The two princes drew lots which of them should first kiss their mother on his return; and they agreed to keep the oracle secret from their brother Sextus, lest he should be king rather than they. But Brutus was wiser than them both. As they left the temple together, he pretended to stumble and fell with his face to the ground. He then kissed the earth, saying, "The earth is the true mother of us all."

On their return to Rome the princes found that their father was at war. He was besieging the city of Ardea, which lay south of Rome; and as this city was strong and well defended the king and his army were kept a long while before it, waiting until famine, their ally, should force the inhabitants to surrender. While the army was thus waiting in idleness its officers had leisure for feasts and diversions, and one of the king's sons found time to indulge in fatal mischief. This arose from a supper in the tent of Prince Sextus, at which his brothers Titus and Aruns, and his cousin Tarquin of Collatia, were present.

While they feasted a dispute arose between them, as to which had the worthiest wife. It ended in a proposition of Tarquin, "Let us go and see with our own eyes what our wives are doing, and we can then best decide which is the worthiest." This proposition hit with their humor, and, mounting their horses, they rode to Rome. Here they found the wives of the three princes merrily engaged at a banquet. They then rode on to Collatia. It was now late at night, but they found Lucretia, the wife of their cousin, neither sleeping nor feasting, but working at the loom, with her handmaids busily engaged around her.

On seeing this, they all cried, "Lucretia is the worthiest lady." She ceased her work to entertain them, after which they took to their horses again, and rode back to the camp before Ardea.

But Sextus was seized with a vile passion for his cousin's wife, and a few days afterwards went alone to Collatia, where Lucretia received him with much hospitality, as her husband's kinsman. He treated her shamefully in return, forcing her, with wicked threats, to accept him as her lover and husband, in defiance of the laws of God and man.

As soon as Sextus had left her and returned to the camp, Lucretia sent to Rome for her father and to Ardea for her husband. Tarquin brought with him his cousin Lucius Junius, or Brutus the Dullard. When they arrived the lady, with bitter tears, told them of the wickedness of Sextus, and said, "If you are men, avenge it!" They heard her tale in horror, and swore to deeply revenge her wrong.

"I am not guilty," she now said; "yet I too must share in the punishment of this deed, lest any should think that they may be false to their husbands and live." As she spoke she drew a knife from her bosom and stabbed herself to the heart.

As they saw her fall, a cry of horror arose from her husband and father. But Brutus, who saw that the time had come for him to throw off his pretence of stupidity and act the man, drew the knife from the bleeding wound and held it up, saying, in solemn accents, "By this blood, I swear that I will visit this deed upon King Tarquin and all his accursed race! And no man hereafter shall reign as king in Rome, lest he may do the like wickedness."

He then handed the knife to the others, and bade them to take the same oath. This they did, wondering at the sudden transformation in Brutus. They then took up the body of the slain woman and carried it into the forum of the town, crying to the gathering people, "Behold the deeds of the wicked family of Tarquin, the tyrant of Rome!"

The people, maddened by the sight, hastily sought their arms, and while some guarded the gates, that none might carry the news to the king, the others followed Brutus to Rome. Here the story of the wickedness of Sextus and the self-sacrifice of Lucretia ran through the city like wildfire, and a multitude gathered in the Forum, where Brutus addressed them in fervent words. He recalled to them all the tyranny of Tarquin and the vices of his sons, reminding them of the murder of Servius, the impious act of Tullia, and ending with an earnest recital of the wrongs of the virtuous Lucretia, whose bleeding corpse still lay in evidence in the forum of Collatia.

His words went to the souls of his hearers. An assembly of the people being quickly called, it was voted that the Tarquins should be banished, and the office of king should be forever abolished in Rome. Tullia, learning of the cause of the tumult, hastily left the palace, and fled from Rome in her chariot through throngs that followed her with threats and curses. Brutus, perhaps with the crimsoned knife still in his hand, bade the young men to follow him, and set off in haste to Ardea, to spread through the army the story of the deed of crime and blood.

Meanwhile, Tarquin had been told of the revolt, and was hurrying to Rome to put it down. Brutus turned aside from the road that he might not meet him, and hastened on to the camp, where the story of the revolt and its cause was told the soldiers. On hearing the story the whole army broke into a tumult of indignation, drove the king's sons from the camp, and demanded to be led to Rome. The siege of Ardea was at once abandoned and the backward march began.

Meanwhile, Tarquin had reached the city, but only to find the gates closed against him and stern men on the walls. "You cannot enter here," they cried. "You are banished from Rome, you and all of yours, and shall never set foot within its walls again. And you are the last of our kings. No man after you shall ever call himself king of Rome."

Just in what threats, promises, and persuasions Tarquin indulged we do not know. But the men on the walls were not to be moved by threats or promises, and he was obliged to take himself away, a crownless wanderer. As for Sextus, to whom all the trouble was due, some say that he was killed in a town whose people he had betrayed, while others say that he was slain in battle while his father was fighting to regain his throne.

But this is certain, no king ever reigned in Rome again. The people, talking among each other, said, "Let us follow the wise laws of good King Servius. He bade us to meet in our centuries (or hundreds) and to choose two men year by year to govern us, instead of a king. This let us do, as Servius would have done himself had he not been basely murdered."

So the centuries of the people met in the Campus Martius (Field of Mars), and there chose two men,—Brutus, the leader in the revolution, and Lucius Tarquin, the husband of the fated Lucretia. These officials were afterwards called Consuls, and were given ruling power in Rome. But they had to lay down their office at the end of the year and be succeeded by two others elected in their stead. The people, however, were afraid of the very name of Tarquin, and in electing Lucius to the consulate it seemed as if they had put a new Tarquin on the throne. So they prayed him to leave the city; and, taking all his goods, he went away and settled at Lavinium, a new consul being elected in his place. A law was now passed that all the house of the Tarquins should be banished, whether they were of the king's family or not.

Thus ended the kingly period in Rome, after six kings had followed Romulus. With the consuls many of the laws of King Servius, which Tarquin had set aside, were restored, and a much greater degree of freedom came to the people of Rome. But that there might not now seem to be two kings instead of one, it was decreed that only one of the consuls should rule at a time, each of them acting as ruler for a month, and then giving over the power to his associate.


The banished King Tarquin did not lightly yield his realm. He roused the neighboring cities against Rome and fought fiercely for his throne. Soon after he was exiled from Rome he sent messengers there for his goods. These the senate decreed should be given him. But his messengers had more secret work to do. They formed a plot with many of the young nobles to bring back the king, and among these traitors were Titus and Tiberius, the sons of Brutus.

A slave overheard the conspirators and betrayed them to the consuls, and they were seized and brought to the judgment-seat in the Forum. Here Brutus, sitting in judgment, beheld his two sons among the culprits. He loved them, but he loved justice more, and though he grieved deeply inwardly, his face was grave and stern as he gave judgment that the law must take its course. So the sons of this stern old Roman were scourged with rods before his eyes, and then, with the other conspirators, were beheaded by the lictors, while he looked steadily on, never turning his eyes from the dreadful sight. But men could see that his heart bled for his sons.

Soon afterwards Tarquin led an army of Etruscans against Rome, and the two consuls marched against them at the head of the Roman army. In the battle that followed Brutus met Aruns, the king's son, in advance of the lines of battle. Aruns, seeing Brutus dressed in royal robes and attended by the lictors of a king, was filled with anger, and levelled his spear and spurred his horse against him. Brutus met him in mid-career with levelled spear. Both were run through, and together fell dead upon the field.

The day ended with neither party victors. But during the night a woodland deity was heard speaking from a forest near by. "One man more has fallen of the Etruscans than of the Romans," it said; "the Romans are to conquer." This strange oracle ended the war. It was a reason, surely, for which war was never ended before or since. The Etruscans, affrighted, marched hastily home; while the Romans carried home their slain patriot, for whom their women mourned a whole year, in honor of his noble service in avenging Lucretia.

The banished king still craved his lost kingdom, and made other efforts to regain it. Having failed in his first attempt, he went to another city, named Clusium, in the distant part of Etruria, and here besought Lars Porsenna, the king of that city, to aid him recover his throne. Lars Porsenna, with a fellow-feeling for his dethroned brother king, raised a large army and marched with Tarquin and his fellow-exiles against defiant Rome.

The Romans now awaited him at home, and the two armies met on the hill called Janiculum, beyond the river from the city. Here came the crash of battle, but the men of Clusium proved the stronger, and after a sharp struggle the Romans gave way and were driven pell-mell down the hill and across the bridge which spanned the Tiber at this point. This was a wooden bridge on which the Romans set great store, as it was their only means of crossing the stream. But it now was likely to serve as a means of the loss of their city. Their flying army was pouring in panic across it, with the Etruscans in hot pursuit, seeking strenuously to win the bridge.

The bridge must be speedily destroyed or the city would be lost, but it seemed too late for this; unless the enemy could in some way be kept back till the bridge was cut down, Tarquin and his allies would be in the streets of Rome.

At this juncture a brave and stalwart son of Rome, Horatius Cocles by name, stepped forward and offered his life in his city's defence. "Cut away with all haste," he said; "I will keep the bridge until it falls." Two others, Spurius Lartius and Titus Herminius, sprang to his side, and the three, fully armed and stout of heart, ranged themselves across the narrow causeway, while behind them the axes of the Romans played ringingly upon the supports of the bridge.

On came the Etruscans in force. But the bridge was so narrow that only a few could advance at once, and these found in the way the sharp spears and keen-edged blades of the patriot three. Down went the leading Etruscans, and others pressed on, only to fall, till the defenders of the bridge had a bulwark of the slain in their front.

And now the bridge creaked and groaned as the axes kept up their lively play, the ring of steel finding its chorus in the cheering shouts of the Romans on the bank.

"Back! back!" cried the axemen. "It will be down in a minute more; back for your lives!"

"Back!" cried Horatius to his comrades, and they hastily retreated; but he stood unmoving, still boldly facing the foe.

"Fly! It is about to fall!" was the shout.

"Let it," cried Horatius, without yielding a step.

And there he stood alone, defying the whole army of the Etruscans. From a distance they showered their javelins on him, but he caught them on his shield and stood unhurt. Furious that they should be kept from their prey by a single man, they gathered to rush upon him and drive him from his post by main force; but just then the creaking beams gave way, and the half of the bridge behind him fell with a mighty crash into the stream below.

The Etruscans paused in their course at this crashing fall, and gazed, not without admiration, at the stalwart champion who had stayed an army in its victorious career. He was theirs now; he could not escape; his life should pay the penalty for their failure.

But Horatius had no such thought. He looked down on the stream, and prayed to the god of the river, "O Father Tiber, I pray thee to receive these arms and me who bear them, and to let thy waters befriend and save me."

Then, with a quick spring, he plunged, heavy with armor, into the swift-flowing stream, and struck out boldly for the shore. The foemen rushed upon the bridge and poured their darts thick about him; yet none struck him, and he swam safely to the shore, where his waiting friends drew him in triumph from the stream.

For this grand deed of heroism the Romans set up a statue to Horatius in the comitium, and gave him in reward as much land as he could drive his plough round in the space of a whole day. Such deeds cannot be fitly told in halting prose, and Lord Macaulay, in his "Lays of Ancient Rome," has most ably and picturesquely told

"How well Horatius kept the bridge In the brave days of old."

But though Rome was saved from capture by assault, the war was not ended, and other deeds of Roman heroism were to be done. Porsenna pressed the siege of the city so closely that hunger became his ally, and the Romans suffered greatly. Then another patriot devoted his life to his city's good. This man, a young noble named Caius Mucius, went to the senate and offered to go to the Etruscan camp and slay Lars Porsenna in the midst of his men.

His proposal acceded to, he crossed the stream by stealth and slipped covertly into the camp, through which he made his way, seeking the king. At length he saw a man dressed in a scarlet robe and seated on a lofty seat, while many were about him, coming and going. "This must be King Porsenna," he said to himself, and he glided stealthily through the crowd until he came near by, when, drawing a concealed dagger from beneath his cloak, he sprang upon the man and stabbed him to the heart.

But the bold assassin had made a sad mistake. The man he had slain was not the king, but his scribe, the king's chief officer. Being instantly seized, he was brought before Porsenna, where the guards threatened him with sharp torments unless he would truly answer all their questions.

"Torments!" he said. "You shall see how little I care for them."

And he thrust his right hand into the fire that was burning on the altar, and held it there till it was completely consumed.

King Porsenna looked at him with an admiration that subdued all anger. Never had he seen a man of such fortitude.

"Go your way," he cried, "for you have harmed yourself more than me. You are a brave man, and I send you back to Rome free and unhurt."

"And you are a generous king," said Caius, "and shall learn more from me for your kindness than tortures could have wrung from my lips. Know, then, that three hundred noble youths of Rome have bound themselves by oath to take your life. I am but the first; the others will in turn lie in wait for you. I warn you to look well to yourself."

He was then set free, and went back to the city, where he was afterwards known as Scaevola, the left-handed.

The warning of Caius moved King Porsenna to offer the Romans terms of peace, which they gladly accepted. They were forced to give up all the land they had conquered on the west bank of the Tiber, and to agree not to use iron except to cultivate the earth. They were also to give as hostages ten noble youths and as many maidens. These were sent; but one of the maidens, Cloelia by name, escaped from the Etruscan camp, and, bidding the other maidens to follow, fled to the river, into which they all plunged and swam safely across to Rome.

They were sent back by the Romans, whose way it was to keep their pledges; but King Porsenna, admiring the courage of Cloelia, set her free, and bade her choose such of the youths as she wished to go with her. She chose those of tenderest age, and the king set them free.

The Romans rewarded Caius by a gift of land, and had a statue made of Cloelia, which was set up in the highest part of the Sacred Way. And King Porsenna led his army home, with Tarquin still dethroned.


A third time Tarquin the Proud marched against Rome, this time in alliance with the Latins, whose thirty cities had joined together and declared war against the Romans. But as many of the Romans had married Latin wives, and many of the Latins had got their wives from Rome, it was resolved that the women on both sides, who preferred their native land to their husbands, might leave their new homes and take with them their virgin daughters. And, as the legend tells, all the Latin women but two remained in Rome, while all the Roman women returned with their daughters to their fathers' homes.

The two armies met by the side of Lake Regillus, and there was fought a battle the story of which reads like a tale from the Iliad of Homer; for we are told not of how the armies fought, but of how their champions met and fought in single combats upon the field. King Tarquin was there, now hoary with years, yet sitting his horse and bearing his lance with the grace and strength of a young man. And there was Titus his son, leading into battle all the banished band of the Tarquins. And with them was Octavius Mamilius, the leader of the Latins, who swore to seat Tarquin again on his throne and to make the Romans subjects of the Latins.

On the Roman side were many true and tried warriors, among them Titus Herminius, one of those who fought on the bridge by the side of Horatius Cocles, when that champion fought so well for Rome.

It is too long to tell how warrior rode against warrior with levelled lances, and how this one was struck through the breast and that one through the arm, and so on in true Homeric style. The battle was a series of duels, like those fought on the plain of Troy. But at length the Tarquin band, under the lead of Titus, charged so fiercely that the Romans began to give way, many of their bravest having been slain.

At this juncture Aulus, the leader of the Romans, rode up with his own chosen band, and bade them level their lances and slay all, friend or foe, whose faces were turned towards them. There was to be no mercy for a Roman whose face was turned from the field. This onset stopped the flight, and Aulus charged fiercely upon the Tarquins, praying, as he did so, to the divine warriors Castor and Pollux, to whom he vowed to dedicate a temple if they would aid him in the fight. And he promised the soldiers that the two who should first break into the camp of the enemy should receive a rich reward.

Then suddenly, at the head of the chosen band, appeared two unknown horsemen, in the first bloom of youth and taller and fairer than mortal men, while the horses they rode were white as the driven snow. On went the charge, led by these two noble strangers, before whom the enemy fled in mortal terror, while Titus, the last of the sons of King Tarquin, fell dead from his steed. The camp of the Latins being reached, these two horsemen were the first to break into it, and soon the whole army of the enemy was in disorderly flight and the battle won.

Aulus now sought the two strange horsemen, to give them the reward he had promised; but he sought in vain; they were not to be found, among either the living or the dead, and no man had set eyes upon them since the camp was won. They had vanished as suddenly as they had appeared. But on the hard black rock which surrounds the lake was visible the mark of a horse's hoof, such as no earthly steed could ever have made. For ages afterwards this mark remained.

But the strangers appeared once again. It was known in Rome that the armies were joined in battle, and the longing for tidings from the field grew intense. Suddenly, as the sun went down behind the city walls, there were seen in the Forum two horsemen on milk-white steeds, taller and fairer than the tallest and fairest of men. Their horses were bathed in foam, and they looked like men fresh from battle.

Alighting near the Temple of Vesta, where a spring of water bubbles from the ground, these men, whom no Romans had ever seen before, washed from their persons the battle-stains. As they did so men crowded round and eagerly questioned them. In reply, they told them how the battle had been fought and won,—though in truth the battle ended only as the sun went down over Lake Regillus. They then mounted their horses and rode from the Forum, and were seen no more. Men sought them far and wide, but no one set eyes on them again.

Then Aulus told the Romans how he had prayed to Castor and Pollux, the divine twins, and said that it could be none but they who had broken so fiercely into the enemy's camp, and had borne the news of victory with more than mortal speed to Rome. So he built the temple he had vowed to the hero gods, and gave there rich offerings as the rewards he had promised to the two who should first enter the camp of the foe.

Thus ended the hopes of King Tarquin, against whom the gods had taken arms. His sons and all his family slain, he was left ruined and hopeless, and retired to the city of Cumae, whence formerly the Sibyl had come to his court. Here he died, and thus passed away the last of the Roman kings.


The overthrow of the kings of Rome did not relieve the people from all their oppression. The inhabitants of that city had long been divided into two great classes, the Patricians, or nobles, and the Plebeians, or common people, and the former held in their hand nearly all the wealth and power of the state. The senate, the law-making body, were all Patricians; the consuls, the executors of the law, were chosen from their ranks; and the Plebeians were left with few rights and little protection.

It was through the avarice of money-lending nobles that the people were chiefly oppressed. There were no laws limiting the rate of interest, and the rich lent to the poor at extravagant rates of usury. The interest, when not paid, was added to the debt, so that in time it became impossible for many debtors to pay.

And the laws against debtors had become terribly severe. They might, with all their families, be held as slaves. Or if the debtor refused to sell himself to his creditor, and still could not pay his debt, he might be imprisoned in fetters for sixty days. At the end of that time, if no friend had paid his debt, he could be put to death, or sold as a slave into a foreign state. If there were several creditors, they could actually cut his body to pieces, each taking a piece proportional in size to his claim.

This cruel severity was more than any people could long endure. It led to a revolution in Rome. In the year 495 B.C., fifteen years after the Tarquins had been expelled, a poor debtor, who had fought valiantly in the wars, broke from his prison, and—with his clothes in tatters and chains clanking upon his limbs—appealed eloquently to the people in the Forum, and showed them on his emaciated body the scars of the many battles in which he had fought.

His tale was a sad one. While he served in the Sabine war, the enemy had pillaged and burned his house; and when he returned home, it was to find his cattle stolen and his farm heavily taxed. Forced to borrow money, the interest had brought him deeply into debt. Finally he had been attacked by pestilence, and being unable to work for his creditor, he had been thrown into prison and cruelly scourged, the marks of the lash being still evident upon his bleeding back.

This piteous story roused its hearers to fury. The whole city broke into tumult, as the woful tale passed from lip to lip. Many debtors escaped from their prisons and begged protection from the incensed multitude. The consuls found themselves powerless to restore order; and in the midst of the uproar horsemen came riding hotly through the gates, crying out that a hostile army was near at hand, marching to besiege the city.

Here was a splendid opportunity for the Plebeians. When called upon to enroll their names and take arms for the city's defence, they refused. The Patricians, they said, might fight their own battles. As for them, they had rather die together at home than perish separate upon the battle-field.

This refusal left the Patricians in a quandary. With riot in the streets and war beyond the walls they were at the mercy of the commons. They were forced to promise a mitigation of the laws, declaring that no one should henceforth seize the goods of a soldier while he was in camp, or hinder a citizen from enlisting by keeping him in prison. This promise satisfied the people. The debtors' prisons were emptied, and their late tenants crowded with enthusiasm into the ranks. Through the gates the army marched, met the foe, and drove him in defeat from the soil of the Roman state.

Victory gained, the Plebeians looked for laws to sustain the promises under which they had fought. They looked in vain; the senate took no action for their redress. But they had learned their power, and were not again to be enslaved. Their action was deliberate but decided. Taking measures to protect their homes on the Aventine Hill, they left the city the next year in a body, and sought a hill beyond the Anio, about three miles beyond the walls of Rome. Here they encamped, built fortifications, and sent word to their lordly rulers that they were done with empty promises, and would fight no more for the state until the state kept its faith. All the good of their fighting came to the Patricians, they said, and these might now defend themselves and their wealth.

The senate was thrown into a panic by this decided action. When the hostile cities without should learn of it, they might send armies in haste to undefended Rome. The people left in the city feared the Patricians, and the Patricians feared them. All was doubt and anxiety. At length the senate, driven to desperation, sent an embassy to the rebels to treat for peace, being in deadly fear that some enemy might assail and capture the city in the absence of the bulk of its inhabitants.

The messenger sent, Menenius Agrippa Lanatus, was a man famed for eloquence, and a popular favorite. In his address to the people in their camp he repeated to them the following significant fable:

"At a time when all the parts of the body did not agree together, as they do now, but each had its own method and language, the other parts rebelled against the belly. They said that it lay quietly enjoying itself in the centre, while they, by care, labor, and service, kept it in luxury. They therefore conspired that the hands should not convey food to the mouth, the mouth receive it, nor the teeth chew it. They thus hoped to subdue the belly by famine; but they found that they and all the other parts of the body suffered as much. Then they saw that the belly by no means rested in sloth; that it supplied instead of receiving nourishment, sending to all parts of the body the blood that gave life and strength to the whole system."

It was the same, he said, with the body of the state. All must work in unity, if all would prosper. This homely argument hit the popular fancy. The people consented to treat for their return if their liberties could be properly secured. But they must now have deeds instead of words. It was not political power they sought, but protection, and protection they would have.

Their demands were as follows: All debts should be cancelled, and all debtors held by their creditors should be released. And hereafter the Plebeians should have as their protectors two officials, who should have power to veto all oppressive laws, while their persons should be held as sacred and inviolable as those of the messengers of the gods. These officials were to be called Tribunes, and to be the chief officers of the commons as the consuls were of the nobles.

This proposition was accepted by the senate, and a treaty signed between the contesting parties, as solemnly as if they had been two separate nations. It was an occasion as important to the liberties of Romans as the treaty signed many centuries afterwards on the field of Runnymede, between King John and his barons, was to the liberties of Englishmen, and was held by the Romans in like high regard. The hill on which the treaty had been made was ever after known as the Sacred Mount. Its top was consecrated and an altar built upon it, on which sacrifices were made to Jupiter, the god who strikes men with terror and then delivers them from fear; for the people had fled thither in dread, and were now to return home in safety.

Thus ended the great revolt of the people, who had gained in the Tribunes defenders of more power and importance than they or the senate knew. They were never again to suffer from the bitter oppression to which they had been subjected in preceding years. As for Lanatus, to whose pleadings they had yielded, he died before the year ended, and was found to have not left enough to pay for his funeral. Therefore the Plebeians collected funds to give him a splendid burial; but the senate having decreed that the state should bear this expense, the money raised by the grateful people was formed into a fund for the benefit of his children.


Caius Marcius, a noble Roman youth, descended from the worthy king Ancus Marcius, fought valiantly when but seventeen years of age in the battle of Lake Regillus, and was there crowned with an oaken wreath, the Roman reward for saving the life of a fellow-soldier. This he showed with the greatest joy to his mother, Volumnia, whom he loved exceedingly, it being his greatest pleasure to receive praise from her lips for his exploits. He afterwards won many more crowns in battle, and became one of the most famous of Roman soldiers.

One of his memorable exploits took place during a war with the Volscians, in which the Romans attacked the city of Corioli. The citizens made a sally, and drove the Romans back to their camp. But Caius, with a few followers, stopped them and turned the tide of battle, driving the Volscians back. As they fled into the city through the open gates, he cried, "Those gates are set open for us rather than for the Volscians. Why are we afraid to rush in?" And suiting his act to his words, the daring soldier pursued the enemy into the town.

Here he found himself almost alone, for very few had followed him. The enemy turned on the bold invaders, but Caius proved so strong of hand and stout of heart that he drove them all before him, keeping a way clear for the Romans, who soon thronged in through the open gate and took the city. The army gave Caius the sole credit for the victory, saying that he alone had taken Corioli; and the general said, "Let him be called after the name of the city." He was, therefore, afterwards known by the name of Caius Marcius Coriolanus.

Courage was not the only marked quality of Coriolanus. His pride was equally great. He was a noble of the nobles, so haughty in demeanor and so disdainful of the commons that they grew to hate him bitterly. At length came a time of great scarcity of food. The people were on the verge of famine, to relieve which shiploads of corn were sent from Sicily to Rome. The senate resolved to distribute this corn among the suffering people, but Coriolanus opposed this, saying, "If they want corn let them show their obedience to the Patricians, as their fathers did, and give up their tribunes. If they do this we will let them have corn, and take care of them."

When the people heard of what the proud noble had said they broke into such fury that a mob gathered around the doors of the senate house, prepared to seize and tear him to pieces when he came out. They were checked in this by the tribunes, who said, "Let us not have violence. We will accuse him of treason before the assembly, and you shall be his judges."

The tribunes, therefore, as the law gave them the right, summoned Coriolanus to appear before the popular tribunal and answer to the charges against him. But he, knowing how deeply he had offended them, and that they would show him no mercy, stayed not for the trial, but fled from Rome, exiled from his native land by his pride and disdain of the people.

The exile made his way to the land of the Volscians, and seating himself by the hearth-fire of Attius Tullius, their chief, waited there with covered head till his late bitter foe should come in. How Attius would receive him he knew not; but he was homeless, and had now only his enemies to trust. But when the chieftain entered, and learned that the man who sat crouched beside his hearth, subject to his will, was the great warrior who by his own hands had taken a Volscian city, but was now banished and a fugitive, he was filled with compassion. He greeted him kindly and offered him a home, saying to himself, "Caius, our worst foe, is now our friend and a foe to Rome; we will make war against that proud city, and by his aid will conquer it."

But the Volscians were not eager for war. They were afraid of the Romans, who had so often defeated them, and Attius sought in vain to stir them to hostility. Failing to rouse them by eloquence, he practised craft. There was a great festival at Rome, to which had come the people of various cities, among them many of the Volscians. Attius now went privately to the Roman consuls and bade them beware of the Volscians, lest they should stir up a riot and make trouble in the city, hinting that mischief was intended. In consequence of this warning proclamation was made that every Volscian should leave Rome before the setting of the sun.

This produced the effect which Attius had hoped. He met the Volscians on their way home, and found them fired with indignation against Rome. He pretended similar indignation. "You have been made a show of before all the nations," he cried. "You and your wives and children have been basely insulted. They have made war on us while their guests; if you are men you will make them rue this deed."

His words inflamed his countrymen. The story of the insult spread widely through the country, all the tribes of the Volscians took up the quarrel, and a great army was raised and set in march towards Rome, with Attius and Coriolanus at its head.

The Volscian force was greater than the Romans were prepared to meet, and the army marched victoriously onward, taking city after city, and finally encamping within five miles of Rome. When the Volscians entered Roman territory they laid waste, by order of Coriolanus, the lands of the commons, but spared those of the nobles, the exiled patrician deeming the former his foes and the latter his friends. The approach of this powerful army threw the Romans into dismay. They had been assailed so suddenly that they had made no preparations for defence, and the city seemed to lie at the mercy of its foes. The women ran to the temples to pray for the favor of the gods. The people demanded that the senate should send deputies to the invading army to treat for peace. The senate, apparently no less frightened than the people, obeyed, sending five leading Patricians to the Volscian camp.

These deputies were haughtily received by Coriolanus, who offered them the following severe terms: "We will give you no peace till you restore to the Volscians all the land and cities which Rome has ever taken from them, and till you make them citizens of Rome, and give them all the rights in your city which you have yourselves."

These conditions the deputies had no power to accept, and they threw the senate into dismay. The deputies were sent again, instructed to ask for gentler terms, but now, Coriolanus refused even to let them enter his camp.

This harsh repulse plunged Rome into mortal terror. The senate, helpless to resist, now sent the priests of the gods and the augurs, all clothed in their sacred garments, and bearing the sacred emblems from the temples. But even this solemn delegation Coriolanus refused to receive, and sent them back to Rome unheard.

Where all this time was the Roman army, which always before and after made itself heard and felt? This we are not told. We are in the land of legend, and cannot look for too much consistency. For once in its history Rome seems to have forgotten that its mission was not to plead, but to fight. Perhaps its armies had been beaten and demoralized in previous battles. At any rate we can but tell the story as it is told to us.

The help of delegates, priests, and augurs having proved unavailing, that of women was next sought. A noble lady, Valeria by name, who with other suppliants had sought the Temple of Jupiter, was inspired by a sudden thought, which seemed sent by the god himself. Rising, and bidding the other noble ladies to accompany her, she proceeded to the house of Volumnia, the mother of Coriolanus, whom she found with Virgilia, his wife, and his little children.

"We have come to ask you to join us," she said, "in order that we women, without aid from man, may deliver our country, and win for ourselves a name more glorious even than that of the Sabine wives of old, who stopped the battle between their husbands and fathers. Come with us to the camp of Caius, and let us pray him to show us mercy."

"It is well thought of; we shall go with you," said Volumnia, and, with Virgilia and her children, the noble matron prepared to seek the camp and tent of her exiled son.

It was a sad and solemn spectacle, as this train of noble ladies, clad in their habiliments of woe, and with bent heads and sorrowful faces, wound through the hostile camp, from which they were not excluded, like the men. Even the Volscian soldiers watched them with pitying eyes, and spoke no word as they moved slowly past. On reaching the midst of the camp, they saw Coriolanus on the general's seat, with the Volscian chiefs gathered around him.

At first he wondered who these women could be. But when they came near, and he saw his mother at the head of the train, his deep love for her welled up so strongly in his heart that he could not restrain himself, but sprang up and ran to meet and kiss her. The Roman matron stopped him with a dignified gesture, saying,—

"Ere you kiss me, let me know whether I am speaking to an enemy or to my son; whether I stand here as your prisoner or your mother."

He stood before her in silence, with bent head, and unable to speak.

"Must it then be that if I had never borne a son, Rome would have never seen the camp of an enemy?" said Volumnia, in sorrowful tones. "But I am too old to bear much longer your shame and my misery. Think not of me, but of your wife and children, whom you would doom to death or to life in bondage."

Then Virgilia and the children came up and kissed him, and all the noble ladies in the train burst into tears and bemoaned the peril of their country. Coriolanus still stood silent, his face working with contending thoughts. At length he cried out, in heart-rending accents, "O mother, what have you done to me?"

Clasping her hand, he wrung it vehemently, saying, "Mother, the victory is yours! A happy victory for you and Rome, but shame and ruin to your son."

Then he embraced her with yearning heart, and afterwards clasped his wife and children to his breast, bidding them return with their tale of conquest to Rome. As for himself, he said, only exile and shame remained.

Before the women reached home the army of the Volscians was on its homeward march. Coriolanus never led them against Rome again. He lived and died in exile, far from his wife and children. When very old, he sadly remarked, "That now in his old age he knew the full bitterness of banishment."

The Romans, to honor Volumnia and those who had gone with her to the Volscian camp, built a temple to "Woman's Fortune" on the spot where Coriolanus had yielded to his mother's entreaties; and the first priestess of this temple was Valeria, who had been inspired in the temple of Jupiter with the thought that saved Rome.


In the old days of Rome, not far from the time when Coriolanus yielded up his revenge at his mother's entreaty, the Roman state possessed a citizen as patriotic as Coriolanus was proud, and who did as much good as the other did evil to his native land. This citizen, Lucius Quinctius by name, was usually called Cincinnatus, or the "crisp-haired," from the fact that he let his hair grow long, and curled and crisped it so carefully as to gain as much fame for his hair as for his wisdom and valor.

Cincinnatus was the simplest and least ambitious of men. He cared nothing for wealth, and had no craving for city life, but dwelt on his small farm beyond the Tiber, which he worked with his own hands, content, so his crops grew well, to let the lovers of power and wealth pursue their own devices within the city walls. But he was soon to be drawn from the plough to the sword.

While Cincinnatus was busy ploughing his land, Rome kept at its old work of ploughing the nations. War at this time broke out with the AEquians, a neighboring people; but for this war the AEquians were to blame. They had plundered the lands of some of the allies of Rome, and when deputies were sent to complain of this wrong, Gracchus, their chief, received them with insulting mockery.

He was sitting in his tent, which was pitched in the shade of a great evergreen oak, when the deputies arrived.

"I am busy with other matters," he answered them; "I cannot hear you; you had better tell your message to the oak yonder."

"Yes," said one of the deputies, "let this sacred oak hear, and let all the gods hear also, how treacherously you have broken the peace. They shall hear it now, and shall soon avenge it; for you have scorned alike the laws of the gods and of men."

The deputies returned to Rome, and reported how they had been insulted. The senate at once declared war, and an army was sent towards Algidus, where the enemy lay. But Gracchus, who was a skilled soldier, cunningly pretended to be afraid of the Romans, and retreated before them, drawing them gradually into a narrow valley, on each side of which rose high, steep, and barren hills.

When he had lured them fairly into this trap, he sent a force to close up the entrance of the valley. The Romans suddenly found that they had been entrapped into a cul-de-sac, with impassable hills in front and on each side, and a strong body of AEquians guarding the entrance to the ravine. There was neither grass for the horses nor food for the men. Gracchus held not only the entrance, but the hill-tops all round, so that escape in any direction was impossible. But before the road in the rear was quite closed up five horsemen had managed to break out; and these rode with all speed to Rome, where they told the senate of the imminent danger of the consul and his army.

These tidings threw the senate into dismay. What was to be done? The other consul was with his army in the country of the Sabines. He was at once sent for, and hastened with all speed to Rome. Here a consultation took place, which ended in the leading senators saying, "There is only one man who can deliver us. We must make Lucius Quinctius Master of the People." Master of the People meant in Rome what we now mean by Dictator,—that is, a man above the law, an autocrat supreme. What service this unambitious tiller of the ground had previously done for Rome to make him worthy of this distinction we are not told, but it is evident that he was looked upon as the man of highest wisdom and soldiership in Rome.

Caius Nautius, the consul, appointed Cincinnatus to this high office, as he alone was privileged to do, and then hastened back to his army. Early the next morning deputies from the senate sought the farm of the new dictator, to apprise him of the honor conferred on him. Early as it was, Cincinnatus was already at work in his fields. He was without his toga, or cloak, and vigorously digging in the ground with his spade, never dreaming that he, a simple husbandman, had been chosen to save a state.

"We bring you a message from the senate," said the deputies. "You must put on your cloak to receive it with the fitting respect."

"Has evil befallen the state?" asked the farmer, as he bade his wife to bring him his cloak. When he had put it on he returned to the deputies.

"Hail to you, Lucius Quinctius!" they now said. "The senate has declared you Master of the People, and have sent us to call you to the city; for the consul and the army in the country of the AEquians are in imminent danger."

Without further words, Cincinnatus accompanied them to the boat in which they had crossed the Tiber, and was rowed in it to the city. As he left the boat he was met by a deputation consisting of his three sons, his kinsmen and friends, and many of the senators of Rome. They received him with the highest honor, and led him in great state to his city residence, the twenty-four lictors walking before him, with their rods and axes, while a great multitude of the people crowded round with shouts of welcome. The presence of the lictors signified that this plain farmer had been invested with all the power of the former kings.

The new dictator quickly proved himself worthy of the trust that had been placed in him. He chose at once as his Master of the Horse Lucius Tarquinius, a brave man, of noble descent, but so poor that he had been forced to serve among the foot-soldiers instead of the horse. Then the two entered the Forum, where orders were given that all booths should be closed and all lawsuits stopped. All men were forbidden to look after their own affairs while a Roman army lay in peril of destruction.

Orders were next given that every man old enough to go to battle should appear before sunset with his arms and with five days' food in the Field of Mars, and should bring with him twelve stakes. These they were to cut where they chose, without hinderance from any person. While the soldiers occupied themselves in cutting these stakes, the women and older men dressed their food. Such haste was made, under the energetic orders of the dictator, that an army was ready, equipped as commanded, in the Field of Mars before the sun had set. The march was at once begun, and was continued with such rapidity that by midnight the vicinity of Algidus was reached. On the enemy being perceived, a halt was called.

Cincinnatus now rode forward and inspected the camp of the enemy, so far as it could be seen by night. He then ordered the soldiers to throw down their baggage, and to keep only their arms and stakes. Marching stealthily forward, they now extended their lines until they had completely surrounded the hostile camp. Then, upon a given signal, a simultaneous shout was raised, and each soldier began to dig a ditch where he stood and to plant his stakes in the ground.

The shout rang like a thunder-clap through the camp of the AEquians, waking them suddenly and filling them with dismay. It also reached the ears of the Romans who lay in the valley, and inspired them with hope, for they recognized the Roman war-cry. They raised their own battle-shout in response, and, seizing their arms, sallied out and made a fierce attack upon the foe, fighting so desperately that the AEquians were prevented from interrupting the work of the outer army. All the remainder of the night the battle went on, and when day broke the AEquians found that a ditch and a palisade of stakes had been made around their entire camp.

This work accomplished, Cincinnatus ordered his men to attack the foe, and thus aid their entrapped countrymen. The AEquians, finding themselves between two armies, and as closely walled in as the Romans in the valley had before been, fell into a panic of hopelessness, threw down their arms, and begged their foes for mercy. Cincinnatus now signalled for the fighting to cease, and, meeting those who came to ask on what terms he would spare their lives, said,—

"Give me Gracchus and your other chiefs bound. As for you, you can have your lives on one condition. I will set two spears upright in the ground, and put a third spear across, and every man of you, giving up your arms and your cloaks, shall pass under this yoke, and may then go away free."

To go under the yoke was accounted the greatest dishonor to a soldier. But the AEquians had no alternative and were obliged to submit. They delivered up to the Romans their king and their chiefs, left their camp with all its spoil to the foe, and passed without cloaks or arms under the crossed spears, their heads bowed with shame. They then went home, leaving their chiefs as Roman prisoners. Thus was Gracchus punished for his pride.

In less than a day's time Cincinnatus had saved a Roman army and humiliated the AEquian foe. As for the battle-spoils, he distributed them among his own men, giving none to the consul's army, and degraded the consul, making him his under-officer. He then marched the two armies back to Rome, which he reached that same evening, and where he was received with as much astonishment as joy. The rescued army were too full of thankfulness at their escape to feel chagrin at their loss of spoil, and voted to give Cincinnatus a golden crown, calling him their protector and father.

The senate decreed that Cincinnatus should enter the city in triumph. He rode in his chariot through the gates, Gracchus and the chiefs of the AEquians being led in fetters before him. In front of all the standards were borne, while in the rear marched the soldiers, laden with their spoil. At the door of every house tables were set, with meat and drink for the soldiers, while the people, singing and rejoicing, danced with joy as they followed the conqueror's chariot, and all Rome was given up to feasting and merry-making.

As for Cincinnatus, he laid down his power and returned to his farm, glad to have rescued a Roman army, but caring nothing for the pomp and authority he might have gained. And for all we know, he lived and died thereafter a simple tiller of the ground.


In the year 504 B.C. a citizen of Regillum, of much wealth and importance, finding himself at odds with his fellow-citizens, left that city and proceeded to Rome, with a long train of followers, much as the elder Tarquin had come from Tarquinii. His name was Atta Clausus, but in Rome he became known as Appius Claudius. He was received as a patrician, was given ample lands, and he and his descendants in later years became among the chief of those who hated and oppressed the plebeians.

About half a century after this date, one of these descendants, also named Appius Claudius, was a principal actor in one of the most dramatic events of ancient Rome. The trouble which had long existed between the patricians and the plebeians now grew so pronounced, and the demand for a reform in the laws so great, that in the year 451 B.C. a commission was sent to the city of Athens, to report on the system of government they found there and elsewhere in Greece. After this commission had returned and given its report, a body of ten patricians was appointed, under the title of Decemvirs (or ten men), to prepare a new code of laws for Rome. They were chosen for one year, and took the place of the consuls, tribunes, and all the chief officials of Rome.

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