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The student of history does not proceed far in his researches before he

discovers that human nature is a fixed quality. Other lands, other

manners; other times, other customs. But the man behind the manner is

essentially the same; the woman under the changed custom is not thereby

rendered essentially different, any more than she is by a varying of

costume. The women of ancient Rome exemplified the same virtues, and

were impelled by the same foibles as are the women of to-day. And the

difference in environment, the vanished conditions of Roman life, gain

large scientific interest from the fact that they did not result in any

dissimilarity of fundamental character. If, by the most violent exercise

of the imagination, it were possible to transport a female infant of the

twentieth century, and cause her to be reared among the women of the

Augustan age, she would fit as naturally into her surroundings as she

would into the present society of London or of New York.

Her legal

status would be different; her moral conceptions would be unlike those

of the present age; her duties, pleasures, privileges, and limitations

would combine to make the accidents of life very different. But

underneath all this, the same humanity, the same femininity, the same

habits of mind are revealed. Herein is the chief use of history--above

that of gratifying natural curiosity--the ascertaining how human nature

will comport itself under varying conditions. The author hopes that the

following pages, wherein the Roman woman is taken as an illustration,

will be found of use to the student of the science of humanity, and not

uninteresting to the reader inquisitive as to the manner of the ancient





The conditions which governed the life of woman in the earliest days of

Roman history are too far removed from the searchlight of historical

investigation for us to essay to indicate them with any degree of

fulness and accuracy of detail. While it is true that the ancient

writers have bequeathed to us records of historic events from the very

founding of their nation, the source of their information is very

questionable and its authenticity extremely doubtful.

Rome did not

cultivate literature until very late in her history; she was too greatly

preoccupied in her rôle of conquering the world. At a time when every

Greek was acquainted with the noblest poetry produced by his gifted

race, Rome had not produced a single writer whose name has been

preserved. And if at that time she had possessed any men of letters, it

is quite certain that there were few of her citizens who would have been

able to read their works. Hence, when the first attempt was made to

write her history, the authors depended principally for their material

on traditions and legends which, as is the case with all such lore, had

gained greatly in marvellousness at the expense of historical value. In

addition to these sources, it is probable that during the early

centuries annals were kept of the principal happenings in the State.

According to Cicero, they were written at the end of each year by the

high priest. These records were used by the first historians; and it is

likely that the latter were not so greatly restrained, by their literary

conscience, from enlarging on the material, as they were tempted,

according to the power of their imagination, to present a picture both

interesting and satisfactory to the national pride. In many cases, as

where the exact words of their characters are reported, the ancient

historians evidently deemed that any deficiencies in the matter of proof

were abundantly atoned for by the explicitness of the information given.

As to the historical value of legends, that is a question upon which

modern writers are inclined to disagree. Since the inauguration of the

higher criticism, it has been the fashion for extremists entirely to

disown any belief in the _dramatis personæ_ of ancient traditions. They

claim that the names and the actions thus celebrated usually represent

natural forces and historic evolutions; though, to the ordinary student,

this would seem to require a remarkable amount of poetic inventiveness

on the part of an undeveloped people. Moreover, it is not, perhaps,

without reason that the student often looks upon the manner in which

modern scholars reject the traditional contributions of the old

historians as being a little arbitrary. What traveller has not found his

patience sorely tried, while viewing with reverence the reputed site of

some heroic or sacred occurrence of far-off days, as he recalled to

memory the fact that the latest authorities hold that, while the thing

might have taken place a few miles to the east or a short distance to

the north, it, for certain erudite but unconvincing reasons, could not

possibly have occurred on the spot where it has been located by the

continuous belief of centuries?

The story of Rome from its founding to the end of the regal period, as

it is told in the ancient classics, is no longer accepted as history. It

is, for the most part, classified with those mythical creations with

which an uncultured people endeavor to account for the origin and the

evolution and revolutions of their race. Yet, passing over the

marvellous and the manifestly impossible, why may we not at least claim

the right to believe the compilers of these ancient legends, when they

tell us of certain names that were great in the beginning of their

nation? Modern criticism may be right in asserting that it is not likely

that the city on the Tiber was called Roma because a man named Romulus

selected an uninhabited site and built upon it. Yet why may we not be

allowed to believe that in those early times there was one hero so

strong and masterful that he came to be known as preëminently the "Man

of Rome"? The character may have been a real one, even though the city

gave him his name, instead of the reverse, as later generations

surmised. And inasmuch as there is an Alexandria, not to speak of

innumerable modern "villes" with well-known surnames for prefixes, it

need not be thought a thing entirely incredible that the ancient city

was really called after the man who established its importance.

It is the habit of modern historians to look with suspicion upon stories

such as those which form our sole material for any personal illustration

in this present chapter, because they are of a kind so generally found

in the legends of all nations. But may not the multiplication of these

long-lived narratives, instead of disproving the intrinsic truth of any

given one, simply serve to illustrate the fact that, human nature being

a permanent factor, the doings of men under similar circumstances, in

any age or locality, will be marked by a uniformity of character? For

our present purpose, however, if in such twilight as is given by

long-preserved monuments and ancient relics, we choose to fancy that we

perceive, moving about in their daily life, the feminine forms of

traditional lore, the combination will only serve to form a more human,

and really not less accurate, picture.

The limits of our subject do not require that we should go back so far

as the epoch of Æneas, the hero of Troy; nor need we take into

consideration the part which he and Lavinia, his wife, may have played

upon the Latin shores. Their traditional coming to Italy simply serves

to indicate the fact that nearly all the tribes which inhabited the

country at the commencement of Roman history were of the same branch of

the great Aryan race as the Greeks. The Romans were the brothers of the

Greeks. The former were of that same lithe, supple-bodied,

straight-featured type which the wonderful art of the latter has

enthroned, for all the ages, as the noblest realization of ideal

physical beauty.

But when we consider the rude conditions under which life was passed, it

is probable that the highest examples of feminine grace would, in many

respects, be open to severe criticism from the civilized and artificial

taste which has prevailed in after ages. Those were the days of Arcadian

simplicity, which poetry has peopled with sweet and enticing Phyllises

and Chloes, whose only occupation was to listen to the pipings of

languishing shepherds. But, in reality, though life was simple and wants

were few, the women, as in all semi-civilized communities, gave an

overplus of labor in return for the special exertions of the men in the

chase and the combat. Hence, though the poetic conception may be

alluring, we are compelled to believe that the reality possessed but few

advantages that could arouse the envy of a modern village maiden. The

woman of earliest Rome was wholly a product of nature, endowed only

with the unfailing charms of femininity, which were solely reinforced

with the perfect health and vigor which come from a simple life.

Of such a type we may imagine Rhea Sylvia, the legendary mother of

Romulus and Remus. She was the daughter of a king, but one who was not a

monarch in the later significance of the title. Of kings there were many

in the Latium of those days. The title meant merely the patriarch of a

clan, or the head man of a small city. The regal abode was probably a

small, round structure, built of wood and roofed with straw. It may have

consisted of only one room, with a hole in the ceiling to admit light

and allow the smoke to escape. Of furniture there was little more than

rude tables and grass or leaf covered couches, together with the Lares,

or household gods. But though life conditioned by such meagre

accessories was simple, it was by no means idle, and there existed no

such contempt for labor and handicraft among the Latin tribesmen as grew

up in later times. The king himself followed the plow, while his wife

and daughters were busy with the distaff and spindle, the hand loom and

the needle. It was the duty of the women to spin the wool and to make

all the clothing for the household. Education consisted solely of the

training in the requirements of this simple life, and was provided by no

school other than the daily experience which the boys and girls gathered

among their elders. The art of writing was in the earliest days not

entirely unknown, though, during long years of slow development, it was

employed only in painting public records on leaves and skins; or, if

greater permanence was required, the records were scratched upon tablets

of wood. The amusements of the people consisted mainly of the festivals

and athletic games which were held in honor of the gods.

If it might

only be believed that this life was as pleasant as it is pictured by

Virgil, it would be easy to sympathize with the poet when he declares

that he pined for such an existence himself. "The husbandman cleaves the

earth with the crooked plow.... Winter comes: the Sicyonian berry is

pounded in the oil presses; and the autumn lays down its various

productions.... Meanwhile, the sweet babes twine around their parents'

necks; his chaste family maintain their purity. The swain himself

celebrates festal days; and extended on the grass, where a fire is in

the middle, and where his companions crown the bowl, invokes thee, O

Lanæus, making libation. On an elm is set forth to the masters of the

flock prizes to be contended for with the winged javelin; and they strip

their rustic bodies for the friendly struggle."

Elsewhere the poet

describes a home scene, where the man is working by the light of the

winter fire: "Meanwhile, his spouse, cheering by song her tedious labor,

runs over the webs with the shrill shuttle; or over the fire boils down

the liquor of the luscious must, and skims with leaves the tide of the

trembling cauldron. This life of old the ancient Sabines followed; this,

Remus and his brother strictly observed; thus Etruria grew in strength;

and thus too did Rome become the glory and beauty of the world."

Unlike their sisters of Greece, the women of Rome were never secluded;

yet their duties and responsibilities were strictly confined to domestic

bounds. Here, however, while the husband was master, the wife was

mistress. She took equal part with him in the worship of the family

Lares, which worship was a prominent feature in every Roman household;

and if he were a priest, she, by her marriage to him, became a

priestess. But, except in certain religious institutions, she had not

the slightest active connection with State or public affairs. That is,

she had no such connection in theory and according to law; but it was in

Rome as it has been in all ages and in all countries: there were no laws

or customs that could prevent a woman who possessed gifts of mind and

cherished ambitious projects from gaining some tool by means of whom her

hand might turn the affairs of State to her will.

To this strenuous class of women, however, Rhea Sylvia did not belong.

Her euphonious name has been preserved, not because of any active

influence which she wielded over the destinies of men, but because,

through the simple function of motherhood, she introduced into the

history of the world a strong man. She was the daughter of Numitor, to

whom his father had bequeathed the kingdom of the Sylvian clan. But

Amulius, another son, had driven his brother into exile, and, in order

to secure himself in his usurpation, had put all his nephews to death.

Rhea was spared, probably on account of the fact that the law did not

allow women to reign, and hence her existence held no threat.

Nevertheless, since of the women of princely houses are born possible

claimants to thrones. Amulius deemed it best that some preventive

measure should be taken. He evidently did not wish to commit unnecessary

barbarities; and he also liked, if possible, to cover his

self-protective actions with a gloss of seeming generosity. Rhea Sylvia

should be the priestess of Vesta. Hers should be the honorable duty of

guarding the perpetual fire which burned on the sacred hearth of the

city. Thus she, as was befitting the daughter of Numitor, would be held

in as high regard among the people as the queen herself.


this would also preclude the possibility of any grandson appearing to

claim the throne of the exiled Numitor; for the Vestals were most

rigidly pledged to a life of constant virginity. But how often have the

gods, and sometimes even Nature herself, thwarted the most cunningly

devised schemes of men! Upon this truism Amulius must have reflected,

when, without any previous declaration of her intention, Rhea Sylvia

introduced to the community a sturdy pair of twins. She declared that

Mars was the father of her offspring; either, as Livy discreetly

remarks, because she believed it to be so, or because a god seemed the

most creditable author of her offence. In those times, the possibility

and the frequent occurrence of such matches were devoutly believed, and

the first historians freely availed themselves of this belief to enhance

the glory of their race, or of a powerful family, by establishing for it

the reputation of a divine origin. The idea of superhuman parentage was

also a convenient means by which to account for, and sometimes excuse,

the unusual character and extraordinary deeds of ancient heroes. In

those days, when men's faith was simple and uncritical, belief in divine

incarnation presented no serious difficulty.

It is evident, however, that Amulius was not greatly impressed with a

sense of the sacredness of the children of the warrior-god. He threw the

mother into prison, and ordered her sons to be drowned in the Tiber.

But, as is usually and fortunately the case in legendary history, this

order was intrusted to one who was either too pitiful or too careless to

give it thorough execution. The infants, in their cradle or upon a rude

raft, were set afloat on the river, which was at that time in flood; the

waters, however, quickly subsided, and the boys were left alive on dry

ground. Their cries attracted a shepherd named Faustulus, and by him

they were carried to his home, where they were reared by his wife

Laurentia. This woman is given a bad name by the ancients. They say

that she was also called Lupa; and Lupa being the name applied to a

woman of unchaste character, as well as the term used to designate a

she-wolf, in this manner the sceptics accounted for the marvellous story

of the sons of Rhea being suckled by a wolf. But whatever may have been

the failings of Laurentia, if there be any truth whatever in the legend,

she made atonement by preserving the life of the founder of Rome. We

will not follow these traditions in their well-known details. Whether or

not Romulus was indeed the first to select the site of the city which

was to spread over seven hills by the Tiber and from them dominate the

world is as impossible to determine as it would be unimportant to our

subject if ascertained. The purpose before us is solely to inquire what

part and lot woman had in the founding of the infant State. That her

rôle was mainly a passive one may be taken for granted, as being in

accordance with the status of the weaker sex in the childhood of every

race and nation.

The ancient historians, who accepted the Romulus legend without

question, portray for us the growing town, so sturdily and rapidly

advancing in power and fame as to excite the wonder and the jealousy of

neighboring communities. One cause to which is attributed this

prosperity is interesting, since it led to a famous episode in which

women played a leading though an unwilling part. We are told that

Romulus opened within, the bounds of the city an asylum, or place of

refuge, where fugitives from justice or from servitude were received

under the protection of the gods. This attracted new citizens in great

numbers, but such as contributed nothing to the respectability of the

new State. The new-comers were, almost entirely, unmarried men; and soon

the paucity of women in Rome gave cause for grave concern. Romulus had

appointed a number of the leading citizens, whom he named as Senators,

to assist him in the government. But it was not in the power of these

city fathers to aid him materially in securing a continued growth of the

community, unless wives could be provided. Ambassadors were despatched

to the neighboring States, requesting treaties of alliance, and

especially begging the privilege of intermarriage.

Owing, doubtless, to

the questionable character of the newly acquired inhabitants of Rome,

this was a favor which no city was disposed to grant.

Everywhere the

ambassadors were confronted with the suggestion that an asylum be opened

for women also, for only by such a plan could suitable mates be obtained

for the men of Rome. Another reason, however, why wives were hard to

obtain was the fact that women were comparatively scarce throughout

Latium. The custom of exposing female infants to death was prevalent

there, as in many other ancient races, daughters being looked upon as a

source of weakness and expense to a family, as sons were a gain and a

strength. Wives, however, being a necessity, the fathers of boys often

secured as brides for their sons girls as soon as they were born. This

laid upon the parents of the latter the obligation to spare their lives

and rear them. There is no evidence that the purchase of wives was ever

a custom among the Romans. Indeed, the opposite was from time immemorial

the practice; a dower went with the bride. Hence it is easy to see why

the Latin fathers were unwilling to bestow their daughters,--who were

not likely to remain on their hands for lack of suitors,--and especially

the dowers that went with them, upon the adventurous young men who had

sought at Rome asylum from justice or vengeance.

But in those ages, and especially in such a matter as the winning of

wives, diplomacy was a resource not wholly depended upon. Among the

marriage ceremonies of later times, there was a custom of parting the

hair of the Roman bride with a spear. In this we find a reminiscence of

the period when marriage by capture was resorted to when there seemed

urgent necessity. Thus Romulus determined that what could not be gained

by fair means should be obtained by the best method which came to hand.

At the festival of the god Consus, appropriately the deity who presided

over hidden deliberations, the seizure of the Sabine maidens was planned

and carried out; and thus the Romans took to themselves wives. How

closely this well-known story corresponds with facts, of course, cannot

be determined. Possibly many of its details are attempts of later ages

to account for wedding customs, the origin of which had been forgotten.

But it is very probable that marriage by capture was common in the

embryonic civilization of early Rome. And there may have been one

occasion when this rude method of wooing was adopted in so flagrant and

wholesale a manner that it led to a war with the Sabines, by which the

remembrance of the event was perpetuated in the traditions of the

people. Michelet, commenting on this story in his brilliant manner,

says: "The progress of humanity is striking. Springing in India from

mystical love, the ideal of woman assumes in Germany the features of

savage virginity and gigantic force; in Greece, those of grace and

stratagem, to arrive among the Romans at the highest pagan morality, to

virgin and conjugal dignity. The Sabines only follow their ravishers on

compulsion, but, become Roman matrons, they refuse to return to the

paternal mansion, disarm their fathers and their husbands, and unite

them in one city." Plutarch says that it was in order to obtain

forgiveness that the Romans assured certain privileges to their wives.

No labor other than spinning should be demanded of them; they should

take the inside of the path; nothing indecent should be done or said in

their presence; they should not be summoned before the criminal judges;

and their children should wear the _pretexta_ and the _bulla_. Thus in

the time of the Greek historian the barbarism of the old times was

forgotten, and to the primitive constitution was attributed all the

civilization which it required centuries to bring about.

As fair Helen brought woe to Troy, so the abduction of the Sabine

maidens was followed by the bitter vengeance of their indignant

masculine relatives. If we may believe the old historians, the women

soon became reconciled to their enforced condition as wives of the

Romans. Doubtless the writers drew this conclusion more from their

knowledge of the yielding disposition of feminine nature than from any

precise acquaintance with the facts. It being totally uncustomary for

the woman to be allowed any decision in the matter, it was a thing of

small importance to her whether she was taken by her husband, without

either her consent or that of her father, or whether she was given by

her father to her husband, equally without being consulted.

The Sabines waited patiently for a favorable opportunity; and when it

came, they attacked the Romans with good success. They even gained

possession of the strongest fortifications of the city.

But, according

to the legend, they could not have won such advantage had it not been

for the love of gaud of Tarpeia, the daughter of one of the captains of

Romulus. Tatius, the King of the Sabines, induced her to open for him

the gates, promising as a reward the golden bracelets which his soldiers

wore upon their left arms. It is noticeable that the difficulties which

must have surrounded an interview between the king and the maiden are

discreetly ignored by the tradition. She agreed to open the gate, on the

pretence of going forth to draw water for the sacrifice, and the Sabine

men were thereupon to rush in. Everything took place as arranged, except

that the misguided Tarpeia received much more than she had bargained

for. Her request was for "that which they wore upon their left arms,"

not remembering the fact that upon that arm they also carried their

shields. The soldiers, as they entered, either through haste, or because

they hated treachery though willing to avail themselves of it, threw at

her their shields as well as their bracelets, and the girl was crushed

to death beneath their weight. A part of the hill which the Sabines thus

gained was ever afterward called the Tarpeian Rock; and it became a

place of execution, traitors being hurled from its summit. There is much

about this story which justifies the suspicion that it arose from, or at

least was adopted by, a desire on the part of the Romans to explain a

defeat, rather than from any verifiable historical foundation. It looks

like a case of the natural vanity of warlike men saving itself by means

of an ungallant slur on the characteristic vanity of women.

Taking the account as it stands, matters were now very serious for the

Romans. The enemy had gained the citadel, and a bloody conflict ensued.

But the women whose abduction had brought on these troubles were also to

be the means of making peace. As the battle was raging, the two armies

were astounded to behold the Sabine women rushing from the homes of the

Romans, not to make their escape, but to throw themselves between the

combatants. With tears, they entreated their fathers and brothers to

hear them. Their plea was voiced by a captive named Hersilia, who some

historians hold was the wife of that Hostilius who afterward became King

of Rome, while others claim that she had been taken by Romulus himself.

Plutarch gives us her speech--of course, drawing from his own

imagination, though he is not far from what might have been the truth;

for anyone may guess what would be likely on such an occasion. She said:

"It is true we were ravished away unjustly and violently by those whose

wives we now are; but that being done, we are bound to them by the

strictest bonds, so that it is impossible for us not to weep and tremble

at the danger of the men whom once we hated. You now come to force away

wives from their husbands, and mothers from their children. Which shall

we call the worse, their love making or your compassion?

Restore to us

our parents and kindred, but do not rob us of our husbands and children.

We entreat you not to make us twice captive." Whereupon, the Sabines

learning that their daughters were not yearning to be rescued, and

having no other good reason for carrying on the fight, a truce was

declared. With a zealous determination to leave nothing unaccounted for,

the tradition relates how the women took their kindred into the city and

proudly exhibited the comforts and indulgences they enjoyed with their

husbands, whose wooing had been so unmannerly. This might well be, as

the Sabines were a pastoral people and unaccustomed to what were to them

the luxuries of city life. So peace was made; and we are told that it

was in commemoration of this event that the ladies of Rome ever

afterward celebrated the festival of the Matronalia on the first of

March. It was their custom to ascend in the morning in procession to the

temple of Juno, and place at the feet of the goddess the flowers with

which their heads were crowned. In the evening, in memory of the tokens

of gratitude which the Sabine women received from their Roman husbands,

they remained at home, adorned in their best attire, waiting for the

customary gifts of their husbands and friends. At a date far later, we

find Tibullus debating with himself, in an exquisite little poem, what

gift he shall send to his beloved Neæra on the Calends of March. With

the customary valuation which an author sets upon his own productions,

he decides that he can give her nothing more acceptable than a copy of

his poems, beautifully bound and adorned.

Every nation has its traditional Golden Age, a period to which the

poetic philosophers of degenerate after times love to refer in the

assumption that then all things were at their best and men were

perfectly happy. So all Roman ideals of civic concord are concentrated

in and derived from the legendary reign of Numa Pompilius. He is

described as not seeking the kingdom, but preferring the pleasures of

reflection in a quiet life with Tatia, his like-minded and noble wife.

But the honor was forced upon him, and he reigned in the spirit of a

true philosopher. He formulated laws and established a system of morals

in accordance with principles worthy of Marcus Aurelius.

To him is given

the credit of organizing the religious institutions of the Romans, and

especially the college of Vestal Virgins. We have seen that, before his

time, to certain maidens was assigned the duty of guarding the sacred

fire, and at the same time their virgin purity. But Numa was said to

have formulated the rules of the order, to have assigned precisely its

duties, and to have built a house for Vesta. But there is not the least

doubt that around the name Numa have clustered, and to him have been

attributed, many advances in civilization which were the growth of

centuries. This seems especially probable in view of the fact that Numa

was a Sabine, one of the pastoral race which was naturally less advanced

in culture than the people who were gathered in cities.

What improvement may have found its way into the conditions of feminine

life during this period, it is difficult to determine.

The useful arts

are said to have grown greatly in favor. Numa is credited with having

instituted guilds for the encouragement of flute blowers, goldsmiths,

coppersmiths, carpenters, fullers, dyers, potters, and shoemakers. Life

would thus become more comfortable, and also be brightened by that which

was pleasurable and ornamental. This supposes an enlargement of the

sphere of the home, a consequent increasing of the interests and

responsibilities of the women, and a softening effect upon their nature.

There is also an indication that, as in ancient Germany, though the

women may have had no part in the direct government of the State, yet

the counsels of certain of their sex were followed by the lawmakers with

a reverence akin to religion. There is a strong suggestion of feminine

influence in the legends concerning the marital relations of Numa.

Plutarch relates that Tatia, Numa's estimable first wife, was separated

from him by death after thirteen years of wedded felicity, and that

after this he never married again, but sought to console himself by

melancholy ramblings in the fields and woods. This gave rise to the

story that, in a certain grove, he was accustomed to meet the goddess

Egeria, who not only favored him with her love, but also endowed him

with the wisdom to perform his duties with marvellous success. On the

other hand, Livy, who probably knew neither more nor less about it, says

that Numa consecrated this grove, with its grotto and spring of living

water, to the Muses, who were accustomed there to meet his wife Egeria.

Whether this Egeria is to be regarded as a mortal woman, perhaps the

lawful wife of the king, or, what is considerably less likely, a divine

being, cannot be decided from these traditions. But they surely have a

value in that they indicate the willingness of the earliest Romans to

attribute excellence in statesmanship on the part of their best men to

the inspiration of members of the fair and gentle, sex.

After the death of Numa, the Romans elected as their king Tullus

Hostilius, and thus a turbulent warrior succeeded the peace-loving

lawgiver. In this reign, instead of the poetic anachronism which

portrays an abnormally advanced civilization, we are brought back again

to earth and to history and to a more accurate description of the

progress of the people. Much is revealed in the story by which Livy, in

his inimitable manner, accounts for the Sororium Tigillium, or the

Sister's Post, a monument which he says was existent in his own day.

Here we not only encounter the terrible right of the father of a family

over the lives of his children, but we also see that the tender

instincts of a woman's love were accounted as nothing in comparison with

loyalty to the family and her duty of hatred to the enemies of the

State. The heroic Horatius, single-handed after the death of his

brothers, had slain the three champions of the Alban army, and thus

provided the first taste of the delight of subjugation to the city which

was destined to become the mistress of the world. In the triumphal

return to Rome, Horatius marched foremost of all the army, carrying

before him the spoils of the three Alban brothers. As they neared the

Porto Capena, the Roman women came forth to welcome the victors home.

Among the rest came Horatia, the sister of the youthful conqueror. As

she ran to embrace him, she noticed upon his shoulder a familiar robe;

in fact, it was a soldier's tunic which she had wrought with her own

hands for one of the vanquished Curiatii, to whom she had been

betrothed. The truth flashed upon the damsel's mind in an instant. Her

lover was dead, and that by the hand of her brother.

With tears and

lamentations, she began to call upon the name of her betrothed. Possibly

with her cries of grief she joined bitter upbraidings of her brother,

who had saved himself and Rome at the cost of her bereavement. His

sister's lamentations, in the midst of his own triumph and the great

public rejoicing, so greatly angered the excited youth that he drew his

sword and stabbed her to the heart. As he did this, he cried: "Go with

thy unseasonable love; go and rejoin thy betrothed, thou who forgettest

thy dead brothers, and him who remains, and thy country!

So perish every

woman who shall dare to lament the death of an enemy!"

This atrocious

murder raised, of course, a profound sensation among the people. They

did not know which ought to outweigh the other: his awful crime or his

brilliant exploit for the public good. The king appointed duumvirs to

try him. By these he was condemned to be beaten with rods, within or

without the walls of the city, and then to be hanged.

But the law gave to Horatius the right of appeal to the people, and in

this second trial he found an effective advocate in his own father. The

old man declared that he considered his daughter deservedly slain. Were

it not so, he said, he would by his own authority as father have

inflicted punishment on his son. It seems probable, however, that

Horatius senior took this course of argument, not because he did not

regret his daughter, but because he hoped thereby to save himself from

being bereft of all his children. "Go, lictor," he said,

"bind those

hands which but a little while since, being armed, established

sovereignty for the Roman people. Strike him within the town, if thou

wilt, but in presence of these trophies and spoils; without the town,

but in the midst of the tombs of the Curiatii. Into what place can you

lead him where the monuments of his glory do not protest against the

horror of his punishment?" The tears of the father and the intrepidity

of the son won for the latter absolution; but the father was commanded

to make expiatory sacrifices, and these were ever afterward continued in

the Horatian family. As a further punishment, a beam was laid across the

street and the young man made to pass under it, with veiled head, as

under a yoke.

Chronologically, this seems to be the appropriate place to introduce

some reference to another race which, to no small extent, affected the

early history of Rome and also the status of the Roman woman. From

Etruria came the ancestor of the Tarquins, that proud dynasty which

provided two legends of the extreme opposite types of women: Tullia, the

cruel and ambitious queen, and Lucretia, the ideal of conjugal

faithfulness. Tanaquil, the never-forgotten helpmeet of an able man,

also came from this people.

The Etruscans have ever been a puzzle to historians and one of the

principal enigmas in ethnology. Entirely unlike the Hellenic or Italiote

races in appearance as well as in customs, even the ancients were at a

loss to surmise whence this remarkable people originated. Dionysius

says, "they claimed alliance with no people in the world." Inquiry

regarding them would not be so interesting, were it not that they have

left such an abundance of proofs of their proficiency in art and

advancement in civilized industry. At the time of which we are writing,

they possessed the very respectable beginning of a literature. We have

nearly two thousand of their inscriptions; but hardly a word are we able

to interpret, for the Etruscan language is to-day what the Egyptian

hieroglyphics were before Champollion. These people were the artists and

the manufacturers for all Italy. In the museums of Europe are to be seen

specimens of their art, such as statues, beautifully ornamented vases,

bas-reliefs, and jewelry, which can but excite the wonder of the

beholder by the richness of their execution. Their tombs have been

found to contain great quantities of such treasures, which they were in

the habit of burying with their chiefs. Reclining on one of these tombs

are the carved effigies of a man and his wife, represented as though

resting upon a couch. If these figures give as correct an idea of the

appearance of the Etruscans as they indicate artistic ability, they were

a thickset people, with retreating foreheads, aquiline noses, and eyes

rather oblique--all suggestive of the Asiatic type. The barbarous

religious ideas of the Etruscans rendered the race gloomy and

fatalistic. Their priests were supposed to be experts in divining the

future; and their gods often required to be propitiated with human

sacrifices. Their civilization had a powerful effect upon that of Rome.

In Etruria women were treated with a respect unusual among the races of

that time; and it may have been owing to this influence that the women

of Rome enjoyed so much more liberty than their sisters of Greece. On

the other hand, to the Etruscans' characteristic delight in cruel sports

has been attributed the introduction of gladiatorial contests in the

arena at Rome.

The traditional account of the origin of the Tarquin family is very

uncertain historical data, the founder being represented as the son of a

foreigner in Tarquinii, a city of Etruria, and his name Lucumo; while

history seems to indicate that the _lucumon_ was an Etruscan chief

magistrate. However, we will take the legendary account as it stands. In

it we are told that Lucumo had married a noble maiden of Tarquinii,

called Tanaquil, a name that in after times became a household word

among the Romans. When they wished to hold before their daughters the

ideal of a good housewife, they exhorted them to emulate Queen Tanaquil.

She was also called Caia Cæcilia, "the good spinner"; and to her memory

and industry all young brides paid honor. From what is told of her,

however, she seems rather to have been an extraordinary type of the

women whose ambitions urge their husbands in the quest of high political

position and whose wise intuitions help to support their spouses in

those positions when attained.

These Etruscans were wealthy; but Lucumo could hope for no place of

influence in Etruria, for the reason that he was the son of a foreigner.

It is to Tanaquil, however, that the credit is given of having persuaded

him to migrate to Rome. We can imagine her argument to have been that,

in the new State, where all the nobility were of recent origin and where

men were elevated for merit rather than for family descent, the courage

and energy of her husband would give him the best chances of success.

The story relates that, as they were about to enter Rome, an eagle

swooped down from the skies and seized Lucumo's cap in its talons. After

flying around the chariot with loud screams, to their great astonishment

the bird replaced the cap on the man's head. In those times, the

movements of birds were looked upon as the surest kind of omens, as

indeed they were so regarded for centuries afterward; and among the

first historians, the tradition of the entrance into Rome of a man

destined to be its king, in which there was no mention made of an omen,

would simply indicate a defect in the narrative which literary justice

would require them to make good. Tanaquil, availing herself of the

science of augury, in which the Etruscans were especially expert,

declared that this was a sign that the highest honors were to be heaped

upon her husband's head. Down to very late times, Romans, even those of

the keenest intellect, were largely influenced in their actions and

decisions by such signs; and it is easy to see how omens might seem

valid, inasmuch as they contributed in no small degree to their own

fulfilment by encouraging or depressing those who thoroughly believed in


[Illustration 2:


After the painting by G. R. C. Boulanger The noble matron Pomponia Græcina has been credited by tradition with having found consolation for the sorrows

of the times in that new faith which was undermining old Rome, both literally in the catacombs and figuratively

in the rapidity with which it was making converts; but we know not with certainty..... Græcina was accused of yielding to foreign superstitions. This may have been owing to the peculiarities of her manner. She had been the close friend of that Julia, daughter of Drusus,

whom Messalina had forced to kill herself. From this time on, for the space of forty years, Græcina wore nothing

but mourning, and was never seen to smile..... When the charge of entertaining foreign superstitions was laid

against her, she was, in accordance with the ancient law,

consigned to the adjudication of her husband..... She was adjudged innocent._]

In the city, our legendary Etruscan changed his name to Lucius

Tarquinius Priscus. His riches and talents soon availed with the Romans,

and he was appointed guardian to the king's children.

When Ancus died,

Tarquin succeeded in persuading the people to elect him to the throne;

and he was not mistaken in his estimation of his own fitness for that

position, for his rule was in every way beneficial. He enlarged the

territory of the State and undertook many worthy public works. To this

period is attributed the building of the great subterranean sewers for

draining the city. Lasting, though inelegant, monuments these; for after

twenty-five centuries have passed away, and after so many Romes have

arisen and fallen above them, the _cloacae_ of Tarquinius Priscus still

remain and admirably serve their purpose. The historians further tell us

that this Etruscan introduced into the kingly style a magnificence

hitherto unknown in Rome. This was especially manifested in his

embroidered robes, which were the skilful work of Tanaquil the Spinner.

Here was a queen who might have been taken for the model of the virtuous

woman depicted in the Book of Proverbs. The heart of her husband could

safely trust in her. She did him good and not evil all the days of her

life. "She seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands."

But Tanaquil was as well qualified to assist her husband in his

political projects as to array him in a manner befitting his station.

This is evidenced by her behavior at his death, which took place at the

hand of assassins. We will allow Livy to relate in his own words what

happened, "When those who were around had raised up the king in a dying