Young Folks' History of Rome HTML version

4. Numa And Tullus, B.C. 713—618
It was understood between the Romans and the Sabines that they should have by turns a
king from each nation, and, on the disappearance of Romulus, a Sabine was chosen,
named Numa Pompilius, who had been married to Tatia, the daughter of the Sabine king
Tatius, but she was dead, and had left one daughter. Numa had, ever since her death, been
going about from one grove or fountain sacred to the gods to another offering up
sacrifices, and he was much beloved for his gentleness and wisdom. There was a grove
near Rome, in a valley, where a fountain gushed forth from the rock; and here Egeria, the
nymph of the stream, in the shade of the trees, counselled Numa on his government,
which was so wise that he lived at peace with all his neighbors. When the Romans
doubted whether it was really a goddess who inspired him, Egeria convinced them, for
the next time he had any guests in his house, the earthenware plates with homely fare on
them were changed before their eyes into golden dishes with dainty food. Moreover,
there was brought from heaven a bronze shield, which was to be carefully kept, since
Rome would never fall while it was safe. Numa had eleven other shields like it made and
hung in the temple of Mars, and, yearly, a set of men dedicated to the office bore them
through the city with songs and dances. Just as all warlike customs were said to have
been invented by Romulus, all peaceful and religious ones were held to have sprung from
Numa and his Egeria. He was said to have fixed the calendar and invented the names of
the months, and to have built an altar to Good Faith to teach the Romans to keep their
word to one another and to all nations, and to have dedicated the bounds of each estate to
the Dii Termini, or Landmark Gods, in whose honor there was a feast yearly. He also was
said to have had such power with Jupiter as to have persuaded him to be content without
receiving sacrifices of men and women. In short, all the better things in the Roman
system were supposed to be due to the gentle Numa.
At the gate called Janiculum stood a temple to the watchman god Janus, whose figure had
two faces, and held the keys, and after whom was named the month January. His temple
was always open in time of war, and closed in time of peace. Numa's reign was counted
as the first out of only three times in Roman history that it was shut.
Numa was said to have reigned thirty-eight years, and then he gradually faded away, and
was buried in a stone coffin outside the Janicular gate, all the books he had written being,
by his desire, buried with him. Egeria wept till she became a fountain in her own valley;
and so ended what in Roman faith answered to the golden age of Greece.
The next king was of Roman birth, and was named Tullus Hostilius. He was a great
warrior, and had a war with the Albans until it was agreed that the two cities should join
together in one, as the Romans and Sabines had done before; but there was a dispute
which should be the greater city in the league and it was determined to settle it by a
combat. In each city there was a family where three sons had been born at a birth, and
their mothers were sisters. Both sets were of the same age—fine young men, skilled in
weapons; and it was agreed that the six should fight together, the three whose family
name was Horatius on the Roman side, the three called Curiatius on the Alban side, and
whichever set gained the mastery was to give it to his city.
They fought in the plain between the camps, and very hard was the strife until two of the
Horatii were killed and all the three Curiatii were wounded, but the last Horatius was
entirely untouched. He began to run, and his cousins pursued him, but at different
distances, as one was less hindered by his wound than the others. As soon as the first
came up. Horatius slew him, and so the second and the third: as he cut down this last he