Young Folks' History of Rome HTML version

5. The Driving Out Of The Tarquins, B.C. 578—309
Servius Tullus was looked on by the Romans as having begun making their laws, as
Romulus had put their warlike affairs in order, and Numa had settled their religion. The
Romans were all in great clans or families, all with one name, and these were classed in
tribes. The nobler ones, who could count up from old Trojan, Latin, or Sabine families,
were called Patricians—from pater, a father—because they were fathers of the people;
and the other families were called Plebeian, from plebs, the people. The patricians formed
the Senate or Council of Government, and rode on horseback in war, while the plebeians
fought on foot. They had spears, round shields, and short pointed swords, which cut on
each side of the blade. Tullus is said to have fixed how many men of each tribe should be
called out to war. He also walled in the city again with a wall five miles round; and he
made many fixed laws, one being that when a man was in debt his goods might be seized,
but he himself might not be made a slave. He was the great friend of the plebeians, and
first established the rule that a new law of the Senate could not be made without the
consent of the Comitia, or whole free people.
The Sabines and Romans were still striving for the mastery, and a husbandman among
the Sabines had a wonderfully beautiful cow. An oracle declared that the man who
sacrificed this cow to Diana upon the Aventine Hill would secure the chief power to his
nation. The Sabine drove the cow to Rome, and was going to kill her, when a crafty
Roman priest told him that he must first wash his hands in the Tiber, and while he was
gone sacrificed the cow himself, and by this trick secured the rule to Rome. The great
horns of the cow were long after shown in the temple of Diana on the Aventine, where
Romans, Sabines, and Latins every year joined in a great sacrifice.
The two daughters of Servius were married to their cousins, the two young Tarquins. In
each pair there was a fierce and a gentle one. The fierce Tullia was the wife of the gentle
Aruns Tarquin; the gentle Tulla had married the proud Lucius Tarquin. Aruns' wife tried
to persuade her husband to seize the throne that had belonged to his father, and when he
would not listen to her, she agreed with his brother Lucius that, while he murdered her
sister, she should kill his brother, and then that they should marry. The horrid deed was
carried out, and old Servius, seeing what a wicked pair were likely to come after him,
began to consider with the Senate whether it would not be better to have two consuls or
magistrates chosen every year than a king. This made Lucius Tarquin the more furious,
and going to the Senate, where the patricians hated the king as the friend of the plebeians,
he stood upon the throne, and was beginning to tell the patricians that this would be the
ruin of their greatness, when Servius came in and, standing on the steps of the doorway,
ordered him to come down. Tarquin sprang on the old man and hurled him backward, so
that the fall killed him, and his body was left in the street. The wicked Tullia, wanting to
know how her husband had sped, came out in her chariot on that road. The horses gave
back before the corpse. She asked what was in their way; the slave who drove her told her
it was the king's body. "Drive on," she said. The horrid deed caused the street to be
known ever after as "Sceleratus," or the wicked. But it was the plebeians who mourned
for Servius; the patricians in their anger made Tarquin king, but found him a very hard
and cruel master, so that he is generally called Tarquinius Superbus, or Tarquin the
proud. In his time the Sybil of Cumæ, the same wondrous maiden of deep wisdom who
had guided Æneas to the realms of Pluto, came, bringing nine books of prophecies of the
history of Rome, and offered them to him at a price which he thought too high, and
refused. She went away, destroyed three, and brought back the other six, asking for them
double the price of the whole. He refused. She burnt three more, and brought him the last
three with the price again doubled, because the fewer they were, the more precious. He