Young Folks' History of Rome HTML version

I am going to tell you next about the most famous nation in the world. Going westward
from Greece another peninsula stretches down into the Mediterranean. The Apennine
Mountains run like a limb stretching out of the Alps to the south eastward, and on them
seems formed that land, shaped somewhat like a leg, which is called Italy.
Round the streams that flowed down from these hills, valleys of fertile soil formed
themselves, and a great many different tribes and people took up their abode there, before
there was any history to explain their coming. Putting together what can be proved about
them, it is plain, however, that most of them came of that old stock from which the
Greeks descended, and to which we belong ourselves, and they spoke a language which
had the same root as ours and as the Greek. From one of these nations the best known
form of this, as it was polished in later times, was called Latin, from the tribe who spoke
About the middle of the peninsula there runs down, westward from the Apennines, a river
called the Tiber, flowing rapidly between seven low hills, which recede as it approaches
the sea. One, in especial, called the Palatine Hill, rose separately, with a flat top and steep
sides, about four hundred yards from the river, and girdled in by the other six. This was
the place where the great Roman power grew up from beginnings, the truth of which
cannot now be discovered.
There were several nations living round these hills—the Etruscans, Sabines, and Latins
being the chief. The homes of these nations seem to have been in the valleys round the
spurs of the Apennines, where they had farms and fed their flocks; but above them was
always the hill which they had fortified as strongly as possible, and where they took
refuge if their enemies attacked them. The Etruscans built very mighty walls, and also
managed the drainage of their cities wonderfully well. Many of their works remain to this
day, and, in especial, their monuments have been opened, and the tomb of each chief has
been found, adorned with figures of himself, half lying, half sitting; also curious pottery
in red and black, from which something of their lives and ways is to be made out. They
spoke a different language from what has become Latin, and they had a different religion,
believing in one great Soul of the World, and also thinking much of rewards and
punishments after death. But we know hardly anything about them, except that their
chiefs were called Lucumos, and that they once had a wide power which they had lost
before the time of history. The Romans called them Tusci, and Tuscany still keeps its
The Latins and the Sabines were more alike, and also more like the Greeks. There were a
great many settlements of Greeks in the southern parts of Italy, and they learnt something
from them. They had a great many gods. Every house had its own guardian. These were
called Lares, or Penates, and were generally represented as little figures of dogs lying by
the hearth, or as brass bars with dogs' heads. This is the reason that the bars which close
in an open hearth are still called dogs. Whenever there was a meal in the house the master
began by pouring out wine to the Lares, and also to his own ancestors, of whom he kept
figures; for these natives thought much of their families, and all one family had the same
name, like our surname, such as Tullius or Appius, the daughters only changing it by
making it end in a instead of us, and the men having separate names standing first, such
as Marcus or Lucius, though their sisters were only numbered to distinguish them.
Each city had a guardian spirit, each stream its nymph, each wood its faun; also there
were gods to whom the boundary stones of estates were dedicated. There was a goddess