The History of Rome

From Tall Daisy Syndrome

The History of Rome by Livy

Book I, Paragraphs 43-45

Tarquin, having recalled the Latins to the meeting, and applauded those who had inflicted well-merited punishment on Turnus, as one convicted of parricide, by his attempting a change of government, spoke as follows: “That he could indeed proceed by a long-established right; because, since all the Latins were sprung from Alba, they were included in that treaty by which the entire Alban nation, with their colonies, fell under the dominion of Rome, under Tullus. However, for the sake of the interest of all parties, he thought rather, that that treaty should be renewed; and that the Latins should, as participators, enjoy the prosperity of the Roman people, rather than that they should be constantly either apprehending or suffering the demolition of their town and the devastations of their lands, which they suffered formerly in the reign of Ancus, afterwards in the reign of his own father.” The Latins were persuaded without any difficulty, though in that treaty the advantage lay on the side of Rome; but they both saw that the chiefs of the Latin nation sided and concurred with the king, and Turnus was a recent instance of his danger to each, if he should make any opposition. Thus the treaty was renewed, and notice was given to the young men of the Latins, that, according to the treaty, they should attend in considerable numbers in arms, on a certain day, at the grove of Ferentina. And when they assembled from all the states according to the edict of the Roman king, in order that they should neither have a general of their own, nor a separate command, or their own standards, he compounded companies of Latins and Romans, so as to make one out of two, and two out of one; the companies being thus doubled, he appointed centurions over them.

Nor was Tarquin, though a tyrannical prince in peace, a despicable general in war; nay, he would have equalled his predecessors in that art, had not his degeneracy in other respects likewise detracted from his merit here. He began the war against the Volsci, which lasted two hundred years after his time, and took from them Suessa Pometia by storm; and when by the sale of the spoils he had amassed forty talents of silver and of gold, he designed such magnificence for a temple to Jupiter, as should be worthy of the king of gods and men, of the Roman empire, and of the majesty of the place itself: for the building of this temple he set apart the money arising from the spoils. Soon after a war came upon him, more tedious than he expected, in which, having in vain attempted to storm Gabii, a city in his neighbourhood, when being repulsed from the walls all hopes of taking it by siege also was taken from him, he assailed it by fraud and stratagem, arts by no means Roman. For when, as if the war was laid aside, he pretended to be busily taken up with laying the foundation of the temple, and with his other works in the city, Sextus, the youngest of his three sons, according to concert, fled to Gabii, complaining of the inhuman cruelty of his father, “that he had turned his tyranny from others against his own family, and was uneasy at the number of his own children, intending to make the same desolations in his own house which he had made in the senate, in order that he might leave behind him no issue, nor heir to his kingdom. That for his own part, as he had escaped from amidst the swords and other weapons of his father, he was persuaded he could find no safety any where but among the enemies of L. Tarquin. And, that they might not be led astray, that the war, which it is now pretended has been given up, still lies in reserve, and that he would attack them when off their guard on the occurrence of an opportunity. But if there be no refuge for suppliants among them, that he would traverse all Latium, and would apply to the Volscians, and Æquians, and Hernicians, until he should come to those who knew how to protect children from the impious and cruel persecution of parents. That perhaps he would find some ardour also to take up arms and wage war against this proud king and his haughty subjects.” As he seemed a person likely to go further onward, incensed with anger, if they paid him no regard, he is received by the Gabians very kindly. They bid him not to be surprised, if he were at last the same to his children as he had been to his subjects and allies;—that he would ultimately vent his rage on himself if other objects failed him;—that his coming was very acceptable to them, and they thought that it would come to pass that by his aid the war would be transferred from the gates of Gabii to the walls of Rome.

Upon this he was admitted into their public councils, where though, with regard to other matters, he professed to submit to the judgment of the old inhabitants of Gabii, to whom they were better known, yet he every now and then advised them to renew the war; to that he pretended to a superior knowledge, because he was well acquainted with the strength of both nations, and knew that the king’s pride was decidedly become hateful to his subjects, which not even his own children could now endure. As he thus by degrees stirred up the nobles of the Gabians to renew the war, went himself with the most active of their youth on plundering parties and expeditions, and ill-grounded credit was attached to all his words and actions, framed as they were for deception, he is at length chosen general-in-chief in the war. There when, the people being still ignorant of what was really going on, several skirmishes with the Romans took place, wherein the Gabians generally had the advantage, then all the Gabians, from the highest to the lowest, were firmly persuaded, that Sextus Tarquinius had been sent to them as their general, by the special favour of the gods. By his exposing himself to fatigues and dangers, and by his generosity in dividing the plunder, he was so beloved by the soldiers, that Tarquin the father had not greater power at Rome than the son at Gabii. When he saw he had got sufficient strength collected to support him in any under[Pg 71]taking, he sent one of his confidants to Rome to ask his father what he wished him to do, seeing the gods had granted him the sole management of all affairs at Gabii. To this courier no answer by word of mouth was given, because, I suppose, he appeared of questionable fidelity. The king going into a garden of the palace, as it were to consider of the matter, followed by his son’s messenger; walking there for some time in silence, he is said to have struck off the heads of the tallest poppies with his staff. The messenger, wearied with demanding and waiting for an answer, returned to Gabii as if without having accomplished his object, and told what he had said himself, and what he had observed, adding, “that Tarquin, either through passion, aversion to him, or his innate pride, had not spoke a word.” As soon as it became evident to Sextus what his father wished, and what conduct he recommended by those silent intimations, he put to death the most eminent men of the city, accusing some of them to the people, and others who were exposed by their own unpopularity. Many were executed publicly, and some, against whom an impeachment was likely to prove less specious, were secretly assassinated. Means of escape were to some allowed, and others were banished, and their estates, as well as the estates of those who were put to death, publicly distributed. By the sweets of corruption, plunder, and private advantage resulting from these distributions, the sense of the public calamities became extinguished in them, till the state of Gabii, destitute of counsel and assistance, was delivered without a struggle into the hands of the Roman king.

The complete text of The History of Rome


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