Roman Gods and Heroes
33 Early Roman Heroes
Roman mythological heroes, distinct from Greek mythological heroes, came from Rome’s early history. They often represented important Roman values and the stories about them helped to create a particular Roman morality. Rather than being demigods (the children of one divine and one mortal parent), as the Greek heroes often were, Roman heroes were usually regular Romans who showed exemplary bravery, ingenuity, and loyalty. This is not to say that they were real people who actually lived (they likely were not), but they could have been. Some of the Roman stories are etiological myths for the creation and establishment of particular Roman customs, rituals, and institution, or explanations for how certain parts of the Roman state came to be.
Heroes of the Regal Period
Numa was the second king of Rome after Romulus. He was called the “law giver” and was said to be the one who established many of Rome’s religious and political institutions, including the cults of Mars, Jupiter, and Romulus, the Roman Calendar, the Vestal Virgins, and the office of Pontifex Maximus, or chief priest. Numa was elected to the position of King, mirroring the way that Roman official were selected during the period of the Roman Republic ( 509-27 BCE).
Latin history, 1st century BCE
 The justice and piety of was at that time celebrated. He lived at Cures, a city of the Sabines, and was as very well studied in all laws human and divine, as any man could be in that age. They falsely represent that Pythagoras of Samos was his instructor in philosophy, because there appears no other person to refer to. Now it is certain that this philosopher, in the reign of , more than a hundred years after this, held assemblies of young men, who eagerly drank up his doctrine, in the most distant part of Italy, about Metapontus, Heraclea, and Croton. But from these places, even if he had flourished at the same time, what fame of his (extending) to the Sabines could have aroused any one to a desire of learning, or by what exchange of language (could such a thing have been done)? Besides, how could a single man have safely passed through so many nations differing in language and customs? I presume, therefore, that his mind was naturally equipped with a virtuous nature, and that he was not so much versed in foreign sciences as in the severe and rigid discipline of the ancient Sabines, than which no group was in former times more strict. The Roman fathers, upon hearing the name of , although they perceived that the scale of power would incline to the Sabines if a king were chosen from them, yet none of them ventured to prefer himself, or any other of his party, or any of the citizens or fathers, to that person, but unanimously resolved that the kingdom should be conferred on . Being sent for, just as before the building of the city obtained the throne by an , he commanded that the gods be consulted about himself also. Upon this, being led into the citadel by an augur, (to which profession that office was made a public one and perpetual by way of honour,) he sat down on a stone facing the south: the augur took his seat on his left hand with his head covered, holding in his right a crooked wand free from knots, which they called lituus; then taking a view towards the city and country, after offering a prayer to the gods, he marked out the regions from east to west, the parts towards the south he called the right, those towards the north, the left; and in front of him he set out in his mind a sign as far as ever his eye could reach. Then having shifted the lituus into his left hand, placing his right hand on the head of , he prayed in this manner, “O father , if it is your will that this , whose head I hold, should be king of Rome, I beseech you to give sure and evident signs of it within those bounds which I have marked.” Then he stated in set terms the omens which he wished to be sent; and on their being sent, was declared king and came down from the stand.
 Having thus obtained the kingdom, he sets about reestablishing, on the principles of laws and morals, the city that had been recently established by violence and weapons. When he saw that their minds, as having been rendered ferocious by military life, could not be reconciled to those principles while wars were occuring, considering that a fierce people should be pacified by the disuse of arms, he erected at the foot of Argiletum a temple of , as an index of peace and war; that when open, it might show the state was engaged in war, and when shut, that all the neighbouring nations were at peace with it. Twice only since the reign of has this temple been shut; once when T. Manlius was consul, at the end of the first Punic war; and a second time, which the gods granted our age to see, by the emperor Cæsar, after the battle of Actium, peace being established by sea and land. This being shut, after he had secured the friendship of the neighbouring states around by alliance and treaties, all anxiety about dangers from abroad being removed, in case their minds, which the fear of enemies and military discipline had kept in check, should become licentious by tranquillity, he considered, that, first of all, an awe of the gods should be instilled into them, a principle of the greatest effectiveness with a population as ignorant and uncivilized as in those times. But as it could not sink deeply into their minds without some fiction of a miracle, he pretends that he holds nightly interviews with the goddess ; that by her direction he instituted the sacred rites which would be most acceptable to the gods, and appointed proper priests for each of the deities. And, first of all, he divides the year into twelve months, according to the course of the moon; and because the moon does not make up thirty days in each month, and some days are wanting to the complete year as constituted by the solstitial revolution, he so portioned it out by inserting intercalary months, that every twenty-fourth year, the lengths of all the intermediate years being completed, the days should correspond to the same place of the sun (in the heavens) whence they had set out. He likewise made a distinction of the days into profane and sacred, because on some it was likely to be practical that no business should be transacted with the people.
 Next he turned his attention to the appointment of priests, though he performed many sacred rites himself, especially those which now belong to the flamen of . But, as he imagined that in a warlike nation there would be more kings resembling than , and that they would go to war in person, he appointed a residentiary priest as flamen to , that the sacred functions of the royal office might not be neglected, and he distinguished him by a fine robe, and a royal curule chair. To him he added two other flamines, one for , another for . He also selected virgins for , a priesthood derived from Alba, and not foreign to the family of the founder. That they might be constant attendants in the temple, he appointed them salaries out of the public treasury; and by enjoining virginity, and other religious observances, he made them sacred and venerable. He selected twelve Salii for Gradivus, and gave them the distinction of an embroidered tunic, and over the tunic a bronze covering for the chest. He commanded them to carry the celestial shields called Ancilia, and to go through the city singing songs, with leaping and solemn dancing. Then he chose out of the number of the fathers Numa Marcius, son of Marcus, as pontiff, and consigned to him an entire system of religious rites written out and sealed, (showing) with what victims, upon what days, and in what temples the sacred rites were to be performed; and from what funds the money was to be taken for these expenses. He placed all religious institutions, public and private, under the domain of the pontiff to the end that there might be some place where the people should come to consult, in case any confusion in the divine worship might occur by neglecting the ceremonies of their own country, and introducing foreign ones. (He ordained) that the same pontiff should instruct the people not only in the celestial ceremonies, but also in (the manner of performing) funeral solemnities, and of appeasing the manes of the dead; and what prodigies sent by lightning or any other phenomenon were to be attended to and expiated. To elicit such knowledge from the divine mind, he dedicated an altar on the Aventine [hill] to Elicius, and consulted the god by as to what (prodigies) should be expiated.
 The whole population having been diverted from violence and weapons to the considering and adjusting of these matters, both their minds had been engaged in doing something, and the constant watchfulness of the gods now impressed upon them, as the deity of heaven seemed to interest itself in human concerns, had filled the breasts of all with such piety, that faith and religious obligations governed the state, no less than fear of the laws and of punishment. And while the people were moulding themselves after the morals of the king, as their best example, the neighbouring states also, who had formerly thought that it was a camp, not a city, situate in the midst of them to disturb the general peace, were brought (to feel) such respect for them that they considered it impious that a state, wholly occupied in the worship of the gods, should be disturbed. There was a grove, the middle of which was irrigated by a spring of running water, issuing from a dark grotto. As went often thither alone, under pretence of conferring with the goddess, he dedicated the place to the , because their meetings with his wife were held there. He also instituted a yearly festival to alone, and commanded the priests to be carried to her temple in an arched chariot drawn by two horses, and to perform the divine service with their hands wrapped up to the fingers, intimating that ought to be protected, and that her seat ought to be sacred even in men’s right hands. He instituted many other sacred rites, and dedicated places for performing them, which the priests call Argei. But the greatest of all his works was his maintenance of peace, during the whole period of his reign, no less than of his royal prerogative. Thus two kings in succession, by different methods, the one by war, the other by peace, aggrandized the state. reigned thirty-seven years, forty-three: the state was both strong, and well versed in the arts of war and peace.
Servius Tullius was the sixth king of Rome. A number of the details of his life connect to Roman values. Alternate versions of his origin say that he was either the son of an enslaved Etruscan woman and a Roman nobleman, or the son the enslaved Etruscan woman and the god Vulcan (who appeared and raped his mother in the form of a disembodied phallus). This myth of his birth from an enslaved woman attests to the idea of Roman social mobility. There were pathways to power, money, and influence in Rome even for people who had been born into slavery (or at least they liked to imagine that this was the case). The fact that his mother was of Etruscan origin shows the way that the Romans were starting to mingle and incorporate with other peoples on the Italian peninsula (Servius was actually the second Etruscan king of Rome).
He was said to have extended the territory of Rome to include the Quirinal, Viminal, and Esquiline hills through military conquest. He expanded voting rights the plebs (the commoners of ancient Rome). He was also mythologized as the establisher of Rome first coinage. He was connected to the goddess Fortuna, credited with building a temple to her and the goddess Diana, and even rumored to have been her consort. He was eventually killed by his treacherous daugher, Tullia the Younger, and son-in-law, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus.
Latin history, 1st century BCE
 At that time, a prodigy occurred in the palace, wonderful both in its appearance and in its result. They say that the head of a boy, called , as he lay fast asleep, blazed with fire in the sight of many persons. That by the very great noise made at so miraculous a phenomenon, the royal family were awakened; and when one of the servants was bringing water to extinguish the flame, that he was kept back by the queen, and after the confusion was over, that she forbade the boy to be disturbed until he should awake of his own accord. As soon as he awoke the flame disappeared. Then , taking her husband into a private place, said, “Do you observe this boy whom we bring up in such poor conditions? Be assured that from now on he will be a light to us in our adversity, and a protector to our palace in distress. From now on let us, with all our care, train up this youth, who is capable of becoming a great ornament publicly and privately.” From this time the boy began to be treated as their own son, and instructed in those arts by which men’s minds are qualified to maintain high rank. The matter was easily accomplished, because it was agreeable to the gods. The young man turned out to be of a disposition truly royal. Nor, when they looked out for a son-in-law for , could any of the Roman youth be compared to him in any accomplishment; therefore the king betrothed his own daughter to him. This high honour conferred upon him, from whatever cause, prevents us from believing that he was the son of a slave, and that he had himself been a slave when young. I am rather of the opinion of those who say that, on the taking of Corniculum, the wife of , who had been the leading man in that city, being pregnant when her husband was slain, being known among the other female prisoners, and, in consequence of her high rank, exempted from servitude by the Roman queen, delivered a child at Rome, in the house of . Upon this, that both the bond between the ladies was improved by so great a kindness, and that the boy, having been brought up in the house from his infancy, was beloved and respected; that his mother’s lot, in having fallen into the hands of the enemy, caused him to be considered the son of a slave.
 About the thirty-eighth year of ‘s reign, was in the highest esteem, not only with the king, but also with the senate and people. At this time the two sons of Ancus, though they had before that always considered it the highest indignity that they had been deprived of their father’s crown by the treachery of their guardian, that a stranger should be king of Rome, who was not only not of a civic, but not even of an Italian family, yet now felt their indignation rise to a still higher pitch at the notion that the crown would not only not revert to them after Tarquin, but would descend even lower to a slave, so that in the same state about a hundred years after , descended from a deity, and a deity himself, occupied the throne as long as he lived, a slave, and one born of a slave, should now possess it. That it would be a disgrace both common to the Roman name, and more especially to their family, if, while there were male descendants of king Ancus still living, the sovereignty of Rome should be accessible not only to strangers, but even to slaves. They determine therefore to prevent that disgrace by the sword. But both resentment for the injury done to them incensed them more against himself, than against ; and (the consideration) that a king was likely to prove a more severe avenger of the murder, if he should survive, than a private person; and moreover, in case of being put to death, whatever other person he might select as his son-in-law, it seemed likely that he would adopt as his successor on the throne. For these reasons the plot is laid against the king himself. Two of the most ferocious of the shepherds being selected for the daring deed, with the rustic implements to which each had been accustomed, by conducting themselves in as violent a manner as possible in the porch of the palace, under pretence of a quarrel, draw the attention of all the king’s attendants to themselves; then, when both appealed to the king, and their clamour reached even the interior of the palace, they are called in and proceed before the king. At first both bawled aloud, and vied in interrupting each other by their clamour, until being restrained by the lictor, and commanded to speak in turns, they at length cease railing. According to concert, one begins to state the matter. When the king, attentive to him, had turned himself quite that way, the other, raising up his axe, struck it into his head, and leaving the weapon in the wound, they both rush out of the house.
 When those who were around had raised up the king in a dying state, the lictors seize on the men who were trying to escape. Upon this followed an uproar and crowd of people, wondering what the matter was. , during the tumult, orders the palace to be shut, thrusts out all who were present: at the same time she dilligently prepares every thing necessary for dressing the wound, as if a hope still remained; at the same time, in case her hopes should disappoint her, she projects other means of safety. Sending immediately for , after she had showed to him her husband almost dying, holding his right hand, she begs him not to allow the death of his father-in-law to go unavenged, nor his mother-in-law to be an object of insult to their enemies. “,” she said, “if you are a man, the kingdom is yours, not theirs, who, by the hands of others, have perpetrated the worst of crimes. Exert yourself, and follow the guidance of the gods, who portended that this head would be famous by having formerly shed a blaze around it. Now let that celestial flame arouse you. Now awake in earnest. We, too, though foreigners, have reigned. Consider who you are, not from where you are sprung. If your own plans are not matured by reason of the suddenness of this event, then follow mine.” When the uproar and violence of the multitude could scarcely be withstood, addresses the populace from the upper part of the palace through the windows facing the new street (for the royal family resided near the temple of Stator. She bids them “be of good courage; that the king was stunned by the suddenness of the blow; that the weapon had not sunk deep into his body; that he was already come to himself again; that the wound had been examined, the blood having been wiped off; that all the symptoms were favourable; that she hoped they would see him very soon; and that, in the mean time, he commanded the people to obey the orders of . That he would administer justice, and would perform all the functions of the king.” comes forth with the trabea and lictors, and seating himself on the king’s throne, decides some cases, with respect to others pretends that he will consult the king. Therefore, the death being concealed for several days, though had already died, he, under pretence of carrying out the duty of another, strengthened his own interests. Then at length the matter being made public, and lamentations being raised in the palace, , supported by a strong guard, took possession of the kingdom by the consent of the senate, being the first who did so without the orders of the people. The children of Ancus, the instruments of their villany having been already seized, as soon as it was announced that the king still lived, and that the power of was so great, had already gone into exile to Suessa Pometia.
 And now began to strengthen his power, not more by public than by private measures; and in case the feelings of the children of might be the same towards himself as those of the children of Ancus had been towards , he unites his two daughters in marriage to the young princes, the Tarquinii [sons of ], and Aruns. Nor yet did he break through the inevitable decrees of fate by human measures, so that envy of the sovereign power should not produce general treachery and conflict even among the members of his own family. Very conveniently for maintaining the peace of the present state, a war was commenced with the Veientes (for the truce had now expired) and with the other Etrurians. In that war, both the valour and good fortune of were conspicuous, and he returned to Rome, after routing a great army of the enemy, now unquestionably king, whether he tried the dispositions of the fathers or the people. He then sets about a work of peace of the utmost importance; that, as had been the author of religious institutions, so posterity might celebrate as the founder of all distinction among the members of the state, and of those orders by which a limitation is established between the degrees of rank and fortune. For he instituted the census, a most salutary measure for an empire destined to become so great, according to which the services of war and peace were to be performed, not by every person, (indiscriminately,) as formerly, but in proportion to the amount of property. Then he formed, according to the census, the classes and centuries, and the arrangement as it now exists, eminently suited either to peace or war.
 Of those who had an estate of a hundred thousand donkeys or more, he made eighty centuries, forty of seniors and forty of juniors. All these were called the first class, the seniors were to be in readiness to guard the city, the juniors to carry on war abroad. The armour given to them were a helmet, a round shield, greaves, and a coat of mail, all of brass; these were for the defence of their body; their weapons of offence were a spear and a sword. To this class were added two centuries of mechanics, who were to serve without arms; the duty imposed upon them was to carry the military engines. The second class comprised all whose estate was from seventy-five to a hundred thousand donkeys, and of these, seniors and juniors, twenty centuries were enrolled. The arms given to them were a buckler instead of a shield, and except a coat of mail, all the rest were the same. He appointed the property of the third class to amount to fifty thousand donkeys; the number of centuries was the same, and formed with the same distinction of age, nor was there any change in their arms, only greaves were taken from them. In the fourth class, the property was twenty-five thousand donkeys, the same number of centuries was formed: the arms were changed, nothing was given them but a spear and a long javelin. The fifth class was increased, thirty centuries were formed; these carried slings and stones for throwing. Among them were counted the horn-blowers, and the trumpeters, distributed into three centuries. This whole class was rated at eleven thousand donkeys. Property lower than this comprised all the rest of the citizens, and of them one century was made up which was exempted from serving in war. Having thus divided and armed the infantry, he levied twelve centuries of knights from among the chief men of the state. Likewise out of the three centuries, appointed by , he formed other six under the same names which they had received at their first institution. Ten thousand donkeys were given them out of the public revenue, for the buying of horses, and widows were assigned them, who were to pay two thousand donkeys yearly for the support of the horses. All these burdens were taken off the poor and laid on the rich. Then an additional honour was conferred upon them; for the voting right was not now granted freely to all, as it had been established by , and observed by his successors, to every man with the same privilege and the same right, but levels were established, so that no one might seem excluded from the right of voting, and yet the whole power might be held by the chief men of the state. For the knights were first called, and then the eighty centuries of the first class; and if they happened to differ, which was seldom the case, those of the second were called: and they seldom ever descended so low as to come to the lowest class. Nor need we be surprised, that the present regulation, which now exists, since the tribes were increased to thirty-five, should not agree in the number of centuries of juniors and seniors with the amount instituted by , they being now double of what they were at that time. For the city being divided into four parts, according to the regions and hills which were then inhabited, he called these divisions tribes, as I think, from the tribute. For the method of levying taxes proportionally according to the value of estates was also introduced by him; nor had these tribes any relation to the number and distribution of the centuries.
[content warning for the following section: sexual assault, suicide]
Latin history, 1st century BCE
[content warning for the following source: sexual assault, suicide (58)]
 The Rutulians, a very wealthy nation, considering the country and era that they lived in, were at that time in possession of Ardea. Their riches gave rise to the war; for the king of the Romans [ ], being exhausted of money by the magnificence of his public works, wanted both to enrich himself, and with great spoils to soothe the minds of his subjects, who, besides other instances of his tyranny, were angry with his government because they were indignant that they had been kept so long a time by the king in the employments of mechanics, and in labour fit for slaves. An attempt was made to take Ardea by storm; when that did not succeed, the enemy began to be distressed by a blockade, and by structures raised around them. As it commonly happens in standing camps, the war being rather tedious than violent, leaves of absence were easily obtained, more so by the officers, however, than the common soldiers. The young princes sometimes spent their leisure hours in feasting and entertainments. One day as they were drinking in the tent of , where Collatinus Tarquinius, the son of Egerius, was also at supper, mention was made of wives. Every one praised his own [wife] in an extravagant manner, until a dispute arising about it, Collatinus said, “There was no occasion for words, that it might be known in a few hours how far his excelled all the rest. If then, added he, we have any share of the vigour of youth, let us mount our horses and examine the behaviour of our wives; that must be most satisfactory to every one, which will meet his eyes on the unexpected arrival of the husband.” They were heated with wine; “Come on, then,” say all. They immediately galloped to Rome, where they arrived in the dusk of the evening. From there they went to Collatia, where they find , not like the king’s daughters-in-law, whom they had seen spending their time in luxurious entertainments with their equals, but though at an advanced time of night, employed at her wool, sitting in the middle of the house amid her maids working around her. The merit of the contest regarding the ladies was assigned to . Her husband on his arrival, and the Tarquinii [sons of ], were kindly received; the husband, proud of his victory, gives the young princes a polite invitation. There the villainous passion for violating by force seizes ; both her beauty, and her approved purity, act as incentives. And then, after this youthful frolic of the night, they return to the camp.
 A few days after, without the knowledge of Collatinus, came to Collatia with one attendant only; where, being kindly received by them, as not being aware of his intention, after he had been conducted after supper into the guests’ chamber, burning with passion, when every thing around seemed sufficiently secure, and all fast asleep, he comes to , as she lay asleep, with a naked sword, and with his left hand pressing down the woman’s breast, he says, “Be silent, ; I am ; I have a sword in my hand; you will die, if you utter a word.” When awaking terrified from sleep, the woman saw no help, impending death close at hand; then acknowledged his passion, begged, mixed threats with pleading, tried the female’s mind in every possible way. When he saw her inflexible, and that she was not moved even by the terror of death, he added to terror the threat of dishonour; he says that he will lay a murdered slave naked by her side when dead, so that she may be said to have been slain in infamous adultery. When by the terror of this disgrace his lust, as it were victorious, had overcome her inflexible chastity, and had departed, exulting in having triumphed over a lady’s honour, , in melancholy distress at so dreadful a misfortune, sends the same messenger to Rome to her father, and to Ardea to her husband, that they would come each with one trusty friend; that it was necessary to do so, and that quickly. Sp. Lucretius comes with P. Valerius, the son of Volesus, Collatinus with L. Junius Brutus, with whom, as he was returning to Rome, he happened to be met by his wife’s messenger. They find sitting in her chamber in sorrowful dejection. On the arrival of her friends the tears burst from her eyes; and to her husband, on his inquiry “whether all was right,” she says, “By no means, for what can be right with a woman who has lost her honour? The traces of another man are on your bed, Collatinus. But the body only has been violated, the mind is guiltless; death will be my witness. But give me your right hands, and your honour, that the adulterer will not come off unpunished. It is , who, an enemy in the disguise of a guest, has borne away from here a victory fatal to me, and to himself, if you are men.” They all pledge their honour; they attempt to console her, distracted as she was in mind, by turning away the guilt from her, constrained by force, on the perpetrator of the crime; that it is the mind sins, not the body; and that where intention was wanting guilt could not be. “It is for you to see,” says she, “what is due to him. As for me, though I acquit myself of guilt, from punishment I do not discharge myself; nor will any woman survive her dishonour by pleading the example of .” The knife, which she kept concealed beneath her garment, she plunges into her heart, and falling forward on the wound, she dropped down, dying. The husband and father shriek aloud.
 Brutus, while they were overpowered with grief, having drawn the knife out of the wound, and holding it up before him reeking with blood, said, “By this blood, most pure before the pollution of royal evil, I swear, and I call you, O gods, to witness my oath, that I will pursue , his wicked wife, and all their relatives, with fire, sword, and all other means in my power; nor will I ever suffer them or any other to reign at Rome.” Then he gave the knife to Collatinus, and after him to Lucretius and Valerius, who were surprised at such extraordinary mind in the breast of Brutus. However, they all take the oath as they were directed, and converting their sorrow into rage, follow Brutus as their leader, who from that time ceased not to solicit them to abolish the regal power. They carry ‘s body from her own house, and convey it into the forum; and assemble a number of persons by the strangeness and atrocity of the extraordinary occurrence, as usually happens. They complain, each for himself, of the royal villainy and violence. Both the grief of the father moves them, as also Brutus, the one who reprimanded them for their tears and useless complaints, and their adviser to take up arms against those who dared to treat them as enemies, as would become men and Romans. Each most spirited of the youth voluntarily presents himself in arms; the rest of the youth follow also. From there, after leaving an adequate garrison at the gates at Collatia, and having appointed sentinels, so that no one might give intelligence of the disturbance to the king’s party, the rest set out for Rome in arms under the direction of Brutus. When they arrived there, the armed multitude cause panic and confusion wherever they go. Again, when they see the principal men of the state placing themselves at their head, they think that, whatever it may be, it was not without good reason. Nor does the heinousness of the circumstance excite less violent emotions at Rome than it had done at Collatia; accordingly they run from all parts of the city into the forum, whither, when they came, the public crier summoned them to attend the tribune of the celeres, with which office Brutus happened to be at that time vested. There an aggressive speech was delivered by him, by no means of that feeling and capacity which had been counterfeited up to that day, concerning the violence and lust of , the horrid violation of and her lamentable death, the bereavement of Tricipitinus, to whom the cause of his daughter’s death was more exasperating and deplorable than the death itself. To this was added the haughty insolence of the king himself, and the sufferings and toils of the people, buried in the earth in cleansing sinks and sewers; that the Romans, the conquerors of all the surrounding states, instead of warriors had become labourers and stone-cutters. The unnatural murder of king was dwelt on, and his daughter’s driving over the body of her father in her impious chariot, and the gods who avenge parents were invoked by him. By stating these and other, I suppose, more exasperating circumstances, which though by no means easily detailed by writers, the heinousness of the case suggested at the time, he persuaded the multitude, already angered, to deprive the king of his authority, and to order the banishment of with his wife and children. He himself, having selected and armed some of the young men, who readily gave in their names, set out for Ardea to the camp to excite the army against the king: the command in the city he leaves to Lucretius, who had been already appointed prefect of the city by the king. During this tumult  fled from her house, both men and women cursing her wherever she went, and invoking on her the furies, the avengers of parents.
Latin history, 1st century BCE
 Some parts seemed secured by the walls, others by the interposition of the . The Sublician bridge hardly allowed a passage to the enemy, if there not been one man, , (who defended the fortune of Rome on that day,) who, happening to be posted on guard at the bridge, when he saw the Janiculum [hill] taken by a sudden assault, and that the enemy were pouring down from there in full speed, and that his own party, in terror and confusion, were abandoning their weapons and ranks, laying hold of them one by one, standing in their way, and appealing to the faith of gods and men, he declared, “That their flight would achieve nothing for them if they deserted their post; if they passed the bridge and left it behind them, there would soon be more of the enemy in the Palatium and Capitol [hills] than in the Janiculum; for that reason he advised and charged them to demolish the bridge, by their sword, by fire, or by any means whatsoever; that he would stand the shock of the enemy as far as could be done by one man.” He then advances to the first entrance of the bridge, and being easily distinguished among those who showed their backs in retreating from the fight, facing about to engage the foe hand to hand, by his surprising bravery he terrified the enemy. Two indeed a sense of shame kept with him, Sp. Lartius and T. Herminius, men respected for their birth, and renowned for their brave deeds. With them he for a short time stood the first storm of the danger, and the severest brunt of the battle. But as they who demolished the bridge called upon them to retreat, he obliged them also to withdraw to a place of safety on a small portion of the bridge still left. Then casting his stern eyes around at all the officers of the Etrurians in a threatening manner, he sometimes challenged them singly, sometimes reproached them all, “the slaves of haughty tyrants, who, regardless of their own freedom, came to oppress the liberty of others.” They hesitated for a considerable time, looking round one at the other, before starting the fight; shame then put the army into motion, and a shout being raised, they hurl their weapons from all sides on their single adversary; and when they all stuck in the shield held before him, and he with no less obstinacy kept possession of the bridge with firm step, they now tried to thrust him down from it by one push, when at once the crash of the falling bridge, at the same time a shout of the Romans raised for joy at having completed their purpose, checked their enthusiasm with sudden panic. Then says, “Holy father Tiberinus, I pray that you will receive these weapons, and this your soldier, in your favorable stream.” Armed as he was, he leaped into the , and amid showers of darts hurled on him, swam across safe to his party, having dared an act which is likely to obtain more fame than credit with posterity. The state was grateful towards such valour; a statue was erected to him in the comitium, and as much land was given to him as he ploughed around in one day. The zeal of private individuals also was conspicuous among the public honours. For, amid the great scarcity, each person contributed something to him according to his supply at home, depriving himself of his own support.
Latin history, 1st century BCE
 Nevertheless the blockade continued, and there was a scarcity of corn, with a very high price. entertained a hope that by continuing the siege he should take the city, when , a young nobleman, to whom it seemed a disgrace that the Roman people, when enslaved under kings, had never been confined within their walls in any war, nor by any enemy, should now when a free people be blocked up by these very Etrurians whose armies they had often routed, thinking that such indignity should be avenged by some great and daring effort, at first designed of his own accord to penetrate into the enemy’s camp. Then, being afraid if he went without the permission of the consuls, or the knowledge of any one, he might be seized by the Roman guards and brought back as a deserter, the circumstances of the city at the time justifying the charge, he went to the senate, “Fathers,” says he, “I intend to cross the , and enter the enemy’s camp, if I can; not as a plunderer, or as an avenger in our turn of their devastations. A greater deed is in in my mind, if the gods assist.” The senate approved his plan. He set out with a sword concealed under his garment. When he came there, he stationed himself among the thickest of the crowd, near the king’s tribunal. There, when the soldiers were receiving their pay, and the king’s secretary sitting by him, dressed nearly in the same style, was busily engaged, and to him they commonly addressed themselves. Being afraid to ask which of them was , in case by not knowing the king he might be discovered, as fortune blindly directed the blow, he killed the secretary instead of the king. When, as he was going off from there where with his bloody dagger he had made his way through the dismayed multitude, a concourse being attracted at the noise, the king’s guards immediately seized and brought him back standing alone before the king’s tribunal; even then, amid such dangers of fortune, more capable of inspiring dread than of feeling it, “I am,” says he, “a Roman citizen, my name is ; an enemy, I wished to slay an enemy, nor have I less of resolution to suffer death than I had to inflict it. Both to act and to suffer with fortitude is a Roman’s part. Nor have I alone harboured such feelings towards you; there is after me a long train of persons aspiring to the same honour. Therefore, if you choose it, prepare yourself for this peril, to contend for your life every hour; to have the sword and the enemy in the very entrance of your pavilion; this is the war which we the Roman youth declare against you; dread not an army in array, nor a battle; the affair will be to yourself alone and with each of us singly.” When the king, highly angered, and at the same time terrified at the danger, in a menacing manner, commanded fires to be kindled about him, if he did not speedily explain the plots, which, by his threats, he had darkly insinuated against him; said, “Behold me, that you may be aware of how little importance the body is to those who have great glory in their sights;” and immediately he thrusts his right hand into the fire that was lighted for the sacrifice. When he continued to broil it as if he had been quite unfeeling, the king, astonished at this surprising sight, after he had leaped from his throne and commanded the young man to be removed from the altar, says, “Be gone, having acted more like an enemy towards yourself than me. I would encourage you to persevere in your valour, if that valour stood on the side of my country. I now dismiss you untouched and unhurt, exempted from the right of war.” Then , as if making a return for the kindness, says, “Since bravery is honoured by you, so that you have obtained by kindness that which you could not by threats, three hundred of us, the chief of the Roman youth, have conspired to attack you in this manner. It was my lot first. The rest will follow, each in his turn, according as the lot will set him forward, unless fortune will afford an opportunity of you.”
Latin history, 1st century BCE
 being dismissed, to whom the cognomen of Scaevola was afterwards given, from the loss of his right hand, ambassadors from followed him to Rome. The risk of the first attempt, from which nothing had saved him but the mistake of the assailant, and the risk to be encountered so often in proportion to the number of conspirators, made so strong an impression upon him, that of his own accord he made propositions of peace to the Romans. Mention was made to no purpose regarding the restoration of the Tarquinii [ descendants of ] to the throne, rather because he had been unable to refuse that to the Tarquinii, than from not knowing that it would be refused to him by the Romans. The condition of restoring their territory to the Veientians was obtained by him, and the necessity of giving hostages in case they wished the garrison to be withdrawn from the Janiculum was extorted from the Romans. Peace being concluded on these terms, drew his troops out of the Janiculum, and marched out of the Roman territories. The fathers gave , as a reward of his valour, lands on the other side of the , which were afterwards called the Mucian meadows. By this honour paid to valour the women were excited to merit public distinctions. As the camp of the Etrurians had been pitched not far from the banks of the , a young lady named , one of the hostages, deceiving her guards, swam over the river, amidst the darts of the enemy, at the head of a troop of virgins, and brought them all safe to their families. When the king was informed of this, at first highly angered, he sent deputies to Rome to demand the hostage ; that he did not regard the others; and afterwards, being changed into admiration of her courage, he said, “that this action surpassed those of and ,” and declared, “as he would consider the treaty as broken if the hostage were not delivered up, so, if given up, he would send her back safe to her friends.” Both sides kept their faith: the Romans restored their pledge of peace according to treaty; and with the king of Etruria found merit not only security, but honour; and, after making encomiums [praises] of the young lady, promised to give her, as a present, half of the hostages, and that she should choose whom she pleased. When they were all brought out, she is said to have chosen the young boys below puberty, which was both in keeping with maiden delicacy, and by consent of the hostages themselves it was deemed reasonable, that that age which was most exposed to injury should be freed from the enemy’s hand. The peace being re-established, the Romans marked the uncommon instance of bravery in the woman, by an uncommon kind of honour, an equestrian statue; (the statue representing) a lady sitting on horseback was placed at the top of the Via Sacra.
Media Attributions and Footnotes
- 346/3 As C.CENSORIN Numa Pompilius, Ancus Marcius jugate, Two arches, Prow, statue of Liberty, crescent #1232-11, 26x28mm 10g84 © Andrew McCabe is licensed under a CC BY (Attribution) license
- An epithet for Mars referring to his role in battlefield oaths and valour. ↵
- Salii, from the Latin saltare, means "dancing priests." ↵
- A prodigy in ancient Rome was an unusual occurrence that was interpreted as a sign that the gods were displeased. If someone witnessed a prodigy, they would seek out religious authorities, such as pontiffs, to consult with the gods and learn what needed to be done to appease them (to "expiate" or atone for the prodigy). ↵
- The epithet Elicius refers to Jupiter's role in controlling rain and weather phenomena. ↵
- Adoption was a common way of passing on one's family line and name in ancient Rome. For example, Augustus Caesar was adopted by Julius Caesar (see chapter 35). ↵
- Civil servants who acted as bodyguards to Roman officials. ↵
- Epithet for Jupiter meaning "preserver." ↵
- A kind of toga garment worn as a symbol of status. ↵
- A centuria was a unit of the Roman army made up on 100 people. This passage describes how Servius structured his army, and then created the Centuriate Assembly (a voting council during the Roman monarchy) based on after the centuria structure of his army. ↵
- Because there were very few distinct names, Roman noblemen typically had a three-part name, or tria nomina. This was made up of a praenomen (a personal name, here "Lucius"), a nomen (designating ancestry and nobility, here "Tarquinius"), and a cognomen (an additional distinguishing name, sometimes based on a trait, here "Superbus"). Depending on context, an author may refer to an individual using one, two, or all three of their names, or using initials. ↵
- The bodyguards of the Roman kings, from celer for "fast." See Livy, Ab Urbe Condita, 1.15. ↵
- Women in ancient Rome rarely used the full tria nomina (see note above). Rather, they were often referred to using the feminine form of the nomen (here, "Tullia," the feminine form of Tullius, showing that she is descended from the line of Tullius). Women also sometimes used a cognomen, especially to distinguish between siblings. For example, the Tullia in this account is Tullia Minor, while her older sister is Tullia Major. ↵
- An important outdoor assembly space. ↵
- See note 10 above on the cognomen. Scaevola translates from Latin to "left-handed." The association between assassin figures and left-handedness, which gives them the tactical advantage of being unexpected and may also carry a sinister connotation, is not unique to the story of Mucius Scaevola. For comparison, see the Hebrew Bible story of Ehud in Judges 3:12-30. ↵
A king of Rome and the successor of Romulus. Known for his wisdom and for establishing many formal institutions.
Featured in chapter 33.
A king of Rome, known for being born a slave, and credited with the invention of Roman coinage.
Featured in chapter 33.
The legendary founder of Rome. A son of Mars and Rhea Silvia, and twin brother of Remus.
Featured in chapter 32.
Roman: Jupiter or Jove
God of the sky, ruler of the Olympian gods.
See chapter 5.
A Roman god of choices and crossroads.
Featured in chapter 35.
The first Roman emperor and successor of Julius Caesar.
Featured in chapter 35.
A nymph and consort of Numa Pompilius. Known for helping establish the laws and rites of Rome.
Appears in chapter 33.
God of war.
See chapter 10.
A god associated with the founding of Rome. Sometimes equated with or used as an epithet for Janus (featured in chapter 35). In later traditions, equated with deified Romulus (featured in chapter 32).
Maiden goddess of the home and hearth.
Featured in chapter 41.
9 deities of art, music, poetry, and creativity.
Personification of faith, fidelity, and obligation.
A queen of Rome and wife of Lucius Tarquinius Priscus. Known for using her prophetic powers to help her husband become king, and later to help Servius Tullius, become king.
Featured in chapter 33.
A king of Rome. Husband of Tanaquil, father-in-law of Servius Tullius, and father of Lucius Tarquinius Superbus.
Featured in chapter 33.
The last king of Rome. Husband of Tullia, son of Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, and father of Sextus Tarquin. Known for becoming king by killing Servius Tullius, and for being overthrown.
Featured in chapter 33.
A prince of Rome, son of Lucius Tarquinius Superbus. Known for prompting the overthrow of his father and of the monarchy because of his rape of Lucretia.
Featured in chapter 33.
A woman of Rome, known as a symbol of a wife's fidelity and for prompting the coup against king Sextus Tarquin.
Featured in chapter 33.
The last queen of Rome, daughter of Servius Tullius and wife of Lucius Tarquinius Superbus. Known for killing her father, and for being driven out of Rome after the overthrow of the monarchy.
Featured in chapter 33.
A Roman officer, known for defending Rome from the invasion of the Etruscans during the Republic.
Featured in chapter 33.
A large river flowing through Rome.
A king of Etruria, known for his war against Rome during the Republic.
Featured in chapter 33.
A Roman soldier, known for attempting to sneak into the Etruscan camp and assassinate Porsena during the war with the Etruscans.
Featured in chapter 33.
A Roman hero, known for freeing a group of prisoners of war from the Etruscans during the war with Porsena.
Featured in chapter 33.