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Romulus by  Jacob Abbott

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THE LANDING IN LATIUM

[131]

L
ATIUM was the name given to an ancient province of Italy, lying south of the Tiber. At the time of Æneas's arrival upon the coast it was an independent kingdom. The name of the king who reigned over it at this period was Latinus.

The country on the banks of the Tiber, where the city of Rome afterward arose, was then a wild but picturesque rural region, consisting of hills and valleys, occupied by shepherds and husbandmen, but with nothing upon it whatever, to mark it as the site of a city. The people that dwelt in Latium were shepherds and herdsmen, though there was a considerable band of warriors under the command of the king. The inhabitants of the country were of Greek origin, and they had brought with them from Greece, when they colonized the country, such rude arts as were then known. They had the use of Cadmus's letters, for writing, so far as writing was em- [132] ployed at all in those early days. They were skillful in making such weapons of war, and such simple instruments of music, as were known at the time, and they could erect buildings, of wood, or of stone, and thus constructed such dwellings as they needed, in their towns, and walls and citadels for defence.

Æneas brought his fleet into the mouth of the Tiber, and anchored it there. He himself, and all his followers were thoroughly weary of their wanderings, and hoped that they were now about to land where they should find a permanent abode. The number of ships and men that had formed the expedition at the commencement of the voyage, was very large; but it had been considerably diminished by the various misfortunes and accidents incident to such an enterprise, and the remnant that was left longed ardently for rest. Some of the ships took fire, and were burned at their moorings in the Tiber, immediately after the arrival of the expedition. It was said that they were set on fire by the wives and mothers belonging to the expedition,—who wished, by destroying the ships, to render it impossible for the fleet to go to sea again.

[133] However this may be, Æneas was very strongly disposed to make the beautiful region which he now saw before him, his final home. The country, in every aspect of it, was alluring in the highest degree. Level plains, varied here and there by gentle elevations, extended around him, all adorned with groves and flowers, and exhibiting a luxuriance in the verdure of the grass and in the foliage of the trees that was perfectly enchanting to the sea-weary eyes of his company of mariners. In the distance, blue and beautiful mountains bounded the horizon, and a soft, warm summer haze floated over the whole scene, bathing the landscape in a rich mellow light peculiar to Italian skies.

As soon as the disembarkation was effected, lines of encampment were marked out, at a suitable place on the shore, and such simple fortifications as were necessary for defence in such a case, were thrown up. Æneas dispatched one party in boats to explore the various passages and channels which formed the mouth of the river, perhaps in order to be prepared to make good his escape again, to sea, in case of any sudden or extraordinary danger. Another party were employed in [134] erecting altars, and preparing for sacrifices and other religious celebrations, designed on the part of Æneas to propitiate the deities of the place, and to inspire his men with religious confidence and trust. He also immediately proceeded to organize a party of reconnoiterers who were to proceed into the interior, to explore the country and to communicate with the inhabitants.


[Illustration]

MAP OF LATIUM

[135] The party of reconnoiterers thus sent out followed up the banks of the river, and made excursions in various directions across the fields and plains. They found that the country was everywhere verdant and beautiful, and that it was covered in the interior with scattered hamlets and towns. They learned the name of the king, and also that of the city which he made his capitol. Latinus himself at the same time, heard the tidings of the arrival of these strangers. His first impulse was immediately to make an onset upon them with all his forces, and drive them away from his shores. On farther inquiry, however, he learned that they were in a distressed and suffering condition, and from the descriptions which were given him of their dress and demeanor he concluded that they were Greeks. This idea awakened in his mind some apprehension; for the Greeks were then well known throughout the world, and were regarded everywhere as terrible enemies. Besides his fears, his pity and compassion were awakened, too, in some degree; and he was on the whole for a time quite at a loss to know what course to pursue in respect to the intruders.

In the mean time Æneas concluded to send [136] an embassy to Latinus to explain the circumstances under which he had been induced to land so large a party on the Italian coast. He accordingly designated a considerable number of men to form this embassy, and giving to some of the number his instructions as to what they were to say to Latinus, he committed to the hands of the others a large number of gifts which they were to carry and present to him. These gifts consisted of weapons elaborately finished, vessels of gold or silver, embroidered garments, and such other articles as were customarily employed in those days as propitiatory offerings in such emergencies. The embassy when all was arranged proceeded to the Latian capital.

When they came in sight of it they found that it was a spacious city, with walls around it, and turrets and battlements within, rising here and there above the roofs of the dwellings. Outside the gates a portion of the population were assembled busily engaged in games, and in various gymnastic and equestrian performances. Some were driving furiously in chariots around great circles marked out for the course. Others were practicing feats of horsemanship, or running races upon [137] fleet chargers. Others still were practicing with darts, or bows and arrows, or javelins; either to test and improve their individual skill, or else to compete with each other for victory or for a prize. The embassadors paused when they came in view of this scene, and waited until intelligence could be sent in to the monarch, informing him of their arrival.

Latinus decided immediately to admit the embassy to an audience, and they were accordingly conducted into the city. They were led, after entering by the gates, through various streets, until they came at length to a large public edifice, which seemed to be, at the same time, palace, senate-house, and citadel. There were to be seen, in the avenues which led to this edifice, statues of old warriors, and various other martial decorations. There were many old trophies of former victories preserved here, such as arms, and chariots, and prows of ships, and crests, and great bolts and bars taken from the gates of conquered cities,—all old, war-worn, and now useless, but preserved as memorials of bravery and conquest. The Trojan embassy, passing through and among these trophies, as they [138] stood or hung in the halls and vestibules of the palace, were at length ushered into the presence of Latinus the king.

Here, after the usual ceremonies of introduction were performed, they delivered the message which Æneas had intrusted to them. They declared that they had not landed on Latinus's shore with any hostile intent. They had been driven away, they said, from their own homes, by a series of dire calamities, which had ended, at last, in the total destruction of their native city. Since then they had been driven to and fro at the mercy of the winds and waves, exposed to every conceivable degree of hardship and danger. Their landing finally in the dominions of Latinus in Italy, was not, they confessed, wholly undesigned, for Latium had been divinely indicated to them, on their way, as the place destined by the decrees of heaven for their final home. Following these indications, they had sought the shores of Italy and the mouths of the Tiber, and having succeeded in reaching them, had landed; and now Æneas, their commander, desired of the king that he would allow them to settle in his land in peace, and that he would set apart a portion of his terri- [139] tory for them, and give them leave to build a city.

The effect produced upon the mind of Latinus by the appearance of these embassadors, and by the communication which they made to him, proved to be highly favorable. He received the presents, too, which they had brought him, in a very gracious manner, and appeared to be much pleased with them. He had heard, as would seem, rumors of the destruction of Troy, and of the departure of Æneas's squadron; for a long time had been consumed by the wanderings of the expedition along the Mediterranean shores, so that some years had now elapsed since the destruction of Troy and the first sailing of the fleet. In a word, Latinus soon determined to accede to the proposals of his visitors, and he concluded with Æneas a treaty of alliance and friendship. He designated a spot where the new city might be built, and all things were thus amicably settled.

There was one circumstance which exerted a powerful influence in promoting the establishment of friendly relations between Latinus and the Trojans, and that was, that Latinus was engaged, at the time of Æneas's arrival, [140] in a war with the Rutulians, a nation that inhabited a country lying south of Latium and on the coast. Latinus thought that by making the Trojans his friends, he should be able to enlist them as his auxiliaries in this war. Æneas made no objection to this, and it was accordingly agreed that the Trojans, in return for being received as friends, and allowed to settle in Latium, were to join with their protectors in defending the country, and were especially to aid them in prosecuting the existing war.

In a short time a still closer alliance was formed between Æneas and Latinus, an alliance which in the end resulted in the accession of Æneas to the throne of Latinus. Latinus had a daughter named Lavinia. She was an only child, and was a princess of extraordinary merit and beauty. The name of the queen, her mother, the wife of Latinus, was Amata. Amata had intended her daughter to be the wife of Turnus, a young prince of great character and promise, who had been brought up in Latinus's court. Turnus was, in fact, a distant relative of Amata, and the plan of the queen was that he should marry Lavinia, and in the end succeed with her, to [141] the throne of Latinus. Latinus himself had not entered into this scheme; and when closing his negotiations with Æneas, it seemed to him that it would be well to seal and secure the adherence of Æneas to his cause by offering him his daughter Lavinia for his bride. Æneas was very willing to accede to this proposal. What the wishes of Lavinia herself were in respect to the arrangement, it is not very well known; nor were her wishes, according to the ideas that prevailed in those times, of any consequence whatever. The plan was arranged, and the nuptials were soon to be celebrated. Turnus, when he found that he was to be superseded, left the court of Latinus, and went away out of the country in a rage.

Æneas and his followers seemed now to have come to the end of all their troubles. They were at last happily established in a fruitful land, surrounded by powerful friends, and about to enter apparently upon a long career of peaceful and prosperous industry. They immediately engaged with great ardor in the work of building their town. Æneas had intended to have named it Troy, in commemoration of the ancient city now no more. [142] But, in view of his approaching marriage with Lavinia, he determined to change this design, and, in honor of her, to name the new capital Lavinium.

The territory which had been assigned to the Trojans by Latinus was in the south-western part of Latium, near the coast, and of course it was on the confines of the country of the Rutulians. Turnus, when he left Latium, went over to the Rutulians, determining, in his resentment against Latinus for having given Lavinia to his rival, to join them in the war. The Rutulians made him their leader, and he soon advanced at the head of a great army across the frontier, toward the new city of Lavinium. Thus Æneas found himself threatened with a very formidable danger.

Nor was this all. For just before the commencement of the war with Turnus, an extraordinary train of circumstances occurred which resulted in alienating the Latins themselves from their new ally, and in leaving Æneas consequently to sustain the shock of the contest with Turnus and his Rutulians alone. It would naturally be supposed that the alliance between Latinus and Æneas [143] would not be very favorably regarded by the common people of Latium. They would, on the other hand, naturally look with much jealousy and distrust on a company of foreign intruders, admitted by what they would be very likely to consider the capricious partiality of their king, to a share of their country. This jealousy and distrust was, for a time, suppressed and concealed; but the animosity only acquired strength and concentration by being restrained, and at length an event occurred which caused it to break forth with uncontrollable fury. The circumstances were these:

There was a man in Latium named Tyrrheus, who held the office of royal herdsman. He lived in his hut on some of the domains of Latinus, and had charge of the flocks and herds belonging to the king. He had two sons, and likewise a daughter. The daughter's name was Sylvia. The two boys had one day succeeded in making prisoner of a young stag, which they found in the woods with its mother. It was extremely young when they captured it, and they brought it home as a great prize They fed it with milk until it was old enough to take other food, and as it grew up accus- [144] tomed to their hands, it was very tame and docile, and became a great favorite with all the family. Sylvia loved and played with it continually. She kept it always in trim by washing it in a fountain, and combing and smoothing its hair, and she amused herself by adorning it with wreaths, and garlands, and such other decorations as her sylvan resources could command.

One day when Ascanius, Æneas's son, who had now grown to be a young man, and who seems to have been characterized by a full share of the ardent and impulsive energy belonging to his years, was returning from the chase, he happened to pass by the place where the herdsman lived. Ascanius was followed by his dogs, and he had his bow and arrows in his hand. As he was thus passing along a copse of wood, near a brook, the dogs came suddenly upon Sylvia's stag. The confiding animal, unconscious of any danger, had strayed away from the herdsman's grounds to this grove, and had gone down to the brook to drink. The dogs immediately sprang upon him, in full cry. Ascanius followed, drawing at the same time an arrow from his quiver and fitting it to the bow. As soon as he came [147] in sight of the stag, he let fly his arrow. The arrow pierced the poor fugitive in the side, and inflicted a dreadful wound. It did not, however, bring him down. The stag bounded on down the valley toward his home, as if to seek protection from Sylvia. He came rushing into the house, marking his way with blood, ran to the covert which Sylvia had provided for his resting-place at night, and crouching down there he filled the whole dwelling with piteous bleatings and cries.


[Illustration]

SILVIA'S STAG

As soon as Tyrrheus, the father of Sylvia, and the two young men, her brothers, knew who it was that had thus wantonly wounded their favorite, they were filled with indignation and rage. They went out and aroused the neighboring peasantry, who very easily caught the spirit of resentment and revenge which burned in the bosoms of Tyrrheus and his sons. They armed themselves with clubs, firebrands, scythes, and such other rustic weapons as came to hand, and rushed forth, resolved to punish the overbearing insolence of their foreign visitors, in the most summary manner.

In the mean time the Trojan youth, having heard the tidings of this disturbance, began to [148] gather hastily, but in great numbers, to defend Ascanius. The parties on both sides were headstrong, and highly excited; and before any of the older and more considerate chieftains could interfere, a very serious conflict ensued. One of the sons of Tyrrheus was killed. He was pierced in the throat by an arrow, and fell and died immediately. His name was Almon. He was but a boy, or at all events had not yet arrived at years of maturity, and his premature and sudden death added greatly to the prevailing excitement. Another man too was killed. At length the conflict was brought to an end for the time but the excitement and the exasperation of the peasantry were extreme. They carried the two dead bodies in procession to the capital, to exhibit them to Latinus; and they demanded, in the most earnest and determined manner, that he should immediately make war upon the whole Trojan horde, and drive them back into the sea, whence they came.

Latinus found it extremely difficult to withstand this torrent. He remained firm for a time, and made every exertion in his power to quell the excitement and to pacify the minds of his people. But all was in vain. Public [149] sentiment turned hopelessly against the Trojans, and Æneas soon found himself shut up in his city, surrounded with enemies, and left to his fate. Turnus was the leader of these foes.

He, however, did not despair. Both parties began to prepare vigorously for war. Æneas himself went away with a few followers to some of the neighboring kingdoms, to get succor from them. Neighboring states are almost always jealous of each other, and are easily induced to take part against each other, when involved in foreign wars. Æneas found several of the Italian princes who were ready to aid him, and he returned to his camp with considerable reinforcements, and with promises of more. The war soon broke out, and was waged for a long time with great determination on both sides and with varied success.

Latinus, who was now somewhat advanced in life, and had thus passed beyond the period of ambition and love of glory, and who besides must have felt that the interests of his family were now indissolubly bound up in those of Æneas and Lavinia, watched the progress of the contest with a very uneasy and anxious mind. He found that for a time at [150] least it would be out of his power to do any thing effectual to terminate the war, so he allowed it to take its course, and contented himself with waiting patiently, in hopes that an occasion which would allow of his interposing with some hope of success, would sooner or later come.

Such an occasion did come; for after the war had been prosecuted for some time it was found, that notwithstanding the disadvantages under which the Trojans labored, they were rather gaining than losing ground. There were in fact some advantages as well as some disadvantages in their position. They formed a compact and concentrated body, while their enemies constituted a scattered population, spreading in a more or less exposed condition over a considerable extent of country. They had neither flocks nor herds, nor any other property for their enemies to plunder, while the Rutulians and Latins had great possessions, both of treasure in the towns and of rural produce in the country, so that when the Trojans gained the victory over them in any sally or foray, they always came home laden with booty, as well as exultant in triumph and pride; while if the Latins conquered the Tro- [151] jans in a battle, they had nothing but the empty honor to reward them. The Trojans, too, were hardy, enduring, and indomitable. The alternative with them was victory or destruction. Their protracted voyage, and the long experience of hardships and sufferings which they had undergone, had inured them to privation and toil, so that they proved to the Latins and Rutulians to be very obstinate and formidable foes.

At length, as usual in such cases, indications gradually appeared that both sides began to be weary of the contest. Latinus availed himself of a favorable occasion which offered, to propose that embassadors should be sent to Æneas with terms of peace. Turnus was very much opposed to any such plan. He was earnestly desirous of continuing to prosecute the war. The other Latin chieftains reproached him then with being the cause of all the calamities which they were enduring, and urged the unreasonableness on his part of desiring any longer to protract the sufferings of his unhappy country, merely to gratify his own private resentment and revenge. Turnus ought not any longer to ask, they said, that others should fight in his quarrel; and they [152] proposed that he should himself decide the question between him and Æneas, by challenging the Trojan leader to fight him in single combat.

Latinus strongly disapproved of this proposal. He was weary of war and bloodshed, and wished that the conflict might wholly cease; and he urged that peace should be made with Æneas, and that his original design of giving him Lavinia for his wife should be carried into execution. For a moment Turnus seemed to hesitate, but in looking towards Lavinia who, with Amata her mother, was present at this consultation, he saw, or thought he saw, in the agitation which she manifested, proofs of her love for him, and indications of a wish on her part that he and not Æneas should win her for his bride.

He accordingly without any farther hesitation or delay agreed to the proposal of the counsellor. The challenge to single combat was given and accepted, and on the appointed day the ground was marked out for the duel, and both armies were drawn up upon the field, to be spectators of the fight.

After the usual preparations the conflict began; but, as frequently occurs in such cases, [153] it was not long confined to the single pair of combatants with which it commenced. Others were gradually drawn in, and the duel became in the end a general battle. Æneas and the Trojans were victorious, and both Latinus and Turnus were slain. This ended the war. Æneas married Lavinia, and thenceforth reigned with her over the kingdom of Latium as its rightful sovereign.

Æneas lived several years after this, and has the credit, in history, of having managed the affairs of the kingdom in a very wise and provident manner. He had brought with him from Troy the arts and the learning of the Greeks, and these he introduced to his people so as greatly to improve their condition. He introduced, too, many ceremonies of religious worship, which had prevailed in the countries from which he had come, or in those which he had visited in his long voyage. These ceremonies became at last so firmly established among the religious observances of the inhabitants of Latium, that they descended from generation to generation, and in subsequent years exercised great influence, in modeling the religious faith and worship of the Roman people. They thus continued to [154] be practiced for many ages, and, through the literature of the Romans, became subsequently known and celebrated throughout the whole civilized world.

At length, in a war which Æneas was waging with the Rutulians, he was once, after a battle, reduced to great extremity of danger, and in order to escape from his pursuers he attempted to swim across a stream, and was drowned. The name of this stream was Numicius. It flowed into the sea a little north of Lavinium. It must have been larger in former times than it is now, for travelers who visit it at the present day say that it is now only a little rivulet, in which it would be almost impossible for any one to be drowned.

The Trojan followers of Æneas concealed his body, and spread the story among the people of Latium that he had been taken up to heaven. The people accordingly, having before considered their king as the son of a goddess, now looked upon him as himself divine. They accordingly erected altars to him in Latium and thenceforth worshiped him as a God.


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