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Stories From Livy by  Alfred J. Church


 

 

THE STORY OF BRUTUS

[72] LUCIUS TARQUIN, having thus seized the kingdom (for he had not the consent either of the Senators or of the Commons to his deed), bare himself very haughtily, so that men called him Tarquin the Proud. First, lest some other, taking example by him, should deal with him as he had dealt with Tullius, he had about him a company of armed men for guards. And because he knew that none loved him, he would have them fear him. To this end he caused men to be accused before him. And when they were so accused, he judged them by himself, none sitting with him to see that right was done. Some he slew unjustly, and some he banished, and some he spoiled of their goods. And when the number of the Senators was greatly diminished by these means (for he laid [73] his plots mostly against the Senators, as being rich men and the chief of the State), he would not choose any into their place, thinking that the people would lightly esteem them if there were but a few of them. Nor did he call them together to ask their counsel, but ruled according to his own pleasure, making peace and war, and binding treaties or unbinding, with none to gainsay him.

Nevertheless, for a while he increased greatly in power and glory. He made alliance with Octavius Mamilius, prince of Tusculum, giving him his daughter in marriage; nor was there any man greater than Mamilius in all the cities of the Latins; and Suessa Pometia, that was a city of the Volsci, he took by force, and finding that the spoil was very rich (for there were in it forty talents of gold and silver), he built with the money a temple to Jupiter on the Capitol, very great and splendid, and worthy not only of his present kingdom but also of that great Empire that should be thereafter. Also he took the city of Gabii by fraud, as shall now be told.

The manner of his fraud was this. He made [74] as if he had changed his purpose about the city, leading away his army from before it, and busying himself with laying the foundations of the Temple of Jupiter and other like things. But while he did this, Sextus, that was the youngest of his three sons, fled to Gabii, as if he were a deserter from the army of his father, and complained grievously to the men of the city of the cruelty which the King had used toward him. "Surely now," he said, "my father has turned away his fury from others upon them that are of his own household; and that same solitude which he has made in the Senate he would have also in his own home, being so jealous of his kingdom that he will not have any near him that shall inherit it. As for myself I barely escaped with my life from them that would have slain me by his command; nor do I count myself safe except among such as are enemies to the King. As for you, think not that he has given up his purpose concerning you. He only waits an occasion when he may take you unawares." The men of Gabii, when they heard these words, received the young man kindly and [75] bade him be of good cheer, for that they would defend him from his father. They said also that they counted themselves fortunate to gain such help, knowing him to be brave and skillful in war, and that doubtless, with his aid, they should soon carry the war from their own city even to the walls of Rome. After this, when the young man had gone, not once only but many times, with the young men of Gabii, making war against the Romans and plundering their country, and had always fared well, putting the enemy to flight and bringing back much spoil (and, indeed, things were so ordered by the King that it should be so), the people of Gabii were persuaded that he was dealing honestly with them, and chose him to be the captain of their host. After this, when he found that he could now do all things at his pleasure in Gabii, he sent a messenger to the King his father, desiring to know what he would have him do. To this messenger the King, doubting whether the man was faithful, gave no answer by word of mouth, but rose up from his place and walked in the garden that was by the palace, having the look of one [76] that took deep counsel with himself. And as he walked he smote off the heads of the tallest poppies that were in the garden with a staff that he had in his hand, but spake never a word. At the last, the messenger being wearied out with the asking of a question to no purpose, departed, thinking that he had now fulfilled his errand. And when he came to Gabii he told to Sextus what he had seen; "only," he said, "the King your father, whether for anger or for haughtiness, spake not one word." But Sextus knew right well what his father would have him do. For he set himself to overthrow the chief men of the city. Some he accused to the people; and against some he took occasion of offence given to the Commons. Some were put to death publicly, and others, to whose charge nothing could be laid, were slain by secret violence. Others again were suffered to go of their own accord into banishment; and the goods of all, whether they were slain or banished, were divided among the Commons; nor did these, being blinded by the desire of gain, perceive what damage the State suffered, till Gabii, having lost all its rulers and [77] counsellors, fell into the hands of the Romans without so much as a battle. By such means did King Tarquin increase his power.

Now there was at Rome in the days of Tarquin a noble youth, by name Lucius Junius, who was akin to the house of Tarquin, seeing that his mother was sister to the King. This man, seeing how the King sought to destroy all the chief men in the state (and, indeed, the brother of Lucius had been so slain), judged it well so to bear himself that there should be nothing in him which the King should either covet or desire. Wherefore he feigned foolishness, suffering all that he had to be made a prey; for which reason men gave him the name of Brutus, or the foolish. Then he bided his time, waiting till the occasion should come when he might win freedom for the people.

Now it chanced that King Tarquin, being disturbed by the marvel of a great snake, which had been seen of a sudden to glide from the altar in his house, sent messengers to Delphi to inquire of the god what this thing might mean. And because he cared not that any strangers [78] should hear the answer of the oracle, he sent his own sons, Titus and Aruns, and with them, to bear them company, or rather as one of whom they might make sport, this same Lucius Brutus. And when the young men offered gifts to the god, Brutus offered gold hidden away in a stick that had been hollowed to receive it; meaning thereby a parable of himself, as of a light hidden beneath that which seemed dull and of little worth. Now when the sons of the King had fulfilled the commands of their father, there came upon them a desire to inquire of the god which of them should be king in time to come. Whereupon there came forth from the depths of the cave this voice: "Know, O young men, that he of you who shall first give a kiss to his mother, shall bear the chief rule hereafter at Rome." When the sons of the King heard these words they would have their brother Sextus, who had been left behind at Rome, know nothing of the matter, lest he also should have a hope of the kingdom. Wherefore they agreed among themselves that the matter should be kept secret, and that they should leave to the casting of lots which of the [79] two should first give a kiss to his mother. But Brutus judged that the answer of the god had another signification than this. Therefore, so soon as they were come out of the temple, he made as if he stumbled, and falling on his face, he kissed the earth, holding that the earth was his mother, being indeed the common mother of us all.

Not many days after these things there came to Brutus an occasion of showing what manner of man he was. Sextus, the King's son, did so grievous a wrong to Lucretia, that was the wife of Collatinus, that the woman could not endure to live, but slew herself with her own hand. But before she died she called to her husband and her father and Brutus, and bade them avenge her upon the evil house of Tarquin. And when her father and her husband sat silent for grief and fear, Brutus drew the knife wherewith she slew herself from the wound, and held it before him dripping with blood, and cried aloud, "By this blood I swear, calling the gods to witness, that I will pursue with fire and sword and with all other means of destruction Tarquin the proud, [80] with his accursed wife and all his race; and that I will suffer no man hereafter to be king in this city of Rome." And when he had ended he bade the others swear after the same form of words. This they did and, forgetting their grief, thought only how they might best avenge this great wrong that had been done.

First they carried the body of Lucretia, all covered with blood, into the market-place of Collatia (for these things happened at Collatia), and roused all the people that saw a thing so shameful and pitiful, till all that were of an age for war assembled themselves carrying arms. Some of them stayed behind to keep the gates of Collatia, that no one should carry tidings of the matter to the King, and the rest Brutus took with him with all the speed that he might to Rome. There also was stirred up a like commotion, Brutus calling the people together and telling them what a shameful wrong the young Tarquin had done. Also he spake to them of the labors with which the King wore them out in the building of temples and palaces and the like, so that they who had been in time past the conquerors of all the [81] nations round about were now come to be but as hewers of wood and drawers of water. Also he set before them in what shameful sort King Tullius had been slain, and how his daughter had driven her chariot over the dead body of her father. With suchlike words he stirred up the people to great wrath, so that they passed a decree that there should be no more kings in Rome, and that Lucius Tarquin with his wife and his children should be banished. After this Brutus made haste to the camp and stirred up the army against the King. And in the meanwhile Queen Tullia fled from her palace, all that saw her cursing her as she went. As for King Tarquin, when he came to the city he found the gates shut against him; thereupon he returned and dwelt at Cre that is in the land of Etruria, and two of his sons with him; but Sextus going to Gabii, as to a city which he had made his own, was slain by the inhabitants.

The King and his house being thus driven out, Brutus was made consul with one Collatinus for his colleague. First he bound the people by an oath that they would never thereafter [82] suffer any man to be King at Rome; and afterward, because Collatinus was of the name and lineage of Tarquin, he wrought with them that he also should be banished from the city. "These Tarquins," he said, "are overmuch accustomed to kingship. For Tarquin the elder reigned in Rome, and though after him another, even Servius, was king, yet did not his son forget the kingdom of his father, but took it for his own. And now this Collatinus Tarquin bears rule in the city, whose very name, seeing that they of his house know not how to be subject unto others, has in it great danger to liberty." When he had wrought on the minds of the people with these words, he called the people to an assembly, and spake to them thus: "Ye have sworn that ye will suffer no man to be king at Rome, nor endure aught which may bring liberty into peril. Now this that I am about to say, I say against my will, speaking against a man that is dear to me, nor indeed had I said it but that my love for my country prevailed over all other things. The Roman people are not assured in their heart that they have won liberty in very deed and [83] truth, knowing that they who are of the house and lineage of the King not only dwell in this State, but even bear rule in it. Do thou, therefore, Collatinus, remove this fear from the heart of thy countrymen. We deny not that thou didst drive away the kings. Complete therefore this thy good deed, even by taking away from this city a name which is the name of kings. All that thou hast we will duly render thee; nay more, if thou lackest anything, we will supply it bountifully. Depart therefore as a friend might depart; for though this fear be idle, yet it troubles thy countrymen who think that they shall not be quit of kingship till they be quit of all that bear a king's name."

To these words Collatinus at the first could answer nothing, so astonished was he at the matter; and afterward, when he would have spoken, the chief men of the State came round, entreating that he would hearken to Brutus. So when he had considered the thing for a space, he consented, fearing lest when he should be no longer Consul, the same might happen to him, together also with loss of his goods and much wrong to himself. Wherefore [84] he abdicated his office and departed with all that he had to Lanuvium. After this Brutus caused that the people passed a law that all of the house of Tarquin should be banished for ever.

That the King would seek to come back by force of arms none doubted. But while he delayed, as indeed he did delay beyond the expectation of all, liberty was well-nigh lost by treachery and treason. There were among the youth of Rome certain young nobles that had been wont to live as companions with the King's son with much license and luxury, after the fashion of courts. These men, now that all citizens had equal rights, loudly complained among themselves that other men's freedom had turned to their own bondage. "It pleaseth us well," said they, "to have a king, for he is a man even as we are, from whom we may ask and obtain what we will, be it right or wrong, who can have a favor and do kindness, can be angry or have compassion, whereas laws are deaf and not to be turned by prayers, being better forsooth for the poor than for the rich."

While they thought these things in their [85] hearts there chanced to come ambassadors from King Tarquin. These made no mention of the matter whether the King should return, but asked only that his goods should be restored to him. To these the Senate gave audience; and when they had heard them were not a few days in debating the matter, for they said, "If we give not back these goods, there is open cause for war; and if we give them back, we minister means by which war may be carried on." In the meanwhile the ambassadors, making pretence to concern themselves only about the goods of the King, plotted in secret how they might bring him back. Going about therefore among the young nobles as if they would bespeak their favor on behalf of their errand, they made trial of what temper they were as to the bringing back of the King, and when they found that their words were not ill taken, they gave them certain tokens that they had brought from Tarquin, and had converse how the gates might be opened to him by night. And the matter was put in charge of certain noblemen, brothers, whose sister Brutus had to wife, and of this marriage there had been born to Brutus [86] two sons that were now grown to manhood; and these young men had knowledge of the plot from the brethren of their mother. After a while the Senate passed a decree that the goods of the King should be given back to him; and the ambassadors made excuse to tarry yet longer, asking time of the Consul that they find wagons sufficient to carry the goods. This time they spent wholly in consulting with them that were privy to the plot, being urgent with them that they should give them a letter to carry to the King, "for," said they, "who will believe us if we bring not some written testimony in a matter so grave?" So the conspirators gave them a letter and thereby made manifest proof of their guilt. For a certain slave had conceived some suspicion of the matter, but waited for some more certain knowledge. Now it fell out that on the night before the day when the ambassador should depart there was a banquet at the house of them that had chief charge of the matter in Rome, at which banquet there was much talk, none being present but such as were privy to the plot. But the slave of whom [87] mention has been made, having hidden himself, overheard that which was said; and when he knew that the letter had been given, he carried the matter straightway to the Consuls, who going laid hands on the ambassadors and on them that were privy to the plot, and so without uproar or violence brought the matter to an end. They that would have betrayed their country were thrown straightway into prison; as for the ambassadors, men doubted awhile how they should deal with them; but judged it better to send them away unhurt for all their misdoing. About the King's goods counsel was taken anew; and the Senate decreed that neither should they be given back, nor should the price of them be brought into the treasury, but rather that the people should spoil them at their will. This having been done, the conspirators were brought to judgment, and being condemned, suffered death, being first beaten with rods and then beheaded. Now the Consuls' office was that, sitting in their seats, they should see sentence executed on evil doers. And this they did, nor did Brutus turn away from his duty, for all that his own sons were done to [88] death before his eyes, but sat in his place, seeing that all things were done according to the law. As for the slave that bare witness against the conspirators, he had freedom and citizenship for his reward.


[Illustration]

BRUTUS CONDEMNING HIS SONS TO DEATH.

The end of Brutus was this. The men of Veii and the men of Tarquinii gathered together their armies and marched against Rome, that they might bring back King Tarquin. And the Romans came forth to meet them, Valerius having command of the foot soldiers and Brutus riding before with the horsemen. In the host of the enemy also the horsemen had the first place, their leaders being Aruns son of King Tarquin. And the lictors told Aruns, while they were yet far off, "See there is Brutus the Consul," who himself also, when the armies were now near together, knew the face of the man. Then he cried aloud in great wrath, "Lo, there is the man that hath driven us forth into banishment. See how proudly he goeth, bearing the honors that by good right are ours. Now may the gods that avenge the wrongs of kings be with me that I may slay him." So he struck spurs into his horse, and when [89] Brutus saw that Aruns came against him he made haste to meet him. (In those days they that led armies into battle held it to be to their honor themselves to do battle.) And so full of fury were these two that neither took any thought how he might defend himself, but each smote the other through the body with his spear, so that they fell dying both of them from their horses.

After this there was fought a great battle, neither side having the victory, for when the men of Veii fled before the Romans, the men of Tarquinii prevailed against them that stood over against them. Nevertheless in the night a great panic fell upon the army of the Etrurians, so that they departed and went to their homes. Also they say that there was heard a voice from the grave of the hero Horatius, saying, "There fell in this battle more in number by one of the Etrurians than of the Romans; therefore the Romans are conquerors." When it was now day there was not a man of the Etrurians in his place; so Valerius the consul gathered together the spoil and returned in great triumph to Rondo, Also [90] he made a great burial for Brutus; and the people also mourned greatly for him, the women lamenting him for the space of a whole year, even as is the custom for women to lament for a father or a brother. And this they did because he had avenged the wrong done to a woman in so noble a fashion.


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