|The Story of the Romans|
|by Helene A. Guerber|
| Elementary history of Rome, presenting short stories of the great heroes, mythical and historical, from Aeneas and the founding of Rome to the fall of the western empire. Around the famous characters of Rome are graphically grouped the great events with which their names will forever stand connected. Vivid descriptions bring to life the events narrated, making history attractive to the young, and awakening their enthusiasm for further reading and study. Ages 10-14 |
THE MYSTERIOUS BOOKS
IN the mean while, Tullia was anxiously awaiting news
of her father's murder, and was wondering if anything
had happened to spoil the plans which she had helped
her husband to make. Too impatient to wait any longer,
she finally ordered her servants to get her chariot
ready, and then drove off to find Tarquin.
When the chariot had turned into the narrow street
 which led to the senate, the driver suddenly pulled up
his horses. Tullia then asked him why he did not go on.
The man told her that he could not pass because the
king's body lay across the street; but when she heard
this, she haughtily bade him drive over it. We are told
that the inhuman daughter was splashed with her
father's blood when she appeared in the senate to
congratulate her wicked husband upon the success of
their plan. This horrible act of cruelty was never
forgotten in Rome, and the street where the murder took
place was known as Wicked Street, and was always
The new king soon showed that he had a full right to
the surname of Superbus, which meant insolent as well
as haughty. When the people came to ask his permission
to bury the dead king, he said, "Romulus, the founder
of Rome, did without a funeral; Servius needs none."
A man who did not scruple to commit murder in order to
obtain the throne, must have been very bad at heart,
and Tarquin soon became extremely cruel in the way he
governed the people of Rome. The poor were obliged to
work day and night on the buildings which he wished to
erect; and he treated many of the nobles so rudely that
they left Rome and went to live in the neighboring city
One of the principle edifices built by Tarquin, at the
cost of so much suffering to the poor, was a temple for
the service of the god Jupiter. It seems that as the
builders were digging for the foundations, they
suddenly came across a very well-preserved skull.
As the Romans were very superstitious, they immediately
sent for the augurs to tell them the hidden
mean-  ing of the discovery. After some thought, the augurs said it
was a sign that the gods were going to make this place
the head of the world.
Now the Latin word for head is caput, and the Romans in
later times thought that this was what gave its name to
Capitol, as the Temple of Jupiter was always called.
This famous building stood on the Caitoline hill, not
far from the citadel of which you have already heard.
Every year there was a great festival, in which all the
Romans marched up the hill and went into the temple.
There, in the presence of the people, one of the
priests drove a nail into the wall, to keep a record of
the time which had passed since the building of the
Tarquinius Superbus had partly finished the Capitol,
when he received a very strange visit. The Sibyl, or prophetess, who dwelt in a cave at Cumæ, came to see
him. She carried nine rolls, or books, which she
offered to sell him for three hundred pieces of gold.
Tarquin asked what the books contained, and she replied
that it was prophecies about Rome. He wished to see
them, but the Sibyl would not let him look at a single
page until he had bought them. Now, although the king
knew she was a prophetess, he did not want to pay so
much; and when he told the woman so, she went away in
Not long after, the Sibyl again visited Tarquin. This
time, she brought only six books, for which, however,
she demanded the same price as for the nine. Tarquin,
surprised, asked her what had become of the other
volumes; and she answered shortly that they were
Tarquin again wanted to see the books, and was again
 refused even a glimpse into them. Then he found fault
with the price, and again Sibyl grew angry, and went
away with her six volumes.
Although the king fancied that he would never see her
again, she soon returned with only three volumes. She
said that all the others were burned, and asked him
three hundred pieces of gold for those that were left.
The king, awed by her manner, bought them without
When the priests opened the mysterious volumes, they
said that the prophecies concerning Rome were too
wonderful for any one but themselves to see. The books
were therefore placed in a stone chest in the Capitol,
where the priests guarded them night and day.
From time to time, whenever any great trouble occurred,
and the people did not know what to do, the augurs
peeped into these volumes. Here they said they always
found some good advice; but we now think that they
pretended to read from the volume whatever they wished
the Romans to do.
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