THE DEATH OF LUCRETIA
TARQUIN was so cruel and tyrannical that he was both feared and
disliked by the Romans. They would have been only too
glad to get rid of him, but they were waiting for a
leader and for a good opportunity.
During the siege of a town called Ardea, the king's
sons and their cousins, Collatinus, once began to
quarrel about the merit of their wives. Each one
boasted that his was the best, and to settle the
dispute they agreed to leave the camp and visit the
home of each, so as to see exactly how the women were
employed during the absence of their husbands.
 Collatinus and the princes quickly galloped back to
Rome, and all the houses were visited in turn. They
found that the daughters-in-law of the king were idle
and frivolous, for they were all at a banquet; but they
saw Lucretia, the wife of Collatinus, spinning in the
midst of her maidens, and teaching them while she
Lucretia and her Maids.
This woman, so usefully employed, and such a model wife
and housekeeper, was also very beautiful. When the
princes saw her, they all said that Collatinus was
right in their dispute, for his wife was the best of
all the Roman women.
Lucretia's beauty had made a deep impression upon one
of the princes. This was Sextus Tarquinius, who had
betrayed Gabii, and he slipped away from the camp one
night and went to visit her.
He waited till she was alone, so that there might be no
one to protect her, and then he insulted her grossly;
for he was as cowardly as he was wicked.
Lucretia, as we have seen, was a good and pure woman,
so, of course, she could neither tell a lie, nor hide
anything from her husband which she thought he should
know. She therefore sent a messenger to Collatinus and
to her father, bidding them come to her quickly.
Collatinus came, accompanied by his father-in-law and
by Brutus, who had come with them because he suspected
that something was wrong. Lucretia received them sadly,
and, in answer to her husband's anxious questions, told
him about the visit of Sextus and how he had insulted
Her story ended, she added that she had no desire to
live any longer, but preferred death to disgrace. Then,
 before any one could stop her, Lucretia drew a dagger
from the folds of her robe, plunged it into her heart,
and sank dead at her husband's feet.
Of course you all know that self-murder is a terrible
crime, and that no one has a right to take the life
which God has given. But the Romans, on the contrary,
believed that it was a far nobler thing to end their
lives by violence than to suffer trouble or disgrace.
Lucretia's action was therefore considered very brave
by all the Romans, whose admiration was kindled by her
virtues, and greatly increased by her tragic death.
Collatinus and Lucretia's father were at first
speechless with horror; but Brutus, the supposed idiot,
drew the bloody dagger from her breast. He swore that
her death should be avenged, and that Rome should be
freed from the tyranny of the wicked Tarquins, who were
all unfit to reign. This oath was repeated by
Collatinus and his father-in-law.
By the advice of Brutus, Lucretia's dead body was laid
on a bier, and carried to the market place, where all
might see her bleeding side. There Brutus told the
assembled people that this young and beautiful woman
had died on account of the wickedness of Sextus
Tarquinius, and that he had sworn to avenge her.
Excited by this speech, the people all cried out that
they would help him, and they voted that the Tarquin
family should be driven out of Rome. Next they said
that the name of the king should never be used again.
When the news of the people's fury reached the ears of
Tarquin, he fled to a town in Etruria. Sextus, also,
tried to escape from his just punishment, but
 he went
to Gabii, where the people rose up and put him to
It was thus that the Roman monarchy ended, after
seven kings had occupied the throne. Their rule had
lasted about two hundred and forty-five years; but
although ancient Rome was for a long time the principal
city in Europe, it was never under a king again.
The exiled Tarquins, driven from the city, were forced
to remain in Etruria. But Brutus, the man whom they had
despised, remained at the head of affairs, and was
given the title "Deliverer of the People," because he
had freed the Romans from the tyranny of the Tarquins.