|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 KING OUTWITTED
 TARQUIN was the guardian of the sons of Ancus Martius;
but as he was anxious to be king of Rome himself, he
said that these lads were far too young to reign wisely,
and soon persuaded the people to give him the crown instead.
Although Tarquin thus gained his power wrongfully, he
proved to be a very good king, and did all he could to
improve and beautify the city of Rome. To make the place
more healthful, and to prevent another plague like the
one which had killed Tullus Hostilius, he built a great
drain, or sewer, all across the city.
This drain, which is called the Cloaca Maxima, also served to carry off the water from the swampy places
between the hills on which Rome was built. As Tarquin
knew that work properly done will last a long while, he
was very particular about the building of this sewer. He
had it made so large that several teams of oxen could
pass in it abreast, and the work was so well done that
the drain is still perfect to-day, although the men who
planned and built it have been dead more than twenty-four
hundred years. Strangers who visit Rome are anxious
to see this ancient piece of masonry, and all of them
praise the builders who did their work so carefully.
One place which this great sewer drained was the
Forum,—an open space
which was used as a market place, and
which Tarquin surrounded with covered walks. Here the
Romans were in the habit of coming to buy and sell, and
to talk over the news of the day. In later times,
they came here also to discuss public affairs, and near
the center of the Forum was erected a stand from which
men could make speeches to the people.
Tarquin also built a huge open-air circus for the Romans,
who loved to see all sorts of games and shows. In order
to make the city safer, he began to build a new and
solid fortress in place of the old citadel. This fortress
was sometimes called the Capitol, and hence the hill on which it stood was named the
Capitoline. The king also gave orders that a great wall should be built
all around the whole city of Rome.
As this wall was not finished when Tarquin died, it had
to be completed by the next king. The city was then so
large that it covered all seven of the hills of Rome,—the
Palatine, Capitoline, Quirinal, Cælian,
Aventine, Viminal, and Esquiline.
Soon after Tarquin came to the throne, he increased the
size of the army. He also decided that he would
always be escorted by twelve men called Lictors, each of whom carried a bundle of rods,
in the center of which there was a sharp ax.
The rods meant that those who disobeyed would
be punished by a severe whipping; and the
axes, that criminals would have their heads cut off.
During the reign of Tarquin, the augurs became bolder
and bolder, and often said that the signs were against
the things which the king wanted to do. This made
Tarquin angry, and he was very anxious to get rid
of the stubborn priests; for, by pretending that they knew
the will of the gods, they were really more powerful than he.
The chief of these augurs, Attus Navius, was one of
the most clever men of his time; and Tarquin knew that
if he could only once prove him wrong, he would be able
to disregard what any of them said. The king therefore
sent for the augur one day, and asked him to decide
whether the thing he was thinking about could be done or
The augur consulted the usual signs, and after due
thought answered that the thing could be done.
"But," said Tarquin, drawing a razor and a pebble out
from under the wide folds of his mantle, "I was
wondering whether I could cut this pebble in two
with this razor."
"Cut!" said the augur boldly.
We are told that Tarquin obeyed, and that, to his
intense surprise, the razor divided the pebble as
neatly and easily as if it had been a mere lump
of clay. After this test of the augurs' power,
Tarquin no longer dared to oppose their decisions;
and although he was king, he did nothing without
the sanction of the priests.
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