|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 UNGRATEFUL CHILDREN
ALTHOUGH Servius Tullius was the son of a slave, and had won the
crown by a trick, he proved an excellent king. As he
had once been poor himself, he was very thoughtful for
the lower classes of Rome. He not only helped the poor
to pay their debts, but also gave orders that some of
the public land should be divided among the plebeians,
so that they could support themselves by farming.
Once a slave himself, he also took pity upon the hard
 life of the Roman slaves, and made laws in their favor.
He even said that they should be set free if they
served their masters faithfully for a certain length of
time, or if they paid a sufficient sum of money.
Slaves who had thus gained their liberty were called
freedmen. Although they often stayed in their masters'
employ, they were no longer treated as slaves, but were
paid for all they did. Little by little the number of
these freedmen grew greater, and slavery was no longer
considered so terrible, since there was a chance of
some time being free.
By order of Servius Tullius, all the Romans came
together once in every five years on the Field of Mars.
Here they were carefully counted, and every man was
called upon to give an exact account of his family and
of his property. In this way, the king knew just how
many patricians, plebeians, freedmen, and slaves were
to be found in Rome; and the process of thus counting
the people was called "taking a census."
Before the assembled Romans were allowed
to leave the Field of Mars and return to their homes, the priests held a religious
ceremony to purify the whole state. This was called a
Lustrum. As five years elapsed from one such ceremony
to another, the Romans sometimes counted time by
lustrums, just as we use the word "decade" instead of ten
Servius would probably have made many more reforms in
Rome, had he not been forced to lay down the crown with
his life, as you will soon see. Although he had no sons
to succeed him, he had two grown-up daughters, of very
different dispositions. One of them was very gentle
good, while the other was wicked and had a violent
Servius was anxious to settle both these daughters
comfortably, so he gave them in marriage to the sons of
Tarquin. These young men were also very different in
character. One was so cruel and proud that he came to
be called Tarquin the Haughty, or
Tarquinius Superbus, in order to distinguish him from his
father, Tarquin the Elder. To this prince Servius gave
his gentle daughter.
The wicked daughter, Tullia, was then provided with a good-natured husband;
but she despised him on account of his kindly
and gentle ways. Tullia and Tarquinius Superbus were so
alike in character and tastes that they soon fell in
love with each other and wished to marry.
As they were both married already, it was very wicked
for them even to think of such a thing; but they were
so bad that they agreed to murder their gentle
partners, and then to become husband and wife. This
plan was quickly carried out; and, as one wicked deed
leads to another, they were no sooner married than they
began to plot a second crime.
Both Tarquinius Superbus and Tullia, his wife, were
very ambitious, and anxious to occupy the throne; and
they soon arranged to murder Servius Tullius, so that
they might reign in his stead.
According to the plan which they had made, Tarquin
drove off to the senate one day; and there, walking
boldly up to Servius Tullius, he publicly claimed the
crown. He said that he had the best right to it because
he was the true heir of Tarquin the Elder.
 Servius paid no heed to this insolent demand, and
Tarquin, seeing that his father-in-law did not move,
suddenly caught him by the feet, dragged him from the
throne, and flung him down the stairs into the street.
This terrible fall stunned the king, and for a while
every one thought that he was killed. His friends were
about to carry him away, when he slowly opened his
eyes. Tarquin, seeing that Servius was not dead, now
gave orders to his servants to kill the king, and
loudly proclaimed that any one who ventured to
interfere should die too.
Frightened by this terrible threat, none of the Romans
dared to move, and Servius was killed before their
eyes. They did not even venture to touch the bleeding
and lifeless body of their murdered king, but left it
lying in the middle of the street. Then they obediently
followed the cruel Tarquin into the senate house,
where he took his place on the vacant throne, as the
seventh king of Rome.
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