| Famous Men of Rome|
|by John H. Haaren|
|Attractive biographical sketches of twenty-eight of the most prominent characters in the history of ancient Rome, from its founding to its fall. Includes most of the best known characters from the kingdom and republic of Rome, as well as the most prominent personages from the imperial age. Each story is told in a clear, simple manner, and is well calculated to awaken and stimulate the youthful imagination. Ages 9-12 |
 FOR a year after the disappearance of Romulus there was no king of Rome.
The city was ruled by the Senate. But the people were not satisfied.
They preferred to be ruled by one man, and, though they had the right to
elect a king themselves they left the choice to the Senate. The Senate chose
Numa Pompilius, a very good and wise man, who belonged to the nation of the Sabines.
The first thing that Numa did after learning that he had been chosen
king was to consult the augurs, to find out if it was the will of the gods
that he should be the ruler of Rome.
The augurs were what we should call fortune-tellers. A number of them lived in Rome. They
were much respected and occupied a large temple
at the expense of the public. They pretended that
by watching the sky and observing how birds and
animals acted they could tell what would happen to people
and to nations. Then when they
 were alone they would have a great deal of fun over the tricks they played upon the foolish people.
AUGURS LAUGHING AT THE PEOPLE
Numa made many important changes at the very beginning of his
rule. Before he came to the throne Roman young men were
brought up to no business but war.
It was considered disgraceful
for a Roman citizen, whether rich or poor, to work at any trade or
manufacture. The slaves, who were persons taken prisoners in
wars, did all the hard work. They made all the clothing, tools,
arms, and household articles. They cooked and served the
meals, and were general servants for the Roman families.
Roman citizens might, however, without being degraded work
on farms and vineyards, and many of them made their living in this
 Shortly after King Numa began his reign he
divided some of the public lands into small
farms and gave one of these farms to every
poor Roman. The public lands were lands that
belonged to the nation and not to private persons.
It was rather hard at first for the new-made
farmers to be contented on their farms and to do
good work. They were mostly soldiers and had
very little knowledge of anything except marching
and fighting. But it was not long before they began to
understand what a blessing it is to be self-supporting
and independent. Their little farms were pleasant homes.
They began to love their new life and soon were able to raise
enough for the support of themselves and their families,
with something to spare.
KING Numa made many good laws. These laws
were engraved on tablets of brass and at certain
times were read and explained to the people by
Numa was very friendly with the people of the
countries surrounding Rome. He gave them help in
times of trouble, and would never listen to any
 talk of war with them. During the many years that he was
king Rome had no enemies and no wars.
In a sacred grove, just outside the walls of Rome, there
lived in a handsome grotto, or cavern, a beautiful woman
named Egeria. Some persons called her a goddess, while
others thought she was a fairy. She seemed to have a
great knowledge of magic and could do wonderful things.
Whenever she called to the song-birds they would come
flying around her. They would also perch on her head and
shoulders and hands, and sing their sweetest songs. Even
the fierce animals of the woods were her friends, and great
bears and wolves would lie at her feet for hours and purr like cats.
This mysterious woman-goddess, or fairy, or whatever she was,
greatly loved and honored good King Numa, and at last they
were married. Then she taught him many of the magical secrets
she possessed. He carefully studied the lessons she gave him,
and in time he was able to do wonderful things himself.
THE Romans were earnest worshipers of the gods and goddesses.
They believed that there were many
such beings, and they had many grand temples for religious service.
 King Numa always paid great attention to religion. He appointed
a large number of officials to take care of the temples, and to see
that all the sacred ceremonies were properly carried out. He was
constant and faithful in his own worship and thus, by his example,
gradually induced the whole Roman people to become
attentive to their religion.
The greatest of the gods that the Romans believed
in was the god Jupiter. He was supposed to rule both
the sky and the earth. He was so powerful that he could
send thunderbolts from the heavens, and make the earth tremble
by his nod. He had a wife named Juno who had a great deal
to do with managing the affairs of the earth. It was at one time
believed that Jupiter resided with many other gods on the
top of a high mountain in Greece. This mountain was so thickly
covered by clouds that the gods could not be seen.
But they could see everything that took place on the earth.
Jupiter had two brothers named Neptune and
Pluto. Neptune was the god of the sea. He lived in a grand,
golden palace at the bottom of the
Mediterranean. He ruled everything under and upon the
waters of the world. Now and then he sailed over the ocean
in a grand chariot drawn by large fish called dolphins.
When he was angry he caused the sea to rise in huge waves.
 Pluto, the other brother of Jupiter, was the god of Hades,
or the land of the dead. His home was far down in the earth,
where all was dark and gloomy. The Romans believed that
when people died they were borne away to the gloomy kingdom
The other principal gods were Mars, Mercury,
Vulcan, Apollo, and Janus.
Mars was the god of war, and was especially honored in Rome
because it was believed that he was the father of Romulus. Certain days
of the year were made festival days in his honor, and tben there were splendid
processions, songs of praise, and religious dances.
Mercury, the son of Jupiter, was the god of eloquence and commerce. He was also the
messenger of the other gods. He was generally represented as flying swiftly through
the air, carrying messages from place to place. On his head and feet were small wings,
and in his hand he bore a golden staff with serpents twined around it.
Vulcan was a skillful worker in metals. He had a great forge in the heart of a
burning mountain, where he made wonderful things of iron, copper, and gold.
He looked after the welfare of blacksmiths, coppersmiths, and goldsmiths,
and was their special god.
Apollo, also called Phoebus, which meant the sun,
was the god of day. He gave light and heat to the world. He was also the god of music,
archery, and medicine. His sister Diana was the moon goddess or goddess of the night.
She was also the goddess of hunting. In pictures she is sometimes represented with a
quiver of arrows over her shoulder and holding a stag by the horns.
The god Janus was very
much honored by the Romans. It was believed that this god
presided over the beginning
of every undertaking, and so when the Romans began
any important work or business
they prayed first to Janus. For this reason the first month
or beginning of the year
was called the month of Janus, or January.
Janus was also the god of gates and
 doors. In statuary and pictures he is often shown with two faces looking in
opposite directions, because every door faces two ways—outward and inward.
Numa Pompilius built a temple in honor of Janus. The door of this temple was always open
in time of war, as a sign that the god had gone out to help the Romans. In time of peace
the door was shut.
The Romans also believed
in Venus, the goddess of love; Minerva, the goddess of wisdom; Flora, the goddess
of flowers, and many others.
The Romans had no
special day, such as our Sunday, for religious service, but their temples
(except the temple of Janus) were open every day. They had prayers and songs, and
sometimes what they called sacred dances. They also made offerings to the gods,
such as fruits or vegetables, and oxen, lambs, or goats. The offerings went finally
into the hands of the priests of the temples.
Numa Pompilius reigned for nearly half a century,
and under him the Romans were a peaceful, prosperous, and happy people.
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