| 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 |
 MANY, many years ago, in the pleasant land of Italy,
there was a little city called Alba. It stood on the sunny
side of a mountain, near the River Tiber and not far from
the Mediterranean Sea. In
this city and around the mountain lived a brave,
intelligent people known as Latins. Several other
tribes inhabited the adjacent mountains and plains.
The Latins were ruled by kings, and one of their
kings in very early times was named Aeneas. He was a famous
Trojan chief who had come over the seas to Italy and
settled there with his family and friends after Troy was
destroyed by the Greeks.
A great many years after the death of Aeneas one
of his descendants named Procas was king of Alba.
He ruled wisely and well for a long time, and his
rather small kingdom on the mountain side, with its
 wheat-fieIds and vineyards, was very prosperous. He had two
sons, one named Numitor, and the other Amulius. As Numitor
was the elder he was heir to his father's throne, but when
King Procas died Amulius seized the kingdom by force and
made himself king.
Then Numitor, with his two children, a boy and a girl, left
the king's palace at Alba and went to reside on a farm a
short distance away.
AMULIUS was now king, but he did not feel quite happy. He
was much troubled about Numitor's son and daughter. The son,
he thought, might some day claim the right to be king as
heir of his father, or the daughter might marry and have a
son who could become king as grandchild of Numitor.
To prevent either of these things from happening
Amulius had Numitor's son secretly put to death, and he
appointed the daughter Sylvia to be a priestess, or an
attendant, in the temple of the goddess Vesta. Only young
girls were appointed attendants in this temple, and they had
to take a vow that they would not marry for thirty years.
They were called Vestal Virgins. It was their duty to
 keep a fire burning continually on the altar of the
goddess. This was called the Sacred Fire, and it was
believed that if it went out some great disaster would
happen to the city.
SCHOOL OF THE VESTAL VIRGINS
Amulius now thought there was nothing to hinder
him from being king of Alba all his life. But one
day the god Mars came down to the city from his
palace on a high mountain top and saw Sylvia as
she went out of the temple to get water at a well.
He fell deeply in love with her. She also fell in love
with the god, for he had the appearance of a handsome young
man. They were married secretly, and
in course of time Sylvia had beautiful twin boys.
When Amulius heard of this he gave orders that
Sylvia should be put to death for breaking her vow
and that the two infants should be thrown into the
 Tiber. These wicked orders were carried out, for no one
dared to disobey the king.
Fortunately, however, the babes had been placed in a stout
basket, which floated along the Tiber until it was carried
by the waters to the foot of a hill called Palatine Hill.
Here the huge roots of a wild fig-tree upset the basket, and
the little ones were thrown out upon the river bank.
At this moment a great she-wolf came strolling down the hill
to drink at the river's edge. She heard the feeble cries of
the infants and went to the place where they lay helpless
on the wet sands. She touched them gently with her rough
paws, turned them over and licked their faces and plump
bodies. Perhaps she thought they were some of her own cubs.
At any rate, she carried the babes up the hill to her cave
under a large rock. There she fed them as she fed her own
cubs and seemed pleased to have them near her. It is said
that a woodpecker flew in and out of the cave many times a
day, bringing berries for the boys to eat.
One morning, as Faustulus, the herdsman of
King Amulius, was going over Palatine Hill looking for
cattle that had gone astray he saw the
boys playing with the wolf at the mouth of her
cave. He frightened the wolf away and took the
boys to his home. His wife pitied the little
found-  lings and cared for them as though they were her
ROMULUS AND REMUS
The herdsman named them Romulus and Remus. They grew up to
be strong, handsome
youths, brave and kind. Until they were twenty
years old they lived with the herdsman and helped
him in his work, and roamed over the hills light-hearted
During all these years Numitor lived on his farn, and his
brother Amulius remained king of Alba. Numitor did not know
that his two grandsons had been saved from a watery grave
and were liviing so near to him.
But one day Remus had a quarrel with some of
the herdsmen of Numitor and they took him
pris-  oner. They then brought him before Numitor, who was much impressed with
the noble appearance of the youth and asked him who he was.
Remus told all he knew about himself and Romulus; how they
had been found at the cave of the she-wolf and had been
reared by the king's herdsman. Just then Faustulus and
Romulus came searching for Remus, and were full of joy when
they found that no harm had come to him. Numitor questioned
the herdsman about the finding of the twins, and after
hearing his story was convinced that Romulus and Remus were
Sylvia's boys, who had been strangely saved from the wrath
of their cruel uncle. He was very happy at finding his
grandsons and he thanked the herdsman for his good care of
Romulus and Remus were also very happy at finding a
grandfather and at the sudden change of their fortune. When
they were told about Amulius and his wicked deeds, they
resolved to punish him for the murder of their mother. So
with a few followers they rushed to the palace at Alba and
entered the king's chamber.
"Behold! we are Sylvia's sons whom you thought you had
killed," they shouted to Amulius, as he started up in alarm
at their entrance. "You killed our mother and you shall die
 Before he could utter a word they sprang on him
with drawn swords and cut his head off. Then they
brought Numitor to the palace, and the people welcomed him
as the rightful king of Alba.
AFTER a little time the two brothers thought they would
build a city on Palatine Hill, where the she-wolf had nursed
them. So they went to the hill and selected a site. Then
they began to talk of a name for their city.
"I will be king and give the new city my name," said
"No," cried Remus. "I will be the king and
name the city after myself. I have just as much right as you
So the brothers argued for a while, but at last they agreed
to settle the matter in this way:
At midnight Romulus was to stand on Palatine
Hill, and Remus was to stand on another hill a short
distance off. Then they were to ask the gods to show them a
sign of favor in the sky, and the first who should see
anything very remarkable was to name the new city and be its
So they went to watch, but nothing appeared
until sunrise of the second day, when Remus saw
 six great vultures flying across the sky from north to
south. He ran swiftly to Palatine Hill and told Romulus of
what he had seen. But just then twelve vultures, one after
another, flew high over the head of Romulus in an almost
unbroken line and were soon lost to view.
Then Romulus claimed that he had the favor of the gods, as
more birds had appeared to him, but Remus claimed that the
gods favored him, as the birds had appeared to him first.
Romulus asked the opinion of some of his friends, and as
they all agreed that he was right in his claim he paid no
further attention to Remus, but began to lay out the new
city. He gave it the name of Roma, or Rome, after himself.
With a plow he marked out the space on Palatine Hill and
along the banks of the Tiber, and he built a low wall round
about to protect the city from invaders.
One day while the work was going on Remus came by in a very
bitter mood. He was still angry with Romulus. He laughed
scornfully at the little wall and said to his brother:
"Shall such a defence as this keep your city? It may prevent
children from getting in, but not men, for they can jump
So saying, Remus put his hands on the wall and sprang over
it, to show that his words were true.
 Romulus, in a sudden outburst of rage, struck him on the
head with a spade and instantly killed him, at the same time
"So perish any one who shall hereafter attempt to leap over
Then Romulus continued his work. While he was building his
wall he also built some houses. The first houses were
nothing more than wood huts covered with mud and straw. But
in course of time the Romans had houses of stone, and they
built fine temples and theatres and streets and squares, and
at last Rome became the greatest and grandest city in the
ROMULUS founded Rome in the year 753 B.C. After he had built
his city he had some difficulty in getting people to live in
it. He had only a few followers and was not able to obtain
any more. He decided, therefore, to make Rome a place of
refuge, to which people who had got into trouble in other
countries might come for safety.
And so when those who had committed crime in other places,
and had to flee to escape punishment, found out that Romulus
would give them a refuge,
 they came in large numbers to his
city. People also came who had been driven from home by
enemies, or had run away for one reason or another. It was not
long, therefore, until Rome was full of men. There were men
from many different tribes and countries. Thus the Roman
nation began, and for years it steadily grew and prospered.
But the Romans were much troubled about one
thing. A great many of them had no wives, and they could
not get any, because the women of the neighboring tribes
would not marry them, for the Romans had a bad name. Romulus
was very anxious that his people should have good wives, but
how they should get them greatly puzzled him for a long
time. At last he hit upon a plan and began at once to carry
He sent messengers to the cities all around to
announce that on a certain day a great festival in honor of
the god Jupiter would be held on the plain in front of Rome.
There were to be games, combats, horse-racing, and other
sports. The people were invited to attend the festival and
also to take part in the contests for the prizes.
When the festival day came a multitude of men
and women from far and near assembled before the walls of
Rome. Hundreds of pretty girls were there in fine dresses. A
great many came from
 the Sabine tribe. This was a tribe of
warriors that lived on a mountain near Rome.
Suddenly Romulus blew a loud blast upon a horn. Then, quick
as a flash, the Romans seized the girls and bore them off to
THE SEIZURE OF THE SABINE WOMEN
The Sabines were greatly enraged at this, and their king,
Tatius, raised a large army and
at once began a war against the Romans. The war went on for
three years, but the Sabines were so strong that Romulus
could not defeat them in the field. He therefore withdrew
his army into the
city. King Tatius quickly marched after him, resolved to
take Rome or perish in the attempt.
Now Romulus had erected a strong fortress on a
 hill near the Palatine, to keep invaders from Rome. The hill
was called the Saturnian Hill, and the fortress was in
charge of a brave Roman captain, who had a daughter named
When the Sabines reached this fortress they could
go no further. They marched up and down seeking for a spot
where they might force an entrance, but they could find
none. There was a small, barred gate in the fortress, and
through this gate Tarpeia came out to get water. King Tatius
saw her. He at once stepped forward and said:
"Fair maiden, open the gate and let us in. lf you
do you shall have for your reward anything you ask."
Tarpeia was gazing with admiration at the bracelets of gold
which the Sabines wore on their arms.
"I will open the gate," said she, "if you will give
me some of those things which your soldiers wear upon their
King Tatius agreed, and Tarpeia opened the gate.
As the Sabines strode past the silly maiden each threw at
her, not his bracelet, but his shield.
The shield then used was round or oblong and made of bronze,
or of wicker-work or ox-hide covered with metal plates. It
had two handles at the back, and the soldier held it with
his left hand and arm so that he could move it up or down to
save his head or breast from blows.
 Tarpeia stood in amazement as the heavy shields began to
pile up around her. One struck her, and then another and
another. At last she fell to the ground and was soon crushed
When the soldiers saw that Tarpeia was dead,
they took up the shields they had thrown at her. Then they
hurled her body from the top of a great rock that was near
the gate she had opened. The rock was afterwards known as
the Tarpeian Rock, and for hundreds of years the punishment
for traitors in Rome was to be thrown from this rock.
As soon as they passed the fortress the Sabines
ran down the Saturnian Hill to make an attack on Rome. But
Romulus and his band of warriors bravely came out of the
city to drive back the enemy. The two forces met in the
valley, and then a fierce battle began.
But while they were fighting a crowd of excited
women came running from the city. They were the Sabine women
whom the Romans had carried off. Some of them had their
infants in their arms and they rushed between the lines of
soldiers and begged that the fight should stop.
"Do not fight any more for us," they said to their fathers
and brothers. "We love the Romans we have married. They have
been good to us, and we do not wish to leave them."
THE SABINE WOMEN STOPPING THE FIGHT
 Of course, this settled the matter. Romulus had a talk with
King Tatius, and they agreed not to fight any more. They
also agreed that the two nations should be as one. They
joined their governments and their armies, and each of the
kings had equal power.
Soon afterwards King Tatius died. Then Romulus ruled alone
for nearly forty years. He was a
wise and just king, and did a great deal of good for
his people. He established a body called the Senate,
to help him in important affairs of government. It
was called the Senate from senex, the Latin word for
an old man. It was formed of the chiefs or old
of the earliest settlers in Rome. The descendants
of those settlers were called patricians, or fathers,
from the Latin word pater, a father. They were
the nobles, or upper class, in Rome. The ordinary
citizens were called plebeians, from plebs,
word for the common people.
Romulus took care to train up the young Romans to be good
soldiers. Outside the city, along the bank of the Tiber,
there was a great plain which in later times was called
Campus Martius, or Field of Mars. Here the Roman soldiers
were drilled. They were taught how to use the spear and the
javelin and the sword and the shield. They were also
exercised in running and jumping, and
 wrestling and swimming, and carrying heavy loads. Thus the
young men were made fit to bear the hardships of war and to
fight and win battles for their country.
It is related that in his old age Romulus suddenly
disappeared from the earth. He called his people together on
a great field one day, and while he was speaking to them a
violent storm came on. The rain fell in torrents, and the
lightning and thunder were so terrible that the people fled
to their homes.
When the storm was over the people went back to the field,
but Romulus was nowhere to be found. Then it was said that
his father, the god Mars, had taken him up to the clouds in
a golden chariot.
Next morning at early dawn a Roman citizen named Julius saw
a figure descending from the heavens. It had the appearance
of Romulus, and it approached Julius and said:
"Go and tell my people that it is the will of the gods that
Rome shall be the greatest city of the world. Let them be
brave and warlike, and no human power shall be able to
Afterwards the Romans worshiped Romulus as a god. They
worshiped him under the name Quirinus, which was one of the
names of the god Mars, and they built a temple to him on a
hill which was called the Quirinal Hill.
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