| 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 |
 THE next king of Rome was Ancus Marcius. He was a grandson of
Numa Pompilius, and a very good king. He thought that it
would be an advantage to Rome to have a sea harbor for
ships. So he founded a city at one of the mouths of the
Tiber, on the coast of the Mediterranean, about fifteen
miles from Rome. The city was called Ostia, which is a
Latin word meaning mouths. Latin was the language spoken by
the Roman people.
During the reign of Ancus Marcius, a rich
man named Lucumo came to live in Rome. He came from
Tarquinii, a town some miles distant from Rome, in a
district or country called Etruria, so the Romans called
him Tarquinius, which in English is Tarquin.
A very wonderful thing happened to Tarquin while he was on
his way to Rome. He drove in a chariot, with his wife
Tanaquil seated beside him, and their servants following
behind. As they were approaching the city an eagle which
 the sky above them came gently down and snatched
the cap from Tarquin's head with its beak. After hovering
around for a few moments the eagle replaced the cap and with
loud screams flew away.
Tarquin was much surprised at this
strange event. He did not know what to think of it. But
Tanaquil was much pleased. She said to her husband that it
was a sign sent by the gods and meant that he was to be a
great man—perhaps a king.
Tarquin was not long in Rome
before he became a favorite with everybody. The people
liked him because he spent a great deal of money in doing
good. The king also liked him and often asked his advice
in affairs of government, for Tarquin was a man of great
knowledge and wisdom. And when King Ancus became old and
felt that his death was near, he appointed Tarquin the
guardian of his two sons who were then but boys.
Soon afterwards Ancus died, and the people elected Tarquin
king. He reigned for nearly forty years and did a great
deal for the good of the city.
 IT was King Tarquin who began the building of the famous
temple of Jupiter on the Saturnian Hill—the same hill on
which stood the fortress that Romulus built. While the
workmen were digging for the foundations of the temple they
found a man's head so well preserved that it looked as if it
had been buried quite recently. This was so strange a thing
that the augurs were asked about it, and they said it was a
sign that Rome would become the head or chief city of the
world. So the new building was called the Capitol, from
caput, the Latin word for head, and the hill was called the
Capitoline Hill. This has given our language a word. We
call the building in which our Congress meets—as well as
that in which a state legislature meets—the Capitol.
took a long time to finish the Capitol, but when finished it
was a great and beautiful building. It covered more than
eight acres. Its gates or doors were of solid brass,
thickly plated with gold. The walls inside were all marble,
ornamented with beautiful figures engraved in silver.
Tarquin also began several other works in Rome, which were
too great and costly to be finished in
 a lifetime. One of
them was a wall round the city. The wall that Romulus
made was only round Palatine Hill. But since then the city
had been much enlarged. In course of time it covered seven
hills. This is why Rome is often called the seven-hilled
city. The seven hills were the Palatine, the Capitoline,
the Cælian, the Quirinal, the Esquiline, the
Viminal, and the Aventine.
One of the other things Tarquin did was to establish a kind
of police called lictors. These were officers who always
walked before the king whenever he appeared in public. Each
lictor bore upon his shoulder an ax enclosed in a bundle of
rods tied with a red strap. This was called the fasces .
It was a mark of the power of the king. The ax meant that
the king might order criminals to be beheaded, and the rods
meant that he might punish offenders by flogging.
Another work of Tarquin was the Circus,
after-  wards called the Circus Maximus (great circus).
This was a place where
horse-races and games and shows of various kinds were held.
The Romans were very fond of such amusements. Great numbers
of them always went to the shows, but it was easy for them
to go, for they did not have to pay for admission. The
cost of the shows was paid often by rich Romans who wanted
to gain the favor of the people, and often by the
The circus had no roof, but there were a great
many seats all round and in the middle was a large open
space for the performers. This space was covered with sand,
and was called the arena, a word which is Latin for sand.
As so many people attended the circus it had to be very
large. In the time when Rome was an empire, about which
you will read later on in this book, the Circus Maximus was
so large that it contained seats for 250,000 people. From
the circus and arena of the Romans these words have come
into use in our own language.
BESIDES building a circus, King Tarquin also greatly
improved the Forum by making covered walks or porticoes all
round it. The Forum was a
 large open space at the foot of
the Capitoline Hill, where public meetings were held, and
where people came to hear the news or talk about politics.
It was also used as a market-place, and merchants showed
their goods in shops or stores along the porticoes. In
course of time great buildings were erected round the Forum.
There were courts of justice and temples and statues and
monuments of various kinds. The Senate House, where the
Senate held its meetings, was also in the Forum. From the
end of the Forum next the Capitoline Hill there was a
passage leading up to the Capitol.
TARQUIN'S SEWER AS IT LOOKS TO-DAY
But the most useful thing King Tarquin did was the building
of a great sewer through the city and into the Tiber.
Before his time there were no sewers in Rome, though the
places between the hills
 were swampy and wet. This made many
parts of the city very unhealthy. Tarquin's sewer drained
the swamps and carried the water into the river. It crossed
the entire city. It was so high and wide that men could
sail into it in boats, and it was so strongly built that it
has lasted to the present time. The great sewer is still in
Tarquin wanted very much to change one of the laws
about the army, but an augur named Attius Navius told
him such a thing could not be done without a sign from the
gods. This made the king angry, and he thought he would try
to show that the augurs had not the power or knowledge they
were supposed to have, so he said to Attius:
"Come, now, I will give you a question. I am thinking
whether a certain thing I have in my mind can be done or
not. Go and find out from your signs if it can be done."
Navius went away, and shortly afterwards returned and told
the king that the thing could be done. Then Tarquin said:
"Well, I was thinking whether or not you could cut this
stone in two with this razor. As you say it can be done, do
Navius took the razor and immediately cut the stone in two
with the greatest ease. The king never again doubted the
power of the augurs.
 ON the death of Tarquin his son-in-law Servius Tullius was made king. Tarquin had two young sons, and the sons of
Ancus Marcius were also living; but the people preferred to
have Servius Tullius for their king.
Servius was a very good king. He had many good laws made
and, like King Numa Pompilius, he divided some of the public
lands among the poor people of the city.
One of the
important things Servius did was to finish the wall round
the city which Tarquin had begun. This wall was very high.
It was made of stone and earth, and on the outside there was
a ditch a hundred feet wide and thirty feet deep. There
were several gates in the wall, but they were all well
guarded night and day by soldiers, so that no enemy could
King Servius was the first to have a census taken in Rome.
He made a rule or law that once every five years all the
people should assemble in the Campus Martius to be counted.
The word census is a Latin word, meaning a counting or
reckoning, and so we use it in our own country for the
counting of the people which takes place every ten years.
 Servius Tullius was killed by King Tarquin's son, who was
also called Tarquin but got the name of Superbus, or
Proud, because he was a very haughty and cruel man. The
dead body of Servius was left lying on the street where he
had been killed, and Tullia, wife of the wicked Tarquin and
daughter of the murdered king, drove her chariot over it.
TULLIA DRIVING OVER HER FATHER'S BODY
Tarquin the Proud now became king. It was during his reign
that the Sibylline Books were brought to Rome. These
books were not like our books. They were merely three
bundles of loose pieces of parchment, having moral sentences
on them written in the Greek language. This is the story of
how the books were obtained:
One morning an old woman came
to King Tarquin, carrying nine books in her hands. She
offered to sell them to the king, but when she named a large
sum as the price he laughed at her and ordered her away.
The next day the woman came again, but with only six books.
She had burned the other three. She offered to sell the
six, but she asked the same price that she had asked the day
before for the whole nine. The king again laughed at her
and drove her away.
The same day Tarquin went to visit the augurs in their
temple, and he told them about the old
 woman and her books.
The augurs declared that she was certainly a sibyl and that
her books doubtless contained important predictions about
The sibyls were women who pretended to be able to
foretell events. There were sibyls in many countries, but
the most famous of them all was the Sibyl of Cumæ, a town
in the south of Italy. This was the sibyl who brought the
books to Tarquin.
Tarquin was now sorry he had not taken the books, and he
hoped the woman would come again. She did come on the
following day, but she had only three books instead of six.
She had burned the other three the day before. The king was
very glad to see her, and he bought the remaining three
books, but he had to pay just as much for them as the old
woman had asked at first for the nine. Then the Sibyl
disappeared, and was never seen again.
The ordinary books the Romans had were not like the
Sibylline Books. They had no printed books, for printing
was not known for many centuries after. Their books were
written with pens made of reeds. Their paper was made of
the pith of a plant called the papyrus, and from this name
the word paper is derived. To make a book they cut the
paper into leaves or pages, and after writing on them they
pasted the pages one to another sidewise until all the pages
of one book were put
 together. This long strip was made
into a cylindrical roll, and was called a volume, from the
Latin word volumen, a roll. When the volume was being read
it was held in both hands, the reader unrolling it with one
hand and rolling it with the other.
ANCIENT ROMAN BOOKS
The Sibylline Books were put in the temple of Jupiter on the
Capitoline Hill. Two officers were appointed to keep watch
over them. Whenever the Romans were going to war, or had
any serious trouble, they would consult the books. The way
they did it was this: one of the officers would open the
stone chest where the books were kept and take out the first
piece of parchment he laid his hand on. Then the Greek
sentence found on the piece would be translated into Latin.
It was sometimes very hard to tell what the sentence really
meant. Often they had to guess. When they made sense out
of it they said that it was a prophecy of the Sibyl and
would surely come to pass.
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