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The Story of Rome by  Mary Macgregor


 

 

THE DIVINE TWINS

[63] TARQUIN THE PROUD was an old man now, but he was not yet ready to believe that he would never again reign in Rome.

Once more he prepared for battle, invoking the aid of the Latins, for he believed that the Romans would quail before this fierce and warlike people.

The Romans did not quail, but they knew that they would need brave men to lead their army. So they appointed a Dictator, who was to have supreme command of the army and power as though he was king in Rome, for six months.

Aulus Postumius was the name of the Roman who was chosen for this great trust.

Tarquin, his cruel son Sextus, and a band of Roman exiles marched to the battlefield, near Lake Regillus in the region of Tusculum. With them was their ally the King of the Latins, leading a great army.

The Romans, with Aulus at their head, advanced against the foe, and a great battle was fought.

Valerius, the Consul was on the field, and when he saw Sextus anger filled his heart, and he dashed forward to slay him. But the prince retreated, and Valerius followed until he was drawn into the lines of the enemy, and perished by the thrust of a spear.

Fiercely as the Romans fought, the day began to go against them. Then Aulus vowed that he would build a temple to the twin brothers, Castor and Pollux, if they would but come to his aid and give to the Romans victory.

[64] Scarcely had the Dictator ended his prayer, when lo! two youths of more than human height and majesty appeared, clad in shining armour, and riding upon white horses.

Going to the head of the army, they led it afresh against the Latins.

The enemy, terrified by the splendour of the strangers, and startled at the suddenness of the new attack, were seized with panic, and fled.

On rushed the Romans in pursuit of the foe, on until they reached the camp of the Latins, which the strange horsemen were the first to enter.

The Latin army was now in utter confusion, while a great victory had been won by the Romans.

Aulus wished to reward the strangers to whom the victory was really due, but they were nowhere to be seen. Neither in the field nor in the camp was there any trace of the riders or their steeds.

But in Rome, where old men and women awaited, with anxious hearts, news of the battle, there appeared in the Forum, as the sun went down, two horsemen. They were mounted on pure white steeds, and they themselves were "exceeding beautiful and tall above the stature of men." But they bore upon them the stains of battle.

When they reached the spring that rises close to the temple of Vesta, they dismounted, and washed the foam from their horses, the stains from their clothes.

Men and women crowded around the strangers, eager to hear their tidings. Then the brothers told them of the glorious victory that had been won, after which they mounted their white steeds, and riding away, were seen no more.

When the Dictator returned to Rome, he told how he had prayed to the Divine Twins Castor and Pollux, and how he believed that they had indeed come to his aid.

Moreover, he was sure that it was they who had ridden to Rome with more than mortal speed to tell of the victory that had been won.

[65] Then Aulus, with a glad heart, began to build the temple he had vowed to the Divine Twins, and the Romans kept a festival each year in honour of Castor and Pollux.

At this festival, sacrifices were offered in the temple, while a solemn procession of knights, clad in purple and crowned with olive, rode from the temple of Mars without the city wall to the temple dedicated by the Dictator to the Divine Twins. This temple is now being excavated in the Forum of Rome.

The Latins, after their defeat, refused any longer to fight for Tarquin, while they hastened to make peace with his enemies.

Alone and childless, for Sextus had fallen in battle, Tarquin went away to Cumæ, and there he, the last of the Kings of Rome, died.

Soon after this, Rome regained her dominions on the right bank of the Tiber. She had already ceased to regard the treaty which had forbidden her the use of arms.


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