|The Story of Rome|
|by Mary Macgregor|
|A vivid account of the story of Rome from the earliest times to the death of Augustus, retold for children, chronicling the birth of a city and its growth through storm and struggle to become a great world empire. Gives short accounts of battles and campaigns, and of the men who expanded the borders of the Roman empire to include all lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Ages 10-14 |
THE FAITHLESS FRIEND
 LUCIUS TARQUINIUS, to whom the king had entrusted the care of
his children, was a Greek noble possessing great
wealth. His real name was Lucumo, and being driven
from his native town by a tyrant, he had taken refuge
in the town of Tarquinii in Etruria. It was from this
town that he took the name by which he was known in
But neither Lucumo nor his wife Tanaquil were content
to spend their lives in such a sleepy little town as
Tarquinii proved to be. So they determined to go to
Rome, where, it was said, strangers were ever welcome.
One day, then, the husband and wife set out on their
journey. As they drew near to the Janiculum hill, an
eagle suddenly swooped down upon the travellers, and
seized the cap which Lucumo was wearing. Then,
uttering loud screams, the bird flew high in the air,
only to return in a few moments to replace the cap on
the head of its astonished owner.
Tanaquil seemed pleased with the strange behaviour of
the eagle, and assured her husband that it was an
augury or sign from the gods that he would rise to
honour in the city to which they were going.
King Ancus heard of the wealth and the wisdom of the
stranger who had come to
Rome, and ere long he sent a messenger to Tarquinius,
bidding him attend the king's councils. So wisely did
Tarquinius behave that the king soon treated him as a
When Ancus Marcius was dying, he did not fear the
future for his children. They would be safe, he
 in the care of Tarquinius. But he, alas! betrayed his
trust that he might satisfy his own ambition.
After the death of the king, Tarquinius, pretending
that he wished to make the sons of Ancus forget their
grief, persuaded them to go away from the city to hunt.
In their absence the false friend appealed to the
people to make him king, and this they did.
Tarquinius had gained his power by a treacherous deed,
but by his courage on the battlefield he won the
admiration of his subjects.
He fought against the Latins, and made many of their
cities subject to Rome. And when the Sabines took up
arms and marched almost to the gates of the city,
Tarquinius, vowing that if Jupiter would come to his
aid he would build a temple in his honour, rushed
against the foe and drove it away.
Flushed with victory, he then went to war with the
Etruscans, and forced them to acknowledge him as their
As a sign of their subjection the conquered tribe sent
to Tarquinius royal gifts—a golden crown, a
scepter, an ivory chair, an embroidered tunic, a
purple toga, and twelve axes tied up in bundles of
These gifts the king sent before him to Rome as a proof
of his victory over the Etruscans.
Then, when peace was at length proclaimed, Tarquinius
remembered the vow he had made to Jupiter, and began to
build a temple on the Capitoline hill.
As the workmen were digging, in order to lay a good
foundation, they found a human head. This was a sign,
so said those who knew, that the spot on which the head
had been buried should become the chief place of
worship in Rome.
The temple, when it was finished, was
named the Capitol, and in days to come it was indeed
looked upon as the most sacred building in the city.
Although Tarquinius was but a usurper, yet he did all
that he could to improve the kingdom over which he
 He ordered great drains to be built, that the marshy
valleys between the hills of Rome might become
healthier. He also built a large circus and a
racecourse, to encourage the games of the people, and
in course of time the Roman games became famous.
In the valley between the Capitoline hill and the
Palatine hill the king then began to build the Forum,
or market-place. Round the Forum he set up booths,
where the tradesfolk might carry on their business.
Meanwhile, the subjects of Rome had become so numerous,
that the king wished to increase the three tribes into
which Romulus had divided his people.
But a skilful augur, named Attius, forbade Tarquinius
to alter what Romulus had consecrated with rites sacred
to the gods.
The king could ill brook interference, and he mocked at
the augur's words in the Forum, where the people had
Then, thinking to show that Attius was not really as
wise as he was believed to be, he cried: "Tell me, O
Attius, can the thing of which I am thinking at this
moment come to pass?"
The augur, undisturbed by the mockery of the king,
consulted the sacred birds. Yes, the omens were good.
The thought in the mind of the king could be put into
Tarquinius pointed to a whetstone which lay before him,
and said: "Can you then cut this whetstone in twain
with a razor?"
Undismayed, Attius at once seized a razor, and with one
stroke the stone was split in two.
Then the king was afraid, and dared not disregard the
wisdom of the augur. So the number of tribes ordained
by Romulus was left unchanged.
But Tarquinius doubled the nobles in each tribe, and
also increased the companies of knights.
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