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THE FATE OF THE TOWN OF GABII
 TARQUIN, having killed Servius, seized the throne, and began his
reign by condemning to death the chief senators who had
supported the old king. He also ordered the tablets,
on which Servius had written many wise and good laws,
to be destroyed. Refusing to summon the Senate,
Tarquin then attempted to rule alone.
His cruelty was so great that he was soon hated both by
rich and poor. Before many months had passed he was
forced to surround himself with a bodyguard, lest he
should be slain by those whom he had ruined. For, in
order to grow rich, he imposed heavy fines on the
wealthy, sometimes driving the nobles into exile that
he might take possession of their goods. If they
ventured to remonstrate, Tarquin did not hesitate to
put them to death that he might seize their money.
As for the poor people, he forced them to work so hard
that they were more like slaves than freemen. Often in
despair they escaped from the king's cruelty by killing
After he had crushed the spirit of his subjects,
Tarquin went to war with the Latins, conquering many of
their cities, and even enrolling some of his prisoners
in the Roman legions.
One ancient Latin town determined to resist the cruel
king. Gabii, for this was the name of the brave little
town, even opened its gates to the nobles who had been
exiled from Rome.
In vain Tarquin sent legion after legion against the
 Its defenders still defied him, fighting with all their
strength so as to protect their homes from the cruel
hands of Tarquin the Proud.
Since he could not take the town by force, the king
resolved to take it by treachery, and in this resolve
he was aided by his son Sextus.
Sextus, pretending that he had been forced to leave
Rome by his father's cruelty, fled to Gabii. Telling
the citizens a piteous tale, he showed them his back,
bare and bleeding from stripes, and begged to be taken
into the town that his father might not capture him.
The citizens did not find it difficult to believe that
the tyrant had ill-used his son, and they willingly
opened their gates to the prince. And not only did
they give him shelter, but, so great was their trust,
that before long they gave him command of a company of
One day a Roman legion was seen marching toward the
city. Sextus at once led his soldiers against it, and,
instructed secretly by Tarquin, the Romans fled before
This made the men of Gabii still more sure that they
could trust Sextus, so they foolishly gave him the
chief command of the defences of the town.
Then Sextus sent in triumph to his father to know what
he should do.
Tarquin the Proud was walking in his garden when his
son's messenger arrived, and he listened in silence to
his words. But he still walked up and down the garden
paths, switching off with his stick the heads of the
tallest poppies in the flower-beds. Then, still
without a word, he sent the messenger back to Gabii.
But when Sextus heard of the fate of the poppies, he
needed no words to explain his father's silence. He
knew as well as if the king had spoken that as the
tallest poppies had been beheaded, so he was to behead
the leading nobles in Gabii.
 The citizens knew nothing of what had happened in the
king's flower garden, so they were startled and
dismayed when, day after day, Sextus accused one and
another of their nobles of crime or treason, and
ordered them to be put to death. The prince then
completed his treachery by delivering the town into the
hands of the king.
Tarquin's next victory was over the Volscians, a
powerful tribe which dwelt south of Latium. After
plundering one of their richest towns, he determined
with his new-found wealth to finish the great temple on
the Capitoline hill, which had been begun by his father
He adorned Rome with many other beautiful buildings,
and ordered the great sewers, also begun by his father,
to be finished. He then completed the Forum, or
market-place. In the Forum the people bought and sold,
and here also were held the great assemblies of the