|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 PEACE-LOVING KING
 AFTER the disappearance of Romulus, the Romans and Sabines
each wished to appoint a new king.
Romulus had been a Roman, so the Sabines said that now
it was but just that a Sabine king should rule.
The dispute between the people lasted for a whole year,
and then at length it was determined that the new king
should be a Sabine, but that the Romans should be
allowed to choose him.
Now among the Sabines dwelt a man named Numa Pompilius.
He was honoured by the Romans as well as by his own
people, for he was both good and wise. He had indeed
been known for his wisdom since he was a boy. And if,
when he was young, any one ventured to dispute
his wisdom, his friends would point to his grey hair, believing
there was no need to speak. For the hair of Numa Pomilius
had been grey from the day of his birth, and that
surely was a sign from the gods to show that he already
was and ever would be wise.
Often he was to be seen, a solitary man, walking in the
fields and groves which were consecrated to the gods.
At other times he would spend long days and weeks alone
in desert places.
It was to this strangely quiet, thoughtful man, who was
now about forty years old, that the Romans sent
ambassadors to beg him to become their king.
Numa Pompilius had no wish to rule. Moreover, he
deemed that the people would desire a more warlike king
 he was like to be. So he bade the messengers return to
Rome, saying: "I should but be, methinks, a
laughing-stock, while I should go about to inculcate
the worship of the gods and give lessons in the love of
justice and the abhorrence of violence and war to a
city whose needs are rather for a captain than for a
In spite of these words, the ambassadors still urged
Numa to return with them to Rome. "Your presence," said they, "will help to put an end to war and
Then the wise man consulted the gods, and they sent a
flight of sacred birds as a sign that he should reign
So Numa Pompilius set out with the ambassadors, and
when he reached the city he called together the people
to ask them if they were willing to obey his commands.
They, greeting him as "a holy king, and one beloved of
the gods," promised to obey him in all things. Thus,
almost against his will, the wise man became king. But
being king, he was not the man to shirk the duties
belonging to his royal state.
His first act was to dismiss the band of three hundred
Celeres, which had formed the life-guard of Romulus,
for this king trusted his subjects, and believed that
they would safeguard him from danger.
To train the Romans in the love of truth he built on
the Capitol a temple to the goddess Fides, or Faith,
bidding them invoke this goddess above all others. At
the same time he told them ever to remember as they
went about their daily work that their promises were as
sacred as their oaths.
In the temple no sacrifice of sheep, oxen, or bird was
ever offered, for the good king would not have his
gifts to the gods stained with blood. Fruits, cakes,
corn, these were the offerings he bade the people bring
to the temple.
Pompilius himself had loved to work and to walk in the
fields, so now he encouraged the Romans to labour in
 country, dividing among them a large part of the land
which Romulus had conquered.
In these and other ways the king did all he could to
curb the fierce passions of his subjects, who, when
left to themselves, were swift to turn to war and
bloodshed, rather than to peace.
Many of the people reverenced their peace-loving king,
but others mocked at his gentle ways.
Even the feasts of the king were more simple than some
of the Romans liked, and these discontented ones
grumbled at the plain fare of which they were invited
One day, so the legend runs, the king ordered, as was
his custom, a simple meal to be prepared, and to this
meal he invited many of his friends.
They came, for the king had asked them, but, as they
expected, the food was plain, the plates were of
earthenware, and water was served in bottles of stone.
But no sooner had the guests seated themselves at the
table than behold! as if by magic, the plain food was
changed into the choicest viands, the water became the
richest wine, while the earthenware dishes disappeared,
and in their place stood plates of silver and of gold.
The guests were startled, yet it pleased them well that
the gods should show such favour to their king, for
they never doubted that it was thus the gods treated
those who honoured them.
Henceforth the people grumbled less, and were more
ready to obey their sovereign.
Numa Pompilius ruled for forty-three years, caring,
during his long reign, for the welfare of his people.
Even the enemies of Rome did not venture to disturb
this good and gentle king. So, while he ruled, the
weapons of war were laid aside. The gates of the
temple of Janus, too, which were only opened in time of
war, remained closed during the reign of Numa
It seemed that the gods did indeed show goodwill to
 this pious king, for neither sickness nor famine
troubled the country as long as he sat upon the throne,
and the Romans prospered in all that they undertook.
When he was eighty years of age Numa Pompilius passed
away in a death as peaceful as his life.
The Romans mourned his loss, for he had been to them
father as well as king.
Quietly they laid his body to rest, beyond the Tiber,
on the hill Janiculum which looks toward the west.
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