Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities 4.1-5

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[1] King Tarquinius, accordingly, who had conferred not a few important benefits upon the Romans, died in the manner I have mentioned, after holding the sovereignty for thirty-eight years, leaving two grandsons who were infants and two daughters already married. His son-in‑law Tullius succeeded him in the sovereignty in the fourth year of the fiftieth Olympiad (the one in which Epitelides, a Lacedaemonian, won the short-distance foot-race), Archestratides being archon at Athens. It is now the proper time to mention those particulars relating to Tullius which we at first omitted, namely, who his parents were and what deeds he performed while he was yet a private citizen, before his accession to the sovereignty. 2 Concerning his family, then, the account with which I can best agree is this: There lived at Corniculum, a city of the Latin nation, a man of the royal family named Tullius, who was married to Ocrisia, a woman far excelling all the other women in Corniculum in beauty and modesty. When this city was taken by the Romans, Tullius himself was slain while fighting, and Ocrisia, then with child, was selected from the spoils and taken by King Tarquinius, who gave her to his wife. She, having been informed of everything that related to this woman, freed her soon afterwards and continued to treat her with kindness and honour above all other women. 3 While Ocrisia was yet a slave she bore a son, to whom, when he had left the nursery, she gave the name of Tullius, from his father, as his proper and family name, and also that of Servius as his common and first name, from her own condition, since she had been a slave when she had given birth to him. Servius, if translated into the Greek tongue, would be doulios or "servile."

[2] There is also current in the local records another story relating to his birth which raises the circumstances attending to the realm of the fabulous, and we have found it in many Roman histories. This account — if it be pleasing to the gods and the lesser divinities that it be related — is somewhat as follows: They say that from the hearth in the palace, on which the Romans offer various other sacrifices and also consecrate the first portion of their meals, there rose up above the fire a man's privy member, and that Ocrisia was the first to see it as she was carrying the customary cakes to the fire, and immediately informed the king and queen of it. 2 Tarquinius, they add, upon hearing this and left beholding the prodigy, was astonished; but Tanaquil, who was not only wise in other matters but also inferior to none of the Tyrrhenians in her knowledge of divination, told him it was ordained by fate that from the royal hearth should issue a scion superior to the race of mortals, to be born of the woman who should conceive by that phantom. And the other soothsayers affirming the same thing, the king thought it fitting that Ocrisia, to whom the prodigy had first appeared, should have intercourse with it. Thereupon this woman, having adorned herself as brides are usually adorned, was shut up alone in the room in which the prodigy had been seen. 3 And one of the gods or lesser divinities, whether Vulcan, as some think, or the tutelary deity of the house, having had intercourse with her and afterwards disappearing, she conceived and was delivered of Tullius at the proper time. This fabulous account, although it seems not altogether credible, is rendered less incredible by reason of another manifestation of the gods relating to Tullius which was wonderful and extraordinary. 4 For when he had fallen asleep one day while sitting in the portico of the palace about noon, a fire shone forth from his head. This was seen by his mother and by the king's wife, as they were walking through the portico, as well as by all who happened to be present with them at the time. The flame continued to illumine his whole head till his mother ran to him and wakened him; and with the ending of his sleep the flame was dispersed and vanished. Such are the accounts that are given of his birth.

[3] The memorable actions he performed before becoming king, in consideration of which Tarquinius admired him and the Roman people honoured him next to the king, are these: When, scarcely more than a boy as yet, he was serving in the cavalry in the first campaign that Tarquinius undertook against the Tyrrhenians, he was thought to have fought so splendidly that he straightway became famous and received the prize of valour ahead of all others. Afterwards, when another expedition was undertaken against the same nation and a sharp battle was fought near the city of Eretum, he showed himself the bravest of all and was again crowned by the king as first in valour. 2 And when he was about twenty years old he was appointed to command the auxiliary forces sent by the Latins, and assisted King Tarquinius in obtaining the sovereignty over the Tyrrhenians. In the first war that arose against the Sabines, being general of the horse, he put to flight that of the enemy, pursuing them as far as the city of Antemnae, and again received the prize of valour because of this battle. He also took part in many other engagements against the same nation, sometimes commanding the horse and sometimes the foot, in all of which he showed himself a man of the greatest courage and was always the first to be crowned ahead of the others. 3 And when that nation came to surrender themselves and deliver up their cities to the Romans, he was regarded by Tarquinius as the chief cause of his gaining this dominion also, and was crowned by him with the victor's crown. Moreover, he not only had the shrewdest understanding of public affairs, but was inferior to none in his ability to express his plans; and he possessed in an eminent degree the power of accommodating himself to every circumstance of fortune and to every kind of person. 4 Because of these accomplishments the Romans thought proper to transfer him by their votes from the plebeian to the patrician order, an honour they had previously conferred on Tarquinius, and, still earlier, on Numa Pompilius. The king also made him his son-in‑law, giving him one of his two daughters in marriage, and whatever business his infirmities or his age rendered him incapable of performing by himself, he ordered Tullius to transact, not only entrusting to him the private interests of his own family, but also asking him to manage the public business of the commonwealth. In all these employments he was found faithful and just, and the people felt that it made no difference whether it was Tarquinius or Tullius who looked after the public affairs, so effectually had he won them to himself by the services he had rendered to them.

[4] This man, therefore, being endowed with a nature adequately equipped for command and also supplied by Fortune with many great opportunities for attaining it, believed, when Tarquinius died by the treachery of the sons of Ancus Marcius, who desired to recover their father's kingdom, as I have related in the preceding book,6 that he was called to the kingship by the very course of events and so, being a man of action, he did not let the opportunity slip from his grasp. 2 The person who helped him to seize possession of the supreme power and the author of all his good fortune was the wife of the deceased conflict, who aided him both because he was her son-in‑law and also because she knew from many oracles that it was ordained by fate that this man should be king of the Romans. It chanced that her son, a youth, had died shortly before and that two infant sons were left by him. 3 She, therefore, reflecting on the desolation of her house and being under the greatest apprehension lest, if the sons of Marcius possessed themselves of the sovereignty, they should destroy these infants and extirpate all the royal family, first commanded that the gates of the palace should be shut and guards stationed there with orders to allow no one to pass either in or out. Then, ordering all the rest to leave the room in which they had laid Tarquinius when he was at the point of death, she detained Ocrisia, Tullius and her daughter who married to Tullius, and after ordering the children to be brought by their nurses, she spoke to them as follows:

4 "Our king Tarquinius, in whose home you received your nurture and training, Tullius, and who honoured you above all his friends and relations, has finished his destined course, the victim of an impious crime, without having either made any disposition by will of his private interests or left injunctions concerning the public business of the commonwealth, and without having had it in his power even to embrace any of us and utter his last farewells. And these unhappy children here are left destitute and orphaned and in imminent danger of their lives. For if the power falls into the hands of the Marcii, the murderers of their grandfather, they will be put to death by them in the most piteous manner. Even the lives of you men, to whom Tarquinius gave his daughters in preference to them, will not be safe, should his murderers obtain the sovereignty, any more than the lives of the rest of his friends and relations or of us miserable women; but they will endeavour to destroy us all both openly and secretly. 5 Bearing all this in mind, then, we must not permit the wicked murderers of Tarquinius and the enemies of us all to obtain so great power, but must oppose and prevent them, now by craft and deceit, since these means are necessary at present, but when our first attempt has succeeded, then coming to grips with them openly with all our might and with arms, if those too shall be necessary. But they will not be necessary if we are willing to take the proper measures now. 6 And what are these measures? Let us, in the first place, conceal the king's death and cause a report to be spread among the people that he has received no mortal wound, and let the physicians state that in a few days they will show him safe and sound. Then I will appear in public and will announce to the people, as if Tarquinius had so enjoined, that he has committed to one of his two sons-in‑law (naming you, Tullius) the care and guardianship both of his private interests and of the public business till he is recovered of his wounds; and the Romans, far from being displeased, will be glad to see the state administered by you, who often have administered it already in the past. 7 Then, when we have averted the present danger — for the power of our enemies will be at an end the moment the king is reported to be alive — do you assume the rods and the military power and summon before the people those who formed the plot to assassinate Tarquinius, beginning with the sons of Marcius, and cause them to stand trial. After you have punished all these, with death, if they submit to be tried, or with perpetual banishment and the confiscation of their estates, if they let their case go by default, which I think they will be more apt to do, then at last set about establishing your government. Win the affections of the people by kindly affability, take great care that no injustice be committed, and gain the favour of the poorer citizens by sundry benefactions and gifts. Afterwards, when we see a proper time, let us announce that Tarquinius is dead and hold a public funeral for him. 8 And as for you, Tullius, if you, who have been brought up and educated by us, have partaken of every advantage that sons receive from their mother and father, and are married to our daughter, shall in addition actually become king of the Romans, it is but just, since I helped to win this also for you, that you should show all the kindness of a father to these little children, and when they come to manhood and are capable of handling public affairs, that you should appoint the elder to be leader of the Romans."

[5] With these words she thrust each of the children in turn into the arms of both her son-in‑law and her daughter and roused great compassion in them both; then, when it was the proper time, she went out of the room and ordered the servants to get everything ready for dressing the king's wounds and to call the physicians. And letting that night pass, the next day, when the people flocked in great numbers to the palace, she appeared at the windows that gave upon the narrow street before the gates and first informed them who the persons were who had plotted the murder of the king, and produced in chains those whom they had sent to commit the deed. 2 Then, finding that many lamented the calamity and were angry at the authors of it, she at last told them that these men had gained naught from their wicked designs, since they had not been able to kill Tarquinius. This statement being received with universal joy, she then commended Tullius to them as the person appointed by the king to be the guardian of all his interests, both private and public, till he himself recovered. 3 The people, therefore, went away greatly rejoicing, in the belief that the king had suffered no fatal injury, and continued for a long time in that opinion. Afterwards Tullius, attended by a strong body of men and taking along the king's lictors, went to the Forum and caused proclamation to be made for the Marcii to appear and stand trial; and upon their failure to obey, he pronounced sentence of perpetual banishment against them, and having confiscated their property, he was now in secure possession of the sovereignty of Tarquinius.

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