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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book I Chapter 47: The Assassination of the King (Cont.)
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From that time the old age of Tullius became more embittered, his reign more unhappy. The woman [Note 1] began to look forward from one crime to another; she allowed her husband no rest day or night, for fear lest the past murders should prove fruitless. What she wanted, she said, was not a man who was only her husband in name, or with whom she was to live in uncomplaining servitude; the man she needed was one who deemed himself worthy of a throne, who remembered that he was the son of Priscus Tarquinius, who preferred to wear a crown rather than live in hopes of it [Note 2]. |
"If you are the man to whom I thought I was married, then I call you my husband and my king; but if not, I have changed my condition for the worse, since you are not only a coward but a criminal to boot. Why do you not prepare yourself for action? You are not, like your father, a native of Corinth or Tarquinii, nor is it a foreign crown you have to win. Your father's household gods, your father's image, the royal royal palace, the kingly throne within it, the very name of Tarquin, all declare you king. If you have not courage enough for this, why do you excite vain hopes in the State? Why do you allow yourself to be looked up to as a youth of kingly stock?
Make your way back to Tarquinii or Corinth, sink back to the position whence you sprung; you have your brother's nature rather than your father's." [Note 3] With taunts like these she egged him on. She, too, was perpetually haunted by the thought that whilst Tanaquil, a woman of alien descent, had shown such spirit as to give the crown to her husband and her son-in-law in succession, she herself, though of royal descent, had no power either in giving it or taking it away. Infected by the woman's madness Tarquin began to go about and interview the nobles, mainly those of the Lesser Houses; he reminded them of the favour his father had shown them, and asked them to prove their gratitude; he won over the younger men with presents. By making magnificent promises as to what he would do, and by bringing charges against the king, his cause became stronger amongst all ranks.
At last, when he thought the time for action had arrived, he appeared suddenly in the Forum with a body of armed men. A general panic ensued, during which he seated himself in the royal chair in the senate-house and ordered the Fathers to be summoned by the crier "into the presence of king Tarquin." They hastily assembled, some already prepared for what was coming; others, apprehensive lest their absence should arouse suspicion, and dismayed by the extraordinary nature of the incident, were convinced that the fate of Servius was sealed. Tarquin went back to the king's birth, protested that he was a slave and the son of a slave, and after his (the speaker's) father had been foully murdered, seized the throne, as a woman's gift, without any interrex being appointed as heretofore, without any assembly being convened, without any vote of the people being taken or any confirmation of it by the Fathers. Such was his origin, such was his right to the crown. His sympathies were with the dregs of society from which he had sprung, and through jealousy of the ranks to which he did not belong, he had taken the land from the foremost men in the State and divided it amongst the vilest; he had shifted on to them the whole of the burdens which had formerly been borne in common by all; he had instituted the census that the fortunes of the wealthy might be held up to envy, and be an easily available source from which to shower doles, whenever he pleased, upon the neediest.
Note 1: woman = Tullia the Younger