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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book I Chapter 46: The Assassination of the King.
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Servius was now confirmed on the throne by long possession. It had, however, come to his ears that the young Tarquin was giving out that he was reigning without the assent of the people. He first secured the goodwill of the plebs by assigning to each householder a slice of the land which had been taken from the enemy. Then he was emboldened to put to them the question whether it was their will and resolve that he should reign. He was acclaimed as king by a unanimous vote such as no king before him had obtained. |
This action in no degree damped Tarquin's hopes of making his way to the throne, rather the reverse. He was a bold and aspiring youth, and his wife Tullia stimulated his restless ambition. He had seen that the granting of land to the commons was in defiance of the opinion of the senate, and he seized the opportunity it afforded him of traducing Servius and strengthening his own faction in that assembly. So it came about that the Roman palace afforded an instance of the crime which tragic poets have depicted [Note 1], with the result that the loathing felt for kings hastened the advent of liberty, and the crown won by villainy was the last that was worn.
This Lucius Tarquinius - whether he was the son or the grandson of king Priscus Tarquinius is not clear; if I should give him as the son I should have the preponderance of authorities - had a brother, Arruns Tarquinius, a youth of gentle character. The two Tullias, the king's daughters, had, as I have already stated, married these two brothers; and they themselves were of utterly unlike dispositions. It was, I believe, the good fortune of Rome which intervened to prevent two violent natures from being joined in marriage, in order that the reign of Servius Tullius might last long enough to allow the State to settle into its new constitution. The high-spirited one of the two Tullias was annoyed that there was nothing in her husband for her to work on in the direction of either greed or ambition. All her affections were transferred to the other Tarquin; he was her admiration, he, she said, was a man, he was really of royal blood. She despised her sister [Note 2] because having a man for her husband she was not animated by the spirit of a woman. Likeness of character soon drew them together, as evil usually consorts best with evil. But it was the woman who was the originator of all the mischief. She constantly held clandestine interviews with her sister's husband, to whom she unsparingly vilified alike her husband and her sister, asserting that it would have been better for her to have remained unmarried and he a bachelor, rather than for them each to be thus unequally mated, and fret in idleness through the poltroonery of others. Had heaven given her the husband she deserved, she would soon have seen the sovereignty which her father wielded established in her own house. She rapidly infected the young man with her own recklessness. Lucius Tarquin and the younger Tullia, by a double murder, cleared from their houses the obstacles to a fresh marriage; their nuptials were solemnised with the tacit acquiescence rather than the approbation of Servius.
Note 1: Sophocles in the Oedipus and Aeschylus in the Agamemnon.