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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book I Chapter 48: The Assassination of the King (Cont.)
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Servius had been summoned by a breathless messenger, and arrived on the scene while Tarquin was speaking. As soon as he reached the vestibule, he exclaimed in loud tones, "What is the meaning of this, Tarquin? How dared you, with such insolence, convene the senate or sit in that chair whilst I am alive?" Tarquin replied fiercely that he was occupying his father's seat, that a king's son was a much more legitimate heir to the throne than a slave, and that he, Servius, in playing his reckless game, had insulted his masters long enough. Shouts arose from their respective partisans, the people made a rush to the senate-house, and it was evident that he who won the fight would reign. Then Tarquin, forced by sheer necessity into proceeding to the last extremity, seized Servius round the waist, and being a much younger and stronger man, carried him out of the senate-house and flung him down the steps into the Forum below. He then returned to call the senate to order. The officers and attendants of the king fled. The king himself, half dead from the violence, was put to death by those whom Tarquin had sent in pursuit of him. It is the current belief that this was done at Tullia's suggestion, for it is quite in keeping with the rest of her wickedness. At all events, it is generally agreed that she drove down to the Forum in a two-wheeled car, and, unabashed by the presence of the crowd, called her husband out of the senate-house and was the first to salute him as king. He told her to make her way out of the tumult, and when on her return she had got as far as the top of the Cyprius Vicus, where the temple of Diana lately stood, and was turning to the right on the Urbius Clivus, to get to the Esquiline, the driver stopped horror-struck and pulled up, and pointed out to his mistress the corpse of the murdered Servius. Then, the tradition runs, a foul and unnatural crime was committed, the memory of which the place still bears for they call it the Vicus Sceleratus. It is said that Tullia, goaded to madness by the avenging spirits of her sister and her husband, drove right over her father's body, and carried back some of her father's blood with which the car and she herself were defiled to her own and her husband's house-hold gods, through whose anger a reign which began in wickedness was soon brought to a close by a like cause. |
Servius Tullius reigned forty-four years, and even a wise and good successor would have found it difficult to fill the throne as he had done. The glory of his reign was all the greater because with him perished all just and lawful kingship in Rome. Gentle and moderate as his sway had been, he had nevertheless, according to some authorities, formed the intention of laying it down, because it was vested in a single person, but this purpose of giving freedom to the State was cut short by that domestic crime.