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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book II Chapter 9: Porsena's Attempt to Restore the Tarquins.[508 BC]
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The Tarquins had now taken refuge with Porsena, the King of Clusium, whom they sought to influence by entreaty mixed with warnings. At one time they entreated him not to allow men of Etruscan race, of the same blood as himself, to wander as penniless exiles; at another they would warn him not to let the new fashion of expelling kings go unpunished. Liberty, they urged, possessed fascination enough in itself; unless kings defend their authority with as much energy as their subjects show in quest of liberty, all things come to a dead level, there will be no one thing preeminent or superior to all else in the State; there will soon be an end of kingly power, which is the most beautiful thing, whether amongst gods or amongst mortal men. Porsena considered that the presence of an Etruscan upon the Roman throne would be an honour to his nation; accordingly he advanced with an army against Rome. Never before had the senate been in such a state of alarm, so great at that time was the power of Clusium and the reputation of Porsena. They feared not only the enemy but even their own fellow-citizens, lest the plebs, overcome by their fears, should admit the Tarquins into the City, and accept peace even though it meant slavery. Many concessions were made at that time to the plebs by the senate. Their first care was to lay in a stock of corn, and commissioners were despatched to Vulsi and Cumae to collect supplies. The sale of salt, hitherto in the hands of private individuals who had raised the price to a high figure, was now wholly transferred to the State. The plebs were exempted from the payment of harbour-dues and the war-tax, so that they might fall on the rich, who could bear the burden; the poor were held to pay sufficient to the State if they brought up their children. This generous action of the senate maintained the harmony of the common-wealth through the subsequent stress of siege and famine so completely that the name of king was not more abhorrent to the highest than it was to the lowest, nor did any demagogue ever succeed in becoming so popular in after times as the senate was then by its beneficent legislation. |
Event: War of Porsena against Rome.