OF THE ORIGIN OF THE ROMANS.
In Alba he shall fix his royal seat.--John Dryden.
1. The Romans were particularly desirous of being thought descendants of the gods, as if to hide the meanness of their real ancestry. _Æne'as_, the son of _Venus_ and _Anchi'ses_, having escaped from the destruction of Troy, after many adventures and dangers, arrived in Italy, A.M. 2294, where he was kindly received by Lati'nus, king of the Latins, who promised him his daughter Lavin'ia in marriage.
2. Turnus, king of the _Ru'tuli_, was the first who opposed Æne'as, he having long made pretensions to her himself. A war ensued, in which the Trojan hero was victorious, and Turnus slain. In consequence of this, Lavin'ia became the wife of Æne'as, who built a city to her honour, and called it Lavin'ium. Some time after, engaging in a war against _Mezen'tius_, one of the petty kings of the country, he was vanquished in turn, and died in battle, after a reign of four years. 3. Asca'nius his son, succeeded to the kingdom; and to him Sil'vius, a second son, whom he had by Lavin'ia. It would be tedious and uninteresting to recite a dry catalogue of the kings that followed, of whom we know little more than the names; it will be sufficient to say, that the succession continued for nearly four hundred years in the same family, and that Nu'mitor, the fifteenth from Æne'as, was the last king of Alba.
Nu'mitor, who took possession of the kingdom in consequence of his father's will, had a brother named Amu'lius, to whom were left the treasures which had been brought from Troy. 4. As riches too generally prevail against right, Amu'lius made use of his wealth to supplant his brother, and soon found means to possess himself of the kingdom. Not contented with the crime of usurpation, he added that of murder also. Nu'mitor's sons first fell a sacrifice to his suspicions; and to remove all apprehensions of being one day disturbed in his ill-gotten power, he caused Rhe'a Sil'via, his brother's only daughter, to become a vestal.
5. His precautions, however, were all frusrtrated in the event. Rhe'a Sil'via, and, according to tradition, Mars the god of war, were the parents of two boys, who were no sooner born, than devoted by the usurper to destruction. 7. The mother was condemned to be buried alive, the usual punishment for vestals who had violated their vows, and the twins were ordered to be flung into the river Tiber. 8. It happened, however, at the time this rigorous sentence was put into execution, that the river had, more than usual, overflowed its banks, so that the place where the children were thrown being distant from the main current, the water was too shallow to drown them. It is said by some, that they were exposed in a cradle, which, after floating for a time, was, by the water's retiring, left on dry ground; that a wolf, descending from the mountains to drink, ran, at the cry of the children, and fed them under a fig-tree, caressing and licking them as if they had been her own young, the infants hanging on to her as if she had been their mother, until Faus'tulus, the king's shepherd, struck with so surprising a sight, conveyed them home, and delivered them to his wife, Ac'ca Lauren'tia, to nurse, who brought them up as her own. 9. Others, however, assert, that from the vicious life of this woman, the shepherds had given her the nickname of Lupa, or wolf, which they suppose might possibly be the occasion of this marvellous story.
10. Romu'lus and Re'mus, the twins, in whatever manner preserved, seemed early to discover abilities and desires above the meanness of their supposed origin. From their very infancy, an air of superiority and grandeur seemed to discover their rank. They led, however, the shepherd's life like the rest; worked for their livelihood, and built their own huts. But pastoral idleness displeased them, and, from tending their flocks, they betook themselves to the chase. Then, no longer content with hunting wild beasts, they turned their strength against the robbers of their country, whom they often stripped of their plunder, and divided it among the shepherds. 11. The youths who continually joined them so increased in number, as to enable them to hold assemblies, and celebrate games. In one of their excursions, the two brothers were surprised. Re'mus was taken prisoner, carried before the king, and accused of being a plunderer and robber on Nu'mitor's lands. Rom'ulus had escaped; but Re'mus, the king sent to Nu'mitor, that he might do himself justice.
12. From many circumstances, Faus'tulus suspected the twins under his care to be the same that Amu'lius had exposed on the Ti'ber, and at length divulged his suspicions to Rom'ulus. Nu'mitor made the same discovery to Re'mus. From that time nothing was thought of but the tyrant's destruction. He was beset on all sides; and, during the amazement and distraction that ensued, was taken and slain; while Nu'mitor, who had been deposed for forty years, recognised his grandsons, and was once more placed on the throne.
13. The two brothers, leaving Nu'mitor the kingdom of Alba, determined to build a city upon the spot where they had been exposed and preserved. But a fatal desire of reigning seized them both, and created a difference between these noble youths, which terminated tragically. Birth right in the case of twins could claim no precedence; they therefore were advised by the king to take an omen from the flight of birds, to know to which of them the tutelar gods would decree the honour of governing the rising city, and, consequently, of being the director of the other. 14. In compliance with this advice, each took his station on a different hill. To Re'mus appeared six vultures; in the moment after, Rom'ulus saw twelve. Two parties had been formed for this purpose; the one declared for Re'mus, who first saw the vultures; the other for Rom'ulus, who saw the greater number. Each party called itself victorious; the one having the first omen, the other that which was most complete. This produced a contest which ended in a battle, wherein Re'mus was slain. It is even said, that he was killed by his brother, who, being provoked at his leaping contemptuously over the city wall, struck him dead upon the spot.
15. Rom'ulus being now sole commander and eighteen years of age, began the foundation of a city that was one day to give laws to the world. It was called Rome, after the name of the founder, and built upon the Palatine hill, on which he had taken his successful omen, A.M. 3252; ANTE c. 752. The city was at first nearly square, containing about a thousand houses. It was almost a mile in circumference, and commanded a small territory round it of eight miles over. 16. However, small as it appears, it was yet worse inhabited; and the first method made use of to increase its numbers, was the opening of a sanctuary for all malefactors and slaves, and such as were desirous of novelty; these came in great multitudes, and contributed to increase the number of our legislator's new subjects.
Questions for Examination.
1. What was the origin of the Romans?
2. Who first opposed Æneas, and what was the result?
3. Who were the successors of Æneas?
4. What was the conduct of Amulius?
5. What event frustrated his precautions?
6. What followed?
7. What was the sentence on Rhea Silvia and her children?
8. How were the children preserved?
9. What is supposed to have occasioned this marvellous story?
10. What was the character and conduct of Romulus and Remus?
11. In what manner were they surprised?
12. How was the birth of Romulus and Remus discovered, and what consequences followed?
13. What caused a difference between the brothers?
14. Relate the circumstances which followed?
15. By whom was Rome built, and what was then its situation?
16. By what means was the new city peopled?
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