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Chapter 2


See Romulus the great, born to restore The crown that once his injured grandsire wore. This prince a priestess of our blood shall bear; And like his sire in arms he shall appear.--John Dryden.


1. Scarcely was the city raised above its foundation, when its rude inhabitants began to think of giving some form to their constitution. Rom'ulus, by an act of great generosity, left them at liberty to choose whom they would for their king; and they, in gratitude, concurred to elect him for their founder. He, accordingly, was acknowledged as chief of their religion, sovereign magistrate of Rome, and general of the army. Beside a guard to attend his person, it was agreed, that he should be preceded wherever he went, by twelve lictors, each armed with an axe tied up in a bundle of rods;[1] these were to serve as executioners of the law, and to impress his new subjects with an idea of his authority.

2. The senate, who were to act as counsellors to the king, was composed of a hundred of the principal citizens of Rome, consisting of men whose age, wisdom, or valour, gave them a natural authority over their fellow-subjects. The king named the first senator, who was called prince of the senate, and appointed him to the government of the city, whenever war required his own absence.

3. The patricians, who composed the third part of the legislature, assumed to themselves the power of authorising those laws which were passed by the king, or the senate. All things relative to peace or war, to the election of magistrates, and even to the choosing a king, were confirmed by suffrages in their assemblies.

4. The plebeians were to till the fields, feed cattle, and follow trades; but not to have any share in the government, to avoid the inconveniences of a popular power.

5. The first care of the new-created king was, to attend to the interests of religion. The precise form of their worship is unknown; but the greatest part of the religion of that age consisted in a firm reliance upon the credit of their soothsayers, who pretended, from observation on the flight of birds, and the entrails of beasts, to direct the present, and to dive into futurity. Rom'ulus, by an express law, commanded that no election should be made, nor enterprise undertaken, without first consulting them.

6. Wives were forbidden, upon any pretext whatsoever, to separate from their husbands; while, on the contrary, the husband was empowered to repudiate the wife, and even, in some cases, to put her to death. The laws between children and their parents were still more severe; the father had entire power over his offspring, both of fortune and life; he could imprison and sell them at any time of their lives, or in any stations to which they were arrived.

7. After endeavouring to regulate his subjects by law, Rom'ulus next gave orders to ascertain their numbers. The whole amounted to no more than three thousand foot, and about as many hundred horsemen, capable of bearing arms. These, therefore, were divided equally into three tribes, and to each he assigned a different part of the city. Each of these tribes was subdivided into ten curię, or companies, consisting of a hundred men each, with a centurion to command it; a priest called curio, to perform the sacrifices, and two of the principal inhabitants, called duumviri, to distribute justice.

8. By these judicious regulations, each day added strength to the new city; multitudes of people flocked in from all the adjacent towns, and it only seemed to want women to insure its duration. In this exigence, Rom'ulus, by the advice of the senate, sent deputies among the Sab'ines, his neighbours, entreating their alliance; and, upon these terms, offering to cement the strictest confederacy with them. The Sab'ines, who were at that time considered as the most warlike people of Italy, rejected the proposal with disdain. 9. Rom'ulus, therefore, proclaimed a feast, in honour of Neptune,[2] throughout all the neighbouring villages, and made the most magnificent preparations for celebrating it. These feasts were generally preceded by sacrifices, and ended in shows of wrestlers, gladiators, and chariot-courses. The Sab'ines, as he had expected, were among the foremost who came to be spectators, bringing their wives and daughters with them, to share the pleasures of the sight. 10. In the mean time the games began, and while the strangers were most intent upon the spectacle, a number of the Roman youth rushed in among them with drawn swords, seized the youngest and most beautiful women, and carried them off by violence. In vain the parents protested against this breach of hospitality; the virgins were carried away and became the wives of the Romans.

11. A bloody war ensued. The cities of Cę'nina,[3] Antem'nę,[4] and Crustumi'num,[5] were the first who resolved to avenge the common cause, which the Sab'ines seemed too dilatory in pursuing. But all these, by making separate inroads, became an easy conquest to Rom'ulus, who made the most merciful use of his victories; instead of destroying their towns, or lessening their numbers, he only placed colonies of Romans in them, to serve as a frontier to repress more distant invasions.

12. Ta'tius, king of Cures, a Sabine city, was the last, although the most formidable, who undertook to revenge the disgrace his country had suffered. He entered the Roman territories at the head of twenty-five thousand men, and not content with a superiority of forces, he added stratagem also. 13. Tarpe'ia, who was daughter to the commander of the Capit'oline hill, happened to fall into his hands, as she went without the walls of the city to fetch water. Upon her he prevailed, by means of large promises, to betray one of the gates to his army. The reward she engaged for, was what the soldiers wore on their arms, by which she meant their bracelets. They, however, either mistaking her meaning, or willing to punish her perfidy, threw their bucklers upon her as they entered, and crushed her to death. 14. The Sab'ines being thus possessed of the Capit'oline, after some time a general engagement ensued, which was renewed for several days, with almost equal success, and neither army could think of submitting; it was in the valley between the Capit'oline and Quiri'nal hills that the last engagement was fought between the Romans and the Sab'ines. 15. The battle was now become general, and the slaughter prodigious; when the attention of both sides was suddenly turned from the scene of horror before them to another. The Sab'ine women, who had been carried off by the Romans, flew in between the combatants, with their hair loose, and their ornaments neglected, regardless of their own danger; and, with loud outcries, implored their husbands and their fathers to desist. Upon this the combatants, as if by natural impulse, let fall their weapons. 16. An accommodation ensued, by which it was agreed, that Rom'ulus and Ta'tius should reign jointly in Rome, with equal power and prerogative; that a hundred Sab'ines should be admitted into the senate; that the city should retain its former name, but the citizens, should be called Qui'rites, after Cu'res, the principal town of the Sab'ines; and that both nations being thus united, such of the Sab'ines as chose it, should be admitted to live in and enjoy all the privileges of citizens of Rome. 17. The conquest of Came'ria was the only military achievement under the two kings, and Ta'tius was killed about five years after by the Lavin'ians, for having protected some of his servants who had plundered them and slain their ambassadors; so that, by this accident, Rom'ulus once more saw himself sole monarch of Rome. 18. Soon after the death of Ta'tius, a cruel plague and famine having broken out at Rome, the Camerini embraced the opportunity to lay waste the Roman territory. But Rom'ulus gave them battle, killed six thousand on the spot, and returned in triumph to Rome. He took likewise Fidenę, a city about forty furlongs distant from his capital, and reduced the Veien'tes to submission.

19. Successes like these produced an equal share of pride in the conqueror. From being contented with those limits which had been wisely assigned to his power, he began to affect absolute sway, and to controul those laws to which he had himself formerly professed implicit obedience. The senate was particularly displeased at his conduct, as they found themselves used only as instruments to ratify the rigour of his commands. 20. We are not told the precise manner which they employed to get rid of the tyrant. Some say that he was torn in pieces in the senate-house; others, that he disappeared while reviewing his army; certain it is, that, from the secrecy of the fact, and the concealment of the body, they took occasion to persuade the multitude that he was taken up into heaven; thus, him whom they could not bear as a king, they were contented to worship as a god. Rom'ulus reigned thirty-seven years; and, after his death, had a temple built to him, under the name of Quiri'nus.


Questions for Examination.

1. What were the first proceedings of the rude inhabitants of Rome?

2. Of whom was the senate composed?

3. Who were the patricians?

4. Who were the plebeians?

5. What was the first care of the new king? In what did the Religion of Rome consist?

6. What were the laws between husband and wife, and between parents and children?

7. What were the regulations directed by Romulus?

8. What was the result of these regulations?

9. What conduct did Romulus adopt in consequence?

10. What treatment did the Sabines experience?

11. Did they tamely acquiesce in this outrage?

12. Who undertook to revenge the disgrace of the Sabines?

13. What was this stratagem, and how was its perpetrator rewarded?

14. Did the possession of the Capitoline put an end to the war?

15. What put a stop to this sanguinary conflict?

16. What were the terms of accommodation?

17. Was this joint sovereignty of long continuance?

18. Was Romulus successful in military affairs?

19. What was the consequence?

20. What was the manner of his death?



[1] This symbol of authority was borrowed from his neighbours, the Istrurians.

[2] More properly in honour of Con'sus, a deity of Sabine origin, whom the Romans, in a later age, confounded with Neptune. (See Keightley's Mythology.)

[3] A town of Latium, near Rome. (Livy.)

[4] A city of the Sabines, between Rome and the Anio, from whence its name,--Ante Amnem. (Dionys. Hal.)

[5] A town of Etruria, near Veii. (Virg.)

Oliver Goldsmith