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Chapter 3


When pious Numa reigned, Bellona's voice No longer called the Roman youth to arms; In peaceful arts he bid her sons rejoice, And tranquil live, secure from war's alarms.--Brooke.


1. Upon the death of Rom'ulus, the city seemed greatly divided in the choice of a successor. The Sab'ines were for having a king chosen from their body; but the Romans could not endure the thoughts of advancing a stranger to the throne. In this perplexity, the senators undertook to supply the place of the king, by taking the government each of them in turn, for five days, and during that time enjoying all the honours and all the privileges of royalty. 2. This new form of government continued for a year; but the plebeians, who saw this method of transferring power was only multiplying their masters, insisted upon altering that mode of government. The senate being thus driven to an election, at length pitched upon Nu'ma Pompil'ius, a Sab'ine, and their choice was received with universal approbation by the people.[1]

3. Nu'ma Pompil'ius, who was now about forty, had long been eminent for his piety, his justice, his moderation, and exemplary life. He was skilled in all the learning and philosophy of the Sab'ines, and lived at home at Cu'res,[2] contented with a private fortune; unambitious of higher honours. It was not, therefore, without reluctance, that he accepted the dignity; which, when he did so, produced such joy, that the people seemed not so much to receive a king as a kingdom.

4. No monarch could be more proper for them than Nu'ma, at a conjuncture when the government was composed of various petty states lately subdued, and but ill united to each other: they wanted a master who could, by his laws and precepts, soften their fierce dispositions; and, by his example, induce them to a love of religion, and every milder virtue. 5. Numa's whole time, therefore, was spent in inspiring his subjects with a love of piety, and a veneration for the gods. He built many new temples, instituted sacred offices and feasts; and the sanctity of his life gave strength to his assertion--that he had a particular correspondence with the goddess _Ege'ria_. By her advice he built the temple of _Janus_, which was to be shut in time of peace, and open in war. He regulated the appointment of the vestal virgins, and added considerably to the privileges which they had previously enjoyed.

6. For the encouragement of agriculture, he divided those lands, which Romulus had gained in war, among the poorer part of the people; he regulated the calendar, and abolished the distinction between Romans and Sabines, by dividing the people according to their several trades, and compelling them to live together. Thus having arrived at the age of fourscore years, and having reigned forty-three in profound peace, he died, ordering his body, contrary to the custom of the times, to be buried in a stone coffin; and his books of ceremonies, which consisted of twelve in Latin, and as many in Greek, to be buried by his side in another.[3]


Questions for Examination.

1. Upon the death of Romulus, what took place in regard to his successor?

2. How long did this order of things continue?

3. What was the character of Numa Pompilius?

4. Was Numa a monarch suited to this peculiar conjuncture?

5. Relate the acts of Numa?

6. What were the further acts of Numa?

7. What orders did he leave at his death?



[1] Nu'ma Pompil'ius was the fourth son of Pompil'ius Pom'po, an illustrious Sab'ine. He had married Ta'tia, the daughter of Ta'tius, the colleague of Rom'ulus, and on the death of his wife, gave himself up entirely to solitude and study. (Plutarch--Livy.)

[2] More probably at Quirium, the Sabine town which was united with Rome. (See Introduction, Chap. II.)

[3] The age of Nu'ma is scarcely more historical than that of Rom'ulus, but the legends respecting it are fewer and partake less of extravagance. Indeed, he had himself discouraged the songs of the bards, by ordering the highest honours to be paid to Tac'ita, the Came'na or Muse of Silence. His memory was best preserved by the religious ceremonies ascribed to him by universal tradition. The later poets loved to dwell on his peaceful virtues, and on the pure affection that existed between him and the nymph Egeria. They tell us that when the king served up a moderate repast to his guests on earthen-ware, she suddenly changed the dishes into gold, and the plain food into the most sumptuous viands. They also add, that when he died, Egeria melted away in tears for his loss, and was changed into a fountain.

Oliver Goldsmith