Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, by Plutarch

Romulus

From whom, and for what reason, the city of Rome, a name so great in glory, and famous in the mouths of all men, was so first called, authors do not agree. Some are of opinion that the Pelasgians, wandering over the greater part of the habitable world, and subduing numerous nations, fixed themselves here, and, from their own great strength in war, called the city Rome. Others, that at the taking of Troy, some few that escaped and met with shipping, put to sea, and, driven by winds, were carried upon the coasts of Tuscany, and came to anchor off the mouth of the river Tiber, where their women, out of heart and weary with the sea, on its being proposed by one of the highest birth and best understanding amongst them, whose name was Roma, burnt the ships. With which act the men at first were angry, but afterwards, of necessity, seating themselves near Palatium, where things in a short while succeeded far better than they could hope, in that they found the country very good, and the people courteous, they not only did the lady Roma other honors, but added also this, of calling after her name the city which she had been the occasion of their founding. From this, they say, has come down that custom at Rome for women to salute their kinsmen and husbands with kisses; because these women, after they had burnt the ships, made use of such endearments when entreating and pacifying their husbands.

Some again say that Roma, from whom this city was so called, was daughter of Italus and Leucaria; or, by another account, of Telephus, Hercules’s son, and that she was married to Aeneas, or, according to others again, to Ascanius, Aeneas’s son. Some tell us that Romanus, the son of Ulysses and Circe, built it; some, Romus the son of Emathion, Diomede having sent him from Troy; and others, Romus, king of the Latins, after driving out the Tyrrhenians, who had come from Thessaly into Lydia, and from thence into Italy. Those very authors, too, who, in accordance with the safest account, make Romulus give the name to the city, yet differ concerning his birth and family. For some say, he was son to Aeneas and Dexithea, daughter of Phorbas, and was, with his brother Remus, in their infancy, carried into Italy, and being on the river when the waters came down in a flood, all the vessels were cast away except only that where the young children were, which being gently landed on a level bank of the river, they were both unexpectedly saved, and from them the place was called Rome. Some say, Roma, daughter of the Trojan lady above mentioned, was married to Latinus, Telemachus’s son, and became mother to Romulus; others, that Aemilia, daughter of Aeneas and Lavinia, had him by the god Mars; and others give you mere fables of his origin. For to Tarchetius, they say, king of Alba, who was a most wicked and cruel man, there appeared in his own house a strange vision, a male figure that rose out of a hearth, and stayed there for many days. There was an oracle of Tethys in Tuscany which Tarchetius consulted, and received an answer that a virgin should give herself to the apparition, and that a son should be born of her, highly renowned, eminent for valor, good fortune, and strength of body. Tarchetius told the prophecy to one of his own daughters, and commanded her to do this thing; which she avoiding as an indignity, sent her handmaid. Tarchetius, hearing this, in great anger imprisoned them both, purposing to put them to death; but being deterred from murder by the goddess Vesta in a dream, enjoined them for their punishment the working a web of cloth, in their chains as they were, which when they finished, they should be suffered to marry; but whatever they worked by day, Tarchetius commanded others to unravel in the night. In the meantime, the waiting-woman was delivered of two boys, whom Tarchetius gave into the hands of one Teratius, with command to destroy them; he, however, carried and laid them by the river side, where a wolf came and continued to suckle them, while birds of various sorts brought little morsels of food, which they put into their mouths; till a cow-herd, spying them, was first strangely surprised, but, venturing to draw nearer, took the children up in his arms. Thus they were saved, and, when they grew up, set upon Tarchetius and overcame him. This one Promathion says, who compiled a history of Italy.

But the story which is most believed and has the greatest number of vouchers was first published, in its chief particulars, amongst the Greeks by Diocles of Peparethus, whom Fabius Pictor also follows in most points. Here again there are variations, but in general outline it runs thus: the kings of Alba reigned in lineal descent from Aeneas and the succession devolved at length upon two brothers, Numitor and Amulius. Amulius proposed to divide things into two equal shares, and set as equivalent to the kingdom the treasure and gold that were brought from Troy. Numitor chose the kingdom; but Amulius, having the money, and being able to do more with that than Numitor, took his kingdom from him with great ease, and, fearing lest his daughter might have children, made her a Vestal, bound in that condition forever to live a single and maiden life. This lady some call Ilia, others Rhea, and others Silvia; however, not long after, she was, contrary to the established laws of the Vestals, discovered to be with child, and should have suffered the most cruel punishment, had not Antho, the king’s daughter, mediated with her father for her; nevertheless, she was confined, and debarred all company, that she might not be delivered without the king’s knowledge. In time she brought forth two boys, of more than human size and beauty, whom Amulius, becoming yet more alarmed, commanded a servant to take and cast away; this man some call Faustulus, others say Faustulus was the man who brought them up. He put the children, however, in a small trough, and went towards the river with a design to cast them in; but, seeing the waters much swollen and coming violently down, was afraid to go nearer, and, dropping the children near the bank, went away. The river overflowing, the flood at last bore up the trough, and, gently wafting it, landed them on a smooth piece of ground, which they now call Cermanes, formerly Germanus, perhaps from Germani, which signifies brothers.

Near this place grew a wild fig-tree, which they called Ruminalis, either from Romulus (as it is vulgarly thought), or from ruminating, because cattle did usually in the heat of the day seek cover under it, and there chew the cud; or, better, from the suckling of these children there, for the ancients called the dug or teat of any creature ruma, and there is a tutelar goddess of the rearing of children whom they still call Rumilia, in sacrificing to whom they use no wine, but make libations of milk. While the infants lay here, history tells us, a she-wolf nursed them, and a woodpecker constantly fed and watched them; these creatures are esteemed holy to the god Mars, the woodpecker the Latins still especially worship and honor. Which things, as much as any, gave credit to what the mother of the children said, that their father was the god Mars: though some say that it was a mistake put upon her by Amulius, who himself had come to her dressed up in armor.

Others think that the first rise of this fable came from the children’s nurse, through the ambiguity of her name; for the Latins not only called wolves lupae, but also women of loose life; and such an one was the wife of Faustulus, who nurtured these children, Acca Larentia by name. To her the Romans offer sacrifices, and in the month of April the priest of Mars makes libations there; it is called the Larentian Feast. They honor also another Larentia, for the following reason: the keeper of Hercules’s temple having, it seems, little else to do, proposed to his deity a game at dice, laying down that, if he himself won, he would have something valuable of the god; but if he were beaten, he would spread him a noble table, and procure him a fair lady’s company. Upon these terms, throwing first for the god and then for himself, he found himself beaten. Wishing to pay his stakes honorably, and holding himself bound by what he had said, he both provided the deity a good supper, and, giving money to Larentia, then in her beauty, though not publicly known, gave her a feast in the temple, where he had also laid a bed, and after supper locked her in, as if the god were really to come to her. And indeed, it is said, the deity did truly visit her, and commanded her in the morning to walk to the market-place, and, whatever man see met first, to salute him, and make him her friend. She met one named Tarrutius, who was a man advanced in years, fairly rich without children, and had always lived a single life. He received Larentia, and loved her well, and at his death left her sole heir of all his large and fair possessions, most of which she, in her last will and testament, bequeathed to the people. It was reported of her, being now celebrated and esteemed the mistress of a god, that she suddenly disappeared near the place where the first Larentia lay buried; the spot is at this day called Velabrum, because, the river frequently overflowing, they went over in ferry-boats somewhere hereabouts to the forum, the Latin word for ferrying being velatura. Others derive the name from velum, a sail; because the exhibitors of public shows used to hang the road that leads from the forum to the Circus Maximus with sails, beginning at this spot. Upon these accounts the second Larentia is honored at Rome.

Meantime Faustulus, Amulius’s swineherd, brought up the children without any man’s knowledge; or, as those say who wish to keep closer to probabilities, with the knowledge and secret assistance of Numitor; for it is said, they went to school at Gabii, and were well instructed in letters, and other accomplishments befitting their birth. And they were called Romulus and Remus, (from ruma, the dug,) as we had before, because they were found sucking the wolf. In their very infancy, the size and beauty of their bodies intimated their natural superiority; and when they grew up, they both proved brave and manly, attempting all enterprises that seemed hazardous, and showing in them a courage altogether undaunted. But Romulus seemed rather to act by counsel, and to show the sagacity of a statesman, and in all his dealings with their neighbors, whether relating to feeding of flocks or to hunting, gave the idea of being born rather to rule than to obey. To their comrades and inferiors they were therefore dear; but the king’s servants, his bailiffs and overseers, as being in nothing better men than themselves, they despised and slighted, nor were the least concerned at their commands and menaces. They used honest pastimes and liberal studies, not esteeming sloth and idleness honest and liberal, but rather such exercises as hunting and running, repelling robbers, taking of thieves, and delivering the wronged and oppressed from injury. For doing such things they became famous.

A quarrel occurring between Numitor’s and Amulius’s cowherds, the latter, not enduring the driving away of their cattle by the others, fell upon them and put them to flight, and rescued the greatest part of the prey. At which Numitor being highly incensed, they little regarded it, but collected and took into their company a number of needy men and runaway slaves — acts which looked like the first stages of rebellion. It so happened, that when Romulus was attending a sacrifice, being fond of sacred rites and divination, Numitor’s herdsmen, meeting with Remus on a journey with few companions, fell upon him, and, after some fighting, took him prisoner, carried him before Numitor, and there accused him. Numitor would not punish him himself, fearing his brother’s anger, but went to Amulius, and desired justice, as he was Amulius’s brother and was affronted by Amulius’s servants. The men of Alba likewise resenting the thing, and thinking he had been dishonorably used, Amulius was induced to deliver Remus up into Numitor’s hands, to use him as he thought fit. He therefore took and carried him home, and, being struck with admiration of the youth’s person, in stature and strength of body exceeding all men, and perceiving in his very countenance the courage and force of his mind, which stood unsubdued and unmoved by his present circumstances, and hearing further that all the enterprises and actions of his life were answerable to what he saw of him, but chiefly, as it seemed, a divine influence aiding and directing the first steps that were to lead to great results, out of the mere thought of his mind, and casually, as it were, he put his hand upon the fact, and, in gentle terms and with a kind aspect, to inspire him with confidence and hope, asked him who he was, and whence he was derived. He, taking heart, spoke thus: “ I will hide nothing from you, for you seem to be of a more princely temper than Amulius, in that you give a hearing and examine before you punish, while he condemns before the cause is heard. Formerly, then, we (for we are twins) thought ourselves the sons of Faustulus and Larentia, the king’s servants; but since we have been accused and aspersed with calumnies, and brought in peril of our lives here before you, we hear great things of ourselves, the truth of which my present danger is likely to bring to the test. Our birth is said to have been secret, our fostering and nurture in our infancy still more strange; by birds and beasts, to whom we were cast out, we were fed, by the milk of a wolf, and the morsels of a woodpecker, as we lay in a little trough by the side of the river. The trough is still in being, and is preserved, with brass plates round it, and an inscription in letters almost effaced; which may prove hereafter unavailing tokens to our parents when we are dead and gone.” Numitor, upon these words, and computing the dates by the young man’s looks, slighted not the hope that flattered him, but considered how to come at his daughter privately (for she was still kept under restraint), to talk with her concerning these matters.

Faustulus, hearing Remus was taken and delivered up, called on Romulus to assist in his rescue, informing him then plainly of the particulars of his birth, not but he had before given hints of it, and told as much as an attentive man might make no small conclusions from; he himself, full of concern and fear of not coming in time, took the trough, and ran instantly to Numitor; but giving a suspicion to some of the king’s sentry at his gate, and being gazed upon by them and perplexed with their questions, he let it be seen that he was hiding the trough under his cloak. By chance there was one among them who was at the exposing of the children, and was one employed in the office; he, seeing the trough and knowing it by its make and inscription, guessed at the business, and, without further delay, telling the king of it, brought in the man to be examined. Faustulus, hard beset, did not show himself altogether proof against terror; nor yet was he wholly forced out of all; confessed indeed the children were alive, but lived, he said, as shepherds, a great way from Alba; he himself was going to carry the trough to Ilia, who had often greatly desired to see and handle it, for a confirmation of her hopes of her children. As men generally do who are troubled in mind and act either in fear or passion, it so fell out Amulius now did; for he sent in haste as a messenger, a man, otherwise honest, and friendly to Numitor, with commands to learn from Numitor whether any tidings were come to him of the children’s being alive. He, coming and seeing how little Remus wanted of being received into the arms and embraces of Numitor, both gave him surer confidence in his hope, and advised them, with all expedition, to proceed to action; himself too joining and assisting them, and indeed, had they wished it, the time would not have let them demur. For Romulus was now come very near, and many of the citizens, out of fear and hatred of Amulius, were running out to join him; besides, he brought great forces with him, divided into companies, each of an hundred men, every captain carrying a small bundle of grass and shrubs tied to a pole. The Latins call such bundles manipuli and from hence it is that in their armies still they call their captains manipulares. Remus rousing the citizens within to revolt, and Romulus making attacks from without, the tyrant, not knowing either what to do, or what expedient to think of for his security, in this perplexity and confusion was taken and put to death. This narrative, for the most part given by Fabius and Diocles of Peparethus, who seem to be the earliest historians of the foundation of Rome, is suspected by some, because of its dramatic and fictitious appearance; but it would not wholly be disbelieved, if men would remember what a poet fortune sometimes shows herself, and consider that the Roman power would hardly have reached so high a pitch without a divinely ordered origin, attended with great and extraordinary circumstances.

Amulius now being dead and matters quietly disposed, the two brothers would neither dwell in Alba without governing there, nor take the government into their own hands during the life of their grandfather. Having therefore delivered the dominion up into his hands, and paid their mother befitting honor, they resolved to live by themselves, and build a city in the same place where they were in their infancy brought up. This seems the most honorable reason for their departure; though perhaps it was necessary, having such a body of slaves and fugitives collected about them, either to come to nothing by dispersing them, or if not so, then to live with them elsewhere. For that the inhabitants of Alba did not think fugitives worthy of being received and incorporated as citizens among them plainly appears from the matter of the women, an attempt made not wantonly but of necessity, because they could not get wives by good-will. For they certainly paid unusual respect and honor to those whom they thus forcibly seized.

Not long after the first foundation of the city, they opened a sanctuary of refuge for all fugitives, which they called the temple of the god Asylaeus, where they received and protected all, delivering none back, neither the servant to his master, the debtor to his creditor, nor the murderer into the hands of the magistrate, saying it was a privileged place, and they could so maintain it by an order of the holy oracle; insomuch that the city grew presently very populous, for, they say, it consisted at first of no more than a thousand houses.

But of that hereafter.

Their minds being fully bent upon building, there arose presently a difference about the place where. Romulus chose what was called Roma Quadrata, or the Square Rome, and would have the city there. Remus laid out a piece of ground on the Aventine Mount, well fortified by nature, which was from him called Remonium, but now Rignarium. Concluding at last to decide the contest by a divination from a flight of birds, and placing themselves apart at some distance, Remus, they say, saw six vultures, and Romulus double the number; others say Remus did truly see his number, and that Romulus feigned his, but, when Remus came to him, that then he did, indeed, see twelve. Hence it is that the Romans, in their divinations from birds, chiefly regard the vulture, though Herodorus Ponticus relates that Hercules was always very joyful when a vulture appeared to him upon any action. For it is a creature the least hurtful of any, pernicious neither to corn, fruit-tree, nor cattle; it preys only upon carrion, and never kills or hurts any living thing; and as for birds, it touches not them, though they are dead, as being of its own species, whereas eagles, owls, and hawks mangle and kill their own fellow-creatures; yet, as Aeschylus says —

What bird is clean that preys on fellow bird?

Besides all other birds are, so to say, never out of our eyes; they let themselves be seen of us continually; but a vulture is a very rare sight, and you can seldom meet with a man that has seen their young; their rarity and infrequency has raised a strange opinion in some, that they come to us from some other world; as soothsayers ascribe a divine origination to all things not produced either of nature or of themselves.

When Remus knew the cheat, he was much displeased; and as Romulus was casting up a ditch, where he designed the foundation of the citywall, he turned some pieces of the work to ridicule, and obstructed others: at last, as he was in contempt leaping over it, some say Romulus himself struck him, others Celer, one of his companions; he fell, however, and in the scuffle Faustulus also was slain, and Plistinus, who, being Faustulus’s brother, story tells us, helped to bring up Romulus. Celer upon this fled instantly into Tuscany, and from him the Romans call all men that are swift of foot Celeres; and because Quintus Metellus, at his father’s funeral, in a few days’ time gave the people a show of gladiators, admiring his expedition in getting it ready, they gave him the name of Celer.

Romulus, having buried his brother Remus, together with his two foster-fathers, on the mount Remonia, set to building his city; and sent for men out of Tuscany, who directed him by sacred usages and written rules in all the ceremonies to be observed, as in a religious rite. First, they dug a round trench about that which is now the Comitium, or Court of Assembly, and into it solemnly threw the first-fruits of all things either good by custom or necessary by nature; lastly, every man taking a small piece of earth of the country from whence he came, they all threw them in promiscuously together. This trench they call, as they do the heavens, Mundus; making which their center, they described the city in a circle round it. Then the founder fitted to a plow a brazen plowshare, and, yoking together a bull and a cow, drove himself a deep line or furrow round the bounds; while the business of those that followed after was to see that whatever earth was thrown up should be turned all inwards towards the city, and not to let any clod lie outside. With this line they described the wall, and called it, by a contraction, Pomoerium, that is, post murum, after or beside the wall; and where they designed to make a gate, there they took out the share, carried the plow over, and left a space; for which reason they consider the whole wall as holy, except where the gates are; for had they adjudged them also sacred, they could not, without offense to religion, have given free ingress and egress for the necessaries of human life, some of which are in themselves unclean.

As for the day they began to build the city, it is universally agreed to have been the twenty-first of April, and that day the Romans annually keep holy, calling it their country’s birthday. At first, they say, they sacrificed no living creature on this day, thinking it fit to preserve the feast of their country’s birthday pure and without stain of blood. Yet before ever the city was built, there was a feast of herdsmen and shepherds kept on this day, which went by the name of Palilia. The Roman and Greek months have now little or no agreement; they say, however, the day on which Romulus began to build was quite certainly the thirtieth of the month, at which time there was an eclipse of the sun which they conceive to be that seen by Antimachus, the Teian poet, in the third year of the sixth Olympiad. In the times of Varro the philosopher, a man deeply read in Roman history, lived one Tarrutius, his familiar acquaintance, a good philosopher and mathematician, and one, too, that out of curiosity had studied the way of drawing schemes and tables, and was thought to be a proficient in the art; to him Varro propounded to cast Romulus’s nativity, even to the first day and hour, making his deductions from the several events of the man’s life which he should be informed of, exactly as in working back a geometrical problem; for it belonged, he said, to the same science both to foretell a man’s life by knowing the time of his birth, and also to find out his birth by the knowledge of his life. This task Tarrutius undertook, and first looking into the actions and casualties of the man, together with the time of his life and manner of his death, and then comparing all these remarks together, he very confidently and positively pronounced that Romulus was conceived in his mother’s womb the first year of the second Olympiad, the twenty-third day of the month the Egyptians call Choeac, and the third hour after sunset, at which time there was a total eclipse of the sun; that he was born the twenty-first day of the month Thoth, about sun-rising; and that the first stone of Rome was laid by him the ninth day of the month Pharmuthi, between the second and third hour. For the fortunes of cities as well as of men, they think, have their certain periods of time prefixed, which may be collected and foreknown from the position of the stars at their first foundation. But these and the like relations may perhaps not so much take and delight the reader with their novelty and curiosity, as offend him by their extravagance.

The city now being built, Romulus enlisted all that were of age to bear arms into military companies, each company consisting of three thousand footmen and three hundred horse. These companies were called legions, because they were the choicest and most select of the people for fighting men. The rest of the multitude he called the people; one hundred of the most eminent he chose for counselors; these he styled patricians, and their assembly the senate, which signifies a council of elders. The patricians, some say, were so called because they were the fathers of lawful children; others, because they could give a good account who their own fathers were, which not every one of the rabble that poured into the city at first could do; others, from patronage, their word for protection of inferiors, the origin of which they attribute to Patron, one of those that came over with Evander, who was a great protector and defender of the weak and needy. But perhaps the most probable judgment might be, that Romulus, esteeming it the duty of the chiefest and wealthiest men, with a fatherly care and concern to look after the meaner, and also encouraging the commonalty not to dread or be aggrieved at the honors of their superiors, but to love and respect them, and to think and call them their fathers, might from hence give them the name of patricians. For at this very time all foreigners give senators the style of lords; but the Romans, making use of a more honorable and less invidious name, call them Patres Conscripti; at first indeed simply Patres, but afterwards, more being added, Patres Conscripti. By this more imposing title he distinguished the senate from the populace; and in other ways also separated the nobles and the commons — calling them patrons, and these their clients — by which means he created wonderful love and amity between them, productive of great justice in their dealings. For they were always their clients’ counselors in law cases, their advocates in courts of justice, in fine their advisers and supporters in all affairs whatever. These again faithfully served their patrons, not only paying them all respect and deference, but also, in case of poverty, helping them to portion their daughters and pay off their debts; and for a patron to witness against his client, or a client against his patron, was what no law nor magistrate could enforce. In after times all other duties subsisting still between them, it was thought mean and dishonorable for the better sort to take money from their inferiors. And so much of these matters.

In the fourth month, after the city was built, as Fabius writes, the adventure of stealing the women was attempted; and some say Romulus himself, being naturally a martial man, and predisposed too, perhaps, by certain oracles, to believe the fates had ordained the future growth and greatness of Rome should depend upon the benefit of war, upon these accounts first offered violence to the Sabines, since he took away only thirty virgins, more to give an occasion of war than out of any want of women. But this is not very probable; it would seem rather that, observing his city to be filled by a confluence of foreigners, few of whom had wives, and that the multitude in general, consisting of a mixture of mean and obscure men, fell under contempt, and seemed to be of no long continuance together, and hoping farther, after the women were appeased, to make this injury in some measure an occasion of confederacy and mutual commerce with the Sabines, he took in hand this exploit after this manner. First, he gave it out as if he had found an altar of a certain god hid under ground; the god they called Consus, either the god of counsel (for they still call a consultation consilium and their chief magistrates consules, namely, counselors), or else the equestrian Neptune, for the altar is kept covered in the circus maximus at all other times, and only at horse-races is exposed to public view; others merely say that this god had his altar hid under ground because counsel ought to be secret and concealed. Upon discovery of this altar, Romulus, by proclamation, appointed a day for a splendid sacrifice, and for public games and shows, to entertain all sorts of people; many flocked thither, and he himself sat in front, amidst his nobles, clad in purple. Now the signal for their falling on was to be whenever he rose and gathered up his robe and threw it over his body; his men stood all ready armed, with their eyes intent upon him, and when the sign was given, drawing their swords and falling on with a great shout, they ravished away the daughters of the Sabines, they themselves flying without any let or hindrance. They say there were but thirty taken, and from them the Curiae or Fraternities were named; but Valerius Antias says five hundred and twenty-seven, Juba, six hundred and eighty-three virgins; which was indeed the greatest excuse Romulus could allege, namely, that they had taken no married woman, save one only, Hersilia by name, and her too unknowingly; which showed they did not commit this rape wantonly, but with a design purely of forming alliance with their neighbors by the greatest and surest bonds. This Hersilia some say Hostilius married, a most eminent man among the Romans; others, Romulus himself, and that she bore two children to him, a daughter, by reason of primogeniture called Prima, and one only son, whom, from the great concourse of citizens to him at that time, he called Aollius, but after ages Abillius. But Zenodotus the Troezenian, in giving this account, is contradicted by many.

Among those who committed this rape upon the virgins, there were, they say, as it so then happened, some of the meaner sort of men, who were carrying off a damsel, excelling all in beauty and comeliness of stature, whom when some of superior rank that met them attempted to take away, they cried out they were carrying her to Talasius, a young man, indeed, but brave and worthy; hearing that, they commended and applauded them loudly, and also some, turning back, accompanied them with good-will and pleasure, shouting out the name of Talasius. Hence the Romans to this very time, at their weddings, sing Talasius for their nuptial word, as the Greeks do Hymenaeus, because, they say, Talasius was very happy in his marriage. But Sextius Sylla the Carthaginian, a man wanting neither learning nor ingenuity, told me Romulus gave this word as a sign when to begin the onset; everybody, therefore, who made prize of a maiden, cried out, Talasius; and for that reason the custom continues so now at marriages. But most are of opinion (of whom Juba particularly is one) that this word was used to new-married women by way of incitement to good housewifery and talasia (spinning), as we say in Greek, Greek words at that time not being as yet overpowered by Italian. But if this be the case, and if the Romans did at that time use the word talasia as we do, a man might fancy a more probable reason of the custom. For when the Sabines, after the war against the Romans, were reconciled, conditions were made concerning their women, that they should be obliged to do no other servile offices to their husbands but what concerned spinning; it was customary, therefore, ever after, at weddings, for those that gave the bride or escorted her or otherwise were present, sportingly to say Talasius, intimating that she was henceforth to serve in spinning and no more. It continues also a custom at this very day for the bride not of herself to pass her husband’s threshold, but to be lifted over, in memory that the Sabine virgins were carried in by violence, and did not go in of their own will. Some say, too, the custom of parting the bride’s hair with the head of a spear was in token their marriages began at first by war and acts of hostility, of which I have spoken more fully in my book of Questions.

This rape was committed on the eighteenth day of the month Sextilis, now called August, on which the solemnities of the Consualia are kept.

The Sabines were a numerous and martial people, but lived in small, unfortified villages, as it befitted, they thought, a colony of the Lacedaemonians to be bold and fearless; nevertheless, seeing themselves bound by such hostages to their good behavior, and being solicitous for their daughters, they sent ambassadors to Romulus with fair and equitable requests, that he would return their young women and recall that act of violence, and afterwards, by persuasion and lawful means, seek friendly correspondence between both nations. Romulus would not part with the young women, yet proposed to the Sabines to enter into an alliance with them; upon which point some consulted and demurred long, but Acron, king of the Ceninenses, a man of high spirit and a good warrior, who had all along a jealousy of Romulus’s bold attempts, and considering particularly from this exploit upon the women that he was growing formidable to all people, and indeed insufferable, were he not chastised, first rose up in arms, and with a powerful army advanced against him. Romulus likewise prepared to receive him; but when they came within sight and viewed each other, they made a challenge to fight a single duel, the armies standing by under arms, without participation. And Romulus, making a vow to Jupiter, if he should conquer, to carry, himself, and dedicate his adversary’s armor to his honor, overcame him in combat, and, a battle ensuing, routed his army also, and then took his city; but did those he found in it no injury, only commanded them to demolish the place and attend him to Rome, there to be admitted to all the privileges of citizens. And indeed there was nothing did more advance the greatness of Rome, than that she did always unite and incorporate those whom she conquered into herself. Romulus, that he might perform his vow in the most acceptable manner to Jupiter, and withal make the pomp of it delightful to the eye of the city, cut down a tall oak which he saw growing in the camp, which he trimmed to the shape of a trophy, and fastened on it Acron’s whole suit of armor disposed in proper form; then he himself, girding his clothes about him, and crowning his head with a laurel-garland, his hair gracefully flowing, carried the trophy resting erect upon his right shoulder, and so marched on, singing songs of triumph, and his whole army following after, the citizens all receiving him with acclamations of joy and wonder. The procession of this day was the origin and model of all after triumphs. This trophy was styled an offering to Jupiter Feretrius, from ferire, which in Latin is to smite; for Romulus prayed he might smite and overthrow his enemy; and the spoils were called opima, or royal spoils, says Varro, from their richness, which the word opes signifies; though one would more probably conjecture from opus, an act; for it is only to the general of an army who with his own hand kills his enemies’ general that this honor is granted of offering the opima spolia. And three only of the Roman captains have had it conferred on them: first, Romulus, upon killing Acron the Ceninensian; next, Cornelius Cossus, for slaying Tolumnius the Tuscan; and lastly, Claudius Marcellus, upon his conquering Viridomarus, king of the Gauls. The two latter, Cossus and Marcellus, made their entries in triumphant chariots, bearing their trophies themselves; but that Romulus made use of a chariot, Dionysius is wrong in asserting. History says, Tarquinius, Damaratus’s son, was the first that brought triumphs to this great pomp and grandeur; others, that Publicola was the first that rode in triumph. The statues of Romulus in triumph are, as may be seen in Rome, all on foot.

After the overthrow of the Ceninensians, the other Sabines still protracting the time in preparations, the people of Fidenae, Crustumerium, and Antemna, joined their forces against the Romans; they in like manner were defeated in battle, and surrendered up to Romulus their cities to be seized, their lands and territories to be divided, and themselves to be transplanted to Rome. All the lands which Romulus acquired, he distributed among the citizens, except only what the parents of the stolen virgins had; these he suffered to possess their own. The rest of the Sabines, enraged hereat, choosing Tatius their captain, marched straight against Rome. The city was almost inaccessible, having for its fortress that which is now the Capitol, where a strong guard was placed, and Tarpeius their captain; not Tarpeia the virgin, as some say who would make Romulus a fool. But Tarpeia, daughter to the captain, coveting the golden bracelets she saw them wear, betrayed the fort into the Sabines’ hands, and asked, in reward of her treachery, the things they wore on their left arms. Tatius conditioning thus with her, in the night she opened one of the gates, and received the Sabines in. And truly Antigonus, it would seem, was not solitary in saying, he loved betrayers, but hated those who had betrayed; nor Caesar, who told Rhymitalces the Thracian, that he loved the treason, but hated the traitor; but it is the general feeling of all who have occasion for wicked men’s service, as people have for the poison of venomous beasts; they are glad of them while they are of use, and abhor their baseness when it is over. And so then did Tatius behave towards Tarpeia, for he commanded the Sabines, in regard to their contract, not to refuse her the least part of what they wore on their left arms; and he himself first took his bracelet of his arm, and threw that, together with his buckler, at her; and all the rest following, she, being borne down and quite buried with the multitude of gold and their shields, died under the weight and pressure of them; Tarpeius also himself, being prosecuted by Romulus, was found guilty of treason, as Juba says Sulpicius Galba relates. Those who write otherwise concerning Tarpeia, as that she was the daughter of Tatius, the Sabine captain, and, being forcibly detained by Romulus, acted and suffered thus by her father’s contrivance, speak very absurdly, of whom Antigonus is one. And Simylus, the poet, who thinks Tarpeia betrayed the Capitol, not to the Sabines, but the Gauls, having fallen in love with their king, talks mere folly, saying thus:—

Tarpeia ’twas, who, dwelling close thereby,

Laid open Rome unto the enemy.
She, for the love of the besieging Gaul,
Betrayed the city’s strength, the Capitol.

And a little after, speaking of her death:—

The numerous nations of the Celtic foe
Bore her not living to the banks of Po;
Their heavy shields upon the maid they threw,
And with their splendid gifts entombed at once and slew.

Tarpeia afterwards was buried there, and the hill from her was called Tarpeius, until the reign of king Tarquin, who dedicated the place to Jupiter, at which time her bones were removed, and so it lost her name, except only that part of the Capitol which they still call the Tarpeian Rock, from which they used to cast down malefactors.

The Sabines being possessed of the hill, Romulus, in great fury, bade them battle, and Tatius was confident to accept it, perceiving, if they were overpowered, that they had behind them a secure retreat. The level in the middle, where they were to join battle, being surrounded with many little hills, seemed to enforce both parties to a sharp and desperate conflict, by reason of the difficulties of the place, which had but a few outlets, inconvenient either for refuge or pursuit. It happened, too, the river having overflowed not many days before, there was left behind in the plain, where now the forum stands, a deep blind mud and slime, which, though it did not appear much to the eye, and was not easily avoided, at bottom was deceitful and dangerous; upon which the Sabines being unwarily about to enter, met with a piece of good fortune; for Curtius, a gallant man, eager of honor, and of aspiring thoughts, being mounted on horseback, was galloping on before the rest, and mired his horse here, and, endeavoring for awhile by whip and spur and voice to disentangle him, but finding it impossible, quitted him and saved himself; the place from him to this very time is called the Curtian Lake. The Sabines, having avoided this danger, began the fight very smartly, the fortune of the day being very dubious, though many were slain; amongst whom was Hostilius, who, they say, was husband to Hersilia, and grandfather to that Hostilius who reigned after Numa. There were many other brief conflicts, we may suppose, but the most memorable was the last, in which Romulus having received a wound on his head by a stone, and being almost felled to the ground by it, and disabled, the Romans gave way, and, being driven out of the level ground, fled towards the Palatium. Romulus, by this time recovering from his wound a little, turned about to renew the battle, and, facing the fliers, with a loud voice encouraged them to stand and fight. But being overborne with numbers, and nobody daring to face about, stretching out his hands to heaven, he prayed to Jupiter to stop the army, and not to neglect but maintain the Roman cause, now in extreme danger. The prayer was no sooner made, than shame and respect for their king checked many; the fears of the fugitives changed suddenly into confidence. The place they first stood at was where now is the temple of Jupiter Stator (which may be translated the Stayer); there they rallied again into ranks, and repulsed the Sabines to the place called now Regia, and to the temple of Vesta; where both parties, preparing to begin a second battle, were prevented by a spectacle, strange to behold, and defying description. For the daughters of the Sabines, who had been carried off, came running, in great confusion, some on this side, some on that, with miserable cries and lamentations, like creatures possessed, in the midst of the army, and among the dead bodies, to come at their husbands and their fathers, some with their young babes in their arms, others their hair loose about their ears, but all calling, now upon the Sabines, now upon the Romans, in the most tender and endearing words. Hereupon both melted into compassion, and fell back, to make room for them between the armies. The sight of the women carried sorrow and commiseration upon both sides into the hearts of all, but still more their words, which began with expostulation and upbraiding, and ended with entreaty and supplication.

“Wherein,” say they, “have we injured or offended you, as to deserve such sufferings, past and present? We were ravished away unjustly and violently by those whose now we are; that being done, we were so long neglected by our fathers, our brothers, and countrymen, that time, having now by the strictest bonds united us to those we once mortally hated, has made it impossible for us not to tremble at the danger and weep at the death of the very men who once used violence to us. You did not come to vindicate our honor, while we were virgins, against our assailants; but do come now to force away wives from their husbands and mothers from their children, a succor more grievous to its wretched objects than the former betrayal and neglect of them. Which shall we call the worst, their love-making or your compassion? If you were making war upon any other occasion, for our sakes you ought to withhold your hands from those to whom we have made you fathers-in-law and grandsires. If it be for our own cause, then take us, and with us your sons-in-law and grandchildren. Restore to us our parents and kindred, but do not rob us of our children and husbands. Make us not, we entreat you, twice captives.” Hersilia having spoken many such words as these, and the others earnestly praying, a truce was made, and the chief officers came to a parley; the women, in the mean time, brought and presented their husbands and children to their fathers and brothers; gave those that wanted, meat and drink, and carried the wounded home to be cured, and showed also how much they governed within doors, and how indulgent their husbands were to them, in demeaning themselves towards them with all kindness and respect imaginable. Upon this, conditions were agreed upon, that what women pleased might stay where they were, exempt, as aforesaid, from all drudgery and labor but spinning; that the Romans and Sabines should inhabit the city together; that the city should be called Rome, from Romulus; but the Romans, Quirites, from the country of Tatius; and that they both should govern and command in common. The place of the ratification is still called Comitium, from coire, to meet.

The city being thus doubled in number, one hundred of the Sabines were elected senators, and the legions were increased to six thousand foot and six hundred horse; then they divided the people into three tribes; the first, from Romulus, named Ramnenses; the second, from Tatius, Tatienses; the third, Luceres, from the lucus, or grove, where the Asylum stood, whither many fled for sanctuary, and were received into the city. And that they were just three, the very name of tribe and tribune seems to show; each tribe contained ten curiae, or brotherhoods, which, some say, took their names from the Sabine women; but that seems to be false, because many had their names from various places. Though it is true, they then constituted many things in honor to the women; as to give them the way wherever they met them; to speak no ill word in their presence; not to appear naked before them, or else be liable to prosecution before the judges of homicide; that their children should wear an ornament about their necks called the bulla (because it was like a bubble), and the praetexta, a gown edged with purple.

The princes did not immediately join in council together, but at first each met with his own hundred; afterwards all assembled together. Tatius dwelt where now the temple of Moneta stands, and Romulus, close by the steps, as they call them, of the Fair Shore, near the descent from the Mount Palatine to the Circus Maximus. There, they say, grew the holy cornel tree, of which they report, that Romulus once, to try his strength, threw a dart from the Aventine Mount, the staff of which was made of cornel, which struck so deep into the ground, that no one of many that tried could pluck it up; and the soil, being fertile, gave nourishment to the wood, which sent forth branches, and produced a cornel-stock of considerable bigness. This did posterity preserve and worship as one of the most sacred things; and, therefore, walled it about; and if to any one it appeared not green nor flourishing, but inclining to pine and wither, he immediately made outcry to all he met, and they, like people hearing of a house on fire, with one accord would cry for water, and run from all parts with buckets full to the place. But when Caius Caesar, they say, was repairing the steps about it, some of the laborers digging too close, the roots were destroyed, and the tree withered.

The Sabines adopted the Roman months, of which whatever is remarkable is mentioned in the Life of Numa. Romulus, on the other hand, adopted their long shields, and changed his own armor and that of all the Romans, who before wore round targets of the Argive pattern. Feasts and sacrifices they partook of in common, not abolishing any which either nation observed before, and instituting several new ones; of which one was the Matronalia, instituted in honor of the women. for their extinction of the war; likewise the Carmentalia. This Carmenta some think a deity presiding over human birth; for which reason she is much honored by mothers. Others say she was the wife of Evander, the Arcadian, being a prophetess, and wont to deliver her oracles in verse, and from carmen, a verse, was called Carmenta; her proper name being Nicostrata. Others more probably derive Carmenta from carens mente, or insane, in allusion to her prophetic frenzies. Of the Feast of Palilia we have spoken before. The Lupercalia, by the time of its celebration, may seem to be a feast of purification, for it is solemnized on the dies nefasti, or non-court days, of the month February, which name signifies purification, and the very day of the feast was anciently called Februata; but its name is equivalent to the Greek Lycaea; and it seems thus to be of great antiquity, and brought in by the Arcadians who came with Evander. Yet this is but dubious, for it may come as well from the wolf that nursed Romulus; and we see the Luperci, the priests, begin their course from the place where they say Romulus was exposed. But the ceremonies performed in it render the origin of the thing more difficult to be guessed at; for there are goats killed, then, two young noblemen’s sons being brought, some are to stain their foreheads with the bloody knife, others presently to wipe it off with wool dipped in milk; then the young boys must laugh after their foreheads are wiped; that done, having cut the goats’ skins into thongs, they run about naked, only with something about their middle, lashing all they meet; and the young wives do not avoid their strokes, fancying they will help conception and child-birth. Another thing peculiar to this feast is for the Luperci to sacrifice a dog. But as, a certain poet who wrote fabulous explanations of Roman customs in elegiac verses, says, that Romulus and Remus, after the conquest of Amulius, ran joyfully to the place where the wolf gave them suck; and that in imitation of that, this feast was held, and two young noblemen ran —

Striking at all, as when from Alba town,
With sword in hand, the twins came hurrying down;

and that the bloody knife applied to their foreheads was a sign of the danger and bloodshed of that day; the cleansing of them in milk, a remembrance of their food and nourishment. Caius Acilius writes, that, before the city was built, the cattle of Romulus and Remus one day going astray, they, praying to the god Faunus, ran out to seek them naked, wishing not to be troubled with sweat, and that this is why the Luperci run naked. If the sacrifice be by way of purification, a dog might very well be sacrificed; for the Greeks, in their lustrations, carry out young dogs, and frequently use this ceremony of periscylacismus as they call it. Or if again it is a sacrifice of gratitude to the wolf that nourished and preserved Romulus, there is good reason in killing a dog, as being an enemy to wolves. Unless indeed, after all, the creature is punished for hindering the Luperci in their running.

They say, too, Romulus was the first that consecrated holy fire, and instituted holy virgins to keep it, called vestals; others ascribe it to Numa Pompilius; agreeing, however, that Romulus was otherwise eminently religious, and skilled in divination, and for that reason carried the lituus, a crooked rod with which soothsayers describe the quarters of the heavens, when they sit to observe the flights of birds. This of his, being kept in the Palatium, was lost when the city was taken by the Gauls; and afterwards, that barbarous people being driven out, was found in the ruins, under a great heap of ashes, untouched by the fire, all things about it being consumed and burnt. He instituted also certain laws, one of which is somewhat severe, which suffers not a wife to leave her husband, but grants a husband power to turn off his wife, either upon poisoning her children; or counterfeiting his keys, or for adultery; but if the husband upon any other occasion put her away, he ordered one moiety of his estate to be given to the wife, the other to fall to the goddess Ceres; and whoever cast off his wife, to make an atonement by sacrifice to the gods of the dead. This, too, is observable as a singular thing in Romulus, that he appointed no punishment for real parricide, but called all murder so, thinking the one an accursed thing, but the other a thing impossible; and, for a long time, his judgment seemed to have been right; for in almost six hundred years together, nobody committed the like in Rome; and Lucius Hostius, after the wars of Hanibal, is recorded to have been the first parricide.

Let thus much suffice concerning these matters.

In the fifth year of the reign of Tatius, some of his friends and kinsmen, meeting ambassadors coming from Laurentum to Rome, attempted on the road to take away their money by force, and, upon their resistance, killed them. So great a villainy having been committed, Romulus thought the malefactors ought at once to be punished, but Tatius shuffled off and deferred the execution of it; and this one thing was the beginning of open quarrel between them; in all other respects they were very careful of their conduct, and administered affairs together with great unanimity. The relations of the slain, being debarred of lawful satisfaction by reason of Tatius, fell upon him as he was sacrificing with Romulus at Lavinium, and slew him; but escorted Romulus home, commending and extolling him for a just prince. Romulus took the body of Tatius, and buried it very splendidly in the Aventine Mount, near the place called Armilustrium, but altogether neglected revenging his murder. Some authors write, the city of Laurentum, fearing the consequence, delivered up the murderers of Tatius; but Romulus dismissed them, saying, one murder was requited with another. This gave occasion of talk and jealousy, as if he were well pleased at the removal of his copartner in the government. Nothing of these things, however, raised any sort of feud or disturbance among the Sabines; but some out of love to him, others out of fear of his power, some again reverencing him as a god, they all continued living peacefully in admiration and awe of him; many foreign nations, too, showed respect to Romulus; the Ancient Latins sent, and entered into league and confederacy with him. Fidenae he took, a neighboring city to Rome, by a party of horse, as some say, whom he sent before with commands to cut down the hinges of the gates, himself afterwards unexpectedly coming up. Others say, they having first made the invasion, plundering and ravaging the country and suburbs, Romulus lay in ambush for them, and, having killed many of their men, took the city; but, nevertheless, did not raze or demolish it, but made it a Roman colony, and sent thither, on the Ides of April, two thousand five hundred inhabitants.

Soon after a plague broke out, causing sudden death without any previous sickness; it infected also the corn with unfruitfulness, and cattle with barrenness; there rained blood, too, in the city; so that, to their actual sufferings, fear of the wrath of the gods was added. But when the same mischiefs fell upon Laurentum, then everybody judged it was divine vengeance that fell upon both cities, for the neglect of executing justice upon the murder of Tatius and the ambassadors. But the murderers on both sides being delivered up and punished, the pestilence visibly abated; and Romulus purified the cities with lustrations, which, they say, even now are performed at the wood called Ferentina. But before the plague ceased, the Camertines invaded the Romans and overran the country, thinking them, by reason of the distemper, unable to resist; but Romulus at once made head against them, and gained the victory, with the slaughter of six thousand men; then took their city, and brought half of those he found there to Rome; sending from Rome to Camerium double the number he left there. This was done the first of August. So many citizens had he to spare, in sixteen years’ time from his first founding Rome. Among other spoils, he took a brazen four-horse chariot from Camerium, which he placed in the temple of Vulcan, setting on it his own statue, with a figure of Victory crowning him.

The Roman cause thus daily gathering strength, their weaker neighbors shrunk away, and were thankful to be left untouched; but the stronger, out of fear or envy, thought they ought not to give way to Romulus, but to curb and put a stop to his growing greatness. The first were the Veientes, a people of Tuscany, who had large possessions, and dwelt in a spacious city; they took occasion to commence a war, by claiming Fidenae as belonging to them; a thing not only very unreasonable, but very ridiculous, that they, who did not assist them in the greatest extremities, but permitted them to be slain, should challenge their lands and houses when in the hands of others. But being scornfully retorted upon by Romulus in his answers, they divided themselves into two bodies; with one they attacked the garrison of Fidenae, the other marched against Romulus; that which went against Fidenae got the victory, and slew two thousand Romans; the other was worsted by Romulus, with the loss of eight thousand men. A fresh battle was fought near Fidenae, and here all men acknowledge the day’s success to have been chiefly the work of Romulus himself, who showed the highest skill as well as courage, and seemed to manifest a strength and swiftness more than human. But what some write, that, of fourteen thousand that fell that day, above half were slain by Romulus’s own hand, verges too near to fable, and is, indeed, simply incredible; since even the Messenians are thought to go too far in saying that Aristomenes three times offered sacrifice for the death of a hundred enemies, Lacedaemonians, slain by himself. The army being thus routed, Romulus, suffering those that were left to make their escape, led his forces against the city; they, having suffered such great losses, did not venture to oppose, but, humbly suing to him, made a league and friendship for an hundred years; surrendering also a large district of land called Septempagium, that is, the seven parts, as also their salt-works upon the river, and fifty noblemen for hostages. He made his triumph for this on the Ides of October, leading, among the rest of his many captives, the general of the Veientes, an elderly man, but who had not, it seemed, acted with the prudence of age; whence even now, in sacrifices for victories, they lead an old man through the market place to the Capitol, appareled in purple, with a bulla, or child’s toy, tied to it, and the crier cries, Sardians to be sold; for the Tuscans are said to be a colony of the Sardians, and the Veientes are a city of Tuscany.

This was the last battle Romulus ever fought; afterwards he, as most, nay all men, very few excepted, do, who are raised by great and miraculous good-haps of fortune to power and greatness, so, I say, did he; relying upon his own great actions, and growing of an haughtier mind, he forsook his popular behavior for kingly arrogance, odious to the people; to whom in particular the state which he assumed was hateful. For he dressed in scarlet, with the purple-bordered robe over it; he gave audience on a couch of state, having always about him some young men called Celeres, from their swiftness in doing commissions; there went before him others with staves, to make room, with leather thongs tied on their bodies, to bind on the moment whomever he commanded. The Latins formerly used ligare in the same sense as now alligare, to bind, whence the name lictors, for these officers, and bacula, or staves, for their rods, because staves were then used. It is probable, however, they were first called litores, afterwards, by putting in a c, lictores, or, in Greek, liturgi, or people’s officers, for leitos is still Greek for the commons, and laos for the people in general.

But when, after the death of his grandfather Numitor in Alba, the throne devolving upon Romulus, he, to court the people, put the government into their own hands, and appointed an annual magistrate over the Albans, this taught the great men of Rome to seek after a free and anti-monarchical state, wherein all might in turn be subjects and rulers. For neither were the patricians any longer admitted to state affairs, only had the name and title left them, convening in council rather for fashion’s sake than advice, where they heard in silence the king’s commands, and so departed, exceeding the commonalty only in hearing first what was done. These and the like were matters of small moment; but when he of his own accord parted among his soldiers what lands were acquired by war, and restored the Veientes their hostages, the senate neither consenting nor approving of it, then, indeed, he seemed to put a great affront upon them; so that, on his sudden and strange disappearance a short while after, the senate fell under suspicion and calumny. He disappeared on the Nones of July, as they now call the month which was then Quintilis, leaving nothing of certainty to be related of his death; only the time, as just mentioned, for on that day many ceremonies are still performed in representation of what happened. Neither is this uncertainty to be thought strange, seeing the manner of the death of Scipio Africanus, who died at his own home after supper, has been found capable neither of proof or disproof; for some say he died a natural death, being of a sickly habit; others, that he poisoned himself; others again, that his enemies, breaking in upon him in the night, stifled him. Yet Scipio’s dead body lay open to be seen of all, and any one, from his own observation, might form his suspicions and conjectures; whereas Romulus, when he vanished, left neither the least part of his body, nor any remnant of his clothes to be seen. So that some fancied, the senators, having fallen upon him ill the temple of Vulcan, cut his body into pieces, and took each a part away in his bosom; others think his disappearance was neither in the temple of Vulcan, nor with the senators only by, but that, it came to pass that, as he was haranguing the people without the city, near a place called the Goat’s Marsh, on a sudden strange and unaccountable disorders and alterations took place in the air; the face of the sun was darkened, and the day turned into night, and that, too, no quiet, peaceable night, but with terrible thunderings, and boisterous winds from all quarters; during which the common people dispersed and fled, but the senators kept close together. The tempest being over and the light breaking out, when the people gathered again, they missed and inquired for their king; the senators suffered them not to search, or busy themselves about the matter, but commanded them to honor and worship Romulus as one taken up to the gods, and about to be to them, in the place of a good prince, now a propitious god. The multitude, hearing this, went away believing and rejoicing in hopes of good things from him; but there were some, who, canvassing the matter in a hostile temper, accused and aspersed the patricians, as men that persuaded the people to believe ridiculous tales, when they themselves were the murderers of the king.

Things being in this disorder, one, they say, of the patricians, of noble family and approved good character, and a faithful and familiar friend of Romulus himself, having come with him from Alba, Julius Proculus by name, presented himself in the forum; and, taking a most sacred oath, protested before them all, that, as he was traveling on the road, he had seen Romulus coming to meet him, looking taller and comelier than ever, dressed in shining and faming armor; and he, being affrighted at the apparition, said, “Why, O king, or for what purpose have you abandoned us to unjust and wicked surmises, and the whole city to bereavement and endless sorrow?” and that he made answer, “It pleased the gods, O Proculus, that we, who came from them, should remain so long a time amongst men as we did; and, having built a city to be the greatest in the world for empire and glory, should again return to heaven. But farewell; and tell the Romans, that, by the exercise of temperance and fortitude, they shall attain the height of human power; we will be to you the propitious god Quirinus.” This seemed credible to the Romans, upon the honesty and oath of the relater, and indeed, too, there mingled with it a certain divine passion, some preternatural influence similar to possession by a divinity; nobody contradicted it, but, laying aside all jealousies and detractions, they prayed to Quirinus and saluted him as a god.

This is like some of the Greek fables of Aristeas the Proconnesian, and Cleomedes the Astypalaean; for they say Aristeas died in a fuller’s work-shop, and his friends, coming to look for him, found his body vanished; and that some presently after, coming from abroad, said they met him traveling towards Croton. And that Cleomedes, being an extraordinarily strong and gigantic man, but also wild and mad, committed many desperate freaks; and at last, in a school-house, striking a pillar that sustained the roof with his fist, broke it in the middle, so that the house fell and destroyed the children in it; and being pursued, he fled into a great chest, and, shutting to the lid, held it so fast, that many men, with their united strength, could not force it open; afterwards, breaking the chest to pieces, they found no man in it alive or dead; in astonishment at which, they sent to consult the oracle at Delphi; to whom the prophetess made this answer,

Of all the heroes, Cleomede is last.

They say, too, the body of Alcmena, as they were carrying her to her grave, vanished, and a stone was found lying on the bier. And many such improbabilities do your fabulous writers relate, deifying creatures naturally mortal; for though altogether to disown a divine nature in human virtue were impious and base, so again to mix heaven with earth is ridiculous. Let us believe with Pindar, that

All human bodies yield to Death’s decree,
The soul survives to all eternity.

For that alone is derived from the gods, thence comes, and thither returns; not with the body, but when most disengaged and separated from it, and when most entirely pure and clean and free from the flesh; for the most perfect soul, says Heraclitus, is a dry light, which flies out of the body as lightning breaks from a cloud; but that which is clogged and surfeited with body is like gross and humid incense, slow to kindle and ascend. We must not, therefore, contrary to nature, send the bodies, too, of good men to heaven; but we must really believe that, according to their divine nature and law, their virtue and their souls are translated out of men into heroes, out of heroes into demi-gods, out of demi-gods, after passing, as in the rite of initiation, through a final cleansing and sanctification, and so freeing themselves from all that pertains to mortality and sense, are thus, not by human decree, but really and according to right reason, elevated into gods, admitted thus to the greatest and most blessed perfection.

Romulus’s surname Quirinus, some say, is equivalent to Mars; others, that he was so called because the citizens were called Quirites; others, because the ancients called a dart or spear Quiris; thus, the statue of Juno resting on a spear is called Quiritis, and the dart in the Regia is addressed as Mars, and those that were distinguished in war were usually presented with a dart; that, therefore, Romulus, being a martial god, or a god of darts, was called Quirinus. A temple is certainly built to his honor on the mount called from him Quirinalis.

The day he vanished on is called the Flight of the People, and the Nones of the Goats, because they go then out of the city, and sacrifice at the Goat’s Marsh, and, as they go, they shout out some of the Roman names, as Marcus, Lucius, Caius, imitating the way in which they then fled and called upon one another in that fright and hurry. Some, however, say, this was not in imitation of a flight, but of a quick and hasty onset, referring it to the following occasion: after the Gauls who had taken Rome were driven out by Camillus, and the city was scarcely as yet recovering her strength, many of the Latins, under the command of Livius Postumius, took this time to march against her. Postumius, halting not far from Rome, sent a herald, signifying that the Latins were desirous to renew their former alliance and affinity (that was now almost decayed) by contracting new marriages between both nations; if, therefore, they would send forth a good number of their virgins and widows, they should have peace and friendship, such as the Sabines had formerly had on the like conditions. The Romans, hearing this, dreaded a war, yet thought a surrender of their women little better than mere captivity. Being in this doubt, a servant-maid called Philotis (or, as some say, Tutola), advised them to do neither, but, by a stratagem, avoid both fighting and the giving up of such pledges. The stratagem was this, that they should send herself, with other well-looking servant-maids, to the enemy, in the dress of free-born virgins, and she should in the night light up a fire-signal, at which the Romans should come armed and surprise them asleep. The Latins were thus deceived, and accordingly Philotis set up a torch in a wild fig-tree, screening it behind with curtains and coverlets from the sight of the enemy, while visible to the Romans. They, when they saw it, eagerly ran out of the gates, calling in their haste to each other as they went out, and so, falling in unexpectedly upon the enemy, they defeated them, and upon that made a feast of triumph, called the Nones of the Goats, because of the wild fig-tree, called by the Romans Caprificus, or the goat-fig. They feast the women without the city in arbors made of fig-tree boughs and the maid-servants gather together and run about playing; afterwards they fight in sport, and throw stones one at another, in memory that they then aided and assisted the Roman men in fight. This only a few authors admit for true; For the calling upon one another’s names by day and the going out to the Goat’s Marsh to do sacrifice seem to agree more with the former story, unless, indeed, we shall say that both the actions might have happened on the same day in different years. It was in the fifty-fourth year of his age and the thirty-eighth of his reign that Romulus, they tell us, left the world.

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 16:24