UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.
at once hurried away, each anxious to fulfill the oracle; but Brutus, stumbling
purposely, fell to the ground, and kissed the earth. He had understood the sly
god better than his cousins; for he remembered that the earth is the common
mother of all. Thus was fate ready to be accomplished.
Meanwhile Tarquinius, after a reign of twenty-four years, laid siege to Ardea,
the capital town of the Rutuli, in Latium. One evening in the camp the king's two
sons were feasting with their cousin Tarquinius Collatinus, prince of Collatia,
and the three boasted of the virtues and beauty of their respective wives. In the
midst of the bantering it was proposed that they should ride away to their homes
and see what their wives were doing. This was accordingly done. The ladies of the
king's sons were found enjoying themselves at a feast, but Lucretia, the
beautiful wife of Collatinus, was discovered, though it was late at night,
sitting among her maids busy with the duties of the household. She was,
therefore, acknowledged to be most worthy of praise.
But it was a fatal adventure. The beauty of Lucretia kindled an unholy passion in
Sextus,and the base wretch determined on the ruin of his cousin's house.
Returning to Collatia by night, he was received without suspicion and entertained
without distrust. In the middle of the night he made his way to Lucretia's
chamber and threatened that in case of her refusal to receive him he would
accomplish his purpose, kill her in her bed, and then place beside her the body
of a slave so that the disgrace to be discovered by her husband might be doubly
damning. Thereupon the terror-stricken woman yielded. On the morrow she sent in
haste for her husband and her father Lucretius. Both came and with them Junius
Brutus and Publius Valerius. When they arrived they found Lucretia clad in
mourning and sitting alone in her chamber. She told them there the story of her
shame, and having bound them by an oath to avenge her foul wrong, she plunged a
knife into her bosom and died.
Then were the men roused to the highest passions of grief and vengeance. The body
of Lucretia was carried into the market-place, and the story of the outrage was
rehearsed to the people. Brutus came forward as a leader. He demanded that
Tarquin and all his house should be expelled from the kingdom, and that no king
should any more be permitted to rule in Rome. Messengers were sent with the news
to the Roman camp before Ardea. The soldiers, glad of an opportunity, abandoned
the hated king and returned to the city. The Tarquins were left to their fate.
The kingly office was abolished by the Senate and people, and in the place of the
deposed ruler, two officers, called Consuls, were chosen, who should hold their
authority for a year and then yield to a new election. For the performance of the
religious duties of the king, a high-priest was chosen who, under the direction
of the pontifex maximus, should henceforth perform the public sacrifices. Thus
was the death of Lucretia avenged, and a new order of things established in Rome.
The expulsion of Tarquin the Haughty marks the limit of what is known as the
Roman Kingdom as well as the beginning of that long span of brilliant history
covered by the Republic. The date of this transformation is the year 245 from the
founding of the city, or B. C. 509.