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ROME-EARLY ANNALS,

career, his ascension into heaven-what has history to do with such fictions? If

any such a being ever existed it is likely that the senators, taking advantage of

the darkness and confusion of a storm, cut him to pieces in the Campus Martius.

Many of the stories which pass for the history of early Rome are, as it respects

truth, physically impossible. Others are morally impossible. Take, for instance,

the reign of Numa Pompilius. Who can believe that Rome in her then condition

enjoyed forty-three years of peace? The story of this old king, sitting aside-

while Rome went on peacefully-praying and making laws, is no more worthy of

credence than is the myth of Egeria. The chronological difficulties are equally

insurmountable. The reigns of the seven kings are made to cover a period of two

hundred and forty years, or an average of thirty-four years to each reign. And

yet four of these kings died by violence, and a fifth was expelled fifteen years

before his death! History shows that the average length of a reign under such

conditions is no more than twelve years and a half. Almost every part of the

early lay is beset with like difficulties. Incongruities of statement and

impossibilities of situation so prevail that the whole is reduced to the level of

fiction.

In some instances the myth can be given a plausible interpretation. In a certain

case during the Sabine wars, a young horseman named Curtius, charging the Romans,

plunged into a swamp beyond the Palatine and was with difficulty extricated. From

this circumstance the spot-afterwards drained and converted into the Forum-was

named Lake Curtius. But what should tradition do with such an event? In the times

of Varro it had grown to this: In B. C. 445, Curtius, being then consul,

sacrificed his life for the city. For the earth opened in the Forum, and nothing

availed to close the horrid gape of her jaws. Thereupon the soothsayers declared

as the will of the gods, that until Rome should throw in that which was most

precious the fissure should stand open. Hearing this, and deeming a Roman soldier

the best gift of the city, Curtius clad himself in full armor, mounted his steed

and plunged into the opening. The chasm at once closed, and Rome walked over the

place in safety. Such is the poetic legend of Lake Curtius.

As already seen, the story of the early days of the Republic is equally obscured

with traditions more fanciful than true. Through the mist, however, there

gradually appears the outline of a real history of Rome. The fingers of the gods

are withdrawn behind the clouds, and impossible heroism fades away. The

phantasmagoria of she-wolves and woodpeckers, of girls melting into water-

fountains, and priestesses selling impossible books, of open chasms and falling

bridges, of men holding their arms in the fire, and consuls ordering lictors to

cut off the heads of their sons, breaks like a rising fog, and under its fringes

are seen the figures of men as trees walking.

Resuming the narrative, we come now to the first intestine troubles of Rome. So

long as the surrounding tribes of Latium and Etruria continued to press upon the

Republic of the Seven Hills the possible commotion within the city was stilled by

a sense of common danger. The mythical Numa and the good Servius had befriended

the people, and the hard lot of the plebeians had been softened not a little by

incidental favors shown to them by the kings and consuls. Still there was a great

chasm between the plebeian and patrician orders. Their interests were in conflict

at almost every point. The Roman commons were for the most part the holders of

small estates of land. Their business was to produce enough to maintain a family

and to sell a modicum to others.

The legislation of the Consul Valerius, which belongs to this period of Roman

history, was of the greatest importance, as bearing upon the difficulties of the

state. For a season-especially after the death of his colleague-he was suspected

by the people of aiming at kingly power; but it was soon discovered that his real

purpose was to impose limitations to the too arbitrary authority of the consular

office. A number of laws were accordingly prepared and laid before the people in

the comitia centuriata. This body, established by Servius Tullius for the purpose

of a