King Tarquin himself, old as he was, rode in front of the Latins in full armor; and when he descried the Roman dictator marshalling his men, he rode at him.
Continuing Romans Establish Republic,
our selection from A History of Rome by Henry George Liddell published in 1855. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in eight easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Romans Establish Republic.
Time: 510 BC
When Tarquin now found that he had no hopes of further assistance from Porsenna and his Etruscan friends, he went and dwelt at Tusculum, where Mamilius Octavius, his son-in-law, was still chief. Then the thirty Latin cities combined together and made this Octavius their dictator, and bound themselves to restore their old friend and ally, King Tarquin, to the sovereignty of Rome.
P. Valerius, who was called “Poplicola,” was now dead, and the Romans looked about for some chief worthy to lead them against the army of the Latins. Poplicola had been made consul four times, and his compeers acknowledged him as their chief, and all men submitted to him as to a king. But now the two consuls were jealous of each other; nor had they power of life and death within the city, for Valerius (as we saw) had taken away the axes from the fasces. Now this was one of the reasons why Brutus and the rest made two consuls instead of one king: for they said that neither one would allow the other to become tyrant; and since they only held office for one year at a time, they might be called on to give account of their government when their year was at an end.
Yet though this was a safeguard of liberty in times of peace, it was hurtful in time of war, for the consuls chosen by the people in their great assemblies were not always skilful generals; or if they were so, they were obliged to lay down their command at the year’s end.
So the senate determined, in cases of great danger, to call upon one of the consuls to appoint a single chief, who should be called “dictator,” or master of the people. He had sovereign power (Imperium) both in the city and out of the city, and the fasces were always carried before him with the axes in them, as they had been before the king. He could only be appointed for six months, but at the end of the time he had to give no account. So that he was free to act according to his own judgment, having no colleague to interfere with him at the present, and no accusations to fear at a future time. The dictator was general-in-chief, and he appointed a chief officer to command the knights under him, who was called “master of the horse.”
And now it appeared to be a fit time to appoint such a chief, to take the command of the army against the Latins. So the first dictator was T. Lartius, and he made Spurius Cassius his master of the horse. This was in the year B.C. 499, eight years after the expulsion of Tarquin.
But the Latins did not declare war for two years after. Then the senate again ordered the consul to name a master of the people, or dictator; and he named Aul. Postumius, who appointed T. Æbutius (one of the consuls of that year) to be his master of the horse. So they led out the Roman army against the Latins, and they met at the Lake Regillus, in the land of the Tusculans. King Tarquin and all his family were in the host of the Latins; and that day it was to be determined whether Rome should be again subject to the tyrant and whether or not she was to be chief of the Latin cities.
King Tarquin himself, old as he was, rode in front of the Latins in full armor; and when he descried the Roman dictator marshalling his men, he rode at him; but Postumius wounded him in the side, and he was rescued by the Latins. Then also Æbutius, the master of the horse, and Oct. Mamilius, the dictator of the Latins, charged one another, and Æbutius was pierced through the arm, and Mamilius wounded in the breast. But the Latin chief, nothing daunted, returned to battle, followed by Titus, the king’s son, with his band of exiles. These charged the Romans furiously, so that they gave way; but when M. Valerius, brother of the great Poplicola, saw this, he spurred his horse against Titus, and rode at him with spear in rest; and when Titus turned away and fled, Valerius rode furiously after him into the midst of the Latin host, and a certain Latin smote him in the side as he was riding past, so that he fell dead, and his horse galloped on without a rider. So the band of exiles pressed still more fiercely upon the Romans, and they began to flee.
Then Postumius the dictator lifted up his voice and vowed a temple to Castor and Pollux, the great twin heroes of the Greeks, if they would aid him; and behold there appeared on his right two horsemen, taller and fairer than the sons of men, and their horses were as white as snow. And they led the dictator and his guard against the exiles and the Latins, and the Romans prevailed against them; and T. Herminius the Titian, the friend of Horatius Cocles, ran Mamilius, the dictator of the Latins, through the body, so that he died; but when he was stripping the arms from his foe, another ran him through, and he was carried back to the camp, and he also died. Then also Titus, the king’s son, was slain, and the Latins fled, and the Romans pursued them with great slaughter, and took their camp and all that was in it. Now Postumius had promised great rewards to those who first broke into the camp of the Latins, and the first who broke in were the two horsemen on white horses; but after the battle they were nowhere to be seen or found, nor was there any sign of them left, save on the hard rock there was the mark of a horse’s hoof, which men said was made by the horse of one of those horsemen.
But at this very time two youths on white horses rode into the Forum at Rome. They were covered with dust and sweat and blood, like men who had fought long and hard, and their horses also were bathed in sweat and foam: and they alighted near the Temple of Vesta, and washed themselves in a spring that gushes out hard by, and told all the people in the Forum how the battle by the Lake Regillus had been fought and won. Then they mounted their horses and rode away, and were seen no more.
But Postumius, when he heard it, knew that these were Castor and Pollux, the great twin brethren of the Greeks, and that it was they who fought so well for Rome at the Lake Regillus. So he built them a temple, according to his vow, over the place where they had alighted in the Forum. And their effigies were displayed on Roman coins to the latest ages of the city.
This was the fourth and last attempt to restore King Tarquin. After the great defeat of Lake Regillus, the Latin cities made peace with Rome, and agreed to refuse harborage to the old king. He had lost all his sons, and, accompanied by a few faithful friends, who shared his exile, he sought a last asylum at the Greek city of Cumæ in the Bay of Naples, at the court of the tyrant Aristodemus. Here he died in the course of a year, fourteen years after his expulsion.
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