« IndietroContinua »
This made Lucius Tarquin the more furious, and, going to the Senate, where the patricians hated the king as the friend of the plebeians, he stood upon the throne, and was beginning to tell the patricians that this would be the ruin of their greatness, when Servius came in and, standing on the steps of the doorway, ordered him to come down. Tarquin sprang on the old man and hurled him backwards, so that the fall killed him, and his body was left in the street. The wicked Tullia, wanting to know how her husband had sped, came out in her chariot on that road.
The horses gave back before the corpse.
She asked what was in their way; the slave who drove her told her it was the king's body. * Drive on,' she said. The horrid deed caused the street to be known ever after as 'Sceleratus,' or the wicked.
It chanced that Persephone was playing with the daughters of Oceanus in a flowery meadow, where they were picking flowers and making garlands. She happened to quit her companions for a moment to pluck a narcissus which had caught her fancy : suddenly the ground opened at her feet, and Pluto, the god of the infernal regions, appeared in a chariot drawn by snorting horses. Swift as the wind he seized the terrified maiden in spite of all her struggles, and vanished into the regions of darkness before her companions were aware of what had happened to her. When Demeter missed her darling child, and none could tell where she had gone, she kindled torches, and during many days and nights wandered in anguish through all the countries of the earth, not even resting for food or sleep.
Alexander, in the three hundredth and thirty-second year before the birth of Christ, invaded Egypt, which had long been subject to the Persians. While he was staying there, he founded the city of Alexandria, which at one time he wished to be considered the metropolis of his empire, and which to this day bears his name.
Elated with success, he now laid claim to divine honours, and among the very priests there were found persons so base as to flatter him in this, and make him believe he was the son of Jupiter Ammon. Many of his soldiers died of fatigue and thirst while marching to the temple of this imaginary god, which was distant a journey of seven days from Alexandria.
The story runs that at Athens once upon a time, during the celebration of the games, an old gentleman, much advanced in years entered the theatre. Among his countrymen who were present in that large assembly no one offered him a place.
He turned to the Lacedaemonians, who as ambassadors had a certain place allotted to them. They rose in a body and begged him to sit amongst them. Loud shouts of applause arose from the whole theatre; whereupon it was remarked that the Athenians knew their duty but were slow to exemplify it in their conduct.
The Frogs, living an easy free life everywhere among the lakes and ponds, assembled together one day in a very
tumultuous manner, and petitioned Jupiter to let them have a king, who might inspect their morals and make them live a little honester. Jupiter, being at that time in pretty good humour, was pleased to laugh heartily at their ridiculous request, and throwing a little log down into the pool, cried, • There is a king for you. The sudden splash which this made by its fall into the water, at first terrified them so exceedingly that they were afraid to come near it; but in a little time, seeing it lay still without moving, they ventured by degrees to approach it; and at last, finding there was no danger, they leaped upon it, and, in short, treated it as familiarly as they pleased.
But not contented with so insipid a king as this was, they sent their deputies to petition again for another sort of one, for this they neither did nor could like. Upon that he sent them a stork, who, without any ceremony, fell a-devouring and eating them up, one after another, as fast as he could. Then they applied themselves privately to Mercury, and got him to speak to Jupiter in their behalf, that he would be so good as to bless them again with another king, or to restore them to their former state. “No,' says he, since it was their own choice, let the obstinate wretches suffer the punishment due to their folly.'
Of this bird Sophia, then about thirteen years old, was so extremely fond that her chief business was to feed and tend it, and her chief pleasure to play with it. By these means little Tommy, for so the bird was called, was become so tame that it would seed out of the hand of its mistress, would perch upon her finger, and lie contented in her bosom, where it seemed almost sensible of its own happiness; though she always kept a small string about its leg, nor would ever trust it with the liberty of flying away.
The Romans, having heard that the Hernici had taken up arms, and believing that there was no reason for their doing so, sent ambassadors to reproach them with having violated a treaty made with Rome some years before. The Hernici, taking it amiss that they should be treated thus, answered the ambassadors that they were not now allies of the Roman people: that the treaty which had been mentioned was made with Tarquin alone, and had died with him : that those things which furnished the Romans with an opportunity of complaining had been committed by private persons : and that if the Romans desired war, the Hernici were ready to fight them.
Rome was at war with the city of Gabii, and as the city was not to be subdued by force, Tarquin tried treachery. His eldest son, Sextus Tarquinus, fled to Gabii, complaining of ill-usage by his father, and showing marks of a severe scourging. The Gabians believed him, and he was soon so much trusted by them as to have the whole command of the army, and manage everything in the city. Then he sent a messenger to his father to ask what he was to do next.
Tarquin was walking through a cornfield. He made no answer in words, but with a switch cut off the heads of all the poppies and taller stalks of corn, and bade the messenger tell Sextus what he had seen. Sextus understood, and contrived to get all the chief men of Gabii exiled or put to death, and without them the city fell an easy prey to the Romans.
Among the most important gods of the Romans was the celebrated Janus, a deity quite unknown to the Greeks. He was god of the light and of the sun, like the Greek Apollo, and thus became the god of all beginnings; New Year's Day was his most important festival. Now the Romans had a most superstitious belief in the importance of a good beginning for everything, concluding that this hadamagical influence on the good or evil result of every undertaking. So neither in public nor in private life did they ever undertake anything of importance without first confiding the beginning to the protection of Janus. When the youth of the city marched out to war, an offering was made to the god by the departing general, and the temple, or covered passage sacred to the god, was left open during the continuance of the war, as a sign that the god had departed with the troops and had them under his protection.
Then Menelaus leapt from his chariot and rushed to meet his enemy; but Paris, having done evil, and being therefore a coward in his heart, was afraid, and fled back into the ranks of his comrades, just as a man steps back