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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book I Chapter 32: Election of Ancus Martius. War with the Latins.
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On the death of Tullus, the government in accordance with the original constitution, again devolved on the senate. They appointed an interrex to conduct the election. The people chose Ancus Martius as king, the senate confirmed the choice. His mother was Numa's daughter.
At the outset of his reign - remembering what made his grandfather glorious, and recognising that the late reign, so splendid in all other respects, had, on one side, been most unfortunate through the neglect of religion or the improper performance of its rites - he determined to go back to the earliest source and conduct the state offices of religion as they had been organised by Numa. He gave the Pontifex instructions to copy them out from the king's commentaries and set them forth in some public place. The neighbouring states and his own people, who were yearning for peace, were led to hope that the king would follow his grandfather in disposition and policy.
First war of Rome with the Latins
In this state of affairs, the Latins, with whom a treaty had been made in the reign of Tullus, recovered their confidence, and made an incursion into Roman territory. On the Romans seeking redress, they gave a haughty refusal, thinking that the king of Rome was going to pass his reign amongst chapels and altars. In the temperament of Ancus there was a touch of Romulus as well as Numa. He realised that the great necessity of Numa's reign was peace, especially amongst a young and aggressive nation, but he saw, too, that it would be difficult for him to preserve the peace which had fallen to his lot unimpaired. His patience was being put to the proof, and not only put to the proof but despised; the times demanded a Tullus rather than a Numa. Numa had instituted religious observances for times of peace, he would hand down the ceremonies appropriate to a state of war. In order, therefore, that wars might be not only conducted but also proclaimed with some formality, he wrote down the law, as taken from the ancient nation of the Aequicoli, under which the Fetials act down to this day when seeking redress for injuries. The procedure is as follows:
-- The ambassador binds his head in a woollen fillet. When he has reached the frontiers of the nation from whom satisfaction is demanded, he says, "Hear, 0 Jupiter! Hear ye confines" - naming the particular nation whose they are -- "Hear, O Justice! I am the public herald of the Roman People rightly and duly authorised do I come; let confidence be placed in my words." Then he recites the terms of the demands and calls Jupiter to witness: "If I am demanding the surrender of those men or those goods, contrary to justice and religion, suffer me nevermore to enjoy my native land." He repeats these words as he crosses the frontier, he repeats them to whoever happens to be the first person he meets, he repeats them as he enters the gates and again on entering the forum, with some slight changes in the wording of the formula. If what he demands are not surrendered at the expiration of thirty-three days - for that is the fixed period of grace - he declares war in the following terms: "Hear, O Jupiter, and thou Janus Quirinus, and all ye heavenly gods and ye, gods of earth and of the lower world, hear me! I call you to witness that this people" -- mentioning it by name -- "is unjust and does not fulfill its sacred obligations. But about these matters we must consult the elders in our own land in what way we may obtain our rights."
With these words the ambassador returned to Rome for consultation. The king forthwith consulted the senate in words to the following effect: "Concerning the matters suits and causes, whereof the Pater Patratus of the Roman people and Quirites hath complained to the Pater Patratus of the Prisci Latini, and to the people of the Prisci Latini which matters they were bound severally to surrender, discharge, and make good, whereas they have done none of these things -- say what is your opinion?" He whose opinion was first asked, replied, "I am of opinion that they ought to be recovered by a just and righteous war, wherefore I give my consent and vote for it." Then the others were asked in order, and when the majority of those present declared themselves of the same opinion, war was agreed upon. It was customary for the Fetial to carry to the enemies' frontiers a blood-smeared spear tipped with iron or burnt at the end, and, in the presence of at least three adults, to say, "Inasmuch as the peoples of the Prisci Latini have been guilty of wrong against the People of Rome and the Quirites, and inasmuch as the People of Rome and the Quirites have ordered that there be war with the Prisci Latini, and the Senate of the People of Rome and the Quirites have determined and decreed that there shall be war with the Prisci Latini, therefore I and the People of Rome, declare and make war upon the peoples of the Prisci Latini." With these words he hurled his spear into their territory. This was the way in which at that time satisfaction was demanded from the Latins and war declared, and posterity adopted the custom.