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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book I Chapter 40: The Assassination of Tarquin.
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|When Tarquin had been about thirty-eight years on the throne Servius Tullius was held in by far the highest esteem of any one, not only with the king but also with the patricians and the commons. The two sons of Ancus had always felt most keenly their being deprived of their father's throne through the treachery of their guardian; its occupation by a foreigner who was not even of Italian, much less of Roman descent, increased their indignation, when they saw that not even after the death of Tarquin would the crown revert to them, but would suddenly descend to a slave - that crown which Romulus, the offspring of a god, and himself a god, had worn whilst he was on earth, now to be the possession of a slave-born slave a hundred years later! They felt that it would be a disgrace to the whole Roman nation, and especially to their house, if, while the male issue of Ancus was still alive, the sovereignty of Rome should be open not only to foreigners but even to slaves. They determined, therefore, to repel that insult by the sword. But it was on Tarquin rather than on Servius that they sought to avenge their wrongs; if the king were left alive he would be able to deal more summary vengeance than an ordinary citizen, and in the event of Servius being killed, the king would certainly make any one else whom he chose for a son-in-law heir to the crown. These considerations decided them to form a plot against the king's life. Two shepherds, perfect desperadoes, were selected for the deed. They appeared in the vestibule of the palace, each with his usual implement, and by pretending to have a violent and outrageous quarrel, they attracted the attention of all the royal guards. Then, as they both began to appeal to the king, and their clamour had penetrated within the palace, they were summoned before the king. At first they tried, by shouting each against the other, to see who could make the most noise, until, after being repressed by the lictor and ordered to speak in turn, they became quiet, and one of the two began to state his case. Whilst the king's attention was absorbed in listening to him, the other swung aloft his axe and drove it into the king's head, and leaving the weapon in the wound both dashed out of the palace.||Duodequadragesimo ferme anno ex quo regnare coeperat Tarquinius, non apud regem modo sed apud patres plebemque longe maximo honore Ser. Tullius erat. Tum Anci filii duo etsi antea semper pro indignissimo habuerant se patrio regno tutoris fraude pulsos, regnare Romae advenam non modo vicinae sed ne Italicae quidem stirpis, tum impensius iis indignitas crescere si ne ab Tarquinio quidem ad se rediret regnum, sed praeceps inde porro ad seruitia caderet, ut in eadem civitate post centesimum fere annum quam Romulus deo prognatus deus ipse tenuerit regnum donec in terris fuerit, id seruus serva natus possideat. cum commune Romani nominis tum praecipue id domus suae dedecus fore, si Anci regis virili stirpe salua non modo advenis sed seruis etiam regnum Romae pateret. Ferro igitur eam arcere contumeliam statuunt; sed et iniuriae dolor in Tarquinium ipsum magis quam in Seruium eos stimulabat, et quia gravior ultor caedis, si superesset, rex futurus erat quam priuatus; tum Seruio occiso, quemcumque alium generum delegisset, eundem regni heredem facturus videbatur; ob haec ipsi regi insidiae parantur. Ex pastoribus duo ferocissimi delecti ad facinus, quibus consueti erant uterque agrestibus ferramentis, in uestibulo regiae quam potuere tumultuosissime specie rixae in se omnes apparitores regios convertunt; inde, cum ambo regem appellarent clamorque eorum penitus in regiam pervenisset, vocati ad regem pergunt. Primo uterque vociferari et certatim alter alteri obstrepere; coerciti ab lictore et iussi in vicem dicere tandem obloqui desistunt; unus rem ex composito orditur. Cum intentus in eum se rex totus averteret, alter elatam securim in caput deiecit, relictoque in volnere telo ambo se foras eiciunt.|