Story of the Romans - Helene Guerber

The Oracle of Delphi

A wicked man is never really happy; and Tarquin, who had committed so many crimes, could not find much enjoyment in life. His conscience troubled him, his sleep was haunted by bad dreams, and he felt so restless that he did not know what to do.

As the Romans believed that dreams were sent by their gods to warn them of the future, Tarquin was very anxious to have an explanation of the visions which disturbed his rest. He asked the Roman priests, but they failed to give him a satisfactory answer; so he decided to send to Delphi, in Greece, and to ask the noted oracle there to interpret these bad dreams.

Now, as you may know, Delphi was a place in the mountains of Greece where there was a temple dedicated to the service of Apollo, god of the sun. In this temple lived a priestess called the Pythoness, who was supposed to converse with the gods, and to make their wishes known to all who consulted her. Any priest who did this was known as an oracle; and at the same time the answers given out were also called oracles.

Now one of Tarquin's crimes was the murder of a nephew. His widowed sister, it seems, had two sons, who were very rich. As the king wanted to get their money, he killed one of them, and spared the other only because he thought him an idiot. In fact, the Romans used to say that this nephew's name, Brutus, was given him because of his brutelike stupidity. The young man, however, was only pretending to be stupid; he was really very intelligent, and was patiently waiting for a chance to avenge his brother's death.

Tarquinius Superbus selected two of his own sons to carry his offerings to the temple of Delphi, and sent Brutus with them as an attendant. After giving the king's offerings, and obtaining an oracle for him, the three young men resolved to question the Pythoness about their own future.

Each gave a present to the priestess. The two princes offered rich gifts, but Brutus gave only the staff which he had used on the journey thither. Although this present seemed very mean, compared with the others, it was in reality much the most valuable, because the staff was hollow, and full of gold.

The young men now asked the Pythoness the question which all three had agreed was the most important. This was the name of the next king of Rome. The priestess, who rarely answered a question directly, replied that he would rule who first kissed his mother on returning home.

Tarquin's sons were much pleased by this answer, and each began to plan how to reach home quickly, and be the first to kiss his mother. Brutus seemed quite indifferent, as usual; but, thanks to his offering, the priestess gave him a hint about what he should do.

Their mission thus satisfactorily ended, the three young men set out for Rome. When they landed upon their native soil, Brutus fell down upon his knees, and kissed the earth, the mother of all mankind. Thus he obeyed the directions of the Pythoness without attracting the attention of the two princes. Intent upon their own hopes, the sons of Tarquin hurried home, kissed their mother at the same moment on either cheek.


Front Matter

The First Settlers
Escape from the Burning City
The Clever Trick
The Boards Are Eaten
The Wolf and the Twins
Romulus Builds Rome
The Maidens Carried Off
Union of Sabines and Romans
Death of Romulus
Strange Signs of the Romans
The Quarrel with Alba
The Horatii and Curiatii
Tarquin and the Eagle
The Roman Youths
The King Outwitted
The Murder of Tarquin
The Ungrateful Children
The Mysterious Books
Tarquin's Poppies
The Oracle of Delphi
The Death of Lucretia
The Stern Father
A Roman Triumph
A Roman Triumph (Cont.)
Defense of the Bridge
The Burnt Hand
The Twin Gods
The Wrongs of the Poor
Fable of the Stomach
The Story of Coriolanus
The Farmer Hero
The New Laws
Death of Virginia
Plans of a Traitor
A School-Teacher Punished
Invasion of the Gauls
The Sacred Geese
Two Heroes of Rome
Disaster at Caudine Forks
Pyrrhus and His Elephants
The Elephants Routed
Ancient Ships
Regulus and the Snake
Hannibal Crosses the Alps
The Romans Defeated
The Inventor Archimedes
The Roman Conquests
Destruction of Carthage
Roman Amusements
The Jewels of Cornelia
Death of Tiberius Gracchus
Caius Gracchus
Jugurtha, King of Numidia
The Barbarians
The Social War
The Flight of Marius
The Proscription Lists
Sertorius and His Doe
Revolt of the Slaves
Pompey's Conquests
Conspiracy of Catiline
Caesar's Conquests
Crossing of the Rubicon
Battle of Pharsalia
The Death of Caesar
The Second Triumvirate
The Vision of Brutus
Antony and Cleopatra
The Poisonous Snake
The Augustan Age
Death of Augustus
Varus Avenged
Death of Germanicus
Tiberius Smothered
The Wild Caligula
Wicked Wives of Claudius
Nero's First Crimes
Christians Persecuted
Nero's Cruelty
Two Short Reigns
The Siege of Jerusalem
The Buried Cities
The Terrible Banquet
The Emperor's Tablets
The Good Trajan
Trajan's Column
The Great Wall
Hadrian's Death
Antoninus Pius
The Model Pagan
Another Cruel Emperor
An Unnatural Son
The Senate of Women
The Gigantic Emperor
Invasion of the Goths
Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra
A Prophecy Fulfulled
First Christian Emperor
Roman Empire Divided
An Emperor's Penance
Sieges of Rome
End of the Western Empire