Story of the Romans - Helene Guerber

The Murder of Tarquin

Tarquin was called upon to wage many wars during his reign. He once brought home a female prisoner, whom he gave to his wife as a servant. This was nothing unusual, for Romans were in the habit of making slaves of their war prisoners, who were forced to spend the rest of their lives in serving their conquerors.

Shortly after her arrival in Tarquin's house, this woman gave birth to a little boy; and Tanaquil, watching the babe one day, was surprised to see a flame hover over its head without doing it any harm. Now Tanaquil was very superstitious, and fancied that she could tell the meaning of every sign that she saw. She at once exclaimed that she knew the child was born to greatness; and she adopted him as her own son, calling him Servius Tullius.

The child of a slave thus grew up in the king's house, and when he had reached manhood he married Tanaquil's daughter. This marriage greatly displeased the sons of Ancus Martius. The young princes had hoped that they would be chosen kings as soon as Tarquin died; but they saw that Servius Tullius was always preferred to them. They now began to fear that he would inherit the throne, and they soon learned to hate him.

To prevent Servius from ever being king, they resolved to get rid of Tarquin and to take possession of the crown before their rival had any chance to get ahead of them. A murderer was hired to kill the king; and as soon as he had a good chance, he stole into the palace and struck Tarquin with a hatchet.

As the murderer fled, Tarquin sank to the ground; but in spite of this sudden attempt to murder her husband, Tanaquil did not lose her presence of mind. She promptly had him placed upon a couch, where he died a few moments later. Then she sent word to the senate that Tarquin was only dangerously ill, and wished Servius to govern in his stead until he was better.

She managed so cleverly, that no one suspected that the king was dead. The sons of Ancus Martius fled from Rome when they heard that Tarquin was only wounded, and during their absence Servius Tullius ruled the Romans for more than a month.

He was so wise and careful in all his dealings with the people that they elected him as the sixth king of Rome, when they finally learned that Tarquin was dead. It was thus that the two wicked princes lost all right to the kingdom which they had tried to obtain by such a base crime as murder.


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