Chronicles From the City Founding of Livius Titus, Book I

Chapter 54

Sextus Tarquinius treacherously hands over Gabii to his father.

Thenceforth, he was invited to public counsels. Then, when he said that he agreed with the long-standing Gabii concerning other matters, for whom these things were more familiar, he was himself repeatedly a promoter of war and he assumed special knowledge in this for himself, because he was acquainted with the strengths of both of the peoples, and he knew with certainty that the citizens hated the royal arrogance, which not even his children could bear . Thus, once he gradually incited the leading men of the Gabii to renew the war, after he himself with the most ready of the youth also went on expeditions for plundering and—because everything was said and done and marshalled for deceiving—he had nourished a hollow trust, he was appointed leader at the end of the war. Then when, with the multitude ignorant of what was done, there occurred a few bouts between the Romans and the Gabii, in most of which the Gabii interest was superior, the highest and the lowest of the Gabii enthusiastically believed that Sex. Tarquinius was a leader sent to them as a gift of the gods. Among the soldiers, by dutifully performing the dangers and the labors equally, by generously and lavishly bestowing the spoils he was in so much affection that Tarquinius the father was no more powerful in Rome than the son was in Gabi. And then when it seemed that he had gathered enough strength to try everything, he sent one of his own men to his father to question Rome, what he wished him to do, when indeed the gods had provided such that he alone had all the power in public sphere at Gabi. To this announcement, since—I believe—he seemed of dubious loyalty, he gave no voiced response ; the king, as if deliberating, crossed over to the garden of his house with the messenger of his son following him ; walking in there it is said that he struck off the heads of the highest poppies with his staff. The messenger, wearied by the interrogation and expectation of an answer, returned to Gabi, although the matter was unfinished ; he reported what he had himself said and what he saw ; whether by anger or hatred or by his innate inborn arrogance, he had uttered no word. But it was evident to Sextus what his parent wanted and what he instructed by that silent riddle, he destroyed some of the foremost men of the state by accusing them among the people, and others were themselves exposed by their own unpopularity. Many he killed openly, some certain men for whom an incrimination would have been less plausible, secretly. It was open to those who were willing to be made fugitives or put into exile, and the goods of the absent and of the destroyed equally were given to distribution. There were lavish bestowals from this and spoils ; and by the sweetness of private gain the sense public evils was diminished, until, with Gabi bereft of all counsel and aid, the state was handed over in hand to the Roman king without any fight.

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