The siege of Ardea ; and a contest of womanly virtue.
The Rutuli held Ardea, a tribe, as in that region and in that time, very powerful with riches ; and those very riches were the cause of war, because the Roman king was zealous not only to enrich himself, impoverished by the magnificence of public works, but also to soothe the spirits of the people with spoils, for in addition to his arrogance otherwise, they were also hostile because they were indignant that they were held for so long in offices of workmen and in such servitude for work from the king. The thing was attempted, if Ardea could be taken by the first assault ; when it proceeded too little, he began to press the enemies with siege and siege-works. In these stationary positions, as happens during war more long than bitter, furloughs were quite liberal, moreso for the leading men than for the soldiers; even the royal youth whiled their leisure with banquets and carousal among themselves. By chance while drinking with Sex. Tarquinium, when Collatinus and Tarquinius, son of Egerius, were eating, mention arose about their wives. Each praised his own in marvelous ways ; and so with the contest ablaze, Collatinus denied that there was any need for words ; that in just a few hours it they could see just how much his Lucretia surpassed the others. “For, if there is any vigour of youth in us, why not mount our horses and go see the present nature of our ladies? Let this be the decisive test for each, what meets his eyes when the advent of her husband is not imagined.” They had grown hot with wine ; All cried, “Go! Fare well!” ; They flew to Rome at full gallop. There they arrived with the first deepening shadows, they hastened thence for Collatia, where Lucretia by no means like the royal daughter-in-laws, whom they saw whiling their time in banquets and luxury with her friends, but rather, although late at night, they found her sitting at the center of the house amidst her handmaidens working by lamplight, devoted to spinning. The praise for the contest of womanly virtues went to Lucretia. Her husband and the Tarquins arriving, they were kindly received ; the victorious husband courteously entertains the royal youths. There, a wicked lust to debauch Lucretia by force takes hold of Sex. Tarquinius ; both her form and her proven chastity incites him. And then indeed they return to the camp from their nocturnal juvenile sport.
The foul deed of Sextus Tarquinius.
After a few days passed, Sex. Tarquinius, unbeknownst to Collatinus, came with a single companion to Collatia. There, received kindly by those ignorant of his intent, after he was conducted to a guest room following a meal, ardent with love, after everything seemed sufficiently safe and all around were sleeping, with his sword drawn he came to the slumbering Lucretia, and with his left hand pressed against the breast of the woman, he said, “Quiet, Lucretia! I am Sex. Tarquinius ; there is iron in my hand ; you will die if you utter a word.” When the woman, alarmed from sleep, saw no help, nigh imminent death, then Tarquinius confessed love, begged, mingled threats with entreaties, to turn in any way the womanly mind. When she seemed obdurate, and would not even yield to fear of death he adds dishonour to fear : once dead, he says, he will place a naked slave, his throat slit, so she would be said to have been killed for sordid adultery. With this terror he had conquered her obdurate chastity as if his lust were a victor <by force>, and Tarquinius, exultant at the womanly virtue assaulted, departed thence, Lucretia, grieved by an evil so great, sent the same message to Rome for her father and to Ardea for her husband, that they come with a single, loyal friend, that there was need for deed and for prompt action ; they encountered the atrocious affair. Sp. Lucretius came with P. Valerius son of Volesus, and Collatinus with L. Iunius Brutus, with whom by chance he had met when returning to Rome due to the message from his wife. They found Lucretia sitting in her bedroom grieving. With the arrival of her kin, tears welled up, and when her husband asked, “Are you not well?” she says, “Not in the least. For what is well when a woman’s chastity is lost? The tracks of a foreign man, Collatinus, are in your bed ; the rest of my body is much violated, my spirit innocent ; death will be my witness. But give your right hands and your oath that there will be scarce impunity for the adulterer. It is Sex. Tarquinius who, trading hostility for the hospitality of the prior night, armed with force pestilential to me and to him, if you are men, he stole away joy from here.” All give their oath in turn ; they console the affliction of her spirit by turning away the offence from the compelled to the author of the trespass : the mind sins, not the body, where intent had been absent blame was absent. “You,” she says, “have seen what is owed to him ; I, although I absolve myself of blame, am not liberated from punishment ; nor afterward shall any unchaste woman live by the example of Lucretia.” A blade, which she had hidden beneath her garment, this she plunges into her heart, and she slipped forward into the wound, dying, and fell. Her husband and father lament.