Study Guide for Plutarch's Life of Publicola

Text taken from Thomas North and/or John Dryden
Study Guide by Anne White

This study guide, and expurgated and annotated text, represent a great deal of research, thought, and work. We offer it to be used freely, and hope it will be a blessing to many students, parents, and teachers. However, out of respect for this work, please honor our long-standing terms of use, and do not repost this or any of the AO curriculum anywhere else, in any form. This copyrighted material is free to use, not free to repost or republish. Please be conscientious in your desire to share AO, and link instead of copying.


Making use of language

An expression that comes up in Publicola (in Lesson Eleven) is "making virtue of necessity." Instead of worrying about the hard words in Plutarch, let's celebrate the richness of our language! We have an opportunity to explore the ideas behind words, the reasons behind names, and the fact that the English language is a flexible and growing thing. Those with knowledge of other languages can take this even further, as some words that may appear obscure to English speakers make more sense to those who know or who are learning Spanish or French. One example I noticed in Publicola is in Lesson Two, where dulce is used as a verb, to sweeten or soothe. I don't recall ever seeing that before in English, but it's an obvious relative of French douce and Spanish dulce.

The lists of vocabulary words given in each lesson are mostly for reference. Charlotte Mason mentions teaching a few necessary words before beginning a story; which words you choose will depend on the students' needs. Often that would include words for unfamiliar types of buildings or weapons, which could be shown with pictures. My choice as a teacher would often be words that might have changed meaning or be otherwise ambiguous; one of our family's Plutarch jokes involves a gang of escaping slaves who were delighted to discover an abandoned cartload of "arms."

These are just a few ideas to get you started. I encourage you to make the lessons your own. Use the discussion questions that are the most meaningful to you, and skip the rest. And remember that Charlotte Mason was satisfied with "Proper names are written on the blackboard, and then the children narrate what they have listened to."

Who was Publicola?

In Plutarch's comparison of Publicola and Solon, he says that Publicola was "the most eminent amongst the Romans" and "the fountain of their honour." Publius Valerius Publicola was named for an ancestor who was known for his wisdom and peace-making ability. He himself began earning the citizens' respect even before the main events of this story took place, and it seemed sure that if Rome became a republic, he would be one of its leaders. But political decisions aren't always fair, and Publicola (originally called Valerius) had to handle a major disappointment.

"Publicola" should be pronounced with the stress on the second syllable, as in "ridiculous."

Who was Tarquin? Who were the "kings?"

In 509 B.C., the last king of the Romans, Tarquin, was just about to be ousted, for reasons that Plutarch makes clear. However, he didn't give up without a fight, and his attempts to get the throne back make up one of the main threads of this story.

The "kings" are often referred to in the plural; it means Tarquin's family.

Who was Brutus?

Another major character is Lucius Junius Brutus, usually called Brutus. He and Valerius (Publicola) headed the revolt against Tarquin, and he was one of the first consuls chosen to lead the new Republic. He was an ancestor of the later Brutus who conspired against Julius Caesar.

What was the Roman Republic? How is that different from the Roman Empire?

A Republic is a government made up of elected representatives of the people, or, at least, one where citizens have a certain amount of equality in decision-making. The word comes from the same root as Publicola: "of the people." It does not actually appear in the text; North refers to the "commonweal" instead.

The Roman Republic began in 509 B.C., and ended with Octavian (Caesar Augustus) being given "extraordinary powers" (becoming the first emperor) in 27 B.C.

Who were the Tuscans?

This is a little more complicated than it first appears. Tuscany was part of a larger region of Central Italy called Etruria, and the people of that whole region were the Etruscans. The Etruscans had been a flourishing civilization, but by this time they were being "absorbed" by surrounding cultures. The word for Etruscans in Latin is Tusci, which adds to the confusion. North translates the people as Thuscans and their region as Thuscane; Dryden says Tuscans and Tuscany. I have used Dryden's spelling to make pronunciation easier.

Who was Solon?

Solon, a Greek statesman, is mentioned in the first paragraph. Plutarch wrote his Life of Solon to be paired with that of Publicola, and there is a comparison of the two that is included in the Lives. For the sake of space, it is not included in this study.

What were Lictors, Axes, Rods, and Fasces?

The consuls, or co-rulers, of the Republic had a bodyguard of twelve men, called lictors. Each lictor carried a bundle of sticks (rods) that also contained an axe; the whole thing was called the fasces. Originally this was not just a symbol of power, but an actual weapon or instrument of official punishment. Later, as you will read in the story, the axes were removed and the fasces became more symbolic. Older students who are interested in words may want to explore the connection between "fasces" and "fascism."

What is Magnanimity?

This is another word that does not appear in the text, but I have used it in the study questions. It comes from words that mean "great-souled." To be magnanimous is to be noble, and to have a generous spirit. Many Romans would have said that Publicola was an example of magnanimity.

Lesson ONE


How did Charlotte Mason begin a new Life in Citizenship? She started with something that the students already knew, something that had been studied recently or that could be compared. Maybe you have been reading about later events in the Roman Empire, or about the events leading up to the American War of Independence and the formation of a government afterwards. Or, if all this is fairly new for your student, you can find out what he or she does know about Ancient Rome. If nothing else, you will want to show where Rome is, and talk about the idea of city-states. Rome was a city, not a country, but it had its own government, and came to rule other cities and countries as well.

To get things started, you may want to talk about the subject of names and nicknames, including the Roman style of names. Other than King Tarquin (properly called Lucius Tarquinius Superbus), the first two characters we will be discussing are Publius Valerius Publicola and Lucius Junius Brutus; they were usually called Valerius (in the beginning) and Brutus. A cognomen was a person's first or personal name; his second name showed his family, although he could be referred to by that name (in the same way that we do); and a third name, an agnomen or nickname, could be added to distinguish a particular person. You can probably think of more recent examples where people have extra nicknames or titles added; you may even have friends you call "Jim Smith around the corner" or "Jim Smith on the basketball team." King Tarquin's agnomen meant "the proud." Note that Brutus also had three names, but none of them were an agnomen.

You might want to use that to lead into a short discussion of the agnomen given to Valerius, which was Publicola, a man of the people, or loved by the people. Some writers spell that name Poplicola, which might give you another clue as to its meaning. What sort of a person do you think would be given that name? (Write down your ideas.)


Now we have declared what Solon was: Plutarch's Life of Solon comes just before that of Publicola.

surname: a last name, but not necessarily a family name; an agnomen

in very great estimation: held in great public esteem

manifest: obvious

if the realm came to be converted into a public state: it seemed likely that Rome would soon be under a new form of government by the people

[(she killing herself after violence had been done to her)]: Dryden's translation; North's is less euphemistic.

enterprise: undertaking

meetest: best suited

sovereignty alone: rule by kings, without any voice from the citizens

better estimation: held in better esteem by the people

repaired: went

in very tickle terms: in a very precarious situation; unstable

upon the sacrifices: upon the altars

the marketplace: the Forum

perform: prove


Now we have declared what Solon was, we have thought good to compare him with Publicola, to whom the Roman people for an honour gave that surname: for he was called before Publius Valerius, descended from that ancient Valerius, who was one of the chiefest workers and means, to bring the Romans and the Sabines that were mortal enemies, to join together as one people. For it was he [this earlier Valerius] that most moved the two kings to agree, and join together.

Publicola being descended of him, whilst the kings did rule yet at Rome, was in very great estimation, as well for his eloquence, as for his riches: using the [first] one rightly and freely, for the maintenance of justice, and the other liberally and courteously, for the relief of the poor. So that it was manifest, if the realm came to be converted into a public state, he should be one of the chiefest men of the same.

Note: If you have never read Plutarch before, consider stopping to narrate here before you go any further. What do you know so far about Valerius (that is, Publicola)? Why was he held in such esteem by the Romans? How far did everyone expect his career to go? If you are studying U.S. history, can you draw any comparisons between the fledgling Roman Republic and the "young United States?"

It chanced that King Tarquin, surnamed "the proud," being come to the crown by no good lawful mean, but contrarily by indirect and wicked ways, and behaving himself not like a king, but like a cruel tyrant: the people much hated and detested him, by reason of the death of Lucretia [(she killing herself after violence had been done to her)], and so the whole city rose and rebelled against him. Lucius Brutus taking upon him to be the head and captain of this insurrection and rebellion, did join first with this Valerius: who did greatly favour and assist his enterprise, and did help him to drive out King Tarquin with all his house and family.

Note: Stop and narrate if you want.

Now whilst they were thinking that the people would choose someone alone to be chief ruler over them, instead of a king: Valerius kept himself quiet, as yielding willingly unto Brutus the first place, who was meetest for it, having been the chief author and worker of their recovered liberty. But when they saw the name of monarchy (as much to say, as sovereignty alone) was displeasant to the people, and that they would like better to have the rule divided unto two, and how for this cause they would rather choose two consuls: Valerius then began to hope, he should be the second person with Brutus.

Note: Stop and narrate if you want. Why did the Romans think it would be better to have two leaders at once?

Howbeit this hope failed him. For against Brutus' will, Tarquinius Collatinus (the husband of Lucretia) was chosen consul with him: not because he was a man of greater virtue, or of better estimation than Valerius. But the noble men of the city fearing the practises of the kings abroad, which sought by all the fair and flattering means they could to return again into the city: did determine to make such a one consul, whom occasion forced to be their hard and heavy enemy, persuading themselves that Tarquinius Collatinus would for no respect yield unto them.

Note: Stop and narrate if you want. Why was Tarquinius Collatinus chosen as co-consul with Brutus?

Valerius took this matter grievously, but [he thought it showed that] they had a mistrust in him, as if he would not do any thing he could, for the benefit of his country: notwithstanding he had never any private injury offered him by the tyrants.

Note: What was going on here? Why did they think Valerius would be less likely to be wholeheartedly opposed to the "tyrants" (the former royal family)?

Wherefore, he repaired no more unto the Senate to plead for private men, and wholly gave up to meddle in matters of state: insomuch as he gave many occasion to think of his absence, and it troubled some men much, who feared least upon this his misliking and withdrawing, he would fall to the king's side, and so bring all the city in an uproar, considering it stood then but in very tickle terms. But when Brutus, who stood in jealousy of some, would by oath be assured of the Senate, and had appointed them a day solemnly to take their oaths upon the sacrifices: Valerius then with a good cheerful countenance came into the marketplace, and was the first that took his oath he would leave nothing undone, that might prejudice the Tarquins, but with all his able power he would fight against them, and defend the liberty of the city.

This oath of his marvellously rejoiced the Senate, and gave great assurance also to the consuls, but specially, because his deeds did shortly after perform his words.

Narration and Discussion

How did Valerius react to his disappointment? Do you think it is significant that Plutarch says Valerius was the first man to take the oath of loyalty? What does it say about his character?

What might Valerius have done (as the people feared) if he had been of a spiteful nature?

Think about well-known names in history. What it would mean to you to be named for a famous ancestor? Do you think it is more important to be respected because of your family or because of your own actions? (Look up Proverbs 22:1.)

Lesson TWO


If you were the head of the new Roman government, how would you feel about receiving a "friendly" visit from the agents of the former king? Would you even let them in the door? Tarquin sent some of his men to Rome with promises that he would be a nicer king in the future (if the Romans let him back in), and with the presumed threat that if they did not permit him to return, he would come back by force.


sweet and lowly speeches: Dryden translates this "popular and specious proposals"; specious means farfetched or untrue, which isn't exactly the same as lowly, but you get the idea.

to dulce and soften the hardened hearts of the multitude: Dryden: "whereby they thought to seduce the people." To dulce is to sweeten and soothe.

nought but: nothing but

suffer: allow

a fast and resolute man: Dryden translates this "a man of vehement and unbending nature," and this is important to remember about Brutus.

not so much as to be relieved: not even a living allowance

a private man: a private citizen, not holding public office

that the tyrants' goods be rather in your custody to make war with them, than in theirs, to bring war upon yourselves: use what they left behind to make war on them, rather than returning it to them so that they can use it to attack you

he secretly corrupted the people, and practised treason: The real purpose of the ambassadors' remaining in Rome was to find people who would conspire with them to return Tarquin to the throne.

to wit: that is

drawn to their string: gotten on their side; "seduced to join in the plot" (Dryden), or, possibly, "lured onto their hook."

cousin germaines: close cousins

preferment: good position

for that: because

had feigned himself mad: had pretended to be insane (like King David in the Bible), or possibly only slow-witted

the name of Brutus only remained: because Brutus had "played the fool," he had lost his authority

murdered: North implies that the conspirators were going to kill someone so that they could take the oath. Dryden's version is not clear on that. No more details are given on exactly what happened at the meeting, only that they concluded the matter and left the house.

servants: slaves

or that he had any manner of inkling thereof before: he had no hint of anything that was about to happen

coffer: trunk, chest

advertising: informing


For there came ambassadors to Rome which brought letters from King Tarquin, full of sweet and lowly speeches to win the favour of the people, with commission to use all the mildest means they could, to dulce and soften the hardened hearts of the multitude: who declared how the king had left all pride and cruelty, and meant to ask nought but reasonable things.

Note: Stop and narrate if you want.

The consuls thought best to give them open audience, and to suffer them to speak to the people. But Valerius was against it, declaring it might peril the state much, and deliver occasion of new stir unto a multitude of poor people, which were more afraid of wars, than of tyranny.

After that, there came other ambassadors also, which said that Tarquin would from thenceforth forever give over and renounce his title to the kingdom, and [his plan] to make any more wars, but besought them only, that they would at the least deliver him and his friends their money and goods, that they might have wherewithal to keep them in their banishment. Many came on apace, and were very ready to yield to this request, and specially Collatinus, one of the Consuls who did favour their motion. But Brutus that was a fast and resolute man, and very fierce in his heart, ran immediately into the marketplace, crying out that his fellow consul was a traitor, and [that Collatinus was] contented to grant the tyrants matter and means to make war upon the city, where indeed they deserved not so much as to be relieved in their exile.

Note: Stop and narrate if you want.

Hereupon the people assembled together, and the first that spake in this assembly, was a private man called Gaius Minutius [Dryden: Caius Minucius], who speaking unto Brutus, and to the whole assembly, said unto them: O noble Consul and Senate, handle so the matter, that the tyrants' goods be rather in your custody to make war with them, than in theirs, to bring war upon yourselves.

Notwithstanding, the Romans were of opinion, that having gotten the liberty, for which they fought with the tyrants: they should not disappoint the offered peace, with keeping back their goods, but rather they should throw their goods out after them.

Note: Stop and narrate if you want.

Howbeit this was the least part of Tarquin's intent, to seek his goods again: but under pretence of that demand, he secretly corrupted the people, and practised treason, which his ambassadors followed, pretending only to get the King's goods and his favourers together, saying, that they had already sold some part, and some part they kept, and sent them daily. So as by delaying the time in this sort with such pretences, they had corrupted two of the best and ancientest houses of the city: to wit, the family of the Aquillians, whereof there were three senators: and the family of the Vitellians, whereof there were two senators: all which by their mothers, were Consul Collatinus' nephews.

The Vitellians also were allied unto Brutus, for he had married their own sister, and had many children by her. Of the which [of Brutus's sons] the Vitellians had drawn to their string, two of the eldest of them, because they familiarly frequented together, being cousin germaines: whom they had enticed to be of their conspiracy, allying them with the house of the Tarquins, which was of great power, and through the which they might persuade themselves to rise to great honour and preferment by means of the kings, rather than to trust to their father's willful hardness. For they called his severity to the wicked, hardness: for that he would never pardon any. Furthermore Brutus had feigned himself mad, and a fool of long time for safety of his life, because the tyrants should not put him to death: so that the name of Brutus only remained.

After these two young men had given their consent to be of the confederacy, and had spoken with the Aquillians: they all thought good to be bound one to another, with a great and horrible oath, drinking the blood of a [murdered] man, and [touching his entrails].

Note: Stop and narrate if you want.

This matter agreed upon between them, they met together to put their sacrifice in execution, in the house of the Aquillians. They had fitly picked out a dark place in the house to do this sacrifice in, and where almost nobody came: yet it happened by chance, that one of the servants of the house called Vindicius, had hidden himself there, unknowing to the traitors, and of no set purpose to spy and see what they did, or that he had any manner of inkling thereof before: but falling by chance upon the matter, even as the traitors came into that place with a countenance to do some secret thing of importance, fearing to be seen, he kept himself close, and lay behind a coffer that was there, so that he saw all that was done, and what they said and determined. The conclusion of their counsel in the end was this, that they would kill both the consuls: and they wrote letters to Tarquinius advertising the same, which they gave unto his ambassadors, being lodged in the house of the Aquillians, and [who] were present at this conclusion.

Word Study

In the vocabulary list, we have "To dulce is to sweeten and soothe." Dulce is an uncommon word in English; but we do use dulcet, meaning gentle and melodious. For fun: find out the meaning of "dulce de leche" or "carbón dulce."

Narration and Discussion

Valerius/Publicola was not one of the consuls, yet the Romans listened to his opinion in allowing Tarquin's ambassadors to speak publicly. Why do you think they respected his wisdom in this case? What do you think might have happened if the men had been allowed to speak?

Why do you think Plutarch says that the poorer people "were more afraid of wars, than of tyranny?"

If you were the ambassadors, what sort of people would you try to lure onto your hook? Why do you think they would have been especially delighted with these particular young men? Read Proverbs 1:10-33. How could this passage help someone avoid a similar mistake?

Lesson THREE


This section is not for the faint of heart. It shows the consequence of the treachery of Brutus' sons, and the importance that the Republic held in the eyes of their father and others such as Valerius/Publicola.

The last section ended with the slave Vindicius overhearing the plot to assassinate both Brutus and Collatinus. Vindicius did not want to go directly to either of them because he feared to bring such a great charge against close family members of the consuls. (Although the young men did not seem to show any great love towards their uncle and father.) In the end, he decided to go to the one person he knew who was wise, powerful and also kind--Valerius. Valerius acted promptly to seize both the traitors and the incriminating papers, and justice was carried out swiftly.


at a maze: perplexed

any private person: he needed to tell someone who had authority to act

bewray: reveal, divulge

withal: in addition to everything else

to intercept these letters: the ambassadors were taking the letters to have them sent to the king; the king was not in Rome, but his former palace seems to have been a likely spot to transmit them; or to catch the ambassadors or other royal sympathizers. But the first place that Valerius went was to the house of the Aquilians, where he did find the letters.

having intelligence thereof: having received news of this

far-dells: North's spelling of fardels, which means parcels

bondman: slave

for that: because

Note on Narration Prompts

From this point on I will not mark "narration breaks," but you may wish to go through the text yourself ahead of time, and mark good stopping points. Some students prefer to listen to longer passages before narrating; others need to stop more frequently.


With this determination they departed from thence, and Vindicius came out also as secretly as he could, being marvellously troubled in mind, and at a maze how to deal in this matter. For he thought it dangerous (as it was indeed) to go and accuse the two sons unto the father (which was Brutus) of so wicked and detestable a treason, and the nephews unto their uncle, which was Collatinus.

On the other side also, he thought this was a secret, not to be imparted to [just] any private person, and not possible for him to conceal it, that was bound in duty to reveal it.

So he resolved at the last to go to Valerius to bewray this treason, of a special affection to this man, by reason of his gentle and courteous using of men, giving easy access and audience unto any that came to speak with him, and specially for that he disdained not to hear poor men's causes. Vindicius being gone to speak with him, and having told him the whole conspiracy before his brother Marcus, and his wife, he was abashed and fearful withal: whereupon he [Valerius] stayed him least he should slip away, and locked him in a chamber, charging his wife to watch the door, that nobody went in nor out unto him. And willed his brother also, that he should go and beset the king's palace round about, to intercept these letters if it were possible, and to see that none of their servants fled.

Valeriuis [him]self being followed (according to his manner) with a great train of his friends and people that waited on him, went straight unto the house of the Aquillians, who by chance were [away] from home at that time: and entering in at the gate, without let or trouble of any man, he found the letters in the chamber where King Tarquin's ambassadors [were staying].

Whilst he was thus occupied, the Aquillians having intelligence thereof, ran home immediately, and found Valerius coming out at their gate. So they would have taken those letters from him by force, and strong hand. But Valerius and his company did resist them, and moreover hooded them with their gowns over their heads, and by force brought them (do what they could) into the marketplace. The like was done also in the king's palace, where Marcus Valerius found other letters also wrapped up in certain far-dells for their more safe carriage, and brought away with him by force into the marketplace, all the King's servants he found there.

There the consuls having caused silence to be made, Valerius sent home to his house for this bondman Vindicius, to be brought before the consuls: then the traitors were openly accused, and their letters read, and they had not the face to answer one word. All that were present, being amazed, hung down their heads, and beheld the ground, and not a man durst once open his mouth to speak, excepting a few, who to gratify Brutus, began to say that they should [only] banish them: and Collatinus also gave them some hope, because he fell to weeping, and Valerius in like manner for that he held his peace.

But Brutus calling his sons by their names: Come on (said he) Titus, and thou Tiberius, why do you not answer to that you are accused of? and having spoken thrice unto them to answer, when he saw they stood mute, and said nothing: he turned him to the sergeants, and said unto them : They are now in your hands, do justice.

So soon as he had spoken these words, the sergeants laid hold immediately upon the two young men, and tearing their clothes off their backs, bound their hands behind them, and then whipped them with rods: which was such a pitiful sight to all the people, that they could not find in their hearts to behold it, but turned themselves another way, because they would not see it. But contrariwise, they say that their own father [Brutus] had never his eye off them, neither did change his austere and fierce countenance, with any pity or natural affection towards them, but steadfastly did behold the punishment of his own children, until they were laid flat on the ground, and both their heads stricken off with an axe before him.

When they were executed, Brutus rose from the bench, and left the execution of the rest unto his fellow consul. This was such an act, as men cannot sufficiently praise, nor reprove enough. For either it was his excellent virtue, that made his mind so quiet, or else the greatness of his misery that took away the feeling of his sorrow: whereof neither the one nor the other was any small matter, but passing the common nature of man, that hath in it both divineness, and sometime beastly brutishness. But it is better the judgement of men should commend his fame, than that the affection of men by their judgements should diminish his virtue. For the Romans hold opinion, it was not so great an act done of Romulus first to build Rome, as it was for Brutus to recover Rome, and the best liberty thereof, and to renew the ancient government of the same.

Word Study

The word "fardel" comes from an Old French word meaning parcel or package, and in modern French and Spanish we have fardeau and fardo, meaning load or bundle, or a burden in the metaphorical sense. But its roots may go back even further, to the Arabic word fardah, meaning "each of the twin loads carried by a beast."

Narration and Discussion

In his position as consul, Brutus believed he had to allow the full punishment for treason, not showing favouritism towards his own family. In his story of a later Brutus (the one involved in the assassination of Julius Caesar), Plutarch describes the first Brutus this way: "But that ancient Brutus was of a severe and inflexible nature, like steel of too hard a temper, and having never had his character softened by study and thought, he let himself be so far transported with his rage and hatred against tyrants, that, for conspiring with them, he proceeded to the execution even of his own sons." Do you agree that it was Brutus' fanatical rage and hatred that allowed him to carry out this deed? Or was it an act of self-defence and justice? After all, these sons had conspired to kill him. Should he have forgiven them? (Note also that he gave his sons a chance to defend themselves, and they refused.)

A Biblical parallel to Brutus may be found in II Samuel 19:1-8. When David mourned excessively for his son Absalom, General Joab came to him and reproved him, saying that David was ignoring all his other subjects who had fought for him in the battle. David listened to Joab's wisdom, and went out and "sat in the gate" where he belonged. Do you agree that it is the mark of a true leader to put his personal feelings aside for the sake of his people?

"It was not so great an act done of Romulus first to build Rome, as it was for Brutus to recover Rome..." Explain what was meant by this.

An Extra Challenge

In spite of the execution scene, this section has several interesting and enjoyable moments. The dilemma of the slave Vindicius, who overheard everything and had to decide what to do with his information, is worthy of a Shakespearean monologue. In fact, Plutarch was one of Shakespeare's favorite books, and he borrowed heavily from the Lives for several of his plays. Pretend you are Shakespeare looking for new play material, and write the conspiracy scene (and/or Vindicius' musings afterward) in dramatic form.

Lesson FOUR


This section begins with what sounds like a completely unjust idea to modern ears. Because Vindicius, the star witness, was the slave of the Aquillii, the defendants in this court case, they requested permission to have him given into their own custody (and they would therefore have prevented him from testifying against them). Collatinus was more than happy to agree to this (not wanting to see his nephews executed); but Valerius stepped in and demanded protection for Vindicius and punishment for the traitors. His reputation for justice and fairness was finally rewarded.

The last section of this reading (Now amongst other lands, the goodliest part of the field of Mars" to "Thus you hear the report how this thing happened") is a sidebar; it gives some extra information but is not essential to understanding the story. If time is short, you can skip over it.


a maze: perplexity

to break up the assembly thereupon: to adjourn the proceedings until the defense had their case ready

stayed. . . for departing away: kept them from leaving

sergeants: lictors (see note at the beginning of the guide)

put them by: stopped them

yielded up his consulship: resigned his position

in his room: in his place

travail: labour

recompense: reward

manumised: freed (the American spelling is manumized)

in any company or tribe he would be enrolled in: he could choose which clan to belong to

fell not out: did not happen

Thus you hear the report how this thing happened: Well, that's what they say happened anyway.


When Brutus was gone, all the people in the marketplace remained as they had been, in a maze, full of fear and wonder, and [stayed] a great while without speaking to see what was done. The Aquillians [those accused] straight grew bold, for that they saw the other consul proceed[ed] gently, and mildly against them: and Collatinus so made petition they might have time given them to answer to the articles they were accused of, and that they might have their slave and bondman Vindicius delivered into their hands, because there was no reason he should remain with their accusers.

The consul seemed willing to yield thereto, and was ready to break up the assembly thereupon. But Valerius said, he would not deliver Vindicius (who was among the assembly that attended upon his person) and stayed the people besides for departing away, lest they should negligently let those escape that had so wickedly sought to betray their country. Until he himself had laid hands upon them, calling upon Brutus to assist him, with open exclamation against Collatinus, that he did not behave himself like a just and true man, seeing his fellow Brutus was forced for justice's sake to see his own sons put to death: and he [Collatinus] in contrary manner, to please a few women, sought to let go manifest traitors, and open enemies to their country.

The consul [Collatinus] being offended herewith, commanded they should bring away the bondman Vindicius. So the sergeants making way through the press, laid hands upon him to bring him away with them, and began to strike at [any people] which offered to resist them. But Valerius' friends stepped out before them, and put them by. The people shouted straight, and cried out for Brutus: who with this noise returned again into the marketplace, and after silence made him, he spake in this wise. For mine own children, I alone have been their sufficient judge, to see them have the law according to their deservings: the rest [of the accused] I have left freely to the judgement of the people. Wherefore (said he) if any man be disposed to speak, let him stand up, and persuade the people as he thinketh best. Then there needed no more words, but only to hearken what the people cried: who with one voice and consent condemned them, and cried execution, and accordingly they had their heads stricken off.

Now Consul Collatinus long before [had been seen] in some suspicion, as allied to the kings, and disliked for his surname, because he was called Tarquinius: who perceiving himself in this case much hated and mistrusted of the people, voluntarily yielded up his consulship, and departed the city. The people assembling then themselves, to place a successor in his room: they chose Valerius in his room, without the contradiction of any, for his faithful travail and diligence bestowed in this great matter.

Then Valerius judging that Vindicius the bondman had well deserved also some recompense, caused him not only to be manumised by the whole grant of the people, but made him a free man of the city besides: and he was the first bondman manumised, that was made citizen of Rome, with permission also to give his voice in all elections of officers, in any company or tribe he would be enrolled in. Long time after that, and very lately, Appius to curry favour with the common people, made it lawful for bondmen manumised, to give their voices also in elections, as other citizens did: and unto this day the perfect manumising and freeing of bondmen, is called Vindicta, after the name of this Vindicius that was then made a free man.

These things thus passed over, the goods of the kings were given to the spoil of the people, and their palaces were razed and overthrown.

Now amongst other lands, the goodliest part of the field of Mars was belonging unto King Tarquin: the same they consecrated forthwith unto the god Mars, and not long before they had cut down the wheat thereof. The sheaves being yet in shocks in the field, they thought they might not grind the wheat, nor make any commodity of the profit thereof: wherefore they threw both corn and sheaves into the river, and trees also which they had hewn down and rooted up, to the end that the field being dedicated to the god Mars, should be left bare, without bearing any fruit at all. These sheaves thus thrown into the river, were carried down by the stream not far from thence, unto a ford and shallow place of the water, where they first did stay, and did let the other which came after, that it could go no further: there these heaps gathered together, and lay so close one to another, that they began to sink and settle fast in the water. Afterwards the stream of the river brought down continually such mud and gravel, that it ever increased the heap of corn more and more in such sort, that the force of the water could no more remove it from thence, but rather softly pressing and driving it together, did firm and harden it, and made it grow so to land. Thus this heap rising still in greatness and firmness, by reason that all that came down the river stayed there, it grew in the end, and by time to spread so far, that at this day it is called the Holy Island in Rome: in which are many goodly temples of divers gods, and sundry walks about it, and they call it in Latin, Inter duos pontes: in our tongue, "between the two bridges."

Yet some write, that this thing fell not out at that time when the field of the Tarquins was consecrated unto Mars: but that it happened afterwards, when one of the Vestal Nuns, called Tarquinia, gave a field of hers unto the people, which was hard adjoining unto Tarquin's field. For which liberality and bounty of hers, they did grant her in recompense many privileges, and did her great honour besides. As amongst others, it was ordained, that her word and witness should stand good, and be allowed, in matters judicial: which privilege, never woman besides her self did enjoy. By special grace of the people also, it was granted her, that she might marry if she thought it good: but yet she would not accept the benefit of that offer. Thus you hear the report how this thing happened.

Word Study

Manumise or manumize: to free a slave or release a captive, from the noun manumission. It literally means "to send forth from the hand." The Latin word emancipatus, where we get our word "emancipation," did not originally refer to the freeing of slaves, but to a son or wife being released from the control of the head of the family.

Narration and Discussion

What character qualities did Valerius/Publicola show in this passage?

Why do you think he cared about the fate of one very lowly slave (more than he did about the lives of two Roman citizens)?

Extra Challenges

Describe these events from the point of view of Vindicius.

Find out more about what it meant to be a citizen of Rome. Who could be a citizen? What rights did a citizen have? St. Paul was a citizen of Rome; how did his citizenship help him on at least one occasion?

Lesson Five


A short story about revenge, battles, scary things, and the first-ever Roman Triumph.


Tuscans: This is the first mention of the Tuscans. See the note in the introduction.

succour: help

encountered: met up

tempest: storm

conjecturing afar: guessing from a distance

fell out: occurred

had the spoil of: looted

so many saving one: exactly one less


Tarquinius then being past hope of ever entering into his kingdom again, went yet unto the Tuscans for succour, which were very glad of him: and so they levied a great army together, hoping to have put him in his kingdom again. The consuls also hearing thereof, went out with their army against him. Both the armies presented themselves in battle [ar]ray, one against another, in the holy places consecrated to the gods: whereof the one was called the wood Arsia, and the other the meadow Æsuvia.

And as both armies began to give charge upon each other, Aruns the eldest son of King Tarquin, and the consul Brutus encountered together, not by chance, but sought for of set purpose to execute the deadly [rage] and malice they did bear each other. The one [Brutus], as against a tyrant and enemy of the liberty of his country: the other [Aruns], as against him [Brutus] that had been chief author and worker of their exile and expulsion. So they set spurs to their horses, so soon as they had spied each other, with more fury than reason, and fought so desperately together, that they both fell stark dead to the ground.

The first onset of the battle being so cruel, the end thereof was no less bloody, until both the armies having received and done like damage to each other, were parted by a marvellous great tempest that fell upon them. Now was Valerius marvellously perplexed, for that he knew not which of them won the field that day, seeing his soldiers as sorrowful for the great loss of their men lying dead before them, as they were glad of the slaughter and victory of their enemies. For, to view the multitude of the slain bodies of either side, the number was so equal in sight, that it was very hard to judge, of which side fell out the greatest slaughter: so that both the one and the other viewing by the eye the remain[s] of their camp, were persuaded in their opinion, that they had rather lost than won, conjecturing afar of the fall of their enemies.

The night being come, such things fell out, as may be looked for after so terrible a battle. For when both camps were all laid to rest, they say the wood wherein they lay encamped, quaked and trembled: and they heard a voice say, that only one man more was slain on the Tuscans' side, than on the Romans' part. Out of doubt this was some voice from heaven: for the Romans thereupon gave a shrill shout, as those whose hearts received a new quickening spirit or courage.

The Tuscans on the contrary part were so afraid, that the most part of them stole out of the camp, and scattered here and there: and there remained behind about the number of five thousand men, whom the Romans took prisoners every one, and had the spoil of their camp. The carcasses were viewed afterwards, and they found that there were slain in that battle, eleven thousand and three hundred of the Tuscans: and of the Romans, so many saving one.

This battle was fought (as they say) the last day of February, and the Consul Valerius triumphed, being the first of the consuls that ever entered into Rome triumphing upon a chariot drawn with four horses, which sight the people found honourable and goodly to behold, and were not offended withal (as some seem to report) nor yet did envy him for that he began it. For if it had been so, that custom had not been followed with so good acceptation, nor had continued so many years as it did afterwards.

Word Study

Conjecture: to put forth a theory; guess, suppose, speculate. The word comes from a Middle French verb, jacere, to throw. To conjecture is to throw a conclusion together. Project comes from the same root, and means to throw forward (or extend). What do you think the literal meaning of interject might be?

Narration and Discussion

Plutarch says that Brutus and Tarquin's son both acted "with more fury than reason." Was this self-sacrifice the best choice, or would Brutus have done better by leading his men in the rest of the battle?

The question of the "divine announcement" may be the first thing to discuss here. It is obvious that something happened; somehow the Roman troops received a much-needed boost of confidence that allowed them to jump up and plunder the Tuscan tents. We might think that it was the sudden shouting and rush of soldiers that frightened the Tuscans away, but Plutarch seems to be saying that the Tuscans also heard the voice; that is, that they ran away before the Romans attacked their camp. Is there any other logical explanation for what happened? Is it possible that it was some kind of trick?

Finally, look at the role of Valerius/Publicola in this battle. True to what we know of his steady leadership, he was not out for personal revenge, but continued to do his best even when the army seemed to be defeated. He also continued to grow in power, with the death of Brutus and his own magnificent Triumph. Why do you think he was greeted with so much enthusiasm?

Extra Challenges

Find out more about Roman Triumphs. What typically happened when a hero entered the city?

Choose a scene from the reading to illustrate; or write a series of headlines that might have appeared in the "Rome Daily News."

Lesson SIX


As you read, pay attention particularly to the ways that Publicola (he was finally called by that name) showed wisdom and magnanimity.

If you are reading with a younger student, you may wish to stop after "[he] employed his sole power and authority whilst he ruled alone, upon high and noble attempts." The rest of the passage details those political and legal changes that Publicola made while he still had absolute power, temporary though it might be.


obsequies: funeral rites

at the which: at which

procured: caused, arranged things

maces, the axes and the rods: a mace is a ceremonial staff; this could refer to the axes and rods or fasces (see introductory note). Dryden does not mention maces.

the marketplace: the Forum

ill to come to it: awkward to access it

stood not in his own conceit: didn't argue about it

world of workmen: number of workmen

he put away the carrying of the axes from the rods: from now on, the rods would be carried without the axes, as symbols of the government's power but not literally used as weapons or for punishment

sergeants: lictors (see introductory note)

embase his dignity and greatness: lower his own dignity

ask the consulship: seek election as consul

supplied up: increased

a hundred three score and four: a hundred and sixty-four

by the gift of the people: by the consent of the people

no more custom, nor any impost whatsoever: no income tax

the commonalty: the working class, also called the plebeians

oboles: plural of obol or obolus, a coin

rother beasts: bovine animals; cattle


They much commended also the honour he did to his fellow consul Brutus, in setting out his funerals and obsequies, at the which he made a funeral oration in his praise. [The oration did so] please the Romans, that they have ever since continued that custom at the burial of any noble man, or great personage, that he is openly praised at his burial, by the worthiest man that liveth among them. They report this funeral oration is far more ancient than the first, that was made in Greece in the like case: unless they will confirm that which the orator Anaximenes hath written, that the manner of praising the dead at their funerals, was first of all instituted by Solon.

But they did most envy Valerius, and bear him grudge, because Brutus (whom the people did acknowledge for father of their liberty) would never be alone in office, but had procured twice, that they should appoint Valerius fellow consul with him. This man [Valerius] in contrariwise (said the people) taking upon him alone the rule and sovereignty, sheweth plainly he will not be Brutus' successor in his consulship, but Tarquinius [him]self in the kingdom.

For to great purpose was it to praise Brutus in words, and to follow Tarquinius in deeds: having borne before himself only all the maces, the axes and the rods, when he cometh abroad out of his own house, which is far greater, and more stately, than the king's palace which he himself overthrew. And to say truly, Valerius dwelt in a house a little too sumptuously built and seated, upon the hanging of the hill called Mount Velia: and because it stood high, it overlooked all the marketplace, so that any man might easily see from thence what was done there. Furthermore, it was very ill to come to it: but when he came out of his house, it was a marvellous pomp and state to see him come down from so high a place, and with a train after him, that carried the majesty of a king's court.

But herein Valerius left a noble example, shewing how much it importeth a noble man and magistrate, ruling weighty causes, to have his ears open to hear, and willingly to receive free speech instead of flatteries, and plain truth in place of lies. For, being informed by some of his friends how the people misliked and complained of it, he stood not in his own conceit, neither was angry with them: but forthwith set a world of workmen upon it, early in the morning before break of day, and commanded them to pluck down his house, and to raze it to the ground.

Insomuch as the next day following, when the Romans were gathered together in the marketplace, and saw this great sudden ruin, they much commended the noble act and mind of Valerius, in doing that [which] he did: but so were they angry, and sorry both, to see so fair and stately a built house (which was an ornament to the city) overthrown upon a sudden. Much like in comparison to a man, whom through spite and envy they had unjustly put to death: and to see their chief magistrate also like a stranger and a vagabond, compelled to seek his lodging in another man's house. For his friends received him into their houses, until such time as the people had given him a place, where they did build him a new house, far more orderly, and nothing so stately and curious as the first was, and it was in the same place, where the temple called Vicus Publicus standeth at this day.

Now because he would not only reform his person, but the office of his consulship, and also would frame himself to the good acceptation and liking of the people: where before he seemed unto them to be fearful, he put away the carrying of the axes from the rods, which the sergeants used to bear before the consul. Moreover when he came into the marketplace, where the people were assembled, he caused the rods to be borne downwards, as in token of reverence of the sovereign majesty of the people: which all the magistrates observe yet at this day.

Now in all this humble show and lowliness of his, he did not so much embase his dignity and greatness, which the common people thought him to have at the first: as he did thereby cut [their] envy from him, winning again as much true authority, as in semblance he would seem to have lost. For this made the people willinger to obey, and readier to submit themselves unto him: insomuch as upon this occasion he was surnamed Publicola, as much to say, as the people pleaser. Which surname he kept ever after, and we from henceforth also writing the rest of his life, will use no other name: for he was contented to suffer any man that would, to offer himself to ask the consulship in Brutus' place. But he yet not knowing what kind of man they would join fellow consul with him, and fearing least through envy or ignorance, the party might thwart his purpose and meaning: [he] employed his sole power and authority whilst he ruled alone, upon high and noble attempts.

For first of all he supplied up the number of Senators that were greatly decayed, because King Tarquin had put some of them to death not long before, and other[s] also had been lately slain in the wars: in whose places he had chosen new Senators, to the number of a hundred three score and four.

After that, he made new decrees and laws, which greatly did advance the authority of the people. The first law gave liberty to all offenders, condemned by judgement of the consuls, to appeal unto the people. The second, that no man upon pain of death should take upon him the exercise of any office, unless he had come unto it by the gift of the people. The third was, and all in favour of the poor, that the poor citizens of Rome should pay no more custom, nor any impost whatsoever. This made every man the more willing to give himself to some craft or occupation, when he saw his travail should not be taxed, nor taken from him.

As for the law that he made against those that disobeyed the consuls, it was found to be so favourable to the commonalty, as they thought it was rather made for the poor, than for the rich and great men. For the offenders and breakers of that law, were condemned to pay for a penalty, the value of five oxen, and two muttons. The price of a mutton was then, ten oboles, and of an ox, a hundred oboles. For in those days, the Romans had no store of coined money, otherwise, they lacked no sheep, nor other rother beasts. Hereof it came, that to this day they call their riches or substance, Peculium, because Pecus signifieth sheep and muttons. And in the old time the stamp upon their money was an ox, a mutton, or a hog: and some of them called their children Biibulci, which signifieth cowherds: others, Caprarii, to say, goatherds: and others Porcii, as you would say, swineherds.

Word Study

Obsequy, obsequies: funeral rites. It is easy to confuse this word with obsequious, which means over-dutiful, fawning, boot-licking. (Can you see a connection between the two?) Some might say that Valerius was being a bit obsequious by making new laws that favoured the poorer citizens. An overdose of being obsequious could be called overobsequiousness.

Narration and Discussion

What might have happened at this point if Publicola had allowed himself to give in to selfish ambition? How did he make it clear that he had no such intentions?

Why was one of Publicola's first moves to increase the number of senators? Wouldn't this weaken his own power? He also made laws "which added much to the people's liberty." Do you think that his tax cuts and so on were just politically prudent ways to gain votes and personal popularity?

Lesson SEVEN


It is said that "power corrupts." Think of kings and other rulers who became greedy or ruthless as their power grew. Why do you think it is so easy for a ruler to become corrupted? Can you think of anyone who resisted that temptation?

This reading can be divided into two parts. The first describes some of Publicola's acts as consul, and the events around the selection of his "co-consuls"--first Lucretius and then Marcus Horatius.

The second part of the reading moves back to Tarquin, who was preparing, with the Tuscans, to attack Rome again. As king, he had designed an ornamental chariot that was supposed to be placed on top of a temple in the Capitol, and he had hired Tuscan craftsmen from Veii to complete the work. But who now owned the chariot?


aspire to the kingdom: attempt to overthrow the government

pretend so great a matter: plot something so big

albeit he were spied: even if his plans were noticed

he needed not pass for the law: One with plans to usurp might not worry about being caught, because if he succeeded in seizing the throne quickly enough, he would no longer be subject to the law.

the treasure: the public treasury

take such collection into his charge: be in charge of it himself

for that he was his ancient: out of respect for his age

the upper hand: first place in the government

made an end: completed

the temple of Iupiter Capitolin: Dryden spells this "the temple of the Capitoline Jupiter." The Latin and Greek alphabets did not include "J."

many other notable acts, worthy sight: Dryden says, "with the usual shows and solemnities."

won the bell: won the race

swinge: a very old word that can mean "to move violently"; we could put it "have their own way" or "have their fun"


Now though in all his other laws, [Publicola] was very favourable and temperate toward the people: yet in that moderation, sometimes he did set grievous pains and punishments. For he made it lawful to kill any man without any accusation, that did aspire to the kingdom, and he did set the murderer [of that traitor] free of all punishment: so [long as] he brought forth manifest proof [afterwards], that the party slain, had practised to make himself king. As being impossible a man should pretend so great a matter, and no man should find it: and contrariwise being possible, albeit he were spied, that otherwise he might attempt it, by making himself so strong, that he needed not pass for the law. In this case he gave every man liberty by such act or mean, to prevent him if he could of discretion: who by strength otherwise sought to aspire to reign.

They greatly commended him also for the law that he made touching the treasure. For [it] being very necessary that every private citizen should, according to his ability, be contributor to the charges and maintenance of the wars: he himself would neither take such collection into his charge, nor suffer any man of his to meddle with the same, nor yet that it should be laid in any private man's house, but he did ordain that Saturn's temple should be the treasury thereof. This order they keep to this present day.

Furthermore, he granted the people to choose two young men quaestors of the same, as you would say the treasurers, to take the charge of this money: and the two first which were chosen, were Publius Veturius, and Marcus Minutius, who gathered great sums of money together. For numbering the people by the poll, there were found a hundred and thirty thousand persons which had paid subsidy, not reckoning in this account orphans nor widows, which were excepted from all payments.

After he had established all these things, he caused Lucretius (the father of Lucretia) [see Lesson One] to be chosen fellow consul with him, unto whom, for that he was his ancient, he [Publicola] gave the upper hand, and commanded they should carry before him [Lucretius] the rods, which were the signs of the chief magistrate: and ever since they have given this honour unto age. But Lucretius dying not long after his election, they chose again in his place Marcus Horatius, who held out the consulship with Publicola the rest of the year.

Now about that time King Tarquin remained in the country of Tuscany, where he prepared a second army against the Romans, and there fell out a marvellous strange thing thereupon. For when he reigned [as] king of Rome, he had almost made an end of the building of the temple of Iupiter Capitolin, and was determined (whether by any oracle received, or upon any fantasy, it is not known) to set up a coach of earth baked by a potter, in the highest place of the temple, and he put it out to be done by certain Tuscan workmen of the city of Veies: but whilst they were in hand with the work, he was driven out of his realm. When the workmen had formed this coach, and that they had put it into the furnace to bake it, it fell out contrary to the nature of the earth, and the common order of their work put into the furnace. For the earth did not shut and close together in the fire, nor dried up all the moisture thereof: but rather to the contrary it did swell to such a bigness, and grew so hard and strong withal, that they were driven to break up the head and walls of the furnace to get it out. The soothsayers did expound this, that it was a celestial token from above, and promised great prosperity and increase of power unto those that should enjoy this coach.

Whereupon the Veians resolved not to deliver it unto the Romans that demanded it, but answered that it did belong unto King Tarquin, and not unto those that had banished him.

Not many days after, there was a solemn feast of games for running of horses in the city of Veies, where they did also many other notable acts, worthy sight according to their custom. But after the game was played, he that had won the bell, being crowned in token of victory as they did use at that time, brought his coach and horses fair and softly out of the showplace: and suddenly the horse[s] being afraid upon no present cause or occasion seen, whether it was by chance, or by some secret working from above, ran as [if] they had been mad, with their coach, to the city of Rome. The coach driver did what he could possible at the first to stay them, by holding in the reins, by clapping them on the backs, and speaking gently to them: but in the end, perceiving he could do no good, and that they would have their swinge, he gave place to their fury and they never [left off] running, till they brought him near to the Capitol, where they overthrew him and his coach, not far from the gate called at this present, Ratumena. The Veians wondering much at this matter, and being afraid withal: were contented the workmen should deliver their coach made of earth unto the Romans.

Word Study

Iupiter, Jupiter: the supreme deity of the Romans. The name has two parts: the first is from Zeus (one form of Zeus is Zeu), or Deiw, which gives us the word Dieu, the French word for God. The second part comes from "pater," father, or, the head of a household. In the ancient language of Sanskrit, Dyauspita also meant "heavenly father."

Narration and Discussion

The first part of this reading shows Publicola's attitude toward power. Look at the examples of the two laws he made and at his attitudes towards his two co-consuls.

As for the second law, how did Publicola's attitude towards holding the treasury money differ from that of Judas Iscariot? (John 12:6) What do these things show about his character and about his vision of the Roman Republic?

The second part is the story of Tarquin's chariot. Why do you think the Romans believed so strongly in superstition, omens, and lucky charms? Is there any logical explanation for something which expands rather than shrinks when it is fired? Or is it possible that this part of the story is only legend? (If there is any confusion here, note that it was not the decorative chariot that ran away to the Capitol, but another one.)

Note that the Tuscans were friendly to Tarquin; they wanted him to have success and power. But "the gods" seemed to favour Publicola. To what do you attribute Publicola's success as a leader? Supernatural help (from God or the gods)? His own character and ability (prudence in laws, conduct in wars)? Lucky circumstances and timing? A combination?

Further Research

Find and study pictures of the Roman Capitol.

Lesson EIGHT


With some people, you can't win: even if you deserve all the credit and honour you receive, they won't admit you've earned it, or they'll think you've already got too much. In this section, we see some envy of Publicola creeping in, especially of his having the honour of dedicating the temple of Jupiter.

The rest of this section, from "The very like matter fell out in consecrating of the second temple," is an optional sidebar. It tells about how the temple was destroyed and rebuilt three times (which explains why you won't see photographs of the Capitol with Tarquin's terracotta chariot on top), but never with the same beauty.


Iupiter Capitolin's temple: Dryden spells this "the temple of the Capitoline Jupiter."

Tarquin the Proud: Tarquinius Superbus

egg: urge, encourage

make suit for the same: request that he be in charge of the temple dedication

procured: managed, arranged

conjectured: assumed, figured. See Word Study for Lesson Five.

it nothing amazed Horatius: it did not disturb or upset Horatius

device and nothing true: trick

found his device: figured out that it was a trick

perfited: perfected

incontinently: In this context, it means immediately. It can also mean 'without holding back; without restraint' (perhaps in fury).

Pondos: Dryden translates this "pounds"

pentlike marble: Dryden, "Pentelican" marble

squared parpine: North defines this in the same sentence

prodigal: spending carelessly and foolishly


Now concerning lupiter Capitolin's temple, King Tarquin the First (which was the son of Demaratus) vowed, in the wars that he made against the Sabines, that he would build it. And Tarquin the Proud, being the son of him that made this vow did build it: howbeit he did not consecrate it, because he was driven out of his kingdom before he had finished it.

When this temple was built and thoroughly finished, and set forth with all his ornaments, Publicola was marvellously desirous to have the honour of the dedication thereof. But the noblemen and senators envying his glory, being very angry that he could not content himself with all those honours that he had received in peace, for the good laws he had made, and in wars for the victories he had obtained and well deserved, but further that he would seek the honour of this dedication, which nothing did pertain unto him: they then did egg Horatius, and persuaded him to make suit for the same.

Occasion fell out at that time, that Publicola must have the leading of the Romans' army into the field: in the meantime, while Publicola was absent, it was procured that the people gave their voices to Horatius to consecrate the temple, knowing they could not so well have brought it to pass he [Publicola] being present. Other say, the consuls drew lots between them, and that it lighted upon Publicola to lead the army against his will, and upon Horatius to consecrate this temple, which may be conjectured by the thing that fortuned in the dedication thereof.

For all the people being assembled together in the Capitol with great silence, on the fifteenth day of the month of September, which is about the new moon of the month which the Grecians call Metagitnion: Horatius having done all the ceremonies needful in such a case, and holding then the doors of the temple, as the use was even to utter the solemn words of dedication: Marcus Valerius, the brother of Publicola, having stood a long time there at the temple door, to take an opportunity to speak, began to say aloud in this wise: My Lord Consul, your son is dead of a sickness in the camp. This made all the assembly sorry to hear it, but it nothing amazed Horatius, who spake only this much: Cast his body then where you will for me, the thought is taken. So he continued on to end his consecration. This was but a device and nothing true, of Marcus Valerius, only to make Horatius leave off his consecration. Horatius in this shewed himself a marvellous resolute man, were it [either] that he straight found his device, or that he believed it to be true: for the suddenness of the matter nothing altered him.

The very like matter fell out in consecrating of the second temple. For this first which Tarquin had built and Horatius consecrated, was consumed by fire in the civil wars: and the second was built up again by Sylla, who made no dedication of it. For Catullus set up the superscription of the dedication, because Sylla died before he could dedicate it. The second temple was burnt again not long after the troubles and tumults which were at Rome, under Vitellius the Emperor. The third in like manner was re-edified and built again by Vespasian, from the ground to the top. But this good hap he had above other: to see his work perfited and finished before his death, and not overthrown as it was immediately after his death. Wherein he did far pass the happiness of Sylla, who died before he could dedicate that [which] he had built: and the other deceased before he saw his work overthrown. For all the Capitol was burnt to the ground incontinently after his death.

It is reported [that just the] foundations of the first temple cost Tarquinius forty thousand Pondos of silver. And to gild only the temple which we see now, [to do this] in our time, they say all the goods and substance that the richest citizen of Rome then had, will come nothing near unto it: for it cost above twelve thousand talents.

The pillars of this temple are cut out of a quarry of marble, called pentlike marble, and they were squared parpine, as thick as [they were] long: these I saw at Athens. But afterwards they were cut again, and polished in Rome, by which doing they got not so much grace, as they lost proportion: for they were made too slender, and left naked of their first beauty. Now he that would wonder at the stately building of the Capitol, if he came afterwards unto the palace [of the Emperor] Domitian [who oversaw the final restoration of the temple], and did but see some gallery, porch, hall, or hothouse: he would say (in my opinion) as the poet Epicharmus said of a prodigal man:

       It is a fault, and folly both in thee to lash out gifts, and prodigal rewards:
       For fond delights, without all rule that be, regarding not what happens afterwards.

So might they justly say of Domitian, Thou art not liberal, nor devout unto the gods: but it is a vice thou hast to love to build, and desirest (as they say of old Midas) that all about thee were turned to gold, and precious stones. And thus much for this matter.

Word Study

Egg on: this has nothing to do with eggs! The word comes from "edge" or "urge."

Narration and Discussion

Plutarch says that Horatius must have been a man of "wonderful self-possession" (Dryden), "a marvellous resolute man" (North). Do you think he believed what Marcus shouted out? Why would Marcus have wanted "only to make Horatius leave off his consecration?" Do you think this illustrates a key difference between Publicola and his brother?

What do you think the lines mean, that "It is a fault, and folly both in thee to lash out gifts, and prodigal rewards: / For fond delights, without all rule that be, regarding not what happens afterwards?" Dryden translates this "'Tis not beneficence, but, truth to say, A mere disease of giving things away?" Can you give any modern applications of this "disease?"

Just for Interest

Here are the dates of the destructions and rebuildings of the temple:

The first temple was burned to the ground on 6th July, 83 B.C.

The rebuilding was taken in hand by Sulla and the new structure was dedicated in 69.

In 69 A.D. the second temple was burned when the Capitol was stormed by the Vitellians, and rebuilt by Vespasian on its original lines but with still greater height.

This temple was again burned down in 80 A.D. and restored by Domitian, although the actual work was apparently begun in 80. The dedication probably took place in 82.

Lesson NINE


In Part One, Tarquin attempted a comeback, with the aid of Lars Porsena, an Etruscan prince (see the note about "Tuscans" in the introduction). When their demands were ignored, they made war on the Romans.

Publicola defiantly built a fortified "city," Sigliuria, and filled it with Romans. However, like the story of the Three Little Pigs, the wolf arrived and they fled back to Rome. Both consuls were wounded while the war raged by the river; but at this point, Horatius and his men saved the bridge and the battle.

In Part Two, the Etruscans continued to besiege Rome.

In Part Three, a spy named Mutius (spelled Mucius by Dryden) disguised himself as an Etruscan and infiltrated Porsena's camp, with the intention of killing Porsena.


King Claras Porsena: Dryden has it "Lars Porsenna"

Titus Lucretius: Titus Lucretius Triciptinus was consul with Publicola in 508 and 504 B.C.; this is not the same Lucretius who had died after replacing Collatinus

Siglivria: Dryden calls it "Sigliura"

Mount Ianiculum: Now called the Janiculum, this was an ancient city on a hill west of the Tiber, which Porsena's forces seized

drave: drove

sally: a sudden rushing out

hard by: near

stayed: prevented

frayed: frightened

pike: spear

as he spent in a day: a day's living costs

very straightly: very severely, tightly

with a power: with a number of soldiers

at adventure: taking a chance

treated with him of peace: negotiated peace terms with him


Part One

Tarquin, after that great foughten battle wherein he lost his son (that was slain by Brutus in fighting together hand to hand) [see Lesson Five] went to the city of Clusium, unto King Claras Porsena: the mightiest prince that reigned at that time in all Italy, and was both noble and a courteous prince. Porsena promised him aid: and first of all he sent to Rome to summon the citizens to receive their king again. But the Romans refusing the summons, he sent forthwith a herald to proclaim open wars against them, and to tell them where and when he would meet them: and then marched thitherwards immediately with a great army.

Publicola now being absent, was chosen consul the second time, and Titus Lucretius with him. When he was returned home again to Rome, because he would exceed King Porsena in greatness of mind, he began to build a city called Siglivria, even when the king with all his army was not far from Rome: and having walled it about to his marvellous charge, he sent thither seven hundred citizens to dwell there, to show that he made little account of this war. Howbeit Porsena at his coming did give such a lusty assault to the Mount Ianiculum, that they drave out the soldiers which kept the same: who flying towards Rome, were pursued so hard with the enemies, that with them they [would have] entered the town, had not Publicola made a sally out to resist them.

[They] began a hot skirmish hard by the River of Tiber, and there sought to have stayed the enemies to follow any further: [but the enemies] being the greater number, did overlay the Romans, and did hurt Publicola very sore in this skirmish, so as he was carried away into the city in his soldiers' arms. And even so was the other consul Lucretius hurt in like case: which so discouraged and frayed the Romans, that all took them to their legs, and fled [back] towards the city. The enemies pursued them at their heels as far as the wooden bridge: so that the city was in marvellous hazard of [being taken] upon the sudden.

But Horatius Cocles, and Herminius, and Lucretius, two other[s] of the chiefest noble young men of the city, stood with them to the defence of the bridge, and made head against the enemy. This Horatius was surnamed Cocles (as much to say, as one eye) because he had lost one of them in the wars. Howbeit other writers say, it was because of his flat nose which was so sunk into his head, that they saw nothing to part his eyes, but that the eyebrows did meet together: by reason whereof the people thinking to surname him Cyclops, by corruption of the tongue they called him (as they say) Cocles. But howsoever it was, this Horatius Cocles had the courage to shew his face against the enemy, and to keep the bridge, until such time as they had cut and broken it up behind him. When he saw they had done that, armed as he was, and hurt in the hip with a pike of the Tuscans, he leaped into the River of Tiber, and saved himself by swimming unto the other side.

Publicola wondering at this manly act of his, persuaded the Romans straight, every one according to his ability, to give him so much as he spent in a day: and afterwards also he caused the common treasury to give him as much land as he could compass about with his plow in a day. Furthermore he made his image of brass to be set up in the temple of Vulcan, comforting by this honour his wounded hip, whereof he was lame ever after.

Part Two

Now whilst King Porsena was hotly bent, very straightly to besiege Rome, there began a famine among the Romans: and to increase the danger, there came a new army out of Tuscany, which overran, burnt, and made waste, all the territory of Rome.

Whereupon Publicola being chosen consul, then the third time, thought he should need to do no more to resist Porsena bravely, but to be quiet only, and to look well to the safe keeping of the city. Howbeit spying his opportunity, he secretly stole out of Rome with a power, and did set upon the Tuscans that destroyed the country about: and overthrew and slew of them, five thousand men.

Part Three

As for the history of Mutius, many do diversely report it: but I will write it in such sort, as I think shall best agree with the truth. This Mutius was a worthy man in all respects, but specially for the wars. He, devising how he might come to kill King Porsena, disguised himself in Tuscans' apparel, and speaking Tuscan very perfectly, went into his camp, and came to the King's chair, in the which he gave audience: and not knowing him perfectly, he durst not ask which was he, least he should be discovered, but drew his sword at adventure, and slew him whom he took to be king. Upon that they laid hold on him, and examined him. And a pan full of fire being brought for the king, that intended to do sacrifice unto the gods, Mutius held out his right hand over the fire, and boldly looking the king full in his face, whilst the flesh of his hand did fry off, he never changed hue nor countenance: the king wondering to see so strange a sight, called to them to withdraw the fire, and he himself did deliver him his sword again.

Mutius took it off him with his left hand, whereupon they say afterwards, he had given him the surname of Scaevola, as much to say, as left-handed, and told him in taking of it:

Thou couldst not, Porsena, for fear have overcome me, but now through courtesy thou hast won me. Therefore for goodwill I will reveal that unto thee, which no force, nor extremity could have made me utter. There are three hundred Romans dispersed through thy camp, all which are prepared with like minds to follow that I have begun, only gaping for opportunity to put it in practise. The lot fell on me to be the first to break the ice of this enterprise: and yet I am not sorry my hand failed, to kill so worthy a man, that deserveth rather to be a friend, than an enemy unto the Romans.

Porsena hearing this, did believe it, and ever after he gave the more willing ear to those that treated with him of peace: not so much (in my opinion) for that he feared the three hundred lying in wait to kill him, as for the admiration of the Roman's noble mind and great courage.

All other writers call this man, Mutius Scaevola: howbeit Athenodorus, surnamed Sandon, in a book he wrote unto Octavia, Augustus' sister, sayeth that he was also called Opsigonus.

Word Study

What does Opsigonus have to do with Postumus? Opsigonus comes from two Greek words meaning "late born." Postumus is not the same as our word "posthumous" or "after death." The name Postumus was given to last-born children (who were occasionally born after the death of a father, which explains the confusion).

Narration and Discussion

Thomas Babington Macaulay's famous poem "Horatius at the Bridge" is found in his book Lays of Ancient Rome, and tells the story of the battle against the Etruscans. It begins,

       Lars Porsena of Clusium,
              By the Nine Gods he swore
       That the great house of Tarquin
              Should suffer wrong no more.
       By the Nine Gods he swore it,
              And named a trysting-day,
       And bade his messengers ride forth,
       East and west and south and north,
              To summon his array.

The whole poem is quite long, but you might choose part of it to read together, or to learn as memory work. How does Plutarch's account compare with Macaulay's? Are there parts of the story that you think might be legend, and why?

If Mutius had handled himself with less courage, how might the story have ended differently?

Extra Challenges

Choose either one of these stories and do some creative narration. Suggestions: draw or paint an illustration; write some verses in Macaulay's style but telling the story of Mutius; act out the scene between Mutius and Porsena.

For older students: write about the Roman concept of heroism, using Horatius and/or Mutius Scaevola as examples.

Lesson TEN


Publicola "took Tarquin to court", with Porsena as judge; they made a peace treaty, with the condition that Tarquin would stop attacking Rome. As a gesture of good faith, Publicola agreed to send Porsena ten young people, including his daughter, as hostages. But things didn't work out quite as he planned.


manifest: plain, obvious

cause was ill: case was shaky

in lieu thereof: in place of them

withdrew his strength: withdrew his forces

recovering: arriving at

a crafty slight devised of the Romans: a Roman trick

having intelligence: being informed of this

ambush: hiding and lying in wait to make an attack. See Word Study.

had the conduction of them: were supposed to bring them

brake upon: attacked

advertised hereof: hearing of this

incontinently: immediately

held: continued

furniture: equipment for something; in this case, a saddle and bridle (see Word Study)

corn: grain

the commonweal: the state

is used to be kept: used to meet

great antique work: this refers to the statue, not the Senate house


But Publicola taking King Porsena not to be so dangerous an enemy to Rome, as he should be a profitable friend and ally to the same: let him understand, that he was contented to make him judge of the controversy between them and Tarquin. Whom he did many times provoke to come and have his cause heard before King Porsena, where he would justify to his face, that he was the naughtiest and most wicked man of the world, and that he was justly driven out of his country. Tarquin sharply answered, that he would make no man his judge, and Porsena least of all other, for that having promised him to put him again in his kingdom, he was now gone from his word, and had changed his mind. Porsena was very angry with this answer, judging this a manifest token that his [Tarquin's] cause was ill.

Wherefore Porsena being solicited again by his own son Aruns, who loved the Romans, did easily grant them peace, upon condition that they should redeliver back again to him the lands they had gotten before within the country of Tuscany, with the prisoners also which they had taken in this war, and in lieu thereof he offered to deliver to them again the Romans, that had fled from them unto him. To confirm this peace, the Romans delivered him hostages, ten of the noblest men's sons of the city, and so many of their daughters: among which, was Valeria, Publicola's own daughter.

Peace being thus concluded, Porsena brake his army, and withdrew his strength, trusting to the peace concluded. The Romans' daughters, delivered for hostages, came down to the riverside to wash them[selves], in a quiet place where the stream ran but gently, without any force or swiftness at all. When they were there, and saw they had no guard about them, nor any came that way, nor yet any boats going up nor down the stream: they had a desire to swim over the river, which ran with a swift stream, and was marvellous deep. Some say, that one Claelia [Dryden: Cloelia] swam the river upon horseback, and that she did embolden and encourage the other to swim hard by her horse's side: and recovering the other bank, and being past all danger, they went and presented themselves before Publicola the consul. Who neither commended them, nor liked the part they had played, but was marvellous sorry, fearing least men would iudge him less careful to keep his faith, than was King Porsena: and that he might suspect the boldness of these maidens was but a crafty slight devised of the Romans.

Therefore he took them all again, and sent them immediately unto King Porsena. Whereof Tarquin having intelligence, he laid an ambush for them, that had the conduction of them [the girls]. Who [the ambushers], so soon as they were past the river, did shew themselves, and brake upon the Romans: they being far fewer in number than the other, did yet very stoutly defend themselves.

Now whilst they were in earnest fight together, Valeria, Publicola's daughter, and three of her father's servants escaped through the midst of them, and saved themselves. The residue of the virgins remained in the midst among their [the ambushers'] swords, in great danger of their lives. Aruns, King Porsena's son advertised hereof, ran thither incontinently to the rescue: but when he came, the enemies fled, and the Romans held on their journey to redeliver their hostages.

Porsena seeing them again, asked which of them it was that began first to pass the river, and had encouraged the other to follow her. One pointed him unto her, and told him her name was Claelia. He looked upon her very earnestly, and with a pleasant countenance, and commanded they should bring him one of his best horses in the stable, and the richest furniture he had for the same, and so he gave it unto her.

Those which hold opinion that none but Claelia passed the river a-horseback, do allege this to prove their opinion true. Other do deny it, saying that this Tuscan king did only honour her noble courage. Howsoever it was, they see her image a-horseback in the holy street, as they go to the palace: and some say it is the statue of Valeria, others of Claelia.

After Porsena had made peace with the Romans, in breaking up his camp, he shewed his noble mind unto them in many other things, and specially in that he commanded his soldiers they should carry nothing but their armour and weapons only, leaving his camp full of corn, victuals, and other kind of goods. From whence this custom came, that at this day when they make open sale of anything belonging to the commonweal, the sergeant or common crier crieth, that they are King Porsena's goods, and taken of thankfulness and perpetual memory of his bounty and liberality towards them. Further, Porsena's image standeth adjoining to the palace where the Senate is used to be kept, which is made of great antique work.

Word Study

Ambush: hiding and lying in wait to make an attack. This comes from a Middle French word, embuschier, which literally means "to set in the woods." In Latin, busca means woods or forest.

Narration and Discussion

Restate this in your own words: "But Publicola taking King Porsena not to be so dangerous an enemy to Rome, as he should be a profitable friend and ally to the same . . ." Do you agree with Publicola's judgement here? In fact, Porsena's enmity had been extremely dangerous to Rome; some sources say that he may even have taken over the city and ruled for a short time. In any case, it would seem better to have such a powerful leader as a friend rather than an enemy.

What does it say about Publicola's character that he would send his own daughter as one of the hostages, and that he would send her back again after she escapes? Was there a personal risk to him or to her by including her in the group?

We don't know exactly how old Valeria and her friends were, but Plutarch says they were "virgins" or "young girls." Can you imagine yourself as Publicola's daughter? Do you think Valeria showed the courage and wisdom of her father? Imagine (write, act out, illustrate) the scene between father and daughter when Valeria showed up at home after her swim across the river.



There are two distinct periods covered here: first, the year that Publicola was not consul at all (his brother Marcus was chosen), and the year after that when Publicola was consul for the fourth time.

The Sabines continued to attack Rome, but under Marcus (with Publicola's help), Rome won a great victory, and Marcus was given recognition and a house at the public expense.

The next year, under Publicola, Rome was threatened by a joint attack of the Sabines and the Latins, and the Romans were also discouraged by certain signs that the gods seemed to be against them. Publicola handled both situations with his usual reassuring presence and ability.


passed by Publicola's counsel and authority: were taken to Publicola

benefit by the commonweal: they showed their continued appreciation of Marcus by always making way for him

conjecture: figure, guess. See Word Study for Lesson Five.

the comedies that are played: the Greek plays (see Word Study)

of some ill hap toward it: that there was some kind of curse on the city

unperfect children. . . all of them came before their time: Dryden mentions the miscarriages, but not the other issues

Sybillae's books: books of prophecy

were left off: had been stopped

before time: long ago, before anyone could remember

appeased: soothed, made peace with

eloquence: able to use language with elegance, force, and accuracy

stay: stop

gave easy ear unto such speeches: were ready to pay attention

his sedition: his rebellion

meet for the purpose: able to carry out the task

making virtue of necessity: doing the best he could under the circumstances

procure: persuade

being advertised thereof before they came: being informed ahead of time

jugera: a measurement of land that Plutarch explains in more detail. Dryden says that a jugera equals an acre.

gave no place. . .: stood second in nobility to no other family


Part One

Afterwards the Sabines invading the Romans' territory with a great force, Marcus Valerius, Publicola's brother, was then chosen consul, with one Posthumius Tubertus. Howbeit all matters of weight and importance passed by Publicola's counsel and authority, who was present at anything that was done: and by whose means Marcus, his brother, won two great battles, in the last whereof he slew thirteen thousand of his enemies, not losing one of his own men.

For which his victories, besides the honour of Triumph he had, the people also at their own charges, built him a house, in the street of Mount Palatine, and granted him moreover that his door should open outwards into the street, where all other men's doors did open inwards into their house: signifying by grant of this honour and privilege, that he should always have benefit by the commonweal. It is reported that the Grecians' doors of their houses in old time, did all open outwards after that fashion, and they do conjecture it by the comedies that are played. Where those that would go out of their houses, did first knock at their doors, and make a noise within the house, least in opening their door upon a sudden, they might overthrow or hurt him that tarried at the street door, or passed by the way: who hearing the noise, had warning straight to avoid the danger.

Part Two

The next year after that, Publicola was chosen consul the fourth time, because they stood in great doubt that the Sabines and Latines would join together to make wars upon them. Besides all this, there was a certain superstitious fear [running] through the city, of some ill hap toward it, because most part of the women with child were delivered of unperfect children, lacking some one limb or other, and all of them came before their time. Wherefore Publicola looking in some of Sybillae's books, made private sacrifice unto Pluto, and did set up again some feasts and solemn games that were left off, and had been commanded before time to be kept by the oracle of Apollo.

These means having a little rejoiced the city with good hope, because they thought that the anger of the gods had been appeased: Publicola then began to provide for the dangers that they were threatened withal by men, for that news was brought him that their enemies were up in all places, and made great preparation to invade them.

Now there was at that time amongst the Sabines, a great rich man called Appius Clausus, very strong and active of body, and otherwise a man of great reputation and eloquence, above all the rest of his countrymen: but notwithstanding, he was much envied, and could not avoid it, being a thing common to great men. He went about to stay those intended wars against the Romans.

Whereupon, many which before took occasion to murmur against him, did now much more increase the same: with saying he sought to maintain the power of the Romans, that afterwards by [Roman] aid he might make himself tyrant and king of the country. The common people gave easy ear unto such speeches, and Appius perceiving well enough how the soldiers hated him deadly, he feared they would complain, and accuse him. Wherefore being well backed and stood to by his kinsmen, friends, and followers, he practised to make a stir among the Sabines, which was the cause of staying the wars against the Romans.

Publicola, also for his part was very diligent, not only to understand the original cause of his sedition, but to feed on further and increase the same, having gotten men meet for the purpose, which carried Appius such a message from him:

That Publicola knew very well he was a just man, and one that would not be revenged of his citizens, to the general hurt of his country, although the injuries he received at their hands, delivered him just occasion to do it: nevertheless if he had any desire to provide for his safety and to repair to Rome, leaving them which causeless[ly] wished him so much evil, they would both openly and privately receive him with that due honour which his virtue deserved and the worthiness of the Roman people required.

Clausus having long and many times considered this matter with himself, resolved that it was the best way he could take, making virtue of necessity: and therefore being determined to do it, he did procure his friends to do as he did, and they got other[s] also unto them, so that he brought away with him out of the country of the Sabines, five thousand families with their wives and children (of the quietest and most peaceable people among the Sabines) to dwell at Rome.

Publicola being advertised thereof before they came, did receive them at their coming to Rome with great joy, and all manner of good courteous entertainment. For at their first coming, he made them all and their families free citizens, and assigned unto every person of them two jugera of land, (which contained one acre, one roode, eleven pole, and 69 parts of a pole) by the river of Tiber: and unto Appius [him]self he gave 25 jugera (to wit, 16 acres and a half, 4 pole and 76 parts of a pole) and received him into the number of the Senators. And thus came he [Appius Clausus] first unto the government of the commonweal in Rome, where he did so wisely behave himself, that in the end he came to be the chiefest man of dignity and authority in Rome, so long as he lived. After his death, he left behind him the family of the Claudians, descending from him: which for honour, and worthiness, gave no place to the noblest family in Rome.

Word Study

Eloquence: able to use language with elegance, force, and accuracy. Loqui is Latin for "to speak." What does loquacious mean?

Narration and Discussion

How did the people's superstition and fear of the gods affect their attitude toward defending their city? How did Publicola handle this situation? Write or act out a scene between Publicola and his advisors; OR imagine a conversation between yourself and someone in Rome who tells you about the "curse" on Rome and what the consuls are doing to appease the gods.

Why was Publicola not only happy to hear about the turmoil between the various groups of Sabines, but eager to encourage it? What do you think his motives were for inviting the Clausus family (actually five thousand families!) to come to Rome? What were some of the problems they may have encountered?

Appius Clausus

Appius Clausus (also called Attius Claudius) became consul himself a few years after his arrival in Rome, and the family of Claudius became important in Roman history.



Part One is about the Sabines and their revenge on the Romans.

Part Two is about the death and funeral of Publicola, "the object of universal regret and sorrow."


sedition: uprising, rebellion

suffer: allow

that being present durst not show so much at home: it's easy for him now to praise Rome, since he's there; he wouldn't have been so outspoken before he left.

Fidenes: FidenÆ

hard by: near

run and pray to Rome gates: this is one place where North's translation is quite different from Dryden's. Dryden says they "should go out and ravage the country, commanding them upon their approach to the town so to retreat as to draw the enemy into the ambush." North seems to be saying that the Sabine footmen were only to go up to the gates and challenge or taunt the Romans; then draw them into an ambush.

privy: secret

lustiest: boldest

vauntcurriers: North's spelling of vaunt-couriers: those who run ahead, heralds.

minded: planned

betimes: early

straight break: break up and flee

albeit: although

incontinently: right after that

took order for his funerals: decreed about his funeral

defrayed: covered

state and commonweal: the state; the Roman Republic

posterity: descendents


Part One

But now the sedition amongst the Sabines being pacified, by the departure of those that were gone to Rome: the seditious governors would not suffer those that remained to live in peace, but still cried out, it were too much shame for them, that Clausus being a fugitive, and become an enemy, should honour their enemies abroad, that being present durst not show so much at home, and that the Romans should [e]scape unrevenged, who had done them such apparent wrongs.

So they raised great force and power, and went and encamped with their army near the city of Fidenes, and laid an ambush hard by Rome, in certain hidden and hollow places, where they put two thousand choice footmen, very well armed, and did appoint the next morning to send certain light horsemen to run and pray to Rome gates: commanding them, that when the Romans came out of the city to charge them, they should seem leisurely to retire, until they had drawn them within danger of their ambush.

Publicola receiving full intelligence of all their intention, by a traitor that fled from them unto him, made due preparation to encounter with their privy ambush, and so divided his army in two parts: for he gave his son-in-law, Posthumius Balbus, three thousand footmen, whom he sent away by night, commanding them the same night to take the hills, in the bottom whereof the Sabines were laid in ambush. Lucretius, fellow consul with Publicola, having the lightest and lustiest men of the city, was appointed to make head against the vauntcurriers of the Sabines, that minded to approach the gates. And Publicola with the rest of the army, marched a great compass about to enclose his enemies behind.

The next morning betimes, by chance it was a thick mist, and at that present time Posthumius coming down from the hills, with great shouts, charged them that lay in ambush. Lucretius on the other side, set upon the light horsemen of the Sabines: and Publicola fell upon their camp. So that of all sides the Sabines enterprise had very ill success, for they had the worst in every place, and the Romans killed them flying, without any turning again to make resistance. Thus the place which gave them hope of best safety, turned most to their deadly overthrow. For every one of their companies supposing the other had been whole and unbroken, when a charge was given upon them, did straight break, and never a company of them turned head toward their enemy. For they that were in the camp, ran toward them which lay in ambush: and those which were in ambush on the contrary side, ran towards them that were in camp. So that in flying, the one met with the other, and found those towards whom they were flying to have been safe, to stand in as much need of help as themselves.

That which saved some that were not slain, was the city of Fidenes, which was near the camp, and specially saved those which fled thither. But such as came short of the city, and could not in time recover it, were all slain in the field, or taken prisoners. As for the glory of this honourable victory, albeit the Romans were wont to ascribe all such great notable matters to the special providence and grace of the gods, yet at that time notwithstanding they did judge, that this happy success fell out by the wise foresight and valiantness of the captain. For every man that had served in this journey, had no other talk in his mouth, but that Publicola had delivered their enemies into their hands, lame, and blind, and as a man might say, bound hand and feet to kill them at their pleasure.

The people were marvellously enriched by this victory, as well for the spoil, as for the ransom of the prisoners that they had gotten.

Part Two

Now Publicola after he had triumphed, and left the government of the city to those which were chosen consuls for the year following: died incontinently, having lived as honourably and virtuously all the days of his life, as any man living might do.

The people then took order for his funerals, that the charges thereof should be defrayed by the city, as if they had never done him any honour in his life, and that they had been still debtors unto him for the noble service he had done unto the state and commonweal whilst he lived. Therefore towards his funeral charges, every citizen gave a piece of money called a Quatrine. The women also for their part, to honour his funerals, agreed among themselves to mourn a whole year in blacks for him, which was a great and honourable memorial.

He was buried also by express order of the people, within the city, in the street called Velia: and they granted privilege also unto all his posterity, to be buried in the selfsame place. Howbeit they do no more bury any of his [family] there. But when any die, they bring the corpse unto this place, and one holding a torch burning in his hand, doth put it under the place, and take it straight away again, to show that they have liberty to bury him there, but that they willingly refuse this honour: and this done, they carry the corpse away again.

Word Study

Posterity: future generations, those who come after one. Posterus is Latin for "those who come after." Posterity comes from the same root as posterior, meaning the back side of something.

Narration and Discussion

As Plutarch says, success in battle was usually attributed to the favour of the gods. Why was this success, Publicola's last battle, "attributed to the conduct of one captain?"

How was Publicola honoured after his death?

Imagine that Publicola had come across a copy of the book of Proverbs. What might have been some of his favorite verses? Do you think there are any proverbs that might have bothered him or made him wonder if his life really was "full of all that is good and honourable?"

Solon and Publicola

In Plutarch's comparison of Solon and Publicola, he quotes Solon as saying "Both great and small of power, the better will obey: / if we too little or too much, upon them do not lay." Dryden translates this, "A people always minds its rulers best / When it is neither humored nor oppressed." How is that a fitting description of Publicola?

Plutarch ends his comparison of Solon and Publicola with this:

"For the King their enemy did not only make peace with them, but did also leave them all his furniture, provision, and munition for the wars; even for the virtue, manhood, and justice, which the great wisdom of this consul persuaded Porsena to believe to be, in all the other Romans."

Dryden translates this as "the virtue and gallant disposition of the Romans," of which Publicola could be taken as a prime example. How do those words fit the picture Plutarch has given us of Publicola?

AmblesideOnline Plutarch Readings:

AmblesideOnline's free Charlotte Mason homeschool curriculum prepares children for a life of rich relationships with God, humanity, and the natural world.
Share AO with your group or homeschool fair! Download our printable brochure