Demaratus was lord of Corinth in the land of Greece. This Demaratus had a son who, having been driven from Corinth by strife among the citizens, came to Tarquinii that is in the land of Etruria, and dwelt there. And having married a wife, he had two sons born to him, Lucumo and Aruns. (It was the custom of the princes of the Etrurians to call the eldest son Lucumo and the younger Aruns.) This Lucumo, being very wealthy (for his father had left to him all his riches, his brother Aruns having died), took to wife a certain Tanaquil that was a noble lady in those parts. Now Tanaquil could not endure that any should be preferred before him, wherefore when the people of Tarquinii despised Lucumo, because he was the son of a stranger, Tanaquil could not endure it, and caring not for her country, if only she could see her husband held in honor, purposed to depart thence and dwell else where. And of all places Rome seemed to her the best, being a new country wherein men were honored for their deservings rather than for their birth, and he that should show himself brave and diligent would find occasion to win renown. So Numa, coming from Cures that is in the land of the Sabines, had been called to the kingdom. King Ancus also was born of a mother that was a Sabine, nor was noble at all save for his kinship to Numa. With these words she easily persuaded her husband, so that, gathering together all his possessions, he departed from Tarquinii to Rome. And when he came near to the city, at the hill that is called Janiculum, there happened to him this marvel. As he sat in the chariot with his wife, an eagle, having its wings stretched out, descended slowly upon him from the sky, and carried off the hat that was upon his head. Then for a while it flew over the chariot, making a great crying, and afterward, as it had been inspired to do this office, set it back upon his head and so vanished into the air. Now all the women of the Etrurians have great knowledge of augury (for so they call the signs and tokens of birds), and Tanaquil was of good courage when she saw what the eagle had done, and she embraced her husband, and bade him hope for great honors in Rome; for the bird, she said, had come from the sky, and the sign that it showed concerned the crown of a man, for it had taken from his head the glory that man's hand set upon it, that it might give it back to him from the gods. So Lucumo and Tanaquil his wife came to Rome, hoping to do great things; and the man dwelt there, giving out that his name was Tarquinius. And because he was a new comer and wealthy, men took the more note of him; also he would speak courteously to all men, and use much hospitality, and do such service as he could to them that had need of it. And after a while King Ancus heard of him, and made acquaintance with him, which acquaintance grew into friendship, till at the last, having found him faithful and ready in all that was put into his charge, whether at home or abroad, he appointed him to be guardian to his children.
After this King Ancus died, having reigned twenty and four years, and left two sons, not yet old enough to reign, yet nearly grown to manhood. And some would have delayed the choosing of a king till these should be come to full age, but Tarquinius counselled that he should be chosen forthwith. And when the day for this choosing was appointed, having sent out the lads to hunt, he spake to the people after this manner. "This is no new thing that I seek the kingdom at your hands; for Tatius the Sabine became your king, having been before not a stranger only but also an enemy; and Numa also was called to this dignity; though he sought not for it. As for me, I came hither so soon as I was master of myself; and of the years of my manhood, I have lived in Rome more than in my own country; nor have I been ill taught the ways of a King, ministering to Ancus both at home and abroad."
With these words he persuaded the people that they chose him to be king. Being so chosen he did many things that pleased the people; for having waged war with the Latins, and taken one of their cities and with it much booty, he built the great circus, and fetched horses and boxes from the land of Etruria to make sport. This became a custom year by year; and they called these games the Great Games of Rome.
Afterward he would have compassed the city with a wall of stone; but while he was busy with the building of it the Sabines came upon him. And this they did with such speed that they had crossed the Anio before ever the Romans were ready to meet them; and when they fought many were slain on both sides, but neither had the victory. Now when the King, the enemy having returned to their camp, had space to consider how he might best make his army the stronger, it seemed that it would profit him most if he should increase the number of his horsemen, of whom there were three companies only. But when he was minded to add others to them, and to call them after his own name, one Attus Navius, that was a famous soothsayer in those days, withstood him. "For," said he, "King Romulus made these companies in due form, and thou mayest not add to their number, unless the gods permit, signifying their will by the voices of birds." But the King was wroth to hear these words, and mocked the soothsayer's art, saying, "Come now, thou wise man, divine unto me, can that which I think in my heart be done, or no?" Attus answered, having first made trial of his art, "Of a surety it can be done." Then said the King, "I thought this thing in my heart, that thou shouldst cut asunder this whetstone with a razor. Take it, therefore, and cut it asunder; for thy birds will have it that thou canst." And straightway Attus took the whetstone and cut it asunder. So they made a statue of him, standing with his head covered, in the place where the thing was done; even in the place of assembly, on the right hand of the steps by which a man goes up to the senate-house. And by his side they laid the stone to be a memorial of this miracle to them that should come after. Certainly there came such honor to the soothsayers that nothing thereafter was done at home or abroad except they first allowed it; and if an assembly of the people was called or the army gathered together, it must be dispersed again unless the birds should signify that it was according to the pleasure of the gods. King Tarquin, therefore, changed not the number or the name of the companies. Only he added to each as many more horsemen as it had at the first.
After this there was yet another battle with the Sabines; and these fled before the Romans, the horsemen especially doing good service against them. And the King sent them that were taken captive and the booty to Rome; but the arms of those that were slain he made into a great heap, and burned them with fire, for he had vowed thus to Vulcan, that is the god of fire. And the King took Collatia, that is a town of the Sabines, from them, and afterward he subdued the whole nation of the Latins that it became obedient to Rome.
They tell this story also of King Tarquin. There came to him one day a woman bearing twelve books, which she said were books of prophecies, wherein were written all things that should come to pass thereafter concerning the city of Rome. These books she would have sold to him. But because he knew not who she was, nor what she brought, and also because the price of the books seemed great out of measure, he would have none of them. Then the woman departed, and having burned three of the books with fire, brought back the nine that remained, and would sell them. And the price that she had demanded for the twelve, this she asked without abatement for the nine. And when the King would not buy, she departed and burned three more; and so returning would sell the six; but the price was that which she demanded for the twelve. Then the King, being greatly astonished, asked counsel of the priests and the soothsayers, and so bought the books. These were kept with great care and honor at Rome; and when in time to come there arose great need or peril in the city, then there were appointed men of repute who should open the books and learn what had best be done.
In those days there happened, in the palace of the King, a great marvel. There was a certain slave boy whose name was Servius Tullius. The head of this boy, as he slept, was seen to burn with fire; and when the King and the Queen had been called to see this strange thing, and certain of the servants would have fetched water wherewith to quench the fire, Queen Tanaquil would not suffer them, but commanded that they should leave the child as he lay. And when he woke from his sleep, lo! the flame departed. Then said Queen Tanaquil to her husband, "Seest thou this boy whom we rear in this humble fashion? Know that he will be in time to come a light in our darkness and a succor to our house in its great trouble. Let us, therefore, use all favor and kindness to him." Thereafter they dealt with the lad as though he was free-born and not a slave, and gave him such teaching as befit them that are born to high place. The lad also, on his part, showed such parts and temper as befitted the house of a king; and when Tarquin would choose a husband for his daughter there was not found one fitter for such honor than Servius. So the King betrothed to him his daughter. Yet is it scarce to be believed that he would have done this thing if Servius had been indeed born of a bond-woman. Some say, therefore, and the story seems worthy of belief, that he was the son of a great lady of Corniculum, which was a town of the Latins; that this town being taken by King Tarquin, Servius Tullius, that was its chief ruler, was slain, whose wife, being with child, was carried to Rome; and that because she was of noble birth, she was not sold into slavery with the other women but taken into the King's palace, and there bare this child, of whom, because his mother had been taken captive in war, men said that he was the son of a slave.
Now the sons of Ancus, since they had been grown to manhood, had taken it ill that Tarquin had been preferred before them to the throne of their father, and now they were the more angry, seeing how he had chosen another than them to be King after him. "See now," they said, "this fellow that is not a Roman nay, nor an Italian, but a stranger from Greece, how being made tutor to us by the King our father, he filched the throne from us by craft, and now handeth it over to one that is the son of a bond-woman. Surely this is a shameful thing for this city and people. For the kingdom of Romulus, that is now a god in heaven, will pass within the space of a hundred years to one that is a slave."
And first they would avenge themselves on King Tarquin. This they did after this fashion. They chose them two shepherds, the fiercest of their company, and caused them to come, carrying crooks of iron, after their custom, within the King's palace; who, so soon as they were come within the porch, made as if they had a grievous quarrel the one against the other, and cried out that the King should be the judge between them; for in those days kings were wont to perform the office of a judge. So they that kept order in the palace brought them before the King. At the first they made both of them a great uproar, crying out against each other; but afterward, when the beadle bade them be quiet if they would be heard of the King, bare themselves in more orderly fashion. Then the first began to tell his story; but when the King turned to him, and was wholly given up to hearing what the man might say, the other dealt him a great blow upon the head with the iron which he carried. And when he had done this he left the iron where it was, and hasted, he and his companion with him, to escape by the door. Then some of the ministers of the court caught the King as he fell ready to die upon the ground, and others laid hold on the murderers and hindered them from escaping. At the same time much people ran together to the place, wondering what new thing had happened. But Queen Tanaquil gave command that they should shut the doors of the palace, and would have none remain within but her own folk. And first she prepared with all diligence such things as might be serviceable in the dressing of the wound, making as if there were some hope that the King might yet live; and next she devised how, this hope failing her, things might nevertheless be ordered according to her wish. Sending, therefore, for Servius in all haste, she pointed to the King, as he lay now ready to die, and spake, saying, "Servius, my son, this kingdom is thine if thou wilt only show thyself a man. Neither shall it go to them who have done this wicked deed, albeit not by their own hands. Rouse thyself, therefore, and follow the leading of the gods, who in days past, showed that thy head should bear great honor by the fire from heaven which they caused to shine round about it. Let that fire stir thee this day. Nor do thou take account of thy birth. For we also were strangers to this city and yet have borne rule therein. Bethink thee, therefore, what manner of man thou art, rather than of whom thou wast born. And if perchance thine own counsels are troubled at so grievous a chance, be thou obedient unto mine."
After this, as the people without the palace cried aloud and would have thrust in the doors, the Queen went to an upper chamber and spake to the multitude through a window that looked upon the New Street (for the palace of the King stood hard by the temple of Jupiter the Stayer). "Be of good courage and hope," she said; "the king was stunned by the suddenness of the blow, but the iron entered not deep into the flesh, and he came speedily to himself. Now we have washed off the blood and looked into the wound. All is well. Be of good cheer, therefore, and believe that before many days be past ye shall see the King. Meanwhile, render due obedience to Servius, who will do justice between man and man in the room of the King and order all else that shall be needed." So Servius came forth to the people, wearing the royal robe, with the men that bare the axes after him; and sitting down on the throne of the King, heard the causes of them that sought for justice, giving judgment in some things, and in others making mention that he would consult King Tarquin. This he did for many days, none knowing that the King was dead, and established himself in power, while he made as if he were administering the power of another. And when Queen Tanaquil thought that the due time was come, she gave out that King Tarquin was dead, and commanded that mourning should be made for him according to custom. And Servius, coming forth with his guards about him, was proclaimed King; only at the first the Senate alone, and not the people, consented. As for the sons of Ancus, when they heard that the murderers had been taken, and that the King was yet alive, and that Servius also was so well established in his power, they fled to the town of Suessa Pometia.