Stories From Livy - Alfred J. Church

The Story Of Alba

King Tullus Hostilius, being newly come to the throne, looked about for an occasion of war; for the Romans had now for a long time been at peace. Now it chanced that in those days the men of Rome and the men of Alba had a quarrel, the one against the other, the country folk being wont to cross the border and to plunder their neighbors; and that ambassadors were sent from either city to seek restitution of such things as had been carried off. King Tullus said to his ambassador, "Delay not to do your business so soon as ye shall be come to Alba;" knowing that the men of Alba would certainly refuse to deliver up the things, and thinking that he could thus with a good conscience proclaim war against them. As for the ambassadors of Alba, when they were come to Rome, they made no haste about their business, but ate and drank, the King entertaining them with much courtesy and kindness. While therefore they feasted with him, there came back the ambassadors of Rome telling the King how they had made demand for the things carried off, and when the men of Alba had refused to deliver them, had declared war within the space of thirty days. Which when the King heard, he called to him the ambassadors of Alba, and said to them, "Wherefore are ye come to Rome? Set forth now your mission." Then the men, not knowing what had befallen, began to make excuse, saying, "We would not willingly say aught that should displease the King, but we are constrained by them that have sent us thither. We are come to ask for the things that your country folk have carried off. And, if ye will not deliver them up, we are bidden to declare war against you." To this Tullus made answer, "Now do I call the gods to witness that ye men of Alba first refused to repair the thing that has been done amiss, and I pray them that they will bring all the blood of this war upon your heads." And with this message the men of Alba went home.

After this the two cities made great preparations for war. And because the men of Troy had built Lavinium, from which some going forth had set up the city of Alba, and from the royal house of Alba had come the founder of Rome, it was as though the children would fight against their fathers. Yet it came not to this, the matter being finished without a battle. The men of Alba first marched into the land of the Romans, having with them a very great army, and pitched their camp five miles from the city, digging about it a deep ditch. But while they lay in this camp their King Cluilius died, and a certain Mettus was made dictator in his room. Which when King Tullus heard, he became very bold, saying that the gods had smitten Cluilius for his wrong-doing, and would smite also the whole people of Alba. Whereupon he marched into the land of the Albans, leaving the enemy's camp to one side. And when these also had come forth against him, and the two armies were now drawn up in battle array, the one against the other, there came a messenger to King Tullus, saying that Mettus of Alba desired to have speech with him, having that to say to him which concerned the Romans not less than the men of Alba. Nor did King Tullus refuse to hear him, though indeed battle had pleased him better than speech. So when the King and certain nobles with him had gone forth into the open space that was between the two armies, and Mettus also with his companions had come to the same place, this last spake, saying, "I have heard King Cluilius that is dead affirm that your wrong-doing, ye men of Rome, in that ye would not deliver up the things that had been carried off, was the cause of this war; nor do I doubt but that thou, King Tullus, hast the same quarrel against us. Yet if we would speak that which is true rather than that which has a fair show, we should, I doubt not, confess that we, though we be both kinsmen and neighbors, are driven into this war by the lust of power. Now I say not whether this be just or no. Let others look to this; for I am not king of Alba, but captain of the host only. Yet there is a matter which I would fain call to thy mind, King. Thou knowest the Etruscans, how mighty they are both by land and sea; for indeed they are nearer by far to thee at Rome than to us at Alba. Bethink thee, therefore, how, when thou shalt give the signal of battle between thy army and our army, the same Etruscans will look on, rejoicing to see us fight together; and how, when the battle is ended, they will fall upon us, having us at disadvantage; for of a truth, whether ye or we prevail, we shall have but little strength remaining to us. If therefore we be not content with the freedom that we have, but must needs set on the chance of a die whether we shall be masters or servants, let us devise some way by which the one may win dominion over the other without great loss and shedding of blood." Now King Tullus was a great warrior, and would willingly have fought, being confident that he and his people would prevail; nevertheless the thing that Mettus of Alba had said pleased him. And when they came to consider the matter, there seemed by good fortune to be a way ready to their hands. There were in the army of Alba three brothers that had been born at one birth, whose name was Curiatius. And in the army of the Romans there were other three and these born likewise at one birth, whose name was Horatius. Nor was there much difference in respect either of age or of strength between the brothers of Alba and the brothers of Rome. Then King Tullus and Mettus of Alba called for the brothers, and inquired of them whether they were willing to fight each three for their own country, agreement being first made that that people should bear rule for ever whose champions should prevail in the battle. And as the young men were willing, a place was appointed for the battle and a time also. But first there was made a treaty in this fashion, for the fashion of making treaties is the same always, though their conditions be different. The herald said, "Wilt thou, King Tullus, that I make a treaty with the minister of the people of Alba?" And when the King answered "Yea," the herald said, "I will that thou give me the sacred herbs." Then the King made reply, "Take them, and see that they be clean." So the herald took them clean from the hill of the citadel. Having done this, he said to the King, "Dost thou appoint me to do the pleasure of the people of Rome, me and my implements and my attendants with me? And the King answered, "So that it be without damage to the people of Rome." Then the herald appointed one Spurius to be minister that he should take the oath, and touched his hair with the sacred herbs. And when Spurius had taken the oath, and the conditions of the treaty had been read aloud, he spake, saying, "Hear thou, Jupiter, and thou also, minister of the people of Alba, and ye men of Alba; as these conditions have been duly read aloud this day from the beginning even to the end from these tables, and after the interpretation by which they may be the most easily understood, even so shall the Roman people abide by them. And if this people, acting by common consent, shall falsely depart from them, then do thou, O Jupiter, smite the Roman people, even as I shall smite this swine to-day. And smite them by so much the more strongly as thou art stronger than I." And when he had said this he smote the swine with a knife of stone. The men of Alba also took the oath, and confirmed it after their own fashion. These things having been thus ordered, the champions made them ready for battle. And first their fellows exhorted them severally in many words, saying that the gods of their country, their countrymen also and kinsfolk, whether they tarried at home or stood in the field, regarded their arms that day; and afterward they went forth into the space that lay between the two armies. And these sat and watched them before their camps, being quit indeed of the peril of battle, but full of care how the matter should end, seeing that so great things, even sovereignty and freedom, should be decided by the valor and good luck of so few men. Then the signal of battle being given, the three met the three with such courage and fierceness as though there were a whole army on either side. And as their swords rang against each other and flashed, all men trembled to see, and could scarcely speak or breathe for fear of what should happen. And for a while, in so narrow a space did the men fight, nought could be seen but how they swayed to and fro, and how the blood ran down upon the ground. But afterward it was plain to see that of the three Romans two were fallen dead upon the ground, and that of the three champions of Alba each man was wounded. At this sight the Alban host shouted for joy, but the men of Rome had no more any hope but only fear to think what should befall their one champion that had now three enemies against him. Now, by good luck, it had so fallen out that this one had received no wound, so that, though he was no match for the three together, he did not doubt but that he should prevail over them severally one by one. Wherefore, that he might so meet them, dividing them the one from the other, he made a feint to fly, thinking that they would follow them each as quickly as his wound might suffer him. And so it fell out. For when he had fled now no small space from the ground where they had fought at the first, he saw, looking behind him, that the three were following him at a great distance one from the other, and that one was very near to himself. Then he turned himself and ran fiercely upon the man; and behold even while the men of Alba cried aloud to the two that they should help their brother, he had slain him, and was now running toward the second. And when the men of Rome saw what had befallen, they set up a great shout, as men are wont when they have good luck beyond their hopes; and their champion made such haste to do his part that or ever the third of the Alban three could come up, though indeed he was close at hand, he had slain the second also. And now, seeing that there remained one only on either side, there was in some sort an equality, yet were the two not equal either in hope or in strength. For the champion of Rome had suffered no wound, and having overcome his foes now once and again was full of courage; but the champion of Alba being now spent with his wound, and wearied also with running, was as it were vanquished already. Nor indeed was there a battle between the two; for the Roman cried, "One and another of my foes I have offered to the spirits of my brothers; but this third will I offer to the cause for which we have fought this day, even that Rome may have the dominion over Alba." And when the champion of Alba could now scarce bear up his shield, he stood over and ran his sword downward into his throat. Afterward as the man lay dead upon the ground, he spoiled him of his arms. Then did the men of Rome receive their champion with much rejoicing, having all the more gladness because they had been in so great fear. Afterward each host set themselves to bury their dead, whose tombs remain to this day, each in the spot where he fell, for the two Romans are buried in one sepulchre nearer to Alba, and the three champions of Alba as you go toward Rome, but with somewhat of space between them, even as they fought.

Horatii vs. Curiatti


Before the armies departed to their homes, Mettus of Alba inquired of Tullus what he would have him to do according to treaty. And the King answered, "Keep the young men under arms. I shall call for them if I have war against the men of Veii."

And now the men of Rome went back to the city, and Horatius went before them, carrying the spoils of the three whom he had slain. But at the Capene gate there met him his sister, who was betrothed to one of the champions of Alba; and when the maiden saw upon his shoulders the cloak of her betrothed (and indeed she had wrought it with her own hands) she tore her hair and cried to the dead man by name with a lamentable voice. But Horatius was wroth to hear the words of mourning on the day when he had won so great a victory and the people rejoiced; and he drew his sword and slew the maiden, crying, "Depart hence to thy lover with the love that thou cherishest out of season; thou that forgettest thy brethren that are dead, and thy brother that is yet alive, and thine own people also. So perish whosoever shall make lamentations for an enemy of Rome." And when the Fathers and the Commons saw what was done, they thought it a wicked deed, but remembered what great service the man had newly rendered to Rome. Nevertheless they laid hands on him and took him to the King that he should judge him. But the King being loath to judge such a matter, or to give sentence against the man, said, "I appoint two men as the law commands, who shall judge Horatius for murder." Now the law was this: "If a man do murder, two men shall judge him; if he appeal against the two, let the appeal be tried; if their sentence be confirmed, ye shall cover his head and scourge him within the walls or without the walls, and hang him by a rope upon the gallows." Then there were appointed two men according to the law, who affirmed that they could not let the man go free, whether his guilt was small or great, seeing that he had manifestly done the deed. Therefore said one of them, "Publius Horatius, we adjudge thee to be guilty of murder. Go, lictor, bind his hands." But when the lictor came and was now ready to cast the rope about him, Horatius cried, "I appeal to the people;" for the King himself, being mercifully disposed to him, bade him do so. Then was there a trial before the people, in which that which most wrought upon the hearts of men was that the father of Horatius constantly affirmed that his daughter had been rightly slain. " Nay," said he, "verily, if the young man had not slain her, I had used against him my right as a father, and had condemned him to die." Then again he besought them that they should not leave him desolate and bereaved of his children, he who but the day before had had so fair a stock. Afterward, throwing his arms about the young man, he stretched out his hands to the spoils of the Curiatii, crying, "Will ye endure, men of Rome, to see him bound under the gallows and beaten with stripes whom ye beheld but yesterday adorned with these spoils and rejoicing in his victory? Not so. Surely the men of Alba themselves had not borne to see such a sight. Go, lictor, bind his hands, though but yesterday they won so great a dominion for the people of Rome. Go, cover the head of him that made this people free; hang him upon the accursed tree; scourge him, whether within the walls, so that thou do it among the spoils of them that he slew, or without the walls, so that fit be near to the sepulchres of the champions of Alba. Whither can ye take this youth that the memorials of his valor shall not save him from so foul a punishment?" And when the people saw the tears of the old man, and bethought them also what great courage the youth had shown in danger, they could not endure to condemn him; but regarding his valor rather than the goodness of his cause, let him go free. Only, because the deed had been so manifest, a command was laid upon the father that he should make a trespass offering for his son at the public charge. Then the father, having made certain sacrifices of expiation—which are performed to this day in the house of Horatius—set up a beam across the way and covered his son's head, and led him beneath it. As for the maiden, they built her tomb of hewn stone in the place where she was slain.

Now the men of Alba were wroth to think that the fortunes of the whole people had been thus trusted to the hands of three soldiers; and Mettus, being of an unstable mind, was led away to evil in his desire to do them a pleasure. And as before he had sought for peace when others were desirous of war, so now he desired war when others were minded to be at peace. But because he knew that the men of Alba were not able of their own strength to do that which they desired, he stirred up certain others of the nations round about, that they should make war openly against Rome. As for himself and his people, he purposed that they should seem indeed to be friends and allies, but should be ready for treachery when occasion served. Thereupon the men of Fidenę, being colonists from Rome, and the men of Veii promised that they would make war, and Mettus on his part promised that he would come over to them with his army in the battle. First the men of Fidenę rebelled, and King Tullus marched against them, bidding Mettus come also with his army, and having crossed the river Anio, pitched his camp where Anio flows into Tiber. And by this time the men of Veii also had come up with their army, and these were on the right wing next to the river, and the men of Fidenę on the left, next to the mountains. The ordering of King Tullus was that he and his men should do battle with the men of Veii, and Mettus and the Albans with the men of Fidenę. Now Mettus, as he was not minded to do right, so had no courage to do wrong boldly; and because he dared not to go over to the enemy, led his men away slowly toward the mountains. Being come thither, he set out his men in battle array, being minded to join them whom he should perceive to prevail. At first the Romans marvelled that Mettus and his men should so depart from them and after a while they sent a messenger to the King, saying, "The men of Alba have left us." Then the King knew in his heart that there was treachery, and he vowed that he would build temples to Paleness and Panic, if he should win the victory that day. Nevertheless he showed no sign of fear, but cried to the horsemen with a loud voice, that the enemy might hear, saying, "Go thou back to the battle, and bid thy comrades be of good courage. Mettus does my bidding that he may take the men of Fidenę in the rear." Also he bade the cavalry raise their spears in the air, that so the Romans might, for the most part, be hindered from seeing that the men of Alba had deserted them; and they that saw, believing what the King had said, fought with the more courage. Then there fell a great fear upon the enemy, for these also had heard the saying, which, being in the Latin tongue, was understood of the men of Fidenę. They, therefore, fearing lest Mettus and the army of Alba should come down from the mountains and shut them off from their town, began to give ground. And when the King had broken their array, he turned the more fiercely on the men of Veii. These also fled before him, but were hindered from escape by the river. And some, throwing away their arms, ran blindly into the water, and some while they lingered on the bank, and knew not whether they should fight or fly, so perished. Never before had the Romans so fierce a fight with their enemies.

After this the army of Alba came down from the mountains, and Mettus said to the King that he rejoiced that he had won so great a victory, and the King on his part spake friendly to him, and would have him join his camp with the camp of the Romans. Also he appointed a sacrifice of purification for the next day. And when it was day, all things being now ready after the custom of such sacrifices, the King commanded that both armies should be called to an assembly. And the heralds summoned the men of Alba first, so that they might be in the inner place; to which also they came of their own accord, for they sought to be near the King, greatly desiring to hear what he should say. And the King so ordered it to the end that the army of Rome might surround them on all sides. Also he gave his commands to certain captains of hundreds that they fulfil without delay whatsoever commands he should give them. After this the King spoke in this fashion, "Men of Rome, if ever before ye had occasion to give thanks for victory won, first to the immortal gods, and secondly to your own valor, such occasion ye found in the battle of yesterday. For ye fought not only with the enemy, but with that from which there is peril greater by far, even treachery in allies. I would not have you ignorant of the truth. It was not by any ordering of mine that the men of Alba went toward the mountains. I gave no such command; yet did I feign that I had given it to this end, that ye might not know that ye were deserted, and so might fight with the better courage, and that our enemies, thinking that they should be assailed from behind, might be stricken with fear and so fly before us. Yet I say not that all the men of Alba are guilty of this matter. They followed their captain, even as ye, men of Rome, would have followed me whithersoever I might have led you. Mettus only is guilty. He contrived this departure; even as he brought about this war, and brake the covenant that was between Alba and Rome. And what he hath done others may dare hereafter, if I do not so deal with him that he shall be an example for all that come after." Then the captains of hundreds, having arms in their hands, laid hold upon Mettus. After this the King spake again: "May the gods bless to the people of Rome, and to me, and to you also, men of Alba, that which I purpose to do. For my purpose is to carry away the people of Alba to Rome; the commons of Alba will I make citizens of Rome, and the nobles will I number among our Senators. So shall there be one city and one commonwealth." When the men of Alba heard these words, all had not the same mind about the matter, but all kept silence, fearing to speak, because being without arms they were compassed on every side with armed men.

Then said the King, "Mettus, if indeed thou couldst learn faith and the keeping of treaties, I had suffered thee to live that thou mightest have such teaching from me. But now, seeing that thy disease is past healing, thou shalt teach other men to hold in reverence the holy things which thou hast despised. For even as thou wart divided in heart between Rome and Fidenę, so shall thy body be divided." Then at the King's bidding, they brought two chariots, with four horses harnessed to each of them; and binding the body of Mettus to the chariots, they drave the horses divers ways so that the man was torn asunder.

In the meanwhile there had been sent horsemen to Alba who should bring the people to Rome; and now the army also was led thither that they might destroy the city utterly. Great sorrow was there in Alba that day, men knowing not for fear and grief what they should carry with them or leave behind. For a while, indeed, they wandered through their houses, knowing that they should not see them any more. But when the horsemen shouted to them that they should depart, and the crash of houses which men were now destroying began to be heard, and the dust rising up from the outskirts of the city covered all things as with a cloud, then they snatched up in haste each such things as they could, and so departed the home in which they had been born and bred. Very lamentable was their cry as they went, more especially of the women, when they saw armed men in the temples wherein they had been wont to worship, the very gods themselves being left, as it seemed, in captivity. And when the people were now gone forth from their city the Romans left not one stone upon another of all that was in the city; so that that which had been four hundred years in building (for so long had Alba endured) perished in one hour. Nevertheless they harmed not the temples, for so the King had commanded.

But because Alba was thus brought to destruction, Rome increased greatly; for the number of the citizens was increased twofold. The Cœlian hill was added to the city, in which hill, that others might the more readily dwell there, the King himself commanded that they should build him a palace. Also the chief houses of Alba, as the house of Julius and of Servilius, were chosen into the Senate; and that there might be a place of meeting for the Senate being thus multiplied, the King built a temple and called it Hostilia, after his own name. Also ten squadrons of horsemen were chosen out of the men of Alba.

But after certain days, when the Romans had now conquered the Sabines, and had made treaties of peace with the Etrurians, and were in great peace and prosperity, they and their King, there was brought tidings to Rome that there had fallen a shower of stones on Mount Alba. Which when men could scarce believe, they sent messengers to learn if these things were true, who having come to Alba, found the stones lying on the ground, even as it had been hail. Also there was heard a voice from the grove that was on the top of the hill, saying, "Let the men of Alba do worship after the manner of their fathers;" for they having left their country, had left also their gods, and did worship after the, manner of the Romans, or for wrath at that which had befallen them, as is wont to be with men in such case, had ceased from worship altogether. The Romans also, by reason of this same voice that was heard on Mount Alba, or by warning of the soothsayers, kept a festival of nine days. And this became a custom for the time to come, that when there came tidings of such marvels to Rome, there was kept a like festival.

Now the end of King Tullus was this. There came a pestilence upon the land. And when for this cause the people were wearied of war, nevertheless the King, both because he delighted in war, and because he believed that the young men should have better health if they went abroad than if they tarried at home, gave them no rest. But after a while he also fell into a tedious sickness, which so brake him both in body and mind that, whereas in time past he thought it unworthy of a King to busy himself with matters of religion, now he gave himself up wholly to superstition, and filled the minds of his people also with the like thoughts, so that they regarded nothing but this, how they should make atonement to the gods, and so be rid of their present distress. As for the King himself, men say that reading the sacred book of King Numa he found therein certain sacrifices, very secret and solemn, that should be done to Jupiter by such as would bring him down from heaven, and that he shut himself up to do these sacrifices; but because he set not about them rightly or did them not in due form, there appeared to him no similitude of the immortal gods (for such he had hoped to see); but Jupiter, having great wrath at such unlawful dealings, struck him with lightning and consumed both him and his house.