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Richard's Writings > The Birth of Rome > Chapter 15: To Veii!

Synopsis of Chapter 15: To Veii!

Servius Tullius slipped onto the throne of Roma with remarkably little fanfare. Would the Etruscans contest the succession? The Etruscan city of Veii is the first to challenge the new authority in Roma. Servius Tullius and the son of the late king, Lucius Tarquinius, intercept the attacking force before they can reach Roma. Old Marcus Junius lets the Etruscans file past and then follows with his force. Tullius stands against the aggressors in a classic phalanx battle, and prevails, but young Lucius Tarquinius falls in battle. Servius Tullius enjoys a triumph, but the city mourns for their fallen hero. Servius orders a cruel punishment for the mercenaries who fought for the Etruscans. He also orders the first Census, to understand the current make-up of the city he has inherited. Young Marcus marries the daughter of his fallen friend.

Excerpt from Chapter 15: To Veii!

The body of Lucius Tarquinius was incinerated in the Forum, followed by gladiatorial games and chariot races in the Circus Maximus. Servius Tullius gave the funeral oration from the Volcanal. He eulogized the hero, cut down in his prime at thirty six, leaving behind a wife and two children, then after the peroration Tullius took this opportunity to speak to the people of Roma about his past, and his dreams for the city. The people went to bed that evening sore at heart, but strangely comforted as well.

The next day the gladiatorial games would begin at the fifth hour, mid morning. The gladiators would be selected from the prisoners and, as tradition dictated, they would fight to the death. The gladiators were chosen carefully. The mercenaries in the army of Veii numbered one man in ten. They were separated from the citizens of Veii and forced to choose lots. Through the casting of lots the Fates had the opportunity to pick the prisoners who would be allowed to fight as gladiators. The gladiators who survived were later sold as slaves. The rest of the mercenaries were crucified.

Crucifixion was a little known method of execution practiced by the Carthaginians, a horrible death reserved for those of special regard. The followers of Caelius Vibenna, recently mercenaries themselves, were the only ones in the city to have heard of it. The victim is hung by his outstretched hands and tied with rope to a tree that is ever after called an "unfortunate tree." If he is lucky he can find some purchase on the tree trunk with his heels and lift himself up for a big breath; but if not, he suffocates more quickly as the blood drains to his legs and strangles his vital organs.

Servius Tullius, the King of Roma, was determined to show the world the wrath of Roma when attacked without cause. He wanted soldiers for hire everywhere to keep this in mind as they brokered their trade. Fight for pay if you must - but not against Roma. Be warned. And it didn't hurt for the rest of the world to know that the city was securely in the hands of an orderly administration. Crucified mercenaries sent a loud message rippling through Italia's chambers of power.

The population of the city fully supported him. Indeed, they were proud of him. This was the kind of message they wanted to send! The people's lust for revenge would not be satisfied until a good measure of punishment had been extracted. Roma was in a savage mood. Dear loved ones had been lost in a war they did not seek, and had even tried to avoid. And the threat of further battles loomed on the horizon. No one knew when one of the other Etruscan cities might set their armies marching. Against this backdrop the entire population of the city steeled their resolve, and tempered their grief until the threat had passed.


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