LXXXII. “This woman is the daughter of Spurius Lucretius, whom the tyrant, when he went to the war, appointed prefect of the city, and the wife of Tarquinius Collatinus, a kinsman of the tyrant who has undergone many hardships for their sake. Yet this woman, who desired to preserve her virtue and loved her husband as becomes a good wife, could not, when Sextus was entertained last night at her house as a kinsman and Collatinus was absent at the time in camp, escape the unbridled insolence of tyranny, but like a captive constrained by necessity, had to submit to indignities that it is not right any woman of free condition should suffer. Resenting this treatment and looking upon the outrage as intolerable, she related to her father and the rest of her kinsmen the straits to which she had been reduced, and after earnestly entreating and adjuring them to avenge the wrongs she had suffered, she drew out the dagger she had concealed under the folds of her dress and before her father’s very eyes, plebeians, plunged the steel into her vitals. O admirable woman and worthy of great praise for your noble resolution! You are gone, you are dead, being unable to bear the tyrant’s insolence and despising all the pleasures of life in order to avoid suffering any such indignity again. After this example, Lucretia, when you, who were given a woman’s nature, have shown the resolution of a brave man, shall we, who were born men, show ourselves inferior to women in courage? To you, because you had been deprived by force of your spotless chastity by submission to a tyrant during one night, death appeared sweeter and more blessed than life; and shall not the same feelings sway us, whom Tarquinius, by a tyranny, not of one day only, but of twenty-five years, has deprived of all the pleasures of life in depriving us of our liberty? Life is intolerable to us, plebeians, while we wallow amid such wretchedness—to us who are the descendants of those men who thought themselves worthy to give laws to others and exposed themselves to many dangers for the sake of power and fame. Nay, but we must all choose one of two things—life with liberty or death with glory. An opportunity has come such as we have been praying for. Tarquinius is absent from the city, the patricians are the leaders of the enterprise, and naught will be lacking to us if we enter upon the undertaking with zeal—neither men, money, arms, generals, nor any other equipment of warfare, for the city is full of all these; and it would be disgraceful if we, who aspire to rule the Volscians, the Sabines and countless other peoples, should ourselves submit to be slaves of others, and should undertake many wars to gratify the ambition of Tarquinius but not one to recover our own liberty.
LXXXIII. “What resources, therefore, what assistance shall we have for our undertaking? For this remains to be discussed. First there are the hopes we place in the gods, whose rites, temples and altars Tarquinius pollutes with hands stained with blood and denied with every kind of crime against his own people every time he begins the sacrifices and libations. Next, there are the hopes that we place in ourselves, who are neither few in number nor unskilled in war. Besides these advantages there are the forces of our allies, who, so long as they are not called upon by us, will not presume to busy themselves with our affairs, but if they see us acting the part of brave men, will gladly assist us in the war; for tyranny is odious to all who desire to be free. But if any of you are afraid that the citizens who are in the camp with Tarquinius will assist him and make war upon us, their fears are groundless. For the tyranny is grievous to them also and the desire of liberty is implanted by Nature in the minds of all men, and every excuse for a change is sufficient for those who are compelled to bear hardships; and if you by your votes order them to come to the aid of their country, neither fear nor favour, nor any of the other motives that compel or persuade men to commit injustice, will keep them with the tyrants. But if by reason of an evil nature or a bad upbringing the love of tyranny is, after all, rooted in some of them—though surely there are not many such—we will bring strong compulsion to bear upon these men too, so that they will become good citizens instead of bad. For we have, as hostages for them in the city, their children, wives and parents, who are dearer to every man than his own life. By promising to restore these to them if they will desert the tyrants, and by passing a vote of amnesty for the mistakes they have made, we shall easily prevail upon them to join us. Advance to the struggle, therefore, plebeians, with confidence and with good hopes for the future; for this war which you are about to undertake is the most glorious of all the wars you have ever waged. Ye gods of our ancestors, kindly guardians of this land, and ye other divinities, to whom the care of our fathers was allotted, and thou City, dearest to the gods of all cities, the city in which we received our birth and nurture, we shall defend you with our counsels, our words, our hands and our lives, and we are ready to suffer everything that Heaven and Fate shall bring. And I predict that our glorious endeavours will be crowned with success. May all here present, emboldened by the same confidence and united in the same sentiments, both preserve us and and be preserved by us!”
LXXXIV. While Brutus was thus addressing the people everything he said was received by them with continual acclamations signifying both their approval and their encouragement. Most of them even wept with pleasure at hearing these wonderful and unexpected words, and various emotions, in no wise resembling one another, affected the mind of each of his hearers. For pain was mingled with pleasure, the former arising from the terrible experiences that were past and the latter from the blessings that were anticipated; and anger went hand in hand with fear, the former encouraging them to despise their own safety in order to injure the objects of their hatred, while the latter, occasioned by the thought of the difficulty of overthrowing the tyranny, inspired them with reluctance toward the enterprise. But when he had done speaking, they all cried out, as from a single mouth, to lead them to arms. Then Brutus, pleased at this, said: “On this condition, that you first hear the resolution of the senate and confirm it. For we have resolved that the Tarquinii and all their posterity shall be banished both from the city of Rome and from all the territory ruled by the Romans; that no one shall be permitted to say or do anything about their restoration; and that if anyone shall be found to be working contrary to these decisions he shall be put to death. If it is your pleasure that this resolution be confirmed, divide yourselves into your curiae and give your votes; and let the enjoyment of this right be the beginning of your liberty.” This was done; and all the curiae having given their votes for the banishment of the tyrants, Brutus again came forward and said: “Now that our first measures have been confirmed in the manner required, hear also what we have further resolved concerning the form of our government. It was our decision, upon considering what magistracy should be in control of affairs, not to establish the kingship again, but to appoint two annual magistrates to hold the royal power, these men to be whomever you yourselves shall choose in the comitia, voting by centuries. If, therefore, this also is your pleasure, give your votes to that effect.” The people approved of this resolution likewise, not a single vote being given against it. After that, Brutus, coming forward, appointed Spurius Lucretius as interrex to preside over the comitia for the election of magistrates, according to ancestral custom. And he, dismissing the assembly, ordered all the people to go promptly in arms to the field where it was their custom to elect their magistrates. When they were come thither, he chose two men to perform the functions which had belonged to the kings—Brutus and Collatinus; and the people, being called by centuries, confirmed their appointment. Such were the measures taken in the city at that time.
LXXXV. As soon as King Tarquinius heard by the first messengers who had found means to escape from the city before the gates were shut that Brutus was holding the assembled people enthralled, haranguing them and summoning the citizens to liberty, which was all the information they could give him, he took with him his sons and the most trustworthy of his friends, and without communicating his design to any others, rode at full gallop in hopes of forestalling the revolt. But finding the gates shut and the battlements full of armed men, he returned to the camp as speedily as possible, bewailing and complaining of his misfortune. But his cause there also was now lost. For the consuls, foreseeing that he would quickly come to the city, had sent letters by other roads to those in the camp, in which they exhorted them to revolt from the tyrant and acquainted them with the resolutions passed by those in the city. Titus Herminius and Marcus Horatius, who had been left by the king to command in his absence, having received these letters, read them in an assembly of the soldiers; and asking them by their centuries what they thought should be done, when it was their unanimous opinion to regard the decisions reached by those in the city as valid, they no longer would admit Tarquinius when he returned. After the king found himself disappointed of this hope also, he fled with a few companions to the city of Gabii, over which, as I said before, he had appointed Sextus, the eldest of his sons, to be king. He was now grown grey with age and had reigned twenty-five years. In the meantime Herminius and Horatius, having made a truce with the Ardeates for fifteen years, led their forces home.