Servius had by this time a definite prescriptive right to the supreme power. Still, hearing [p. 161]
that the young Tarquinius now and then threw out1
a hint that he was reigning without the consent of the people, he proceeded to gain the goodwill of the commons by dividing among all the citizens the land obtained by conquest from the enemy; after which he made bold to call upon the people to vote whether he should be their ruler, and was declared king with such unanimity as none of his predecessors had experienced.
Yet the circumstance did not lessen Tarquinius's hopes of obtaining the kingship. On the contrary, perceiving that the bestowal of land on the plebeians was in opposition to the wishes of the senate, he felt that he had got the better opportunity of vilifying Servius to the Fathers and of increasing his own influence in the senate-house. He was a hot-headed youth himself, and he had at hand, in the person of Tullia his wife, one who goaded on his restless spirit.
For the royal house of Rome produced an example of tragic guilt, as others had done,2
in order that loathing of kings might hasten the coming of liberty, and that the end of reigning might come in that reign which was the fruit of crime.
This Lucius Tarquinius —whether he was the son or the grandson of King Tarquinius Priscus is uncertain; but, following the majority of historians, I would designate him son —had a brother, Arruns Tarquinius, a youth of a gentle disposition.
These two, as has been said before, had married the two Tullias, daughters of the king, themselves of widely different characters. Chance had so ordered matters that the two violent natures should not be united in wedlock, thanks doubtless to the good fortune of the Roman People, that the reign of Servius might be prolonged and the traditions of [p. 163]
the state become established.
It was distressing to3
the headstrong Tullia that her husband should be destitute of ambition and enterprise. With her whole soul she turned from him to his brother; him she admired, him she called a man and a prince: she despised her sister because, having got a man for a mate, she lacked a woman's daring.
Their similarity soon brought these two together, as is generally the case, for evil is strongly drawn to evil; but it was the woman who took the lead in all the mischief. Having become addicted to clandestine meetings with another's husband, she spared no terms of insult when speaking of her own husband to his brother, or of her sister to that sister's husband. She urged that it would have been juster for her to be unmarried and for him to lack a wife than for them to be united to their inferiors and be compelled to languish through the cowardice of others.
If the gods had given her the man she deserved she would soon have seen in her own house the royal power which she now saw in
her father's. It was not long before she had inspired the young man with her own temerity, and, having made room in their respective houses for a new marriage, by deaths which followed closely upon one another, they were joined together in nuptials which Servius rather tolerated than approved.