Tarquin had been about thirty-eight years on the throne Servius Tullius was held in by far the highest esteem of any one, not only with the king but also with the patricians and the commons.
The two sons of Ancus had always felt most keenly their being deprived of their father's throne through the treachery of their guardian; its occupation by a foreigner who was not even of Italian, much less of Roman descent, increased their indignation, when they saw that not even after the death of Tarquin would the crown revert to them, but would suddenly descend to a slave —that crown which Romulus, the offspring of a god, and himself a god, had worn whilst he was on earth, now to he the possession of a slave - born slave a hundred years later!
They felt that it would be a disgrace to the whole Roman nation, and especially to their house, if, while the male issue of Ancus was still,alive, the sovereignty of Rome
should be open not only to foreigners but even to slaves. They determined, therefore, to repel that insult by the sword.
But it was on Tarquin rather than on Servius that they sought to avenge their wrongs; if the king were left alive he would be able to deal more summary vengeance than an ordinary citizen, and in the event of Servius being killed, the king would certainly make any one else whom he chose for a son-in-law heir to the crown. These considerations decided them to form a plot against the king's life.
Two shepherds, perfect desperadoes, were selected for the deed. They appeared in the vestibule of the palace, each with his usual implement, and by pretending to have a violent and outrageous quarrel, they attracted the attention of all the royal guards. Then, as they both began to appeal to the king, and their clamour had penetrated within the palace, they were summoned before the king.
At first they tried, by shouting each against the other, to see who could make the most noise, until, after being repressed by the lictor and ordered to speak in turn, they became quiet, and one of the two began to state his case.
Whilst the king's attention was absorbed in listening to him, the other swung aloft his axe and drove it into the king's head, and leaving the weapon in the wound both dashed out of the palace.