He was also preparing to surround the city with a stone wall, when a Sabine war obstructed his designs. The matter was so sudden, that the enemy had passed the Anio before the Roman army could meet and stop them; great alarm therefore was produced at Rome.
And at first they fought with dubious success, but with great slaughter on both sides. After this, the enemy's forces being led back into their camp, and the Romans getting time to make new levies for the war, Tarquin, thinking that the weakness of his army lay in the want of horse, determined to add other centuries to the Ramnenses, the Titienses, and Luceres which Romulus had appointed, and to leave them distinguished by his own name.
Because Romulus had done this by augury, Attus Navius, at that time a celebrated soothsayer, insisted that no alteration or new appointment of that kind could be made, unless the birds approved of it.
The king, enraged at this, and, as it is related, ridiculing the art, said, “Come, thou diviner, tell me, whether what I am thinking on can be done or not?” When he had tried the matter by divination, he affirmed it certainly could. “But I was thinking,” says he, “whether you could cut asunder this whetstone with a razor. Take it, and perform what thy birds portend may be done.” Upon this, as they say, he immediately cut the whetstone in two.
A statue of Attus, with his head veiled, was erected in the comitium, upon the very steps on the left of the senate-house, on the spot where the transaction occurred. They say that the whetstone also was deposited in the same place, that it might remain a monument of that miracle to posterity.
There certainly accrued so much honour to augury and the college of augurs, that nothing was undertaken either in peace or war without taking the auspices. Assemblies of the people, the summoning of armies, and affairs of the greatest importance were put off, when the birds would not allow of them.
Nor did Tarquin then make any other alteration in the centuries of horse, except doubling the number of men in each of these [p. 51]
corps, so that the three centuries consisted of one thousand eight hundred knights.
Those that were added were called “the younger,” but by the same names with the former; which, now that they have been doubled, they call six centuries.