But when his grandfather Numitor died in Alba, and its throne devolved upon Romulus, he courted the favour of the people by putting the government in their hands, and appointed an annual ruler for the Albans. In this way he taught the influential men at Rome also to seek after a form of government which was independent and without a king, where all in turn were subjects and rulers. For by this time not even the so-called patricians had any share in the administration of affairs, but a name and garb of honour was all that was left them, and they assembled in their council-chamber more from custom than for giving advice.
Once there, they listened in silence to the commands of the king, and went away with this advantage only over the multitude, that they learned earlier what he had decreed. The rest of his proceedings were of lesser importance; but when of his own motion merely he divided the territory acquired in war among his soldiers, and gave back their hostages to the Veientes, without the consent or wish of the patricians, he was thought to be insulting their senate outright.
Wherefore suspicion and calumny fell upon that body when he disappeared unaccountably a short time after. He disappeared on the Nones of July, as they now call the month, then Quintilis, leaving no certain account nor even any generally accepted tradition of his death, aside from the date of it, which I have just given. For on that day many ceremonies are still performed which bear a likeness to what then came to pass.
Nor need we wonder at this uncertainty, since although Scipio Africanus died at home after dinner, there is no convincing proof of the manner of his end, but some say that he passed away naturally, being of a sickly habit, some that he died of poison administered by his own hand, and some that his enemies broke into his house at night and smothered him.
And yet Scipio's dead body lay exposed for all to see, and all who beheld it formed therefrom some suspicion and conjecture of what had happened to it; whereas Romulus disappeared suddenly, and no portion of his body or fragment of his clothing remained to be seen. But some conjectured that the senators, convened in the temple of Vulcan, fell upon him and slew him, then cut his body in pieces, put each a portion into the folds of his robe, and so carried it away.
Others think that it was neither in the temple of Vulcan nor when the senators alone were present that he disappeared, but that he was holding an assembly of the people outside the city near the so-called Goat's Marsh,1
when suddenly strange and unaccountable disorders with incredible changes filled the air; the light of the sun failed, and night came down upon them, not with peace and quiet, but with awful peals of thunder and furious blasts driving rain from every quarter,
during which the multitude dispersed and fled, but the nobles gathered closely together; and when the storm had ceased, and the sun shone out, and the multitude, now gathered together again in the same place as before, anxiously sought for their king, the nobles would not suffer them to inquire into his disappearance nor busy themselves about it, but exhorted them all to honour and revere Romulus, since he had been caught up into heaven, and was to be a benevolent god for them instead of a good king.
The multitude, accordingly, believing this and rejoicing in it, went away to worship him with good hopes of his favour; but there were some, it is said, who tested the matter in a bitter and hostile spirit, and confounded the patricians with the accusation of imposing a silly tale upon the people, and of being themselves the murderers of the king.