However tyrannical the king was in his domestic administration he was by no means a despicable general; in military skill he would have rivalled any of his predecessors had not the degeneration of his character in other directions prevented him from attaining distinction here also.
He was the first to stir up war with the Volscians-a war which was to last for more than two hundred years after his time —and took from them the city of Pomptine Suessa.
The booty was sold and he realised out of the proceeds forty talents of silver. He then sketched out the design of a temple to Jupiter
, which in its extent should be worthy of the king of gods and men, worthy of the Roman empire, worthy of the majesty of the City itself.
He set apart the above-mentioned sum for its construction.
next war occupied him longer than he expected. Failing to capture the neighbouring city of Gabii
by assault and finding it useless to attempt an investment after being defeated under its walls, he employed methods against it which were anything but Roman, namely, fraud and deceit.
He pretended to have given up all thoughts of war and to be devoting himself to laying the foundations of his temple and other undertakings in the City.
Meantime it was arranged that Sextus, the youngest of his three sons, should go as a refugee to Gabii
, complaining loudly of his father's insupportable cruelty and declaring that he had shifted his tyranny from others on to his own family and even regarded the presence of his children as a burden and was preparing to devastate his own family as he had devastated the senate so that not a single descendant, not a single heir to the crown might be left.
He had, he said, himself escaped from the murderous violence of his father, and felt that no place was safe for him except amongst Lucius Tarquin's enemies.
Let them not deceive themselves, the war which apparently was abandoned was hanging over them, and at the first chance he would attack them when they least expected it. If amongst them there was no place for suppliants, he would wander through Latium
, he would petition the Volsci, the Aequi, the Hernici, until he came to men who know how to protect children against the cruel and unnatural persecutions of parents.
Perhaps he would find people with sufficient spirit to take up arms against a remorseless tyrant backed by a warlike people.
As it seemed probable that if they paid no attention to him he would, in his angry mood, take his departure, the people of Gabii
gave him a kind reception.
They told him not to be surprised if his father treated his children as he had treated his own subjects and his allies; failing others he would end by murdering himself. They showed pleasure at his arrival and expressed their belief that with his assistance the war would be transferred from the gates of Gabii
to the walls of Rome