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Tullius, Servius

According to the legends, the sixth king of Rome. The stories about his reign merely express the popular idea of the original growth of the Roman constitution; and as he embodies a great part of this growth, the history of which was lost, he is represented as a king with a peaceful reign, devoted to legislation and to public works in the city, but also to military organization. The legendary account states that his mother, Ocrisia, was one of the captives taken at Corniculum, and became a slave of Tanaquil, the wife of Tarquinius Priscus (Dionys. iv. 2; Ovid, Fasti, vi. 625). He was born in the king's palace, and notwithstanding his servile origin was brought up as the king's son, since Tanaquil by her powers of divination had foreseen the greatness of the child; and Tarquinius gave him his daughter in marriage, and intrusted him with the government. His rule was mild and beneficent, and so popular did he become that the sons of Ancus Marcius, fearing lest they should be deprived of their inheritance, procured the assassination of Tarquinius. (See Tarquinius.) They did not, however, reap the fruit of their crime, for Tanaquil, pretending that the king's wound was not mortal, told the people that Tarquinius had commanded Servius meantime to discharge the duties of the kingly office. Servius began to act as king; and when the death of Tarquinius could no longer be concealed, he was already in firm possession of the royal power. The great deeds of Servius were deeds of peace, and he was regarded by posterity as the author of all their civil rights and institutions, just as Numa was of their religious rites and ordinances. Three important events are assigned to Servius by tradition. First, he gave a new constitution to the Roman State. The two main objects of this constitution were to give the plebs political independence, and to assign to property that influence in the State which had previously belonged to birth exclusively. In order to carry his purpose into effect, Servius made a twofold division of the Roman people—one territorial, and the other according to property. (For details, see Comitia.) Secondly, he was credited with the extension of the Pomerium, or boundary of Rome, and with the completion of the “Servian” city by incorporating with it the Quirinal, Viminal, and Esquiline Hills and its fortification. (See Roma.) Thirdly, he established an important alliance with the Latins, by which Rome and the cities of Latium became the members of one great league. By his new constitution Servius incurred the hostility of the patricians, who conspired against him with L. Tarquinius. Servius, soon after his succession, had given his two daughters in marriage to the two sons of Tarquinius Priscus. L. Tarquinius the elder was married to a domestic wife; Aruns, the younger, to an aspiring and ambitious woman. On the other hand, Lucius was proud and haughty, but Aruns unambitious and quiet. The wife of Aruns, fearing that her husband would tamely resign the sovereignty to his elder brother, resolved to destroy both her father and her husband. She persuaded Lucius to murder his wife, and she murdered her own husband; and the survivors straightway married. Tullia now urged her husband to murder her father. A conspiracy was formed with the discontented patricians, and Tarquinius, having entered the Senate-house arrayed in the kingly robes, ordered the senators to be summoned to him as their king. At the first news of the commotion, Servius hastened to the Senate-house, and, standing at the doorway, ordered Tarquinius to come down from the throne. Tarquinius sprang forward, seized the old man and flung him down the steps. The king sought refuge in his house, but before he reached it he was overtaken by the servants of Tarquinius and murdered. Tullia drove to the Senate-house, and greeted her husband as king; and as she was returning, her charioteer pulled up, and showed her the corpse of her father lying across the road. She commanded him to drive on: the blood of her father spirted over the carriage and on her dress; and from that day forward the street bore the name of the Vicus Sceleratus— “Wicked Street.” Servius had reigned forty-four years (Livy, i. 42-46; Dionys. iv. 2-12; De Rep. ii. 21; Ovid, Fasti, vi. 581).

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    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 42
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