But if the king was unjust in peace, yet he was not a bad general in war. Indeed, he would have equalled in this art the kings who had gone before him, if his degeneracy in other things had not also dimmed his glory here.
It was he who began the war with the Volsci which was to last more than two hundred years after his time, and took Suessa Pometia from them by storm.
There, having sold off the booty and raised forty talents of silver,1
he conceived the project of a temple of Jupiter so magnificent that it should be worthy of the king of gods and men, the Roman empire, and the majesty of the site itself. The money from the captured city he put aside to build this temple.
He then engaged in an unexpectedly tedious war with Gabii, a neighbouring town After first assaulting the place in vain, he laid siege to it, but this attempt was as unsuccessful as the other, for he was driven off from the walls; and he finally resorted to the policy, so unlike a Roman, of deceit [p. 185]
For he pretended to have given up2
the war and to be engrossed in laying the foundations of his temple and in other city works, arranging meanwhile to let Sextus, who was the youngest of his three sons, desert to Gabii, and there complain that his father was intolerably cruel to him.
His father's pride, he said, was now diverted from strangers upon his own family. Even his children were too many to please him, and the solitude which he had caused in the senate-house he wished to bring to pass in his own home also, that he might leave no descendant, no heir to his kingdom.
The young man said that he had himself escaped from amidst the swords and javelins of his father, and had made up his mind that there was no safety for him anywhere save with the enemies of Lucius Tarquinius. Let them not delude themselves, he said; the war which the king pretended to have abandoned was still awaiting them, and when the chance offered he would attack them unawares.
But if they had no room for suppliants, he was prepared to wander all over Latium, and thence seek out the Volsci and the Aequi and the Hernici, till at last he should come to people who knew how to protect a son from the cruel and wicked tortures inflicted on him by a father.
Possibly he might even discover some enthusiasm for war and arms against the haughtiest of kings and the most insolent of nations.
When it appeared that if they were indifferent he would leave them in anger and continue his flight, the Gabini bade him welcome. They told him not to be surprised if the king had been the same to his children that he had been to his subjects, to his allies; he would end by venting his cruelty upon [p. 187]
himself if other objects failed him.
But for their3
own part, they said, they were glad of his coming, and they believed that in a short time, with his help, the seat of war would be shifted from the gates of Gabii to the walls of Rome.