Myths, Gods, and Men
Spring 2007 Readings - Week 3
The Rape of Lucretia (1 of 2)
Livy - Ab urbe condita 1.56 - 1.58
Read February 6, 2007 by Jennifer Nye
LVI: The Mission to Delphi
Titus and Arruns started on their journey. They had as a travelling companion L. Junius Brutus, the son of the king's sister, Tarquinia, a young man of a very different character from that which he had assumed. When he heard of the massacre of the chiefs of the State, amongst them his own brother, by his uncle's orders, he determined that his intelligence should give the king no cause for alarm nor his fortune any provocation to his avarice, and that as the laws afforded no protection, he would seek safety in obscurity and neglect. Accordingly he carefully kept up the appearance and conduct of an idiot, leaving the king to do what he liked with his person and property, and did not even protest against his nickname of 'Brutus'; for under the protection of that nickname the soul which was one day to liberate Rome was awaiting its destined hour. The story runs that when brought to Delphi by the Tarquins, more as a butt for their sport than as a companion, he had with him a golden staff enclosed in a hollow one of cornel wood, which he offered to Apollo as a mystical emblem of his own character. After executing their father's commission the young men were desirous of ascertaining to which of them the kingdom of Rome would come. A voice came from the lowest depths of the cavern: 'Whichever of you, young men, shall be the first to kiss his mother, he shall hold supreme sway in Rome.' Sextus had remained behind in Rome and to keep him in ignorance of this oracle and so deprive him of any chance of coming to the throne, the two Tarquins insisted upon absolute silence being kept on the subject. They drew lots to decide which of them should be the first to kiss his mother. On their return to Rome, Brutus, thinking that the oracular utterance had another meaning, pretended to stumble, and as he fell kissed the ground, for the earth is of course the common mother of us all.
Then they returned to Rome, where preparations were being energetically pushed forward for a war with the Rutulians.
LVII: The Story of Lucretia
Ardeam Rutuli habebant, gens, ut in ea regione atque in ea aetate, diuitiis praepollens; eaque ipsa causa belli fuit, quod rex Romanus cum ipse ditari, exhaustus magnificentia publicorum operum, tum praeda delenire popularium animos studebat,  praeter aliam superbiam regno infestos etiam quod se in fabrorum ministeriis ac seruili tam diu habitos opere ab rege indignabantur.  temptata res est, si primo impetu capi Ardea posset: ubi id parum processit, obsidione munitionibusque coepti premi hostes.  in his statiuis, ut fit longo magis quam acri bello, satis liberi commeatus erant, primoribus tamen magis quam militibus;  regii quidem iuuenes interdum otium conuiuiis comisationibusque inter se terebant.  forte potantibus his apud Sex. Tarquinium, ubi et Collatinus cenabat Tarquinius, Egeri filius, incidit de uxoribus mentio. suam quisque laudare miris modis;  inde certamine accenso Collatinus negat uerbis opus esse; paucis id quidem horis posse sciri quantum ceteris praestet Lucretia sua. 'quin, si uigor iuuentae inest, conscendimus equos inuisimusque praesentes nostrarum ingenia? id cuique spectatissimum sit quod necopinato uiri aduentu occurrerit oculis.'  incaluerant uino; 'age sane' omnes; citatis equis auolant Romam. quo cum primis se intendentibus tenebris peruenissent, pergunt inde Collatiam,  ubi Lucretiam haudquaquam ut regias nurus, quas in conuiuio luxuque cum aequalibus uiderant tempus terentes sed nocte sera deditam lanae inter lucubrantes ancillas in medio aedium sedentem inueniunt.  muliebris certaminis laus penes Lucretiam fuit. adueniens uir Tarquiniique excepti benigne; uictor maritus comiter inuitat regios iuuenes. ibi Sex. Tarquinium mala libido Lucretiae per uim stuprandae capit; cum forma tum spectata castitas incitat.  et tum quidem ab nocturno iuuenali ludo in castra redeunt.
A few days afterwards Sextus Tarquin went, unknown to Collatinus, with one companion to Collatia. He was hospitably received by the household, who suspected nothing, and after supper was conducted to the bedroom set apart for guests. When all around seemed safe and everybody fast asleep, he went in the frenzy of his passion with a naked sword to the sleeping Lucretia, and placing his left hand on her breast, said, 'Silence, Lucretia! I am Sextus Tarquin, and I have a sword in my hand; if you utter a word, you shall die.' When the woman, terrified out of her sleep, saw that no help was near, and instant death threatening her, Tarquin began to confess his passion, pleaded, used threats as well as entreaties, and employed every argument likely to influence a female heart. When he saw that she was inflexible and not moved even by the fear of death, he threatened to disgrace her, declaring that he would lay the naked corpse of the slave by her dead body, so that it might be said that she had been slain in foul adultery. By this awful threat, his lust triumphed over her inflexible chastity, and Tarquin went off exulting in having successfully attacked her honour. Lucretia, overwhelmed with grief at such a frightful outrage, sent a messenger to her father at Rome and to her husband at Ardea, asking them to come to her, each accompanied by one faithful friend; it was necessary to act, and to act promptly; a horrible thing had happened. Spurius Lucretius came with Publius Valerius, the son of Volesus; Collatinus with Lucius Junius Brutus, with whom he happened to be returning to Rome when he was met by his wife's messenger. They found Lucretia sitting in her room prostrate with grief. As they entered, she burst into tears, and to her husband's inquiry whether all was well, replied, 'No! what can be well with a woman when her honour is lost? The marks of a stranger Collatinus are in your bed. But it is only the body that has been violated the soul is pure; death shall bear witness to that. But pledge me your solemn word that the adulterer shall not go unpunished. It is Sextus Tarquin, who, coming as an enemy instead of a guest forced from me last night by brutal violence a pleasure fatal to me, and, if you are men, fatal to him.' They all successively pledged their word, and tried to console the distracted woman , by turning the guilt from the victim of the outrage to the perpetrator, and urging that it is the mind that sins not the body, and where there has been no consent there is no guilt 'It is for you,' she said, 'to see that he gets his deserts: although I acquit myself of the sin, I do not free myself from the penalty; no unchaste woman shall henceforth live and plead Lucretia's example.'
She had a knife concealed in her dress which she plunged into her, heart, and fell dying on the floor. Her father and husband raised the death-cry.