Sunday, May 7, 2017

Shadows In A Timeless Myth presents Lucretia a Lady of 500 B.C.

500 B.C.
A ROMAN woman, illustrious for her beauty and the nobleness of her birth, and more for her virtue. She was married to one Collatinus, a relative of Tarquin, king of Rome. Her tragic story runs thus: Tarquin, not having been able to render himself master of the town of Ardea so promptly as he had calculated, besieged it in form, and the languidness of the operation comported very well with the inclination of the princes to amuse themselves in the way princes are in the habit of doing. At one of the suppers given by Sextus to his two brothers, and to Collatinus their kinsman, a question was raised, not as to the beauty of their mistresses, as is the custom in our day, but as to that of their respective wives. Each maintained that his wife was fairer than those of his companions; and the dispute rising high, Collatinus suggested a means of terminating it. "What is the use of so many words," said he, "we can in a very short time have the proof of the superiority of my Lucretia. Let us mount our horses; let us surprise our wives; and the decision of our question will be the more easy that they are not prepared for us." Inflamed by wine, the princes accepted the proposal, and they rode to Rome at the top of their horses' speed. They there found sitting at table the fair daughters of Tarquin, who were engaged in pleasure with companions of their own age. They next went to Collatium; and though it was now late at night, they found Lucretia in the midst of her servants, engaged in needlework. They all agreed that she carried off the palm, and thereupon returned to the camp; but Sextus, without uttering a word of his purpose, found his way secretly back to Collatium, and was received by Lucretia with that attention and civility that was due to the eldest son of the king, and without the slightest suspicion that he entertained any purpose other than what was honest and good.

After he had supped, he was conducted to the chamber intended for him—not to sleep, for he had other intentions. As soon as he thought that all had repaired to their beds, he stept, sword in hand, into the private chamber of the unsuspecting Lucretia, and after having threatened to kill her if she made any noise, he told her his passion—bringing to serve his purpose prayers the most tender, and menaces the most terrible; in short, employing all the arts by which an impassioned man might attack the heart of a woman. All was in vain: Lucretia was firm, and persisted in her firmness, altogether undismayed by the fear of death; but she trembled at the threat which he made to expose her to the last infamy of woman. He declared that, after despatching her, he would kill a slave, put his dead body on her bed, and make it be believed that the double murder had been the punishment of the adultery in which they had been surprised. Having accomplished his purpose, he retired, as pleased with himself and as proud of his triumph as if it had been a feat of honest war, and all conformable to the rules of gallantry.

Plunged in the deepest grief, Lucretia sent a message to her father, who was at Rome, and her husband, who was at the siege, praying that they might come to her immediately. They obeyed the message; she straightway informed them of all the circumstances of her dishonour, and entreated them to revenge her wrong. They promised that they would comply with her request, and set about endeavouring to console her by what means that were within their power; but she resisted all their efforts of consolation, and, drawing forth a dagger which she had concealed in her clothes, she plunged it into her heart. Brutus, who was present at this spectacle, found in it an occasion for which he had longed to deliver Rome from the tyranny of Tarquin, and he made such excellent use of it, that the royalty was abolished.

This article compiled from historical sources in the public domain.

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