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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 16

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 16.—Of the First Roman Consuls, the One of Whom Drove the Other from the Country, and Shortly After Perished at Rome by the Hand of a Wounded Enemy, and So Ended a Career of Unnatural Murders.

To this epoch let us add also that of which Sallust says, that it was ordered with justice and moderation, while the fear of Tarquin and of a war with Etruria was impending.  For so long as the Etrurians aided the efforts of Tarquin to regain the throne, Rome was convulsed with distressing war.  And therefore he says that the state was ordered with justice and moderation, through the pressure of fear, not through the influence of equity.  And in this very brief period, how calamitous a year was that in which consuls were first created, when the kingly power was abolished!  They did not fulfill their term of office.  For Junius Brutus deprived his colleague Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus, and banished him from the city; and shortly after he himself fell in battle, at once slaying and slain, having formerly put to death his own sons and his brothers-in-law, because he had discovered that they were conspiring to restore Tarquin.  It is this deed that Virgil shudders to record, even while he seems to praise it; for when he says:

“And call his own rebellious seed

For menaced liberty to bleed,”

he immediately exclaims,

“Unhappy father! howsoe’er

The deed be judged by after days;”

that is to say, let posterity judge the deed as they please, let them praise and extol the father who slew his sons, he is unhappy.  And then he adds, as if to console so unhappy a man:

“His country’s love shall all o’erbear,

And unextinguished thirst of praise.” 149

In the tragic end of Brutus, who slew his own sons, and though he slew his enemy, Tarquin’s son, yet could not survive him, but was survived by Tarquin the elder, does not the innocence of his colleague Collatinus seem to be vindicated, who, though a good citizen, suffered the same punishment as Tarquin himself, when that tyrant was banished?  For Brutus himself is said to have been a relative 150 of Tarquin.  But Collatinus had the misfortune to bear not only the blood, but the name of Tarquin.  To change his name, then, not his country, would have been his fit penalty:  to abridge his name by this word, and be called simply L. Collatinus.  But he was not com p. 53 pelled to lose what he could lose without detriment, but was stripped of the honor of the first consulship, and was banished from the land he loved.  Is this, then, the glory of Brutus—this injustice, alike detestable and profitless to the republic?  Was it to this he was driven by “his country’s love, and unextinguished thirst of praise?”

When Tarquin the tyrant was expelled, L. Tarquinius Collatinus, the husband of Lucretia, was created consul along with Brutus.  How justly the people acted, in looking more to the character than the name of a citizen!  How unjustly Brutus acted, in depriving of honor and country his colleague in that new office, whom he might have deprived of his name, if it were so offensive to him!  Such were the ills, such the disasters, which fell out when the government was “ordered with justice and moderation.”  Lucretius, too, who succeeded Brutus, was carried off by disease before the end of that same year.  So P. Valerius, who succeeded Collatinus, and M. Horatius, who filled the vacancy occasioned by the death of Lucretius, completed that disastrous and funereal year, which had five consuls.  Such was the year in which the Roman republic inaugurated the new honor and office of the consulship.



Æneid, vi. 820, etc.


His nephew.

Next: Chapter 17

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