He waited patiently, however, and still was thought a fool when the army went out to besiege the city of Ardea; and while the troops were encamped round it, some of the young patricians began to dispute which had the best wife. They agreed to put it to the test by galloping late in the evening to look in at their homes and see what their wives were about. Some were idling, some were visiting, some were scolding, some were dressing, some were asleep; but at Collatia, the farm of another of the Tarquin family, thence called Collatinus, they found his beautiful wife Lucretia among her maidens spinning the wool of the flocks. All agreed that she was the best of wives; but the wicked Sextus Tarquin only wanted to steal her from her husband, and going by night to Collatia, tried to make her desert her lord, and when she would not listen to him he ill-treated her cruelly, and told her that he should accuse her to her husband. She was so overwhelmed with grief and shame that in the morning she sent for her father and husband, told them all that that happened, and saying that she could not bear life after being so put to shame, she drew out a dagger and stabbed herself before their eyes—thinking, as all these heathen Romans did, that it was better to die by one’s own hand than to live in disgrace.
Lucius Brutus had gone to Collatia with his cousin, and while Collatinus and his father-in-law stood horror-struck, he called to them to revenge this crime. Snatching the dagger from Lucretia’s breast, he galloped to Rome, called the people together in the Forum, and, holding up the bloody weapon in his hand, he made them a speech, asking whether they would any longer endure such a family of tyrants. They all rose as one man, and choosing Brutus himself and Collatinus to be their leaders, as the consuls whom Servius Tullus had thought of making, they shut the gates of Rome, and would not open them when Tarquin and his sons would have returned. So ended the kingdom of Rome.
The war with porsena.
From the time of the flight of the Tarquins, Rome was governed by two consuls, who wore all the tokens of royalty except the crown. Tarquin fled into Etruria, whence his grandfather had come, and thence tried to obtain admission into Rome. The two young sons of Brutus and the nephews of Collatinus were drawn into a plot for bringing them back again, and on its discovery were brought before the two consuls. Their guilt was proved, and their father sternly asked what they had to say in their defence. They only wept, and so did Collatinus and many of the senators, crying out, “Banish them, banish them.” Brutus, however, as if unmoved, bade the executioners do their office. The whole Senate shrieked to hear a father thus condemn his own children, but he was resolute, and actually looked on while the young men were first scourged and then beheaded.