The History of Rome by Livy. Rome, c. 10 BC.
Translated by Benjamin Oliver Foster.
In 509 BC, the son of the King of Rome, Sextus Tarquinius, heard from his friends about the virtuous matron Lucretia.
One day when the young men were drinking at the house of Sextus Tarquinius, after supper they fell to talking about their wives, and each man fell to praising his wife to excess. Finally Collatinus declared that there was no need to argue; they might all be sure that no one was more worthy than his Lucretia. “Young and vigorous as we are, why don’t we get on our horses and go and see for ourselves what our wives are doing? And we will base our judgment on whatever we see them doing when their husbands arrive unannounced.” Encouraged by the wine, “Yes, let’s go!” they all cried, and they went on horseback to the city. Darkness was beginning to fall when they arrived and entered the house of Collatinus. There, they found Lucretia behaving quite differently from the daughters-in-law of the King, whom they had found with their friends before a grand feast, preparing to have a night of fun. Lucretia, even though it was night, was still working on her spinning, with her servants, in the middle of her house. They were all impressed by Lucretia’s chaste honor. When her husband and the Tarquins arrived, she received them, and her husband, the winner, was obliged to invite the king’s sons in. It was then that Sextus Tarquinius was seized by the desire to violate Lucretia’s chastity, seduced both by her beauty and by her exemplary virtue. Finally, after a night of youthful games, they returned to the camp.
Several days passed. Sextus Tarquinius returned to the house of Collatinus, with one of his companions. He was well received and given the hospitality of the house, and maddened with love, he waited until he was sure everyone else was asleep. Then he took up his sword and went to Lucretia’s bedroom, and placing his sword against her left breast, he said, “Quiet, Lucretia; I am Sextus Tarquinius, and I have a sword in my hand. If you speak, you will die.” Awakening from sleep, the poor woman realized that she was without help and very close to death. Sextus Tarquinius declared his love for her, begging and threatening her alternately, and attacked her soul in every way. Finally, before her steadfastness, which was not affected by the fear of death even after his intimidation, he added another menace. “When I have killed you, I will put next to you the body of a nude servant, and everyone will say that you were killed during a dishonorable act of adultery.”
With this menace, Sextus Tarquinius triumphed over her virtue, and when he had raped her he left having taken away her honor. Lucretia, overcome with sorrow and shame, sent messengers both to her husband and her father, asking them each to come “at once, with a good friend, because a very terrible thing had happened.” Spurius Lucretius, her father, came with Publius Valerius, and Collatinus came with Lucius Junius Brutus; they had just returned to Rome when they met Lucretia’s messenger. They found Lucretia in her chamber, overpowered by grief.
When she saw them she began to cry. “How are you?” her husband asked. “Very bad,” she replied, “how can anything go well for a woman who has lost her honor? There are the marks of another man in
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