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The Rape Of Lucretia Essay

2574 words - 10 pages

The time is the sixth century, the place is Rome and the person is Lucretia, a woman who contributed to one of the biggest parts of Roman history: the creation of the Roman republic. The rape of the virtuous Lucretia by Sextus Tarquinius, the son of Tarquinius Superbus' (an Etruscan king) was the final straw for the Roman people and pushed them to want to change from a monarchy to a republic. From the accounts of the rape of Lucretia from ancient historians like Livy, Cicero and Dionysius, it is clear that Lucretias rape not only spurred the roman people to want to get rid of the Etruscan King and his family, but also revealed the important role of virtue in women in roman society.
There is no doubt that Lucretia, the wife of Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus who was the son of Arruns Tarquinius, was a virtuous woman. This is evident through Cicero who describes her as a 'noble and chaste woman' (Cicero 100), Dionysius who describes her as a woman who 'excelled all the women in beauty as well as in virtue' (Dionysius, Book IV 64) and finally through Livy who explains how she 'won the contest of womanly virtue' (Livy, Book 1, 100). It was this contest that 'kindled in Sextus Tarquinius the flame of lust' (Livy 101) and it was started by Lucretias own husband, Collatinus, during a drunken dinner party in the quarters of Sextus. The contest was between all of the men present at the party and its purpose was to discover who had the most virtuous wife out of all of them. Collatinus, who was very drunk and therefore overly confident, declared that none of the other men's wives could beat the 'incomparable superiority of my Lucretia' (Livy 100). The men decided to participate in Collatinus' contest and so all of them went back to Rome only to discover that all of their wives were at a dinner party enjoying themselves in luxury while, in Collatia, Lucretia was with the maids hard at work spinning (Livy 100-101). Thus Lucretia won the contest and because of how proud Collatinus was to have won he invited all of the men, including Sextus, in to eat. It was while Sextus was in the quarters of Tarquinius that he developed a lust for Lucretia based solely on 'her beauty and the chastity she had demonstrated' (MacLachlan, Part one) which in turn made him determined to 'debauch her' (Livy 101).
Before the rape of Lucretia can be explained it is important one understands the type of man Sextus Tarquinius was and the type of background he came from. His father, Tarquinius Superbus, was a vicious man that was feared and described by the men of Gabii as being a man with 'brutality as his nature' (Livy 95). In fact he murdered his own wife so as to be with a woman named Tullia who supported and encouraged his ambition and fire and was just as evil as himself for she also killed her own husband to be with him. A fantastic quote from Livy's The Early History of Rome explains the relationship between Tullia and Tarquin by saying 'there is a magnetic power in...

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