Tarpeia - Encyclopedia

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TARPEIA, in Roman legend, daughter of the commander of the Capitol during the war with the Sabines caused by the rape of the Sabine women. According to the common story, she offered to betray the citadel, if the Sabines would give her what they wore on their left arms, meaning their bracelets; instead of this, keeping to the letter of their promise, they threw their shields upon her and crushed her to death. Simylus, a Greek elegiac poet, makes Tarpeia betray the Capitol to a king of the Gauls. The story may be an attempt to account for the Tarpeian rock being chosen as the place of execution of traitors. According to S. Reinach, however, in Revue archeologique, xi. (1908), the story had its origin in a rite - the taboo of military spoils, which led to their being heaped up on consecrated ground that they might not be touched. Tarpeia herself is a local divinity, the manner of whose death was suggested by the tumulus or shields on the spot devoted to her cult, a crime being invented to account for the supposed punishment.


- Sir George C. Lewis, Credibility of early Roman History; A. Schwegler, Romische Geschichte, bk. ix. io; Livy, i. II; Dion. Halic., ii. 38-40; Plutarch, Romulus, 17; Propertius, iv. 4; Ovid, Fasti, i. 261; C. W. Muller, Frag. Hist. Graec., iv. p. 367.

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