One evening, although the twilight was fast darkening into night, the Forum of Rome was full of people. Men were talking together in anxious groups ; magistrates were holding long consultations; for the army had gone out to battle against their exiled king, Tarquin the Proud, and that day there had been a hard fight at Lake Regillus, not many leagues from Rome.
Close by the temple of Vesta was a spring that belonged, it is said, to the nymph Juturna, and so pure and clear were these waters that they were believed to bring healing to mankind. Near this fountain there suddenly appeared a most surprising sight. Before the people stood two noble knights, whose steeds, all flecked with foam, were drinking from the sacred spring. The armor of these strangers gleamed brightly in the dusk, although they had the air of those that had not only ridden far and fast but also battled long and hard. In awed tones the news of their arrival passed from man to man, until all that were in the Forum had gathered about the youths, who, unmindful of the multitude, continued to refresh themselves and their pure white chargers with the sparkling waters. However, when every one had drawn near, the splendid strangers stood up side by side and, as with a single voice, spoke to the spellbound people, saying : ” Hail, men of Rome ! Let your hearts be uplifted. From Lake Regillus do we come and would have you know that Tarquin is vanquished and that Rome’s standards are planted in his camp. Right valiant has been the fight, for the cause of Rome has this day been defended by the favor of the gods.”
Having thus spoken, the glistening knights re-mounted their noble steeds, quieting them by calling their names in gentle tones Ho, Kanthus ! ” ” Now then, good Cyllaros ! “ and the voice of these knights was like the sound of deep, sweet music. Then, with a gesture of farewell, they gave rein to their horses, rounded the road by the Temple of Vesta, and were gone !
No trace of the mysterious riders could be found, and a wonderment, almost a fear, seized upon the people in the very midst of their rejoicings. Some murmured that the knights had been but a vision; others declared that these had been no earthly visitors, but Castor and Pollux, twin sons of Jupiter, who had brought the good news to the Roman people.
With the next morning’s light there came a messenger in haste from the Roman camp, bearing a strange report. This message was wrapped in leaves of laurel, as was the custom of victorious generals when informing the Senate of a conquest, and in the letter were words proving that in very truth the sons of Jupiter had fought for Rome, for at a moment when the Romans were hard pressed and their courage grew faint, two knights on pure white steeds had suddenly appeared among the foremost ranks. Be-fore them Tarquin’s army had fallen back in great confusion, and soon the victory was with the knights of Rome. Upon this the two strange knights had disappeared. Then all knew that the contest had been gained by the favor of the gods and not by the strength of man, and immediately, upon the battle-field, a temple had been vowed to the Twin Brothers, in gratitude for their valiant aid.
A few years later a temple to Castor and Pollux was built in the Forum, just on the spot where the heavenly visitors announced the good news to the people. Statues of the Twin Brothers were later placed in the temple and were always kept in perfect order and repair.
Abridged from “Stories in Stone from the Roman Forum”
Castor (kas’ter). Pollux (pol’uks). Forum (fo’rum). Regillus (re jil’us). Juturna (ju tur’na). Cyllaros (sil’a ros).