Category Archives: Rome’s Birth

Seven Kings of Rome (2/2)

King Tarquinius Priscus of Rome
King Tarquinius Priscus of Rome

King Tarquinius Priscus 616-579 BC:  According to legend, Tarquinius the son of a Corinthian noble and refugee named Demaratus, moved to Rome, to rid themselves of their past, and claim a social status, made up by their own doings.

Tarquinius wealth and behaviour won him many friends in Rome, including King Ancus who appointed him as guardian of his children, upon his death.

With the death of King Ancus, Tarquin acting as guardian to the late Kings children, saw his chance to become King of Rome.

When the boys returned from their hunting trip, they discovered to their horror, their guardian had outmanoeuvred them, by obtaining the people’s votes as best possible choice of King.

First he saw off military challenges by neighbouring tribes, which always flared up at the ascension of a new monarch.

Tarquin created one hundred new senators.  Then he waged war against the Latins.   He took their town of Apiolae and in honour of the victory, started the Ludi Romani (Roman Games) which consisted of boxing and horse racing.  Tarquin marked out the spot that would become the Circus Maximus.

The Sabines soon attacked Rome, and the first battle ended in a draw, but after Tarquin increased the Roman Cavalry, he defeated the Sabines, forcing an unequivocal surrender.

Soon he set his sights on Latium, and one by one the towns capitulated.

In areas of Rome where water could not drain, he built drainage systems to empty into the River Tiber.

Tarquin’s end was a brutal one!  The scorned sons of King Ancus sought revenge, and hired two assassins, who murdered King Tarquinius Priscus.

King Servius Tullius of Rome
King Servius Tullius of Rome

King Servius Tullius 578-535 BC:  With the murder of King Tarquinius Priscus, the sons of Ancus Marcius being implicated in the murder, made it impossible by their own hands to step forward, and enter the contest for the next King of Rome.  The sons of Ancus Marcius were forced into exile.

Legend relating to Servius Tullius tells us of one account, where his head was covered in flames, yet he slept through the event and suffered no ill effects.

Word of this reached the ears of Tarquinius Priscus, who deemed it be a sign that the boy was marked for greatness, and duly became a protégé of Rome.

One of the impressive ideas ascribed to Servius Tullius, would have been the census, which counted the people and placed them in five classes, ascending to their wealth.

During his reign, he completed the construction of the Great Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, which had been started during the reign of his predecessor; Tarquinius Priscus.

According to legend, Servius Tullius, faced a coup instigated by his daughter Tullia and her husband Lucius Tarquin.  Servius Tullius policies made him unpopular with his senators and Lucius Tarquin, used this to exploit the King.  It is believed a conspiracy was hatched to overthrow the King.

Lucius Tarquin attended senate in royal robes and summoned senators to acknowledge him.  It was the start of actions, which would see Servius Tullius deposed from power.  Servius rushed to the senate, only to be bodily thrown from the hall.  Chaos ensued, and King Servius was stabbed to death by assassins.

Tullia, daughter of Servius witnessed her husband Lucius Tarquin being sworn in as the new ruler.

Tullia Tarquin ran over her father’s dead body with her carriage.  This street came to be known as the “Street of Guilt.”

King Tarquinius Superbus of Rome
King Lucius Tarquinius Superbus of Rome

King Lucius Tarquinius Superbus (Tarquin the Proud) 534-510 BC:  Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, was the seventh and last King of Rome.  He being the son or grandson of Tarquinius Priscus and son-in-law of Servius Tullius.

He came to power by means of a violent conspiracy, with no legitimacy to the position of King.  Tarquin was nothing more than a tyrant, and similar to those who had seized power in other Kingdoms.

He declared himself as supreme judge of Rome, with complete authority over capital cases, with the accused having no recourse.  He was judge – jury and executioner.

Tarquin governed Rome as a vindictive tyrant on one hand, whilst on the other hand, he being a military commander and diplomat.  He harassed and cajoled the Latin League into accepting Rome as its office, thereby tying Latin’s into the Roman way of life, effectively increasing Rome’s military power.

Lucius Tarquinius Superbus legacy of court intrigue and scandal led to the end of the Etruscan rule of Rome.  It was Tarquinius son, Tarquinius Sextus, was raped the Roman noble woman; Lucretia, the wife of his cousin Tarquinius Collatinius, and for her rape brought about the end of the Etruscan rule of Rome.

Lucretia’s rape was scandalous on several levels, it came about because of a drinking party during which her husband and other Tarquins agreed about, which one had the most beautiful wife.  Sextus was aroused by the discussion, and entered Lucretia’s bed and raped her.

She had been violated, and demanded revenge from her family, when her call went unanswered, she committed suicide.

A revolt against the corrupt Etruscans was led by Tarquin’s nephew; Lucius Junius Brutus and Lucretia’s husband, Tarquinius Collatinus.  The outcome, Tarquinius and his family were expelled from Rome.

Along with the end of the Etruscan Kings of Rome, the power of the Etruscans was weakened.  Rome replaced the Etruscan rulers with a Republic.

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Seven Kings of Rome (1/2)

Titus Livius (Livy), a Roman historian who lived from 59 BC – 17 BC, wrote of many major events in Roman history.

King Romulus
King Romulus of Rome

King Romulus 753-715 BC:  The first recognised King and founder of Rome was Romulus.  He who founded Rome’s Senate.

It is said he pursued a policy of expanding its population by any means possible; all were welcome including warriors, slaves, beggars and criminals.  To secure wives for his citizens, Romulus stole women from the Sabines, in an attack referred to as the Rape of the Sabine Women.

Abduction of the Sabine Women
(Painting) Abduction of the Sabine Women by Nicolas Poussin

The story goes that Romulus staged celebrations, inviting neighbouring tribes to attend.  Mid way through the celebration the festival came to an abrupt end, at which time the Romans revealed their true intentions, taking possession of young and single Sabine women, and claiming them as their brides.  The Sabine town of Cures, ruled by Titus Tatius declared war.

The Intervention of the Sabine Women
(Painting) The Intervention of the Sabine women by Jacques-Louis David

According to legend, Sabine women, wives to Romans, are said to have intervened calling a halt to the war, calling for peace between Sabines and Romans.

Peace was agreed as Sabines of Cures and Romans became one.  Rome was ruled by Romulus and Titus Tatius.

Romulus being taken up to Olympus
(Painting) Romulus being taken up to Olympus by Mars by Jean-Baptiste Nattier

The death of Romulus is nothing more than a legend.  Romulus is said to have performed a ritual sacrifice to the gods at the river, when he was struck by a thunderstorm.  Many ran for cover, leaving Romulus and the Senators behind, when the storm had finished, Romulus had vanished.  Another version of his death, is that Rome’s senators stabbed Romulus to death.

King Numa Pompilius of Rome
King Numa Pompilius of Rome

King Numa Pompilius 715-673 BC:  Numa Pompilius came to power amidst rumours surrounding the death of Romulus.  Senator Julius Proculus claimed Romulus had appeared to him in a vision, and had taken the form; God Quirinus.  Thus absolving Rome’s senators of his death, preparing the way for Julius Proculus to become Rome’s next King.

The people of Rome, did not like where Julius Proculus was taking Roman leadership.  The Sabines intervened, demanding the next King, should be of the Sabines… Roman’s agreed providing the choice be theirs.

Numa Pompilius, be a religious and cultural figure, not a warrior.

Numa the man who moved the Order of the Vestal Virgins from Alba Long to Rome and founded the Temple of Janus, establishing priestly colleges, including the Order of the Fetiales, who held the power to declare war and make peace.

During the 43 years of Numa’s reign, Rome enjoyed peace.

Much of his wisdom was said to be due to receiving divine guidance from the gods.  He was said to have received advice from the nymph and the prophetess Egeria, who became his lover, following his wife’s death.

To the Roman people, King Numa Pompilius was the father of their culture, he who turned peasants, criminals and semi-barbarians, to something that resembled a civilisation.

The high esteem which the Romans held with this King, suggests he played a significant role in the creation of their identity as a people.

King Tullus Hostilius
King Tullus Hostilius of Rome

King Tullus Hostilius  673-642 BC:  With the death of Numa Pompilius, rule passed to the warlike Tullus Hostilius.  One of Numa Pompilius legacies was how he chose to resolve issues, opting for diplomatic measures, but his successor was of a different breed, for he chose the sword over diplomacy.

When a dispute arose between Rome and Alba Longa, Tullus Hostilius declared war, which grew into a Civil War.  To avoid large scale slaughter of each other’s armies, their leaders; Tullus Hostilius and Mettius Fufetius agreed to a contest of champions.  Three brothers from each side would replace the armies.

The Horatius brother’s represented Rome, and the Curiatius brother’s represented Alba Longa, a battle to the death.  The fight ended, with only one man standing, a brother Horatian.

The Roman victory meant Alba Longa had to swear allegiance to Rome.  King Mettius may have been beaten but had no intention of abiding to the contest rules, and accepting Roman supremacy.  Instead he provoked another war with Roman forces.  The Albans were quickly crushed, and the city of Alba Longa destroyed.

The Albans had to accept their fate, and so took up residence at Caelian Hill in Rome.

The population of Rome increased in size, and a new Senate meeting place was called for.  Tullus Hostilius approved such a building, built at the western end of the Forum at the foot of the capital.

As destroyer of Alba Longa, Hostilius brought religious orders including Vestal Virgins to Rome.  The fall of Alba Longa at the hands of the Romans, brought prestige to the city and throughout the region.

King Ancus Martius of Rome
King Ancus Marcius of Rome

King Ancus Marcius  642-617 BC:  Rome’s fourth King was the grandson of Numa Pompilius; Ancus Marcius the chosen ruler to restore peace and quite as Romans had enjoyed under his grandfather; Numa Pompilius.  Rome’s neighbours believed the people of Rome could be a pushover, and unlikely to retaliate in their eagerness for peace.  The first to test this premise were the Aeneas.

King Ancus Marcius proved to be as much a mighty warrior as an administrator, priest and diplomat.  The Prisci Latini were defeated, their city swallowed up by the Romans, and their people absorbed into Rome.

It is believed that Ancus Marcius founded the city of Ostia, but archaeology evidence suggests the founding of Ostia could be of a later time.

The first bridge built over the River Tiber was the wooden Sublician Bridge, built during the reign of Ancus Marcius, which was fortified.

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Early Rome

Rome on River Tiber

Rome started out as a small town on the banks of the Tiber, and grew in size and strength through trade.  Its location provided merchants with an easily navigable waterway to traffic their goods.

The city was ruled by seven kings; Romulus to Tarquin, as it grew in size and power.  Greek culture and civilization came to Rome, by way of Greek colonies in the south, providing these early Romans, with a model upon which, to build their culture.  From the Greeks, they borrowed literacy, religion and the fundamentals of architecture.

Romans showed they possessed a talent for borrowing and improving upon the skills and concepts of other cultures.  Rome grew quickly from a small trading town to a prosperous city between 8th and 6th century BC.

The nobles of Rome deposed King Tarquin the Proud, the last of the seven Kings of Rome in 509 BC.

Lucius Junius Brutus, reformed the system of government, which led to the creation of the Roman Replublic.

In Rome, the Senate (Council of Elders) watched events unfold, and convened at the King’s request to advise him.  The changes that took place, allowed nobility to choose two of its own to act as executive officer’s known as praetor’s then consuls for a year.

These praetor’s or consuls could appoint a dictator, giving him power absolute for six months, and he would resign once his task was completed.

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Rome’s Expansion through Warfare

Punic Wars

Rome owed much of its prosperity to trade in its early years, but it was war which would make the city a powerful force to be reckoned with.

The Punic Wars (264-146 BC), saw Rome go to war against the North African city of Carthage, and Rome’s power grew in wealth and Prestige.  Rome and Carthage, rivals in trade in the Western Mediterranean.  With the defeat of Carthage, Rome had almost absolute dominance over the area, except for minor incursions by pirates.

Rome’s republic grew in power and prestige, the city suffered from corruption, greed and over reliance on foreign slave labour.  Roman worker’s replaced by cheap slaves, as unemployed Romans became thugs for hire, undertaking which senator wanted their services.

The Patricians, Rome’s wealthy elite, grew in wealth, as the Plebeians, the working class, reached the realms of poverty.

Tiberius and Gaius, two 2nd century BC Roman tribunes, led a movement calling for land and political reforms.  The brothers died for their cause, their legacy… The corruption within the Senate ceased.

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Creation of Rome

Early Roman Women

Rome in the beginning… Romulus needed to amass a population for his city, and so opened the gates, welcoming in the homeless, poor, criminals and slaves.  He then divided them up into tribes, and selected 100 senators, as council of advisers.

The new city consisted of unsavoury inhabitants, and were viewed with much suspicion by the Latin and Sabine communities in the area.  They refused to intermarry with these Romans.

Romulus needed wives for his citizens, to build his city.  He devised a cunning plan, by inviting his neighbours to a festival, celebrating his new city, and as expected, they were curious and brought their families.  Amidst festivities, young Romans seized the women, and scurried them away… This led to war.

Romulus and his forces were victorious, and invited the local communities to move to Rome.  Families were re-united, and Roman territory increased.

The Sabines were the last to attack Rome; Sabine women threw themselves between husband and father, begging they make peace.

So it was, Rome and Sabines merged, and King Tatius and King Romulus became joint rulers of Rome.

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Birth of Rome

Rome on River Tiber

In the 4th century, Rome would emerge as a dominant power in Italy.

Numitor was the King of Alba Longa, an ancient city of Latium, in central Italy, was usurped by his younger brother; Amulius.  For fear of pretenders to the usurped throne, Amulius murdered the sons of Numitor, and forced his daughter Rhea Silvia, to become a vestral virgin, a priestess of the goddess Vesta.

Legend tells us Mars, the God of War had his wicked way with Rhea Silvis as she slept.  Consequently she bore twins; Romulus and Remus.

Amulius was outraged, and Rhea Silvia was thrown into the River Tiber, and was caught beneath the waves by the river god, who married her.

The newly born twins were cast into the River Tiber, and expected to drown, but they were saved by being suckled by a wolf.  They were discovered by the King’s shepherd who raised them as his own.

Remus a young man was charged with cattle-rustling, and his grand-father Numitor, recognized the family resemblance.  The truth was out, and the brothers of royal blood, re-installed Numitor on the throne.

The brothers founded a city, where they had been left to drown, where seven hills surrounded a crossing of the Tiber River.

Romulus and Remus quarrelled over who would govern the new city, and Romulus killed his brother, and went on to found the city of Rome on the 21st April 753BC.

Romulus fortified the Palatine hill, as the founder and first King of Rome.

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