The first period of Roman history is known as the Period of Kings, which ran from 753-509BCE. The official date for the city’s founding is April 21st. Although no written records survive, this legendary claim is substantiated by the existence of an Iron Age settlement that dates from the 8th century BCE.
The actual history behind the April 21st date, is surrounded by myth and legend, two legend in particular. The first is the story of Aeneas, a Trojan soldier who fled with his father and son as Troy was at last razed by the Greeks. He and a group of refuges sail from Greece and land just south of where Rome is today. His son Ascanius founded the line of Alban kings that fill the chronological gap until the 8th century. The Aeneid, was finally written by Virgil under the direction of the Emperor Augustus.
This date was reconciled with the second legendary tale of Romulus and Remus, with Romulus founding his city on the Palatine Hill in 753 BCE.
Six more Kings were to follow Romulus, many of them Etruscan. They continued to shape the back bone of Roman culture in ways that would carry through the centuries. Romulus shaped the military to begin conquests and protect his new city. He endowed patrician elders with a position on the advisory committee that would become the Roman Senate.
His successor Numa Pompilius concentrated his efforts on furthering the good of the people. A religious man, Numa Pompilius changed the atmosphere in the young settlement from one of defensive aggression to one of religious reflection. He set up guilds for the trades in the area and for a people that didn’t have an official currency yet bartering between craftsmen was the norm.
When the Etruscan Kings entered the political scene, they brought with them their knowledge of engineering. Pons Sublicius, the first bridge across the Tiber River was erected. They built the Servian Wall around the city, and drained the area that would become the Roman Forum by constructing the Cloaca Maxima. Plans to construct the great religious temple to Jupiter Optimus Maximus were begun on the Capitoline Hill near the end of the period
Despite the advances made, the period of Kings is not remembered fondly thanks in part to the last king, Tarquinius Superbus whose tyrannical rule left Roman wary of autocracy for centuries. He was expelled from the city in 509 BCE, after his son Sextus, raped a noble woman named Lucretia and was driven from the city by the people ending the period of Kings and ushering in the period of the Republic.
For a list of the Kings and a brief summary of their reign, click here.