The Seven Kings of Rome 753-509 BCE
During the Period of Kings, Rome was very much under autocratic rule. The King ruled as head of the family would, with complete control of law, foreign affairs, religion, judicial matters, and the military. Each of the Kings contributed to the construction of a city that would control much of the Italian peninsula by 300 BCE.
Romulus – Romulus is not only credited with founding the city, but also establishing it’s social and political order through the patron-client system. He opened his town as an asylum for refugees and criminals, creating a motley crue of peoples. He orchestrated the Rape of the Sabines and consolidated Rome power amongst many of the neighboring tribes. Romulus divided the soldiers into legions and designated the wealthy class the patricians. The circumstances surrounding Romulus’s death are recounted by both Plutarch and Livy. Some say he was murdered, other say he disappeared during a storm. It is agreed that Romulus ascended to heaven and was worshipped as a God.
Numa Pompilius – is traditionally known as a pious and wise man. He worked to cultivate a more peaceful lifestyle amongst the Romans, and promoted ideals such as honoring the gods, abiding the law, and living respectable lives. Numa established the role of Pontifex Maximus and brought the tradition of the Vestal Virgins from Alba Longa. Numa died of old age, an exceptionally rare thing for a Roman political leader.
Tullus Hostilius – unlike his predecessor, Tullus was known as a warlike King. He defeated Alba Longa and forced its citizens to integrate into the Roman population. Tullus neglected the sacrifices to the Gods and his reign suffered a series of pestilences.
Ancus Marcius – his first order of business was to copy the work of Numa Pompilius so the Gods would never be overlooked again. He waged war on the Latin’s and incorporated the Janiculum Hill into the city, constructing the Pons Sublicius to bridge the river. He built the Mamertine Prison and founded the port city of Ostia.
Lucius Tarquinius Priscus – convinced the Senate that he should be king, over Marcius’s sons. He waged war against the Latins, and had the first Triumphal procession on his way back into the city. He laid the groundwork for the Circus Maximus, and, after a flood, the marshes between the Palatine and Capitoline Hill were drained by the Cloaca Maxima, clearing the area for what would become the Roman Forum. When he was murdered, his wife Tanaquil hid his death until her choosen successor, Servius Tullius, could when the support of the people.
Servius Tullius – was born as a slave to the royal house of the King. A favorite of the queen, it was foretold that he would one day become King. Servius was the first King choosen by popular support, not by election by the Senate. His reforms include the comitia centuriata replacing the comitia curiata. This necessitated a census. He also brought new families into the urban culture by moving the pomerium, the boundary of the city, to include the Seven Hills.
According to Livy, Servius’s death signaled the last benevolent King, and a crossroads. His daughter Tullia, had been married to one of his predecessor’s sons. She encouraged her brother-in-law to kill his spouse, as would she, and take the throne from her father. Tarquinius did, and Servius was thrown from the Senate House and murdered in the streets of the Esquline Hill. Tulia then drove her chariot over Servius’s body.
Lucius Tarquinius Superbus – the infamous seventh and final King of Rome, his reign is generally painted as a tyranny that justified the abolition of the monarchy. After Servius’s death, he murdered several Senators he thought might still be loyal to Servius, thus diminishing the power of the Senate. He waged war against the Volsci, and with the spoils built the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitoline Hill.
One story associated with Superbus it the story of the Cumaean Sibyl, who offered nine books of prophecy at a high price. When Superbus refused, she immediately burnt three and offered him the remaining six. He again refused the price. When she burnt those and offered him the final three he finally accepted. Those books would become the Sibylline Books.
While he was away, his son Sextus raped a virtuous noblewoman named Lucretia. Her shame prompted the noblemen to force the expulsion of Sextus and Superbus from the city and promptly ended the Period of Kings in 509 BC.