Rome was founded, this much we know, as it exists. At least we think it does, there’s a big place on the River Tiber called ‘Rome’ and archaelogical evidence from there and the surrounding area suggests has been inhabited by humans for quite some time.
Besides mentions in Livy’s histories and one engraved stone there is little we know of the Roman Kings. Many were likely Etruscan in origin and they were all definitely called Tarquin which helps you understand why they all became violent, tyrannical warlords. I think I would be, too, if I were called Tarquin. Sorry Tarquins.
The truth is they revolutionised the Roman way of fighting, changed how they approached battles, how they conscripted troops from the population, taught them new strategies and formations and began using them to ‘pacify’ their neighbours and begin the process of expansion.
It is always heart-warming to see someone overcoming the adversities they were born with. To take the misfortune of being called ‘Tarquin’ to propel themselves far in life. Most Tarquins are so toffy they’ll rot your teeth and tug your fillings out. These guys, though, put down a foundation of a city on solid enough ground to become an empire.
Rome would, as a result of their rule, become, quite ironically, a king-slaying republic for hundreds of years, but to fail to acknowledge the importance of the Roman Kings is stupid.
Anyway I shall name these kings and give a brief, and inaccurate, summary of what they did of significance.
King I – Romulus – Became King for the regal act of murdering his brother because he didn’t respect a fence.
All the rest of the portraits are from “Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum” by Guillaume Rouille and are public domain.
King II – Numa Pompilius – Elected by some poshos because he was Romulus’ brother in law. His political chants of “Make me king, oh, Numa-Numa, yeah, Numa Numa, yeah! Numa Numa Numa, yeah!” helped.
King III – Tullus Hostilius – Another elected by the poshos, weird given you’d think he’d be a bit standoffish with a name like that.
King IV – Ancus Marcius – Hostilius’ son in law, Pompilius’ grandson, pure nepotism. Ancus? Wancus, more like.
King V – Lucius Tarquinius Priscus – Almost certainly Etruscan in origin, was elected because the nepotistic choice was a bit too young and I suspect Priscus had a sharp metal object to hand during the discussions.
King VI – Servius Tullius – Some murders by some nepotistic parties happened and Tullius sort of…Just said he’d step in while everyone was busy killing each other. It worked. Ultimate fake-it-till-you-make-it King.
King VII – Lucius Tarquinius Superbus – Always on time, comfy seats, functional Wi-Fi – Better than the Megabus, A super bus. Related to Priscus and definitely didn’t do a murder on Tullius to get where he got. Maybe plotted it, but didn’t do it.
The thing is these guys ruled Rome from, allegedly, around 753 BCE to 509 BCE – A fair few years, and the foundations they built, their councils, their buildings, their organisations, were the beginnings of the Republic to come. That republic itself was likely built out of the families who had made their wealth and status, earned their authority, their auctoritas, off of these kings.
Let’s not get it twisted, either. These King-slayers who would build a republic didn’t do it in the name of the people. Sure, they didn’t want all the power in the hands of just one man. But that’s because they wanted to each have a little bit of it themselves.
This was a power-sharing arrangement by influential and wealthy families. SPQR – Senatus Populusque Romanus – The Senate and People of Rome – The order of the words there, I think, is important.
The Senate comes first. After all, they enact the ‘will’ of the ‘people’ of Rome and I’m sure over the course of history ‘The Will of the People’ could never become a distracting Big Lie intended to divert attention away from the fact that often these powerful people, this Senate, would behave in self-interest.
SPQR would become a logo, a brand, a stamp of majesty on tiles, shields and flags. Rome turned itself from a monarchy with an ultimate power to an oligarchy, where the powerless were just as powerless and what power there was, was shared by a select few.
Read the other parts in our ‘Roman History in a Nutshell’ Series:
The Founding – 753 BCE and Before
The Patrician Era and the Conflict of the Orders – 494 BCE – 287 BCE
Wars with Etruscans Pre-753 BCE – ~264 BCE
Wars with Sabines, Veii & Fidenae ~753 BCE – ~287 BCE
The Latin Wars 7th Century BCE – ~338 BCE
The Gallic Wars ~390 BCE – ~284 BCE
The Rest of the Med ~2,000 BCE – ~3rd Century BCE
The Samnite Wars ~343 BCE – ~290 BCE
Want to read more about Romans? We’ve got a little for you.
Bad History: Boudica and Bullshit Nationalism – Looking at the use of historical figures for current political or social agendas.
Bad History: Did Rome ever Actually Fall? Questioning the ‘Decline and Fall’ narrative and looking at structures inherited from the Romans we have to this day.
A New Lease of Life? – A Discussion about the new floor in the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Colosseum, and what Vespasian, who initially commissioned the building, might think.
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Introduction
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Easily available abortion (CW)
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Drawing dicks on things.
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Energy Drinks
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Gender and Sexuality Liberation (CW)
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Travel and Tourist Tat.
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – AirBnB
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Bipartisan Politics
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Fast Food
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Pro-Wrestling
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Social Media (Especially Insta and Twitter)
What are the ‘Ides of March’ – Because I envitably get asked by my dad every Ides, I wrote about it!
The Mother of Rome: Livia Drusilla – Before the hit Sky TV series ‘Domina’ there was me espousing the life and works of Livia, the canny politician, the Patrician, the Patron and the wife and mother of an Empire.
The Pleb who Built Rome: Marcus Agrippa – It is my belief that the right-hand-man of Augustus had a much bigger part to play in the building and management of the Empire than did his friend with the titles. Find out why.