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Anyone speak Latin? Notes on the history of Rome during the period of the seven kings: Romulus (and Titus Tatius), Numa Pompilius, Tullus Hostilius, Ancus Marcius, Servius Tullius and the Tarquinii.

At the time when it emerges onto the historical scene, Italy was a mish-mash of different tribes and cultures. Many of them spoke Indo-European languages, though a considerable percentage did not, the most notorious among them being the Etruscans. Among the Indo-European languages of the time, the most prevalent was the Italic group. Many languages attested from inscriptions are allocated to Italic and several others, of indeterminate affiliation, may have been Italic to some extent.

The Italic group is conveniently divided into two separate sub-groups based on whether they preferred their P's or their Q's. The most widespread in the earlier part of the Iron Age was the Sabellic group (who minded their P's), encompassing Oscan (spoken in a wide tract of southern Italy), Umbrian and a host of smaller dialects. Much smaller and relegated to more littoral locations by the time of attestation were the Q-Italic tongues. Occasionally, these are said to include such disparate forms as Venetic and Siculian, located at opposite ends of the peninsula, though the best attested are found just south of the Etruscan heartland in central Italy, hard pressed from the east and south by sundry Sabellic-speaking tribes. Of these, one group, the Falisci, lived in the towns of Falerii, Nepete, Sutrium and Fescennium, north of the Tiber, well within nominally Etruscan country. The other, huddled on the Alban Hills and environs, and exhibiting a material culture similar to that of the Etruscans, were the Latins.

Aerial view of the Colli Albani.
The Colli Albani: ancient heartland of the Latins. The Alban lake and smaller Lake Nemi are to the bottom left.


The Latins inhabited the region known later as Latium vetus at least from the transition from the Bronze to the Iron Age. By the early part of the 1st millennium BC - or so the historians of the Roman Republic claim - pre-eminence among the proto-urban Latins was claimed by a group from the town of Alba Longa, who, it is claimed, were ruled by the Silvian dynasty, of distant Trojan origins. Whether or not this was the case is a matter for some debate, though claims of an Aegean ancestry are not unfamiliar throughout Italy and, in all probability, grew up largely as a result of the immigration of large numbers of Greek settlers - and the importation of Greek legends - around the coasts of the peninsula during the centuries after the first urban settlements appear in Latium.

Pliny the Elder provides a list of thirty Latin clans who joined together in worship of the god Jupiter Latiaris on mons Albanus (modern Monte Cavo), in the probably vicinity and under the auspices of Alba Longa: -

TribePossible locationTribePossible location
AlbaniAlba Longa.Munienses (Mucienses)Mucialis on the Quirinal hill or Castrimoenium.
Aesolani (Aefulani)Aefula?Numinienses (Numintenses)Nomentum?
Abolani Octulani 
Bubetani (Bubentani) PedaniPedum.
BolaniBola.Polluscini (Poletaurini)Politorium?
Cusuetani (Carventani)Carventum?QuerquetulaniCaelian hill. There is also a town known as Querquetulum however.
CoriolaniCorioli.Sicani*Tibur or Signia.
FidenatesFidenae.Sisolenses (Sasolenses)Sassula near Tibur.
ForetiPossibly the Forum Romanum or elsewhere in the area of Rome.ToleriensesToleria or the Tolerus river.
HortensesOrte?Tutienses (Titienses)Possibly the Tutia river. Else the Sabino-Roman sept.
LatiniensesPossibly the Campus Martius or elsewhere in the area of Rome.Vimitellari (Vimitellani)Viminal hill?
Manates (Sanates) Venetulani* 
Macrales Vitellenses (Vitellienses)Vitellia.

*-reflects the name of a possibly "Q-Italic" tribe.
Italics - this group are excluded from the list in Carandini.
Bold signifies a group located in the area of Rome, whilst bold italics indicate a group located with less certainty in the same region.


AeneasTrojan refugee. Married Latinus' daughter Lavinia and founded city of Lavinium, named in her honour.
Ascanius (Iulus)Son of Aeneas by his Trojan wife Creusa, daughter of Priam and Hecuba.
Founded Alba Longa.
Through his son Silvius, he was reputedly the grandfather of Brutus, who emigrated to Britain.
Reigned 28 years.
SilviusSon of Aeneas by Lavinia.
Succeeded after a dispute, with Ascanius' son Iulus taking the priesthood.
Another possible father of Brutus of Britain.
Reigned 29 years.
Aeneas SilviusFounder of the gens Silvii.
Reigned 31 years.
Latinus SilviusPossibly from a collateral line.
Reigned 51 years.
Alba SilviusReigned 39 years.
Atys or CapetusThe name Atys suggests an identification with an Anatolian god.
Reigned 26 years.
CapysHis name is Trojan, or else an Etruscan word for a bird of prey.
Reigned 28 years.
Capetus Silvius or CalpetusReigned 13 years.
Tiberinus SilviusAllegedly drowned in the river Albula, which subsequently became known as the Tiber, of which his deified self became the tutelary deity - despite said deity appearing in the Aeneid.
Reigned 8 years.
AgrippaReigned 41 years.
Romulus Silvius, Aremulus or AlladiusSaid to be a tyrant who claimed the ability of creating thunder. Perished in a heavy storm and his palace was submerged.
Reigned 19 years.
AventinusAnother namesake of an Aeneid character, after whom the Aventine hill - his burial place - was reputedly named.
Reigned 37 years.
Proca[s]Potentially bears a similar name to Prochyte (Aeneid).
Reigned 23 years.
NumitorFather of Rhea Silva, mother of Romulus and Remus.
AmuliusBrother of Numitor, whom he deposed and whose family he persecuted. Eventually removed in favour of his brother by Romulus and Remus.
Reigned 42 years.

Alba Longa is reputed to have held the primacy over the Latin cities (Latinum and Lavinium were under its sway according to Carandini and Sartarelli) and was said to have been founded by Ascanius, the Trojan-born son of Aeneas, whose father in turn had founded Lavinium after receiving kingship from the Latins' eponym, who himself reigned at Laurentum. Despite Virgil's detailed description of Aeneas' dealings with the Carthaginian queen Dido, whose floruit is placed around 825 BC based upon a traditional date of 753 BC for the foundation of Rome, both Titus Livius and Dionysius of Halicarnassus furnish a list of Alban kings suggesting the city was founded in around 1169 BC! Many of the kings in question do not, however, appear to have done much, despite suspiciously long reigns, so it is certain that this is a later pious fiction - though (of course) some details may reflect dimly-remembered reality.

In particular, the recurrence of the term Silvius in the names of these kings is intriguing. Though he ultimately rejects the notion, James G. Frazer mentions the title in passing in comparison with the king of the wood located at nearby Nemi. A number of others, though, appear to be little more than back-formations from toponyms in the region around Rome.

Bol, Ferdinand (c.1661-1663). Aeneas at the court of Latinus.
Aeneas and Latinus: two kings for the price of one.

Of course, the suggestion that a descendent of Aeneas migrated to Britain and straight away became overlord of the island is patent nonsense, however appealing it was to the mediaeval mindset. Similarly, it is highly unlikely that any exiled Trojan prince was cast up by the sea on the shores of Latium vetus and ended up king. As for Latinus, he is nothing more than an eponym, though an interesting one.

Whilst Virgil makes Latinus (also known as Lavinius) a son of the god Faunus and a nymph, Marica, Greek accounts differ in ascribing his parentage: Hesiod, in his Theogony makes him a son of no less a personage than Odysseus and the Heliad Circe, associated in Italian tradition with Mons Circeius (Italian: Circeo) on the southern coast of Latium vetus, who ruled the "Tyrsenoi" (Etruscans) with his brothers Telegonus and Ardeas (the eponym of the Rutulian capital Ardea), whilst later Greek authors make him the brother of Graecus and grandson of Deucalion and Pyrrha through the second Pandora.

Virgil's depiction of Latium at the time of Aeneas' arrival chimes well for the period of urbanisation but seems less at home in the Bronze Age-Iron Age transition period in which we would expect to find a refugee from the Achaean destruction of Troy. In particular, his rival for Lavinia's hand and primary antagonist, Turnus, is the leader of the Rutuli, a tribe of unknown affiliations. It is likely that they are connected to the Etruscans or Ligurians (a group who potentially spoke an "Italoid" or "Sorothaptic" Indo-European variety). The "P-Italic" Umbrians or the notorious Pelasgians have also been suggested as potential ancestors of this tribe, whilst Turnus is given as the son of Daunus, the eponym of a Messapic-speaking tribe from modern-day Apulia! Their name means "the red ones," presumably in the sense of a tendency to blondness or rufosity. Already, the Rutuli are depicted as having a capital at Ardea, though archaeology suggests the town was an 8th century foundation. Ardea and the Rutuli appear again during the time of Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, Rome's last king, and thus Vergil's description can probably be seen as an anachronism.

Other anachronistic figures in the story include the Etruscan Mezentius and the Volscian queen Camilla. This latter people, who lived to the south and east of the Rutuli, in the area of the Pontine Marshes to the north of Circeo, and were at odds with the Romans between the reign of Lucius Tarquinius Superbus and the final defeat of the anti-Roman Latins in 338 BC.

It would seem that Virgil's Latium closely reflects that of the period at the end of the monarchy and beginning of the Republican era, though it is entirely plausible that there may be a grain of truth. Perhaps an adventurer from the east did appear on the coast in the vicinity of Laurentum (Latinus' capital) and Ardea in the latter part of the 9th or early 8th century, founding the settlement of Lavinium, before his group took power in the Colli Albani. Given the evidence, however, this appears to be a tenuous hypothesis at best and if anything Virgil would appear to be commandeering a possible Lavinian founding myth for his own purposes - and, more pertinently, those of his imperial patron Augustus, a claimed descendant of Aeneas (and thus the goddess Venus) - here.

Another interesting character from the Aeneid is Evander, the Arcadian king of Pallantium, which is located on the spot where Rome would later be built. From there, Aeneas was shown the ruins of two cities, Saturnia and Janiculum, of which the former was in the vicinity of Rome and is also noted by Pliny. The poet John Dryden gives this translation: -

Then saw two heaps of ruins, (once they stood
Two stately towns, on either side the flood,)
Saturnia's and Janicula's remains;
And either place the founder's name retains.
- Virgil, Aeneid [8.355-358].

The tradition of Arcadians in Italy is also found in the account of Oenotrus, a son of Lycaon who fled to the south-west coast of Italy, founding the Oenotrians, a people who would fight a guerilla war against the Greek settlers in the region. The Oenotrians are of unknown affiliation and the spread of Italic into the region is normally associated with the Oscan-speaking Lucani. Maybe the Oenotrians were among the "earlier" Italic peoples using a Latino-Faliscan-affiliated tongue. However, it should be borne in mind that the name of Lucani, like that of Lycaon, has been suggested as originating from the Greek λυκος ("wolf").


Accepted Roman tradition credits the foundation of the city to the brothers Romulus and Remus, sons of Rhea Silva, usually by the war-god Mars, the Vestal princess of Alba Longa. This foundation is dated to 753 BC, which chimes well with date of the fortification walls discovered by Andrea Carandini on the northern slope of the Palatine Hill. The settlement, however, originated much earlier, with a village featuring round or elliptical dwellings present on the Germalus, the northern peak of the Palatine, in the 9th century.

Rome itself seems to have involved the incorporation of a number of smaller settlements on the city's seven hills, a situation which this writer believes is reflected in traditions such as Remus' preference for the Aventine, sometimes as the site of his foundation Remuria or Remoria and the Sabines' settlement of the Quirinal Hill as part of the accord between Romulus and Titus Tatius. Of the latter, the Quirinal reveals tombs dating from the 8th and 7th centuries which are associated with the Sabines. Additionally, groups known from Pliny's list of Populi Albenses, namely the Foreti, Latinenses, Querquetulani and Velienses, as well as perhaps the Munienses, Tutienses and Vimitellari, evidence the importance of the Rome region at this time. Of these, the Campus Martius below Rome, the Caelian (Querquetulanus mons) and Velia (between the Palatine and Esquiline) are specifically mentioned.

In addition, there are other accounts of Rome's founding which come to us through Greek sources. Similar to the origin of Latinus (who is either a son of Odysseus or his son Telemachus by Circe), a number of characters are relevant here. Odysseus and Circe are given another two sons: Romanus (who lent his name to Rome); and Romus (dispatched from Troy by Diomedes to found the city). Additionally, Odysseus' widow Penelope married another of his sons by Circe, Telegonus, and bore Italus, who married Latinus' daughters Electra and Lucania (probably Latinus' daughter), bearing a son, Remus, and a daughter Roma, who married either Aeneas or Ascanius.

KingTraditional dates
Romulus753-716 BC
Titus Tatiusc.750-745 BC
Numa Pompilius716-672 BC
Tullus Hostilius672-640 BC
Ancus Marcius640-616 BC
Lucius Tarquinius Priscus616-578 BC
Servius Tullius578-534 BC
Lucius Tarquinius Superbus534-510 BC


These raised-by-wolves twins founded two settlements on the Palatine and Aventine respectively and, in the commonly-recited story of the city, Romulus kills Remus in anger over a besmirchment of his wall. Such a tale probably reflects the internicene strife between neighbouring villages before the city's incorporation. Remus himself may be a late accretion, which T.P. Wiseman suggests that Remus was incorporated as a representative of the common people, as opposed to the patricians who predominantly ran the city. The Origo Gentis Romanae quotes Egnatius, who claimed that Remus had actually outlived his brother. Of course, given the possibility that Remus was associated with Telegonus and Penelope, he may have been grafted onto Romulus' tale and subsequently lost any possibly legends of his own, though the connection between Telegonus and the founding of Rome likely antedates the story of Romulus. One character involved in such a corpus may have been Faustulus, recorded as dying alongside Remus, perhaps at the hands of Romulus' ally Celer.


Having founded his new city, Rome became a magnet for waifs and strays of all sorts though, after a while, a shortage of women became apparent. To remedy this, a banquet was thrown to which the Sabines and Latins of surrounding villages were invited, whereupon the Romans took their womenfolk whilst the men were in their cups. From this "Rape of the Sabine Women" came the names of the 30 curiae (10 for each of the three tribes: Ramnes, Tities and Luceres), of which only seven survive: Calabra, Faucia, Foriensis, Rapta, Veliensis, Tifata and Titia - each curia taking the name of one of the Sabine women.

Barbieri, Giovanni Grancesco (1645). Hersilia Separating Romulus and Tatius.
Hersilia (centre, showing a bit of leg): "a'right chaps, y've had yer fun."

As a result of this outrage, the besmirched Latins and Sabines prepared for war. Romulus defeated the Latin towns of Caenina (personally killing its king, Acron), Antemnae and Crustumerium. The former are believed to have been located along the Anio river, with Antemnae at its confluence with the Tiber three miles north of Rome and Caenina upstream of it, whilst Crustumerium is more confidently placed on the Via Salaria, near the headwaters of the brook Allia, eleven miles from Rome. All of these are Latin settlements on the way towards Sabine territory and their populations were treated magnanimously, being allowed to remain in the land as free people under Roman overlordship. The Sabines, meanwhile, under their king Titus Tatius, attacked Rome and gained entry through the treachery of Tarpeia, daughter of the citadel commander Spurius Tarpeius, who was subsequently killed by the Sabines themselves. The two sides fought at the Comitium, between the Palatine and Capitoline and was only arrested by the intervention of the Sabine women themselves. As part of the subsequent agreement, Titus would become (for the remainder of his life, i.e. 5 years) co-rex with Romulus, based, as noted, on the Quirinal (his settlers were said to have come from the important Sabine site at Cures, also on the Via Salaria some 26 miles from Rome). Upon the union of the two townships, the Roman people became known as Quirites. Among the Sabines arriving in Rome was a certain Volesus, who would become the ancestor of the gens Valeria. Romulus is commonly held to have wed Hersilia, though otherwise she married Hostus Hostilius (a companion of Romulus who participated in the defence against the Sabines and grandfather of the third king Tullus Hostilius). Many of this latter ruler's accomplishments have been noted to be duplicates of those of Romulus, so there may be grounds for suspecting that Romulus ("the little one from Rome") may be a mythical doublet of Hostus.

  • Triumph I - over the Caeninenses on the 1st March;
  • Triumph II - [over the Antemnates?];
  • Triumph III - [over the Veitentes?].

After the conclusion of the peace with the Sabines, Romulus organised his people into the three tribes: -

  • the Ramnes or Ramnenses, widely believed to represent the Latin inhabitants of the city;
  • the Tities or Titienses, ostensibly Sabines taking their name from Titus, though perhaps related to Pliny's Tutienses; and
  • the Luceres, who would appear to be Etruscans and thus rather anachronistic at this juncture.

In addition, Romulus organised the armed forces, including a personal bodyguard, the Celeres, probably a cavalry force based upon their name, which means "the swift ones," though it is explained as a body under the auspices of Remus' possible slayer Celer. The Celeres were almost immediately abolished by the second king, Numa Pompilius, after his accession.

Further campaigns included the defeat of the Alban colony of Cameria or Camerium, also north-east of Rome, before Titus' death in Lavinium. This occurred after his associates had misused an embassy from Laurentum, as a result of which he was killed in a mêlée after his glib treatment of the plaintiffs. Romulus appears to have been none too disconsolate as his response was to reiterate a treaty between Rome and Lavinium. After Titus' death, Romulus fought against Fidenae, a major settlement around five miles north of Rome, again on the Via Salaria, in response to the Fidenates' seizure of famine relief destined for Rome. The city appears to have had a predominantly Etruscan outlook and was closely allied with the Etruscan city of Veii, which had to be repulsed after a punitive expedition against the restive Crustumini, who had taken none too kindly to having Roman settlers imposed upon them. The Veientes were unhappy after Romulus garrisoned Fidenae and demanded its return to independence.

Finally, Alba Longa is said to have come under Roman sway peaceably, after the death of Romulus' grandfather Numitor, whereupon Romulus put in place a Roman-style constitution and allowed the Albani to elect their own governor.

Towards the end of his reign, protected by his Celeres, Romulus is said to have become something of an autocrat. One day, whilst inspecting his troops, that age-old favourite pastime of the despot, he vanished in a storm near the Palus Capr[e]ae, a marsh fed by the brook Petronia on the Campus Martius.

In summary, then, though he is more than likely a mythical figure, there does seem to be some basis to the story of Romulus' reign and achievements. Given the preeminent position of the Colli Albani during the earliest portion of Latin history, particularly with reference to the amphictyony, early Latin settlements in the Rome area would surely have hailed from this direction. As to his martial policy, most of the campaigns are aimed northwards, with a policy of rapproachment with the south and west evident in Romulus' treatment of the Lavinians and Laurentes after Titus' demise, which accords with the archaeological discovery of earthworks on the northern side of the Palatine. In terms of his organisation of the state, many of these improvisations should very well date later, though the mention of a bodyguard is intriguing. Nevertheless, this may well have been added to provide a precursor for the Emperor Augustus' Praetorian Guard.

Roma Romolo 753aC png, from Wikimedia.
Approximate map of Rome during the reign of Romulus.


Son-in-law of Titus Titius.

As Romulus stands as the founder of Rome's military traditions, so Numa Pompilius is regarded as the wellspring of its religious ideals: his reign is regarded as having seen the inauguration of the various preistly classes of the city. Dionysius of Halicarnassus credits the institution of eight priesthoods to Numa. These are the augurs, celeres (an interesting inclusion given that Numa was said to have disbanded the royal bodyguard of the same name), curiones, fetials, flamines, pontifices, salii and vestales. In addition, Livy records that peasants excavating a field at the foot of the Janiculum, on the west bank of the Tiber facing Rome, discovered two large cists, one of which contained incomplete Latin and Greek treatises on religious law and philosophy, which comprised the "books of Numa." Most famously, Numa is associated with the nymph Egeria, who is placed at a grotto near the Lacus Salutaris on the Almone river just north of the Caelian, as well as the aforementioned Nemi. Much of Numa's pacifism and religious reform is credited to this figure.

Kauffmann, Angelica (1794). Egeria Handing Numa Pompilius His Shield.
Numa (left), being told to get upstairs by Egeria.

Numa was himself the youngest of four sons of a certain Pomponius and was allegedly born on 21st April 753 BC, the traditional date of the founding of Rome. His claim to the throne seems to have come through his marriage to Tatia, the daughter of Titus Tatius (and the eponym of one of Rome's curiae), with whom he enjoyed thirteen years of matrimony before her death, whereupon he is said to have retired to live a life of contemplation in the countryside. His claim through Tatia is one of a number of such relationships which suggest a matrilineal descent for the kingship of la città eterna. He had a daughter, Pompilia, who married the first pontifex maximus Numa Marcius (the son of Numa's teacher Marcus), becoming mother to Ancus Marcius, and possibly five sons, Pompo[nius], Pinus, Calpus, Mamercus and Numa, from whom descend respectively the patrician gentes of the Pomponii, Pinarii, Calpurnii, Aemilii and Pompilii. He took the throne by the apparent affirmation of Jupiter after the Senate had administered Rome's affairs during a year-long interregunum after Romulus' translation elsewhere.

Like Romulus, Numa is generally considered ahistorical, though this writer suspects that such a pious figure did reign, but that many of his innovations in the sphere of religion accreted to him over time, thanks to his famed religious nature. His cognomen Pompilius is of a Sabine type (the Latin version would be Quinctilius).

Particularly noteworthy given the Romans' reputation for making war on a grand scale, Numa's temple of Janus kept its doors closed throughout his reign, a unique occurrence in Roman history, signifying a time of peace. His institution of the cult of Terminus, god of boundaries, also speaks of his desire to ensure peaceful relations with Rome's neighbours. But, for all his good intentions, it was not to last.


Grandson of Hersilia.

Rome's third king is its second Latin ruler, Tullus Hostilius. Tullus is the first to enjoy widespread support for his historicity, though not during the timeframe in which he is traditionally placed: his reign occurs between 673 and 642 BC, though evidence from the Curia Hostilia, the city's original Senate building, which was credited to Tullis, suggests his reign took place at around 600 BC. Tim Cornell has developed a chronological framework which roughly halves the length of the regnal period, suggesting that the first king came to power in around 625 BC, a period marked with an increased urbanisation and consolidation of the city. In addition, the name "Tullus" is something of an onomastic hapax legomenon (though see below).

As noted previously, Tullus' recorded actions are similar to those of Romulus. Both are said to have been raised by shepherds, increased enfranchisement and organised the military. Additionally, Tullus, like his supposed predecessor, fought against Fidenae and Veii. Besides these similarities with Romulus, the warlike (and impious) Tullus stands in stark contrast to the peace-loving Numa. It is likely that, given his gentile name Hostilius meant "hostile" (yes, really), this was taken as descriptive of the man and his actions and various tales of war were subsequently attached to his reign.

David, Jacques-Louis (1784). Oath of the Horatii.
The Horatii: what better to give a fascist salute to than a handful of swords?

In addition to successful campaigns against the northern centres of Fidenae and Veii, as well as the Sabines, the most noteworthy act ascribed to Tullus was his war against Alba Longa. The war began after skirmishes and between peasants from Rome and Alba, which descended into war after a failure to find a diplomatic solution. The Alban king Gaius Cluilius led his forces to positions outside Rome, where they dig the Fossae Cluiliae ("Cluilian trench") about five miles from Rome, an earthwork so substantial that a subsequent Volscian force could camp therein in the 5th century BC. Cluilius died at the scene and was replaced by Mettius Fufetius, who was appointed dictator. Tullus outflanked the Alban force and headed into Alban territory, forcing the Albans to follow. Fear of the Etruscans motivated an agreement, which took the form of a "battle of champions," pitting two sets of triplets against one another. These were the Horatii (who Livy ascribes to the Roman side) and the Curiatii. The Horatii were from the gens Horatia, a Latin gens who took their name from a hero Horatus, to whom an oak wood was dedicated (perhaps a similar figure to Virbius at Nemi). During the battle, two of the Horatii were killed and all of the Curiatii injured. The surviving Roman, Publius Horatius, feigned a retreat, which led to the Curiatii becoming separated, enabling Publius to pick them off one by one. Returning home, his sister began to grieve for Curiatius, her slain Alban fiancé, whereupon Publius killed her too. Tried and sentenced to death by a juror named Tullus (the only other occurrence of the name, leading me to suspect that this represents the king himself). An appeal to the popular assembly, made by Publius' father, also Publius, led to his acquittal and the continuation of the gens Horatia. This fanciful take is unlikely to be history, though it explains and provides a precedent for the later Roman right of appeal to the people, as well as providing a good republican tale about the people's better sense of natural justice than the by-the-book "juror" Tullus.

As a result of this skirmish, Tullus was able to order Mettius back to Alba and force him to keep his armed forces ready for a possible outbreak of war with Veii, which, of course, was not long in coming. The Romans marched out across the Anio with their Alban vassals, only for the Albans to desert when battle was joined. This resulted in Tullus, who emerged victorious, executing Mettius and destroying Alba Longa, doubling the number of Roman citizens by graciously allowing the Alban patricians (no word as to the fate of the humble plebes) to settle on the Caelian. Among them were the Cloelii, Curiatii, Geganii, Julii, Quinctii and Servilii. Archaeology does indeed suggest that the Colli Albani hosted a major settlement at the time which fell under the Roman sway during this period, though it is unclear when it was destroyed and who the culprits were. The other Latins are a more likely candidate than the Romans and Rome's mastery of the Colli Albani was likely finalised at some point after Tullus' floruit.

Tullus' impiety were also punished. Portents included a shower of stones on Monte Albano before Tullus took ill. Eventually, he sacrificed to Jupiter Elicius, in accordance with Numa's recommendation but couldn't manage to get it right, so he was zapped by lightning, which reduced both Tullus and his home to ash.


Grandson of Numa Pompilius.

Probably chastened by Tullus' grizzly demise, Ancus Marcus' first act was to order the Pontifex Maximus to copy Numa's commentary on religious observances for public display. Ancus was the son of Numa Marcius and Pompilia and was appointed by popular acclamation by the curiae. He continued Tullus' wars against the Latins, settling conquered people on the Aventine, after the Latins had encroached on Roman territory. This was the first time war was declared via the fetiales. The town of Politorium (identified with a settlement near Castel di Decima), to the south east of Rome in the vicinity of Lanuvium, was destroyed and its inhabitants relocated as noted. Politorium itself was then occupied by the other Latins, leading to Ancus demolishing it, alongside two other settlements: Tellenae (said by Strabo to be in the vicinity of the Colli Albani); and Ficana (a port downstream from Rome near modern Acilia some 11 miles from Rome: Ficania is preserved as an archaeological park and offers valuable insights into the lives of the archaic Italics). A pitched battle was fought outside the town of Medullium or Medullia, Hostus Hostilius' home town, a site which may have been originally associated with the Ligures (Strabo [4.1.11] records a Ligurian tribe known as the Medulli).

All of these engagements probably reflect one of Ancus' great achievements, the foundation of Rome's port at Ostia (dated from an inscription to the 7th century, though archaeology has only traced its history back to the 4th) - and it is not difficult to see his campaigns against the Latins downstream of Rome as an effort to secure a route to the coast and the lucrative Greek and Phoenician trade (and cultural crossfertilisation) which came that way. The Tellenae campaign can also be read as an attempt to check any designs the Latins of the Colli Albani might have had on the same mercantile benefits. Ancus also incorporated the Janiculum, across the Tiber, into Rome, thus endeavouring to prevent Etruscan forces from occupying this strategic location, connecting it to the city by means of a wooden bridge, the Pons Sublicius. The Silva Maesia, downstream from the Janiculum on the coast opposite Ostia, was also taken from the Veientes, and, on the landward side of Rome, the Fossa Quiritium (named for the aforementioned Quirites) was dug. Rome's first prison, the Tullianum (better known as the Mamertine) at the north east of the Capitoline in the Comitium, was also built (the name Tullianum of course bringing to mind Tullus Hostilius and the juror Tullus).

  • Triumph - over the Sabines and [Veientes?].


The accession of Lucius Tarquinius Priscus to the throne marks the beginning of the Etruscan period of domination in Rome. As his name suggests, he came from the city of Tarquinii (Etruscan: Tarχna), though his father was a Corinthian by the name of Demaratus. Demaratus was of the noble Corinthian house of the Bacchiadae, exiled by the tyrant Cypselus in 657 BC - a date which accords well with the great Corinthian expansion during this period. Once in Tarquinii, Demaratus set about introducing elements of Greek culture, possibly providing potters for Tarquinii and Graviscae, and eventually secured a match with an Etruscan noblewoman. The names of their two sons, however, seem to discount this tale as real history. Livy claims that Lucius' given name was Lucumo (Etruscan: Lauchume), though this just means "king." Similarly, the name of his alleged brother Arruns is believed to have been an Etruscan term meaning "prince."

Lucumo or Lucius (probably the eponym of the Luceres) moved to Rome and married the Machiavellian Tanaquil (Etruscan: Thanchvil), by whom he had two daughters and two sons (or grandsons): Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, the infamous last king of Rome; and Arruns Tarquinius, who opposed him and assisted in the foundation of the succeeding Republic. Tanaquil was reputed to have prophetic skills which she put to good use in persuading her husband to move to Rome and, eventually, become king after the death of Ancus, who had made his sons Lucius' wards. Upon Ancus' death, Lucius used his popularity with the Comitia Curitata to facilitate his coronation instead of Marcus' sons, who were out of the city at the time. This coup could easily reflect an armed takeover by a band of Etruscan adventurers, though there seems no reason to prefer such a scenario over Lucius' popular acclamation. Once in power, Lucius expanded the Senate to include minor families such as the emperor Augustus' gens, the Octavii.

  • Triumph I - over the Latins on the 1st July;
  • Triumph II - over the Etruscans on the 1st April;
  • Triumph III - over the Sabines on the 13th September.

Lucius' first military thrust was against the Latins, conquering the town of Apiolae and celebrating a triumph thereafter. The Sabines attacked thereafter, along with five Etruscan towns, but were beaten back. In response, Lucius doubled the number of equites (presumbaly, this was to 600 given Romulus' association with 300 celeres). The urgency of the situation can be seen in the description of urban warfare within Rome (perhaps this incident is also reflected in the tale of Romulus and Titus Tatius). After the conclusion of a peace treaty, Lucius was granted Collatia a town some 10 or so miles east of Rome, over which he appointed his nephew Egerius as governor (Egerius was actually the nickname of yet another Arruns, the posthumous son of Arruns son of Demaratus). Subsequently, Rome annexed seven Latin cities, Ameriolia, Cameria, Corniculum (the home town of Servius Tullius, whose pregnant, widowed mother was taken into Tanaquil's household), Crustumerium, Ficulea, Medullia and Nomentium. Of these most of those not mentioned previously are of unidentified locations, though the most significant is Nomentium, eighteen miles north east of Rome. The five Etruscan cities who had fought alongside the Sabines now made war on Rome to liberate hostages and were joined by seven other cities. Much of the fighting was around Fidenae, which the Etruscans had taken from Rome. Tarquin emerged victorious and built the Circus Maximus with the proceedings.

Other constructions were the Cloaca Maxima, that most glamorous of sewers, the city walls and a temple to Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitoline, the latter funded by plunder from the Sabine war. In addition, Lucius was credited with bequeathing many of the great symbols synonymous with Rome to the state. The consequences of his usurpation proved his undoing in the end, however, as he was killed by Ancus' sons...


Herodotus placed the origins of the Etruscans (or, as they called themselves, Raśna) in Lydia, stating that, during the reign of Atys of Lydia, a famine forced the emigration of half the population, led by Atys' son Tyrrhenus. This group eventually put ashore in Umbria, where they took the name of their leader, Tyrrhenians or Tyrsenians, which later became Raśna. The mysterious Etruscan language is part of a proposed Tyrrhenian language group which includes the Rhaetic language, spoken in the Alps, possibly Camumic which is spoken in the same area and is thought to closely be related to Rhaetian. The other member shares a number of similarities with Etruscan and is found in Lemnos (which is especially interesting given Strabo's statement that the Pelasgian groups on Lemnos), as well as Imbros, participated in the populating of Etruria. All of this suggests the possibility that the Etruscan language originates in this region. Additionally, the name of the city of Tarquinii and the cognomen Tarquinius also appear to have Anatolian connections. One particular report features a certain Tarchon as Tyrrhenius' brother who joined him in the westward journey. The name - Etruscan Tarχun - reflects the Hittite/Luwian theonym Tarḫunt, a storm deity, a connection also suggested by Oliver Gurney. Against this is the evidence of the distribution of the Villanovan culture, which would seem to be proto-Etruscan. This originated in the central European Urnfield culture of the Bronze Age, though this does not preclude a superstratum arriving from the east as in the case of the well-attested Greek and Phoenician peregrinations.


Son-in-law of Lucius Tarquinius Priscus.

... though their plans were thwarted. When news of the old king's assassination reached Tanaquil, she immediately came up with a plan to place her son-in-law Servius Tullius - the posthumous son of Ocrisia, the aforementioned woman of Corniculum - on the throne in his stead.

Before his fateful brush with the fatal fungus, the emperor Claudius was something of a noted Etruscologist. He suggested that Servius' original name was Mastarna, an associate of the renowned Etruscan hero Caelius Vibenna, after whom the Caelian hill is reputed to be named. Though this appears to be nothing more than the Etruscan for "magistrate," there does appear to be some basis for the emperor's contention: at the Etruscan town of Vulci, a late-4th century BC tomb for the Saties or Seties was discovered by Alessandro François (after whom it is known as the François Tomb) and Adolphe Noël des Vergers in 1857.

Ruspi, Carlo (19th century AD). Copie des fresque de la tombe François par Carlo Ruspi (XIXe siècle) sur le site.
The François Tomb features a battle scene involving Roman personnel.

The tomb contains a series of priceless frescoes and one in particular is of interest to the tale of early Rome. In it, a Macstarna appears in the company of Caile Vipina and Avile Vipina (Aulus Vibenna, whose existence is evidenced by a Bucchero vase of a 6th century provenance), alongside three other heroes (Larth Ulthes, Rasce and Marce Camitlnas) engaged in a dust-up with a group of enemies, who had been keeping Caile prisoner. These all have locative suffixes and are named Laris Papathnas Velznaχ, Pesna Arcmsnas Sveamaχ, Venthical […]plsaχs and, most intriguingly, Cneve Tarχunies Rumaχ ("Gnaeus Tarquinius from Rome"). Given that "Lucius" has been suggested as a title rather than a name, perhaps the François Tomb records an alternative account of the transition from Lucius to Servius passed down in Etruscan tradition. Though Caelius Vibenna is not particularly well-anchored temporally in the Roman tradition (he has been suggested as a contemporary of Romulus and Lucius Tarquinius Superbus!), his connection with the Caelian suggests that he was well-regarded in the city. The possibility that he was an associate of Servius is, thus, as good as any. Also, it is certain that Claudius had access to legends which are no longer extant and thus his identification is very probably quire robust. There is, however, little that is kingly about him. Cornell imagines that this companion of Caelius Vibenna was more of a war leader appointed by the people or the Senate, similar to the dictatores of the Republican era. It is also possible that he took the Caelian by force, though Servius himself is said to have lived on the Esquiline.

  • Triumph I - over the Etruscans on the 25th November;
  • Triumph II - over the Etruscans on the 25th May;
  • Triumph III - over the Etruscans.

Servius' major enemies were the Etruscans, specifically early Rome's perennial bugbear Veii. His major achievements were not, however, on the field of battle. He reformed the Roman state, extending enfranchisement to the plebians and embarking on major fortification projects. The city was divided into four regiones: Suburana; Esquilana; Collina; and Palatina. In the religious field, he is said to have built a temple to Diana on the Aventine to celebrate the foundation of the Latin League, though the precise origins of this confederacy and its relationship with Rome is unclear.

Servius had two daughters, both, confusingly, called Tullia, who married the sons or grandsons of his predecessor. The older Tullia betrayed her father, in league with her husband Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, assassinating him and inaugurating the disastrous reign of Rome's final rex.


Son or grandson of Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, son-in-law of Servius Tullius.

Lucius - henceforth Tarquin as per common usage - gained the throne after an appeal to the Senate, in which he heavily criticised his predecessor for a variety of perceived offences, including his servile birth (he was commonly held to have been sired by a slave rather than a nobleman or, more spuriously, a god), a bias for the common folk to the detriment of the priviledged and his failure to follow procedure in not having been acclaimed at a meeting called by an interrex. Servius hurried back to Rome to confront his arrogant son-in-law but was thrown down the steps of the Senate building for his pains, succumbing to his injuries. Subsequently, he held a meeting of Latin states in the grove of Ferentia at Ferentium in the territory of the Hernici, seeking to formulate a defensive alliance to combat the Etruscan threat, but was rebuffed, predominantly by a representative from Aricia near Lake Nemi called Turnus Herdonius (a potential prototype for Virgin's Rutulian chief). Tarquin subsequently implicated Turnus in a spurious plot to assassinate him, whereupon Turnus was elaborately executed by a combination of drowning and pressing. Tarquin had managed to seal an alliance with Octavius Mamilius, the princeps of Tusculum, an important Latin town on the northern slopes of the Colli Albani. Other Latin chiefs followed after the meeting at Ferentium, agreeing to send forces there to provide a united front against their allies.

  • Triumph I - over the Volsci;
  • Triumph II - over the Sabines.
Vecelli[o], Tiziano (1571). Tarquin & Lucretia.
Lucius Tarquinius Superbus was not a nice man. His son Sextus (left, obviously) was perhaps even more of a bastard.

Tarquin, though, had his eyes on the south, attacking the Volsci and taking the town of Suessa Pometia, as well as establishing a colony at Circeii, before attempting to sack the refusenik Latin city of Gabii, located to the east of Rome on the way to Praeneste close to Collatia. After an initial failure, Tarquin persuaded his son Sextus to play the deserter, simulating injuries received at the hands of his father's men, whereupon the people of Gabii naïvely placed him in command of their forces, with a predictably bad outcome from their perspective. Another colony was founded at Signia and the Sabines were defeated. A peace treaty was concluded with the Aequi, a tribe located to the east of the Latins on the upper reaches of the Anio river, as well as a reiteration of the non-aggression pact with the Etruscans. In 509 BC, Tarquin embarked upon his campaign to capture Ardea and subjugate the Rutuli. This campaign was to ultimately lead to the downfall of the Roman monarchy.

The troops standing idle, lots of alcohol was consumed and boasts exchanged. In one of these, Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus (who was based at Collatia), the son of Egerius, maintained that his wife Lucretia was of supreme virtue, which was put to the test by Sextus. The men had all taken to visiting each other's homes and only Lucretia had proven to be temperate. Sextus, however, was rather taken with her and forced himself upon her, with the threat that he would kill her and tell Collatinus that he caught her in flagrante delicto with a slave if she failed to allow him sexual favours. This done, Lucretia reported his conduct to Collatinus and her father Spurius Lucretius Tricipitinus, who were, understandably, outraged. Together with Lucius Junius Brutus and Publius Valerius, they swore to expel Tarquin and his family from Rome. Brutus, as Tribune of the celeres, called the comitia, who agreed to revoke Tarquin's kingship and have him and his clan booted out of the city.


Thereafter, Tarquin called upon his Etruscan allies in Veii and Tarquinii to help him recover the throne. The two sides eventually met at Silva Arsia, where Brutus fell in combat against Arruns Tarquinius, who also died. The two men were cousins, Brutus being the son of Priscus' daughter Tarquinia. After the failure of this endeavour, Tarquin called on and gained the help of Lars Porsena (Laris Pursenas) of Clusium (Clevsin), who marched on Rome and occupied the Janiculum but was defeated after a heroic rearguard action epitomised by Publius Horatius Cocles' defence on the Pons Sublicius and Gaius Mucius Scævola's infiltration of the Etruscan camp in an ill-fated attempt on Porsena's life. After a long siege, newly-Republican Rome concluded a peace treaty with Porsena and another attempt came to nothing, though modern scholarship suggests that the Etruscans did briefly occupy Rome with little long-term efficacy.

anon. [English school] (19th century). Julius Caesar refusing the crown offered by Anthony.
Caesar refuses the crown, believing a manly comb-forward should suffice.


A final attempt led by Tarquin and his son-in-law Octavius Mamilius occurred at Lake Regilius in the Colli Albani, but this resulted in Mamilius' demise and a final defeat for Tarquin, whereupon he retired to a quiet life in exile at Cumae.

Of Tarquin's other achievements, he is regarded as the founder of the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitoline and the excavation of the cloaca maxima (both also associated with Priscus). One legend also holds that it was he who received the storied Libri Sibyllini.


Such was the disgust engendered by the actions of Tarquin and Sextus that, throughout the history of the Roman Republic, the notion of a king was treated with revulsion. Indeed, the assassination of Julius Caesar by a group including Marcus Junius Brutus (the ringleader) and Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus - descendents of Lucius Junius Brutus - was precisely due to the fear that he would become king. Ever the consumate politician, Caesar had earlier made a great show of refusing the crown when offered after the crowd began to boo the spectacle (though, if they had begged for him to take it, doubtless he would have). Eventually, though, this last flourish of Republican outrage was to prove counterproductive: from the ensuing chaos, Caesar's adopted heir Octavian emerged victorious and became the first Roman Emperor. One of his titles was, in honour of that greatest of Romans, Caesar, and the name has continued as a term for an emperor in places such as Germany (as Kaiser) and Russia (where it became Czar/Tsar).

Sir Graham