Lucius Tarquinius Superbus (Tarquin the Proud)
King: 535 - 509 BC
Lucius Tarquinius Superbus (Tarquin the Proud) a descendant from an Etruscan family (he was the son of Lucius Tarquinius Priscus) was the legendary seventh (and the last) king of ancient Rome. Tarquin was married to Tullia, the daughter of Servius Tullius. Tullia had encouraged her husband to murder her father, so that Tarquin ascended to the throne.
At the time his kingdom was one of the most powerful in Italy. Its capital had some 35,000 inhabitants, its territory was some 800 square kilometers, and its zone of influence stretched as far as Circeii and Terracina - 90 kilometers to the southeast. The Latin cities recognized Roman leadership, and Tarquin added several towns to his kingdom.
He continued with great vigor the work of extending the power of the city, and the founding of colonies by him was the beginning of Rome's path to supremacy of the world. Tarquin was responsible for the building of Capitoline Temple (Jupiter Capitolinus) and the Cloaca Maxima, the sewerage system that discharged into the Tiber. Tarquin concluded a treaty with Gabii, a town east of Rome. But on other matters Tarquinius was less politically astute. He irritated the people by the burdens he placed upon them. The heads of Rome's noble families had always been invited to give advise to the king. Those meetings were called the Senate. Tarquin behaved like an autocrat and was not interested in consulting the senators, those obviously felt ignored. Tarquinuius surname Superbus means something like "the haughty one" or "the proud".
According to Livy, a reign of terror followed, and many senators were put to death. Eventually a group of senators led by Lucius Junius Brutus (another Etruscan nobleman) raised a revolt.The romantic reason traditionally given for the deposition of Tarquin was the rape of Lucretia by his son Sextus Tarquinius. After the subsequent suicide of Lucretia, her husband, Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus, and the Brutus family (to which Lucretia belonged) raised a rebellion. The actual reason for the fall of the Monarchy was probably a power struggle between the king and the leading aristocratic families. Tarquin attempted to curb the rising power of the aristocrats by packing the Senate with 200 of their supporters, increasing the total membership to 300 men. These were known as the conscripti or the enrolled ones and this word became part of the official title of the Senate, the Patres Conscripti or Conscript Fathers. The Tarquin family was expelled from Rome, the monarchy at Rome was abolished and the Aristocracy set up a republic in 509 BC.
Although the names, dates, and events of the regal period are considered as belonging to the realm of fiction and myth rather than to that of factual history, certain facts seem well attested: the existence of an early rule by kings; the growth of the city and its struggles with neighboring peoples; the conquest of Rome by Etruria and the establishment of a dynasty of Etruscan princes, symbolized by the rule of the Tarquins; the overthrow of this alien control; and the abolition of the kingship.
Did you know...
The story of the Rape of Lucretia was a popular Roman tale which explained the downfall of Tarquinius.