The Kingdom period of Roman history is as much a part of myth and legend as the founding of the city. Stories past down generation to generation would eventually find their way into the Historical records of such writers as Livy and Plutarch. There is evidence which supports the period of Kings, but exact rulers, dates, events and accomplishments will likely forever be unknown. The growth of the city and development of its culture during this period, however, is widely accepted.
Romulus ruled as the first King of Rome from 753 - 715 BC. According to Livy, he populated Rome with fugitives from other countries and gave them wives abducted from the Sabine tribe. He was said to have vanished in a thunderstorm and was later worshiped as the god Quirinus. He was known as a warrior King who developed Rome's first army while expanding Rome's territory. He is also credited with establishment of the patrician, or tribal elder, citizen class and the basis of the Roman Senate.
The second King, Numa Pompilius, was a Sabine and ruled from 715-673 BC. He is credited with the foundation of most of the Roman religious rites and offices such as pontifices, flamens (sacred priests), vestal virgins, the building of the temple of Janus and the reorganization of the calendar into days. Livy suggests that his reign was one of peace and religious reflection for the city. "Once Rome's Neighbors had considered her not so much as a city as an armed camp in their midst threatening the general peace; now they came up to revere her so profoundly as a community dedicated wholly to worship, that the mere thought of offering her violence seemed like sacrilege." (Livy, History I, xxi)
672 - 641 BC. Tullius Hostilius succeeded Pompilius as the third King from 672 - 641 BC. He was the complete opposite of his predecessor as evidenced in Livy's words "In his view, Rome had been allowed to lapse into senility, and his one object was to find cause for renewed military adventure." (Livy, History I, xviii) His reign was one of conquest and expansion which included the eventual destruction of the rival city of Alba Longa. According to lore, Hostilius warlike behavior and complete neglect of the Roman gods, led to a plague on the city. In asking for help from an angered Jupiter, Hostilius was struck down by a bolt of lightning.
The reign of Hositilius, and the resulting plague, prompted the Senate to choose Ancus Marcius as its fourth King. The grandson of Numa Pompilius, Marcius reigned from 640 - 616 BC. He is credited with the formation of the plebeian citizen class and the founding of the port city of Ostia. The first bridge across the Tiber, the Pons Sublicius, was also said to have been built by Marcius. He combined this administrative capability with military achievement as well, conquering and absorbing several other Latin tribes. Marcius, like his grandfather, was said to have died a natural death.
Tarquinius Priscus, (Tarquinius I) the first Etruscan monarch, succeeded Marcius as the fifth King ruling from 616 - 579 BC. He was said to have been made guardian of Marcius' children, sent them away after his death, and convinced the Romans to elect him as King. His reign is credited with the foundation of the Roman games (Ludi Romani), the Circus Maximus and the construction of the great sewers (cloacae). These operations were funded through the conquest of several more neighboring Latin and Sabine tribes. Much of Rome's military symbolism (the eagle, etc.) and civil offices is believed to have been developed during this period. He is also credited with bringing the Etruscan military triumph tradition to Rome, and being the first to celebrate one in the city. His death was said to have been at the hands of the sons of Marcius.
Servius Tullius followed Tarquinius and ruled as the sixth King from 578 to 534 BC. He is renowned for implementing a new constitution further developing the citizen classes. The Servian Walls (city walls of Rome) are attributed to him, but modern archeology indicates that the existing walls were built in the 4th Century BC. He is also credited with the construction of the Temple of Diana on the Aventinus hill. He was assassinated by his daughter Tullia and her husband Tarquin.
The seventh and final King of Rome, Tarquinius Superbus (Tarquin the Proud), ruled from 534-510 BC. Under his rule, the Etruscans were at the height of their power, and the authority of the monarchy was absolute. He repealed several earlier constitutional reforms and used violence and murder to hold his power. His tyrannical rule was despised by the Romans and the final straw was the rape of Lucretia, a patrician Roman, at the hands of Tarquinius' son Sextius. The Tarquins and the monarchy were cast out of Rome in 510 BC in a revolt led by Lucius Junius Brutus and Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus.
The Senate voted to never again allow the rule of a King and formed a Republic government in 509 BC. Lucius Junius Brutus and Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus went on to become the first Consuls of this new government. Free from the rule of Kings, the Romans developed a strict social status hierarchy that would set in motion the conquest of the Western World.
Did you know...
A descendent of Lucius Junius Brutus, "Founder of the Republic", was one Marcus Junius Brutus. Much like his ancestor expelling the Etruscan King, this Brutus is the most famous of the assassins of Julius Caesar in 44 BC.