Historical Authenticity of Roman Kings

Nov 2019
8
USA
According to traditional Roman history, Seven Kings governed Rome from a Monarchical Period stretching from 753-509 BCE, beginning with Romulus and concluding with Lucius Tarquinius Superbus and the founding of the Roman Republic after a brief Civil War. Much of these rulers, and early Roman history as a whole, are shrouded in the veil of myth and legend. However, several Kings (mostly the later ones) have conclusive enough evidence that proves their existence, but the earlier Kings of Rome are often dismissed as myths and simply folk heroes.

Is there any basis for the early monarchs of Rome or simply scraps of knowledge that can help us paint a picture of the Regnum Romanum (I most likely got that wrong, forgive me Latin fans)?
 
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Apr 2014
247
Liverpool, England
'Regnum Romanum' sounds fine for 'Roman Kingdom'. One problem with the tradition is the suggestion that 244 years saw only seven kings. I suspect that no kingdom from which authentic records survive can show a similar sequence with an average reign of over 34 years. (I'm open to correction on this.)
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,947
Australia
There is no authenticity at all. Early Rome was just a bandit settlement. The descendants of those bandits would have a vested interest in inventing a less inglorious origin story.
 
Jul 2019
699
New Jersey
There is no authenticity at all. Early Rome was just a bandit settlement. The descendants of those bandits would have a vested interest in inventing a less inglorious origin story.
Except that if that were the case, they wouldn't have kept in the story of the Rape of the Sabine Women.

Ultimately, several of the Roman kings may have been loosely based on real people (particularly Servius Tullius and the Tarquins), although their stories have almost definitely been exaggerated and embellished over the centuries. The particulars of early Roman history cannot be trusted at all, but the more general picture of an Etruscan royalty is most probably historical.
 
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Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,947
Australia
Except that if that were the case, they wouldn't have kept in the story of the Rape of the Sabine Women.
You can't superimpose your modern sensibilities onto past cultures. The Romans were proud of that incident. To them there was nothing shameful in it.
 
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Jul 2019
699
New Jersey
You can't superimpose your modern sensibilities onto past cultures. The Romans were proud of that incident. To them there was nothing shameful in it.
That's not my point. My point is that both Livy and Plutarch connect the need for the Rape with the fact that Romulus' Rome was nothing but a gathering of thieves. The Romans made no attempt to hide the meanness of their origins. I agree that the Roman tradition is not trustworthy with regards to the particulars of the regal period, but to maintain that the entire period is a later fabrication is not borne out by the preponderance of the evidence.
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The problem is that the oldest histories we have of archaic Rome (Hieronymus of Cardia, Timaeus of Tauromenium, Q. Fabius Pictor, Cato the Elder, etc) are no longer extant, so we can't tell what stories were already part of the tradition in the fourth century BC and what was invented by later historians such as Valerius Antias.
 
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Caesarmagnus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,640
Australia
I mean some of it is clearly authentic. I don't really doubt there were 7 Kings, and they existed. A lot of stuff beyond that is up for debate. One of the Kings had the Ancient Senate house named after him, and it's preposterous to think that could have been a post-hoc revisionism. It just wouldn't have passed muster.
 
Jul 2019
699
New Jersey
I mean some of it is clearly authentic. I don't really doubt there were 7 Kings, and they existed. A lot of stuff beyond that is up for debate. One of the Kings had the Ancient Senate house named after him, and it's preposterous to think that could have been a post-hoc revisionism. It just wouldn't have passed muster.
Well, it seems likely that there were more than seven kings, and the first four seem to be more archetypes than individuals. Tarquinius Priscus is the first king we can even begin to conjecture about; before that we truly have nothing to work with.
 
Jul 2019
699
New Jersey
I should add that there's a substantial amount of literature out there reconstructing the Roman polity from the late regal period, including volume VII of the Cambridge Ancient History, T.J. Cornell's history of early Rome, and Gary Forsyth's competing work on the same topic.
 

Caesarmagnus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,640
Australia
Well, it seems likely that there were more than seven kings, and the first four seem to be more archetypes than individuals. Tarquinius Priscus is the first king we can even begin to conjecture about; before that we truly have nothing to work with.
Nah. Hostilius was the 3rd King, and I feel like he at least existed. Aside from his unique and odd name, it's just too implausible that the Senators all unanimously agreed to a retrospective cover up whereby they started calling the Senate building after a guy that had never existed to that point. It's too far in conspiracy theory realms; you'd never be able to get all the factions to go along with such a thing and keep it secret from everyone.