The Seven Kings of Rome 753 - 509 BCE

Apr 2019
110
Ireland
Tradition records the Seven Kings of Rome as:
  1. Romulus
  2. Numa Pompilius
  3. Tullus Hostilius
  4. Ancus Marcius
  5. Tarquinius Priscus
  6. Servius Tullius
  7. Tarquinius Superbus
There is not a lot of evidence to support the historical identity of the majority of the kings, however the narrative of their reigns seems to be more concerned with the development of the Roman entity or the origins of the development of institutions of the Roman entity. For exampe we get the 'Servian reforms'.

Any contribution towards the following would be interesting....

Is there any evidence of the existence of these kings?
Were there Etruscan kings sitting in Rome?
Do the ancient traditions as passed down in the sources hide more than they bring to light?
Why did Etruscan power and influence ebb northwards across Italy at the end of the period in question?
 
Mar 2018
796
UK
Isn't it pretty much accepted that they were, essentially, made up by the Romans to make their own dodgy chronology fit?
 
Apr 2019
110
Ireland
Isn't it pretty much accepted that they were, essentially, made up by the Romans to make their own dodgy chronology fit?
The Chronology is indeed a problem, the average reign of the kings is around 35 years for starters, this seems pretty unrealistic. Kathryn Lomas (in 'The Rise of Rome') has indicated the first evidence of kingship is from a potsherd discovered in the forum dating to the sixth century BCE. The last three kings may be closer to historical personages than the previous four, however the reigns of the two Tarquins ( Priscus 616-579 and Superbus 535-509) if Father and Son as stated by some sources don't seem to add-up, but might fit a Grandfather/Grandson scenario. These Tarquins being Etruscan corroborates evidence of strong Etruscan influence in Rome as indeed there is elsewhere in Italy extending south to Campania. But why such an aversion for Kingship if there was not indeed some kind of Tyranny??
 
Mar 2018
796
UK
My vague recollection is that the kings were somehow chosen for life by the senate from amongst the patricians (a subset of eligible patricians?), but was not hereditary. As for the number of kings, I believe that there is some evidence for the last few kings (Tarquin certain gets mentioned in a fair few Roman texts), but not the first bunch. They were probably just invented to fit the story that Rome was founded by Trojan refugees and so they had to bump the founding of Rome back a couple of centuries.

At least that's what I remember from the first chapter of Klaus Bringmann's "A history of the Roman Republic" (2002)
 
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AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,051
Italy, Lago Maggiore
The number of the kings is already not above suspicion ... 7 ...

Anyway, here we call that period the "Royal Roman Age", that is to say the period when there was the "Rex" to rule on the "urbe" [the city, Rome]. This Rex was also Rex Sacrorum, but this is a different matter.

The Tradition presents a particularity: there are no evidences that the Latin kings were hereditary, while the Etruscan ones were hereditary on the side of the mother. The problem about the Latin Monarchs for the historians [also the ancient ones] is and was how they decided that Mr. X was suitable to be King of Rome, since there was no hereditary title. Ancient historians solved the problem talking about virtues [as usual ...].
 
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AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,051
Italy, Lago Maggiore
What archaeology tells us [see the works by Andrea Carandini] is that in the moment when the Tradition says that Rome had created actually walls had built on those hills [on Palatino, VIII century BCE]. We don't know who did it [there are no documents mentioning Romulus from that time], but a city was born. The position was strategical and we should remind that river Tiber was and is navigable [Rome has always had a wide and alive fluvial port]. Who created the city understood the potentiality of that place: in the middle between the Etruscan power and the rich South [with the Greek colonies].

Generally salt is indicated as the base of the "international" trade of primordial Rome [the "salaria" road is still there and literally it's the "way of the salt". If not for preservation, it could be still open to car traffic ...].

This said, about the Kings of Rome, the historical problem is that we've got later sources and epitomes as main base to reconstruct their life.

What we know is that there were Kings ... excavations in Rome have found objects with the word "rex" from VII century BCE. And on the famous "Lapis Niger" there is the mention of "regi" [because of a form of Latin this reference has been recognized as a reference to a Monarch, not to a later Rex Sacrorum, that is to say the priest who played the religious role of the early Kings in the Republican age].

Regarding the Sovereigns, as for I know, the last three are considered historically real, the first 4 are a mystery, in the sense that there is nothing, but the Tradition to confirm their existence.
 
Apr 2019
110
Ireland
It seems that the Monarchy was elective rather than hereditary with interregnums. There also seems to be a tradition that Priscus was a son of the Tyrant - Demaratos of Corinth. Perhaps Superbus was a symbol of a kind of resentment of Etrusan influence??
The expulsion of Superbus and his family contains inconsistencies as one of the main protagonists, Brutus was a member of the Superbus family. Also the year 509 BCE matches the expulsion of Hippias from Athens, is this a coincidence?
 
Apr 2019
110
Ireland
What we know is that there were Kings ... excavations in Rome have found objects with the word "rex" from VII century BCE. And on the famous "Lapis Niger" there is the mention of "regi" [because of a form of Latin this reference has been recognized as a reference to a Monarch, not to a later Rex Sacrorum, that is to say the priest who played the religious role of the early Kings in the Republican age].
So perhaps this then is evidence of a monarch at Rome in the seventh century BCE, if it is not just to a Rex Sacrorum.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,051
Italy, Lago Maggiore
It seems that the Monarchy was elective rather than hereditary with interregnums. There also seems to be a tradition that Priscus was a son of the Tyrant - Demaratos of Corinth. Perhaps Superbus was a symbol of a kind of resentment of Etrusan influence??
The expulsion of Superbus and his family contains inconsistencies as one of the main protagonists, Brutus was a member of the Superbus family. Also the year 509 BCE matches the expulsion of Hippias from Athens, is this a coincidence?
As I said, there are no evidences that the Latin Monarchs were elective. They had elected in some way [the doubt is about how they selected the candidates].

Yes, what Titus records [actually epitomes of "bellorum omnium annorum"] is that Priscus was son of an Etruscan woman and Demaratos of Corinth [and his original name was something like "Lucomone"].

Regarding Tarquinio [the "Superb"], keeps in mind that he was the last Sovereign of the Royal Age. We have seen something similar in the last century in Italy as well, when the present Republic substituted the Monarchy: Monarchy has become a historical evil and the last King ...

A part that the last King of the modern Italian Kingdom wasn't a saint [he was guilty of something for real], usually when there is a revolution the "Ancient Regime" becomes the symbol of the evil and historians exaggerate in drawing a negative picture of it.

What's interesting about Rome in that moment is that they didn't substitute the Etruscan Monarch with a Latin Monarch ... they preferred a Republic. There is who suggests that the Greek model influenced the Romans in this.

P.S. Today historians underline that, reading well the sources of the tradition, the Kings were 8, not 7, since TItus Tatius ruled over Rome as well.
 
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