The Romans



Latium and southern Etruria. (Ancient World Mapping Center)

Etruria was immediately across the Tiber to the north. It was, unusually for the times, predominantly an urban society; its wealth came from trade and its supremacy through sea-power. The Etruscans were given to extravagant but extraordinarily varied decoration and artistic display, and to the worship of gloomy gods. In the much the same way as their culture, the Etruscans’ political philosophy took its origins from the east and its direction from the Greeks, while developing on lines distinctive to Italy.

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Etruscan temple, based on the description by the Roman architect Vitruvius. Steps led up to a platform (podium), across which was a wide portico. While some temples had only one room inside (cella), others had three, each one dedicated to a different god. (From Helen and Richard Leacroft, The Buildings of Ancient Rome, Brockhampton Press 1969)

Etruscan terracotta sculpture, known as an antefix, depicting the head of Medusa, one of the gorgons. It was used on a temple roof to hide the gap between the sloping roof and the tiles below. (VRoma: Villa Giulia Museum, Rome: Barbara McManus)

At some time between 650 and 600 BC, the Etruscans crossed the Tiber in force and occupied Latium. It would have been now that the villagers on the Palatine Hill joined up with settlers on the other hills to form one united community, either in an attempt to fend off the Etruscan invaders, or to be brought in line with the Etruscan policy of imperial government by means of autonomous city states. From this point until the establishment of the republic in Rome (assuming Romulus to have been as mythical as his origins lead us to suppose), we have the names of six historical kings: Numa Pompilius, Tullus Hostilius, Ancus Marcius, Tarquinius Priscus (Tarquin the Elder), Servius Tullius, and Tarquinius Superbus (Tarquin the Proud).

Obverse and reverse sides of a coin of republican Rome, c.97 BC. Top: The head of Apollo, wearing a laurel wreath, is partly encircled by the name of the moneyer, Lucius Pomponius Molo. Bottom: Numa Pompilius, holding the lituus, the staff of the augur, sacrifices a goat, which is being held by a boy. The family Pomponius was supposed to have descended from a son of Numa. (VRoma: Pergamon Muesem, Berlin)

Overview of this page [Ref 1.3]


The wealthy Etruscans to the north occupy Rome and impose government by kings - we have the names of six (ignoring the mythical Romulus).



The kings

The kings acording to tradition (eg Livy 1; Virgil Aeneid book 6) were:


Numa Pompilius - peaceful reign, responsible for introducing many religious festivals, building the Temple of Vesta and adding January and February to the calendar. Mysterious relationship with the nymph Egeria!

Tullus Hostilius - constant warfare - including struggle against Alba Longa.

Ancus Marcius - more warfare!

Tarquinius Priscus - Etruscan; murdered after a long reign by sons of Ancus. Wife Tanaquil made sure successor was

Servius Tullius supposedly raised as a slave in Tarquinius' household. Famed for enlarging the city and building its walls.

Tarquinius Superbus - see text. Driven out, allegedly by Brutus, who was claimed as an ancestor by Marcus Brutus, one of the assassins of Julius Caesar.



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