kings of Rome

the beginnings of Rome

At first Rome grew quickly. Besides the Palatine Hill, it took in the Capitoline, the Quirinal, and the Celian. The population increased. It included the Romans proper, who had founded the city; the Sabines, who lived on the Quirinal; and the Luceri, who were friends of the Romans and lived on the Celian Hill.

Vestal virgin

Vestal virgin in her sacred robes.

port of Ostia

The port of Ostia encouraged Rome's maritime trade. Ships were able to sail up the river to Rome in safety.

The walls of Rome

The walls of Rome.

Rome grows bigger (Romulus: 753–716 BC)

For 244 years, from 753 to 509 BC, Rome was ruled by kings; that is to say, it was a monarchy. The first king, according to legend, was Romulus, the founder of the city (see Romulus and Remus). He was supposed to have killed his twin brother Remus, and to have become the leader of a warlike band of shepherds. However, it is very unlikely that Romulus existed at all. The Romans probably invented the name from "Roma," and "Roma" probably came from the Greek word for strength – rome. So Romulus comes to mean "man of strength" – that is to say, the man who was able to defend the new village from the attacks of its neighbors.


New religious institutions (Numus Pompilius: 716–672 BC)

We cannot say whether this king existed or not. Perhaps his name does not refer to a person at all but to the new religious institutions which the Romans were forming in those far-off days. "Numa" comes from the Greek nomos, which means a law, and "Pompilius" from pompa, which means a priest's vestment.


Numa Pompilius instituted, so tradition says, new colleges of priests and priestesses. There were the Vestal virgins, priestesses of the goddess Vesta; the Feciali, who presided over the religious ceremonies held in times of war; and the Auguri, who job was to interpret the will of the gods from the flight of birds.


The Vestal virgins had to keep the sacred fire burning in the temple dedicated to the goddess Vesta, the protectress of the family. In addition they had to prepare the mola salsa, a kind of cake which after being ground was sprinkled on the animals sacrificed to the gods. The Vestal virgins also had to pray for the safety of the Roman people in time of war and danger.


Rome as the capital of Latium (Tullus Ostilius: 672–640 BC)

Almost a century after its foundation Rome was still growing in size and power. It sonly rival was the city of Albalonga, the capital of Latium, which tried to keep its position at all costs. During the reign of Tullus Ostilius, however, the Romans made war on Albalonga and succeeded in destroying it. From that time on, Rome was the capital of Latium.


Traces today of Rome under the kings



There are still remains of the wall erected by Servius Tullius. In the Roman Forum are remains of the Temple of the Vestal virgins, and in the Museo Nationale delle Terme is a statue of a Vestal virgin.


Remains of the most ancient Roman walls.

Rome gets a port on the sea (Ancus Martius: 640–616 BC)

Another three cities of Latium were destroyed by the king Ancus Martius. He took their inhabitants to the Aventine Hill, just by Rome, and settled them there. Now Rome's boundaries included the Aventine Hill and had reached the banks of the Tiber. So Ancus Martius decided to build a port on the mouth of the river. It was called Ostia, and it soon had a flourishing trade.


The great buildings (Tarquinius Priscus: 616–578 BC)

Rome was now the largest city of Latium, and Tarquinius Priscus wanted it to have large and splendid buildings. Between the Aventine Hill and the Palatine Hill he built the Circus Maximus, a large amphitheater for public spectacles. The Forum – a word meaning "square" – he embellished with porches. Here were held assemblies of the people and public markets. He also built sewers, which took the city sewage down to the Tiber.


The seven hills (Servius Tullius: 578–534 BC)

The king Servius Tullius surrounded the city with walls which took in all seven hills. For eight centuries – until the Emperor Aurelian extended its boundaries – Rome remained surrounded by these walls.


Rome becomes a republic (Tarquinius Superbus: 534–509 BC)

Lucius Tarquinius was the last king of Rome. He was called "Superbus" – the proud – because he ruled as a tyrant. But the Romans rebelled and drove him from the city. They then instituted a new form of government – the Republic.