Early Romans Battle and Unite with the Sabines and Etruscans

Home | Category: Etruscans and Pre-Roman Groups


Italy in 400 BC
Long before Rome was founded, every part of Italy was already peopled. Many of the peoples living there came from the north, around the head of the Adriatic, pushing their way toward the south into different parts of the peninsula. Others came from Greece by way of the sea, settling upon the southern coast. It is of course impossible for us to say precisely how Italy was settled. It is enough for us at present to know that most of the earlier settlers spoke an Indo-European, or Aryan, language, and that when they first appeared in Italy they were scarcely civilized, living upon their flocks and herds and just beginning to cultivate the soil. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org ]

Different groups had their own languages, customs and arts. The first evidence of distinct groups is from around 900 B.C.. Between 800 and 400 B.C. some of these groups became powerful enough to form their own city-states. Their language descended from a mother tongue called Sabellic, whose written form was influenced by the Greek, Latin and Etruscan alphabets. Their art, including figures and faces carved from animals bones, was heavily influenced by Greek art. [Source: Erla Zwingle, National Geographic. January 2005]

The largest and most dominate pre-Roman groups, included the Umbrians, who lived north of present-day Perugia and were known as a deeply religious people; the Sabines, whose women were famously raped by followers of Romulus, one of Rome's founders; Samnites, a fighting people that almost defeated the Romans; and the Faliscans, who chose to be absorbed by the Romans rather than fight them.Other groups included the Marsian people, famed of their snake-handling skills and herbal remedies; and the Piceneians, who lived and the Adriatic and prospered through trade with the Greeks and Phoenicians. Greeks lived in southern Italy and Sicily. Celtic groups such as the Gauls moved into parts of what is now northern Italy.

Websites on Ancient Rome: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ; “Outlines of Roman History” forumromanum.org; “The Private Life of the Romans” forumromanum.org|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; Lacus Curtius penelope.uchicago.edu; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org The Roman Empire in the 1st Century pbs.org/empires/romans; The Internet Classics Archive classics.mit.edu ; Bryn Mawr Classical Review bmcr.brynmawr.edu; De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors roman-emperors.org; British Museum ancientgreece.co.uk; Oxford Classical Art Research Center: The Beazley Archive beazley.ox.ac.uk ; Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org/about-the-met/curatorial-departments/greek-and-roman-art; The Internet Classics Archive kchanson.com ; Cambridge Classics External Gateway to Humanities Resources web.archive.org/web; Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy iep.utm.edu; Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy plato.stanford.edu; Ancient Rome resources for students from the Courtenay Middle School Library web.archive.org ; History of ancient Rome OpenCourseWare from the University of Notre Dame /web.archive.org ; United Nations of Roma Victrix (UNRV) History unrv.com

Italic Tribes

The various groups were called Italics. They tended to live in temporary settlements rather than towns; farmed small plots and herded cattle and sheep; traded with foreign merchants such as the Greeks and Phoenicians; fought periodically with neighboring groups; and practiced local religions that revolved around trinities of gods, animal sacrifices and looking for omens in everything from bird flight patterns to sheep entrails.

We may for convenience group the Italic tribes into four divisions the Latins, the Oscans, the Sabellians, and the Umbrians. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

Italic tribes

1) The Latins dwelt in central Italy, just south of the Tiber. They lived in villages scattered about Latium, tilling their fields and tending their flocks. The village was a collection of straw-thatched huts; it generally grew up about a hill, which was fortified, and to which the villagers could retreat in times of danger. Many of these Latin villages or hill-towns grew into cities, which were united into a league for mutual protection, and bound together by a common worship (of Jupiter Latiaris); and an annual festival which they celebrated on the Alban Mount, near which was situated Alba Longa, their chief city. \~\

2) The Oscans were the remnants of an early Italic people which inhabited the country stretching southward from Latium, along the western coast. In their customs they were like the Latins, although perhaps not so far advanced. Some authors include in this branch the Aequians, the Hernicans, and the Volscians, who carried on many wars with Rome in early times. \~\

3) The Sabellians embraced the most numerous and warlike peoples of the Italic stock. They lived to the east and south of the Latins and Oscans, extending along the ridges and slopes of the Apennines. They were devoted not so much to farming as to the tending of flocks and herds. They lived also by plundering their neighbors’ harvests and carrying off their neighbors’ cattle. They were broken up into a great number of tribes, the most noted of which were the Samnites, a hardy race which became the great rival of the Roman people for the possession of central Italy. Some of the Samnite people in very early times moved from then mountain home and settled in the fertile plain of Campania. \~\

4) The Umbrians lived to the north of the Sabellians. They are said to have been the oldest people of Italy. But when the Romans came into contact with them, they had become crowded into a comparatively small territory, and were easily conquered. They were broken up into small tribes, living in hill-towns and villages, and these were often united into loose confederacies. \~\

Rape of the Sabine Women

Rape of the Sabine Women
The “Rape of the Sabine Women” — in which the men of Rome committed a mass abduction of young women from the other towns near Rome — was an important event in Rome’s early legendary history. The event is said to have occurred in the 8th century B.C. and was a popular subject of Renaissance painting.

Heather Ramsey of Listverse wrote: “Titus Livius (also known as “Livy“), one of the great historians of Rome, recorded events in moral terms of the individual to reveal character, supposedly without political influence. According to the Livy’s account, Rome was founded by twins Romulus and Remus in 753 B.C. After a dispute, Romulus killed Remus and became ruler of Rome, which was named for him. To make the town grow, Romulus took in fugitives and outcasts from other areas, but they were mostly men. Rome became powerful enough to prevail in battles with violent neighbors. However, without enough women to produce children, Rome’s growth and power was expected to end in one generation. [Source: Heather Ramsey, Listverse, March 4, 2015 ]

“Romulus sent representatives to neighboring communities to ask for young women to marry the men of Rome. But these emissaries were turned down, sometimes in an insulting manner. This didn’t sit well with his men, so Romulus devised a crafty way to get the women he needed. He invited his neighbors to a grand celebration of Consualia, with games and sacrifices to honor the god Consus (also known as Neptunus Equestris).

“Many of Rome’s neighbors attended, including the Sabines, who brought their wives and children. All were impressed by Rome’s growth. During the festival, Romulus gave his men a prearranged signal to abduct the maidens. The Sabine parents escaped without harm but were obviously distraught by what had happened. Meanwhile, Romulus visited each abducted woman to let her know that she would have the full status, rights, and material reward of a Roman wife and that her husband would treat her well from then on.

“About a year later, the Romans and the Sabines went to war over the women. But the Sabine women were now content to remain Roman wives, so they interceded between the two sides in the midst of battle and brought about peace. After a treaty was signed, the two sides united under Roman rule, making Rome even stronger.However, Livy’s historical accounts are mixed with legend, especially in the early days of Rome, which makes it difficult to know how much of his writings are true.”

Plutarch’s Account of Rape of the Sabine Women

Plutarch wrote in the “Life of Romulus”: “In the fourth month, after the city was built, as Fabius writes, the adventure of stealing the women was attempted and some say Romulus himself, being naturally a martial man, and predisposed too, perhaps by certain oracles, to believe the fates had ordained the future growth and greatness of Rome should depend upon the benefit of war, upon these accounts first offered violence to the Sabines, since he took away only thirty virgins, more to give an occasion of war than out of any want of women. But this is not very probable; it would seem rather that, observing his city to be filled by a confluence of foreigners, a few of whom had wives, and that the multitude in general, consisting of a mixture of mean and obscure men, fell under contempt, and seemed to be of no long continuance together, and hoping farther, after the women were appeased, to make this injury in some measure an occasion of confederacy and mutual commerce with the Sabines, he took in hand this exploit after this manner. [Source: Plutarch. “Lives”, written A.D. 75, translated by John Dryden]

“First, he gave it out as if he had found an altar of a certain god hid under ground; the god they called Consus, either the god of counsel (for they still call a consultation consilium, and their chief magistrates consules, namely, counsellors), or else the equestrian Neptune, for the altar is kept covered in the Circus Maximus at all other times, and only at horse-races is exposed to public view; others merely say that this god had his altar hid under ground because counsel ought to be secret and concealed. Upon discovery of this altar, Romulus, by proclamation, appointed a day for a splendid sacrifice, and for public games and shows, to entertain all sorts of people: many flocked thither, and he himself sat in front, amidst his nobles clad in purple. Now the signal for their falling on was to be whenever he rose and gathered up his robe and threw it over his body; his men stood all ready armed, with their eyes intent upon him, and when the sign was given, drawing their swords and falling on with a great shout they ravished away the daughters of the Sabines, they themselves flying without any let or hindrance.

“They say there were but thirty taken, and from them the Curiae or Fraternities were named; but Valerius Antias says five hundred and twenty-seven, Juba, six hundred and eighty-three virgins: which was indeed the greatest excuse Romulus could allege, namely, that they had taken no married woman, save one only, Hersilia by name, and her too unknowingly; which showed that they did not commit this rape wantonly, but with a design purely of forming alliance with their neighbours by the greatest and surest bonds. This Hersilia some say Hostilius married, a most eminent man among the Romans; others, Romulus himself, and that she bore two children to him,- a daughter, by reason of primogeniture called Prima, and one only son, whom, from the great concourse of citizens to him at that time, he called Aollius, but after ages Abillius. But Zenodotus the Troezenian, in giving this account, is contradicted by many.

Another take on the Rape of the Sabines

“Among those who committed this rape upon the virgins, there were, they say, as it so then happened, some of the meaner sort of men, who were carrying off a damsel, excelling all in beauty and comeliness and stature, whom when some of superior rank that met them, attempted to take away, they cried out they were carrying her to Talasius, a young man, indeed, but brave and worthy; hearing that, they commended and applauded them loudly, and also some, turning back, accompanied them with good-will and pleasure, shouting out the name of Talasus. Hence the Romans to this very time, at their weddings, sing Talasius for their nuptial word, as the Greeks do Hymenaeus, because they say Talasius was very happy in his marriage. But Sextius Sylla the Carthaginian, a man wanting neither learning nor ingenuity, told me Romulus gave this word as a sign when to begin the onset; everybody, therefore, who made prize of a maiden, cried out, Talasius; and for that reason the custom continues so now at marriages. But most are of opinion (of whom Juba particularly is one) that this word was used to new-married women by way of incitement to good housewifery and talasia (spinning), as we say in Greek, Greek words at that time not being as yet overpowered by Italian. But if this be the case, and if the Romans did at the time use the word talasia as we do, a man might fancy a more probable reason of the custom. For when the Sabines, after the war against the Romans were reconciled, conditions were made concerning their women, that they should be obliged to do no other servile offices to their husbands but what concerned spinning; it was customary, therefore, ever after, at weddings, for those that gave the bride or escorted her or otherwise were present, sportingly to say Talasius, intimating that she was henceforth to serve in spinning and no more. It continues also a custom at this very day for the bride not of herself to pass her husband's threshold, but to be lifted over, in memory that the Sabine virgins were carried in by violence, and did not go in of their own will. Some say, too, the custom of parting the bride's hair with the head of a spear was in token their marriages began at first by war and acts of hostility. This rape was committed on the eighteenth day of the month Sextilis, now called August, on which the solemnities of the Consualia are kept.”

Romans Battle the Sabines

Plutarch wrote: “The Sabines were a numerous and martial people, but lived in small, unfortified villages, as it befitted, they thought, a colony of the Lacedaemonians to be bold and fearless; nevertheless, seeing themselves bound by such hostages to their good behaviour, and being solicitous for their daughters, they sent ambassadors to Romulus with fair and equitable requests, that he would return their young women and recall that act of violence, and afterwards, by persuasion and lawful means, seek friendly correspondence between both nations. Romulus would not part with the young women, yet proposed to the Sabines to enter into an alliance with them; upon which point some consulted and demurred long, but Acron, king of the Ceninenses, a man of high spirit and a good warrior, who had all along a jealousy of Romulus's bold attempts, and considering particularly, from this exploit upon the women, that he was growing formidable to all people, and indeed insufferable, were he not chastised, first rose up in arms, and with a powerful army advanced against him.... [Source: Plutarch. “Lives”, written A.D. 75, translated by John Dryden]

“The Sabines being possessed of the hill, Romulus, in great fury, bade them battle, and Tatius was confident to accept it, perceiving, if they were overpowered, that they had behind them a secure retreat. The level in the middle, where they were to join battle, being surrounded with many little hills seemed to enforce both parties to a sharp and desperate conflict, by reason of the difficulties of the place, which had but a few outlets, inconvenient either for refuge or pursuit. It happened, too, the river having overflowed not many days before, there was left behind in the plain, where now the forum stands, a deep blind mud and slime, which, though it did not appear much to the eye, and was not easily avoided, at bottom was deceitful and dangerous; upon which the Sabines being unwarily about to enter, met with a piece of good fortune; for Curtius, a gallant man, eager of honour, and of aspiring thoughts, being mounted on horseback, was galloping on before the rest, and mired his horse here, and, endeavouring for a while, by whip and spur and voice to disentangle him, but finding it impossible, quitted him and saved himself; the place from him to this very time is called the Curtian Lake. [Source: Plutarch. “Lives”, written A.D. 75, translated by John Dryden]

Death of Titus Tatius, king of the Sabines

“The Sabines, having avoided this danger, began the fight very smartly, the fortune of the day being very dubious, though many were slain; amongst whom was Hostilius, who, they say, was husband to Hersilia, and grandfather to that Hostilius who reigned after Numa. There were many other brief conflicts, we may suppose, but the most memorable was the last, in which Romulus, having received a wound on his head by a stone, and being almost felled to the ground by it, and disabled, the Romans gave way, and, being driven out of the level ground, fled towards the Palatium. Romulus, by this time recovering from his wound a little, turned about to renew the battle, and, facing the fliers, with a loud voice encouraged them to stand and fight. But being overborne with numbers, and nobody daring to face about, stretching out his hands to heaven, he prayed to Jupiter to stop the army, and not to neglect, but maintain the Roman cause, now in extreme danger. The prayer was no sooner made, than shame and respect for their king checked many; the fears of the fugitives changed suddenly into confidence. The place they first stood at was where now is the temple of Jupiter Stator (which may be translated the Stayer); there they rallied again into ranks and repulsed the Sabines to the place called now Regia, and to the temple of Vesta; where both parties, preparing to begin a second battle, were prevented by a spectacle, strange to behold, and defying description. For the daughters of the Sabines, who had been carried off, came running, in great confusion, some on this side, some on that, with miserable cries and lamentations, like creatures possessed, in the midst of the army and among the dead bodies, to come at their husbands and their fathers, some with their young babes in their arms, others their hair loose about their ears, but all calling, now upon the Sabines, now upon the Romans, in the most tender and endearing words. Hereupon both melted into compassion, and fell back, to make room for them betwixt the armies. The sight of the women carried sorrow and commiseration upon both sides into the hearts of all, but still more their words, which began with expostulation and upbraiding, and ended with entreaty and supplication.

Romans and Sabines Unite

Plutarch wrote: “"Wherein," say they, "have we injured or offended you, as to deserve such sufferings past and present? We were ravished away unjustly and violently by those whose now we are; that being done, we were so long neglected by our fathers, our brothers and countrymen, that time, having now by the strictest bonds united us to those we once mortally hated, has made it impossible for us not to tremble at the danger and weep at the death of the very men who once used violence to us. You did not come to vindicate our honour, while we were virgins, against our assailants; but do come now to force away wives from their husbands and mothers from their children, a succour more grievous to its wretched objects than the former betrayal and neglect of them. Which shall we call the worst, their love-making or your compassion? If you were making war upon any other occasion, for our sakes you ought to withhold your hands from those to whom we have made you fathers-in-law and grandsires. If it be for our own cause, then take us, and with us your sons-in-law and grandchildren. Restore to us our parents and kindred, but do not rob us of our children and husbands. Make us not, we entreat you, twice captives." Hersilia having spoken many such words as these, and the others earnestly praying, a truce was made, and the chief officers came to a parley; the women, in the meantime, brought and presented their husbands and children to their fathers and brothers; gave those that wanted meat and drink, and carried the wounded home to be cured, and showed also how much they governed within doors, and how indulgent their husbands were to them, in demeaning themselves towards them with all kindness and respect imaginable. Upon this, conditions were agreed upon, that what women pleased might stay where they were, exempt, as aforesaid, from all drudgery and labour but spinning; that the Romans and Sabines should inhabit the city together; that the city should be called Rome from Romulus; but the Romans, Quirites, from the country of Tatius; and that they both should govern and command in common. The place of the ratification is still called Comitium, from come to meet. [Source: Plutarch. “Lives”, written A.D. 75, translated by John Dryden]

“The city being thus doubled in number, an hundred of the Sabines were elected senators, and the legions were increased to six thousand foot and six hundred horse; then they divided the people into three tribes: the first, from Romulus, named Ramnenses; the second from Tatius, Tatienses; the third Luceres, from the lucus, or grove, where the Asylum stood, whither many fled for sanctuary, and were received into the city. And that they were just three, the very name of tribe and tribune seems to show; each tribe contained ten curiae, or brotherhoods, which, some say, took their names from the Sabine women; but that seems to be false, because many had their names from various places. Though it is true, they then constituted many things in honour to the women; as to give them the way wherever they met them; to speak no ill word in their presence; not to appear naked before them, or else be liable to prosecution before the judge, of homicide; that their children should wear an ornament about their necks called the bulla (because it was like a bubble), and the proetexta, a gown edged with purple.

“The princes did not immediately join in council together, but at first each met with his own hundred; afterwards all assembled together. Tatius dwelt where now the temple of Moneta stands, and Romulus, close by the steps, as they call them, of the Fair Shore, near the descent from the Mount Palatine to the Circus Maximus. There, they say, grew the holy cornel tree, of which they report, that Romulus once, to try his strength, threw a dart from the Aventine Mount, the staff of which was made of cornel, which struck so deep into the ground, that no one of many that tried could pluck it up, and the soil being fertile, gave nourishment to the wood, which sent forth branches, and produced a cornel stock of considerable bigness. This did posterity preserve and worship as one of the most sacred things; and therefore walled it about; and if to any one it appeared not green nor flourishing, but inclining to pine and wither, he immediately made outcry to all he met, and they, like people hearing of a house on fire, with one accord would cry for water, and run from all parts with buckets full to the place. But when Caius Caesar, they say, was repairing the steps about it, some of the labourers digging too close, the roots were destroyed, and the tree withered.”

Sabines Adopt Roman Religious Customs

The Sabines were the main rivals of the Romans back in the legendary period of Roman history, around 6th and 7th centuries B.C. The two rivals fought each other and finally decided to unite. Plutarch wrote: “The Sabines adopted the Roman months, of which whatever is remarkable is mentioned in the Life of Numa. Romulus, on the other hand, adopted their long shields, and changed his own armour and that of all the Romans, who before wore round targets of the Argive pattern. Feasts and sacrifices they partook of in common, not abolishing any which either nation observed before, and instituting several new ones; of which one was the Matronalia, instituted in honour of the women, for their extinction of the war; likewise the Carmentalia. This Carmenta some think a deity presiding over human birth; for which reason she is much honoured by mothers. Others say she was the wife of Evander, the Arcadian, being a prophetess, and wont to deliver her oracles in verse, and from carmen, a verse, was called Carmenta; her proper name being Nicostrata. Others more probably derive Carmenta from carens mente, or insane, in allusion to her prophetic frenzies. [Source: Plutarch. “Lives”, written A.D. 75, translated by John Dryden]

House of the Vestals

“Of the feast of Palilia we have spoken before. The Lupercalia, by the time of its celebration, may seem to be a feast of purification, for it is solemnised on the dies nefasti, or non-court days, of the month February, which name signifies purification, and the very day of the feast was anciently called Februata; but its name is equivalent to the Greek Lycaea; and it seems thus to be of great antiquity, and brought in by the Arcadians who came with Evander. Yet this is but dubious, for it may come as well from the wolf that nursed Romulus; and we see the Luperci, the priests, begin their course from the place where they say Romulus was exposed. But the ceremonies performed in it render the origin of the thing more difficult to be guessed at; for there are goats killed, then, two young noblemen's sons being brought, some are to stain their foreheads with the bloody knife, others presently to wipe it off with wool dipped in milk; then the young boys must laugh after their foreheads are wiped; that done, having cut the goats' skins into thongs, they run about naked, only with something about their middle, lashing all they meet; and the young wives do not avoid their strokes, fancying they will help conception and childbirth. Another thing peculiar to this feast is for the Luperci to sacrifice a dog. But, as a certain poet who wrote fabulous explanations of Roman customs in elegiac verses, says, that Romulus and Remus, after the conquest of Amulius, ran joyfully to the place where the wolf gave them suck; and that, in imitation of that, this feast was held, and two young noblemen ran — "Striking at all, as when from Alba town,/ With sword in hand, the twins came hurrying down;" — and that the bloody knife applied to their foreheads was a sign of the danger and bloodshed of that day; the cleansing of them in milk, a remembrance of their food and nourishment.

Caius Acilius writes, that, before the city was built, the cattle of Romulus and Remus one day going astray, they, praying to the god Faunus, ran out to seek them naked, wishing not to be troubled with sweat, and that this is why the Luperci run naked. If the sacrifice be by way of purification, a dog might very well be sacrificed, for the Greeks, in their illustrations, carry out young dogs, and frequently use this ceremony of periscylacismus, as they call it. Or if again it is a sacrifice of gratitude to the wolf that nourished and preserved Romulus, there is good reason in killing a dog, as being an enemy to wolves. Unless, indeed, after all, the creature is punished for hindering the Luperci in their running.

“They say, too, Romulus was the first that consecrated holy fire, and instituted holy virgins to keep it, called vestals; others ascribe it to Numa Pompilius; agreeing, however, that Romulus was otherwise eminently religious, and skilled in divination, and for that reason carried the lituus, a crooked rod with which soothsayers describe the quarters of the heavens, when they sit to observe the flights of birds. This of his, being kept in the Palatium, was lost when the city was taken by the Gauls; and afterwards, that barbarous people being driven out, was found in the ruins, under a great heap of ashes, untouched by the fire, all things about it being consumed and burnt. He instituted also certain laws, one of which is somewhat severe, which suffers not a wife to leave her husband, but grants a husband power to turn off his wife, either upon poisoning her children or counterfeiting his keys, or for adultery; but if the husband upon any other occasion put her away, he ordered one moiety of his estate to be given to the wife, the other to fall to the goddess Ceres; and whoever cast off his wife, to make an atonement by sacrifice to the gods of the dead. This, too, is observable as a singular thing in Romulus, that he appointed no punishment for real parricide, but called all murder so, thinking the one an accursed thing, but the other a thing impossible; and, for a long time, his judgment seemed to have been right; for in almost six hundred years together, nobody committed the like in Rome; and Lucius Hostius, after the wars of Hannibal, is recorded to have been the first parricide. Let this much suffice concerning these matters.”

Numa, the Founder of Roman Religion

A Sabine named Numa Pompilius was elected as the second king of Rome. He is said to have been a very wise and pious man, and to have taught the Romans the arts of peace and the worship of the gods. Numa is represented in the legends as the founder of the Roman religion. He appointed priests and other ministers of religion. He divided the lands among the people, placing boundaries under the charge of the god Terminus. He is also said to have divided the year into twelve months, and thus to have founded the Roman calendar. After a peaceful reign of forty-two years, he was buried under the hill Janiculum, across the Tiber. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

Numa and the nymph Egeria

David Silverman of Reed College wrote: “Plutarch's life reveals, by its markedly polemical tone, the extent to which the facts about the regal period were being debated by antiquarians in the late Republic. Known as the establisher of the Roman state religion, Numa was credited with the establishment or regularization of the main religious figures and officials in Rome, including the pontifices, vestals, and flamines. He is supposed as well to have been responsible for the formation of the calendar; it is fairly certain that the Roman calendar actually came into use some one hundred years later. The calendar is interesting as an index of the way religion might have functioned as a means of social control, how closely intertwined were the exercises of sacred and secular power. The Roman senate, after all, met in a temple. One of the many inheritances the Romans had from the Etruscans was the art of divination, of looking into the future by means of observing the flights of birds or the entrails of sacrificial victims. For any major public undertaking it was necessary to determine whether the gods would be favorable to it at any one time; moreover, certain days were automatically favorable days for the conduct of public business, while other days were certainly not (dies fasti and dies nefasti). [Source: David Silverman, Reed College, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class ^*^]

“Only the holder of one of the highest of the traditional magistracies, the curule officials, had the right to take the auspices; the curule magistracies were originally just the two consuls. (Compare the Etruscan plaque from Caere, showing the king seated on the curule throne; = Scullard, Etruscan Cities pl. 100). In their absence the curule magistrates were the dictator and his master of horse (magister equitum); later other curule magistracies were added (the praetor, censor, and curule aedile). The extent to which the patres monopolized the right to take the auspices and presence in the priestly colleges is disputed, but it is clear that from an early stage declaring a day nefas could bring any planned public proceedings to a halt. It is significant that the Roman calendar was not published until 304 B.C., and that the opening of all of the priesthoods to the plebeians was supposed to have been one of the last concessions won in the struggle of the orders (by the lex Ogulnia). ^*^

“There may be a way to finding a historical kernel to the annalistic tradition through Numa. His name ought to be Etruscan, although Plutarch identifies him as Sabine and Pompilius could be either Sabine or Etruscan. Plutarch has Numa living in the Regia, and this building's remains in the Forum Romanum may hold a clue. The earliest object to emerge from the excavation of it is a Bucchero cup, dating to around 625 B.C. and having the word REX painted on it; this, at least, seems to confirm that there were kings at Rome. Excavation has also revealed that there were a number of phases of construction on the Regia, with the earliest of them going back into the seventh century. The first phase shows a courtyard, with a portico at one end and two chambers with a space between them. In the second phase, the courtyard is extended to enclose the two chambers. In the third phase, dated to around 550 B.C., a door was added in the north wall and one of the chambers was eliminated; to this phase belong a series of architectural terracottas. After a destruction by fire around 530 B.C., the Regia was rebuilt with a ground plan similar to that of the original, but with a new orientation. It was redesigned one final time at the end of the sixth century (phase 5) and that plan was retained in all subsequent renovations. Through all of the stages the Regia has more in common with domestic than with sacred architecture. In other words, for what it is worth, the ground plan of the building suggests that the early Roman king was a priest but not a god, and that tallies with the account of the annalistic tradition. ^*^

“Finally, there is the lapis niger, discovered in 1899 by the northern corner of the Forum Romanum at the foot of the Capitoline. Roman authors believed that the lapis niger marked a tomb, which they identify variously as that of Faustulus (the shepherd who rescued Romulus and Remus), or Hostilius (grandfather of the king Tullus Hostilius; DH 3.1.2), or Romulus himself. Actually, as it turned out, no one was buried there. The stone was not a grave marker but rather a king of boundary stone marking off a sacred precinct. It is dated on the basis of the letter forms to the second quarter of the sixth century B.C. The tufa rock is of the same type as that used in the Servian Wall (Grotto Oscura), but the date finds confirmation from the pottery in the fill in a pool next to the monument. The text is a sacred law, probably establishing the spot as inviolable. It mentions the king twice in the dative case; other secure words include: sakros 'cursed' iouxmenta 'oath' iouested 'just'. In sum, the lapis niger confirms the presence of kings at Rome, at least towards the end of what the annalist thought of as the regal period, and confirms too that they had some religious role. It does not, however, get us any closer to someone named Numa Pompilius. Neither can we find archaeological confirmation for any building supposed to have been raised by Numa's successor, Tullus Hostilius. The building of the first Curia is attributed to him (Varro Ling. 5.155); the Curia Hostilia is the meeting place of the senate of Rome. But there are no archaeological traces, because it was completely rebuilt as the Curia Julia by Augustus in 29 B.C. However, Tullus Hostilius (who was primarily remembered as a warrior king) is supposed to have captured Alba Longa, and as we have seen the evidence from the early graves does show a close affinity between the people of the Alban Hills and those on the site of Rome.

Ancus Marcius and Lucius Tarquinius Priscus

Ancus Marcius

The third king, Tullus Hostilius, was chosen from the Romans. His reign was noted for the conquest of Alba Longa. In accounts of this war with Alba Longa, the famous story is told of the Horatii and the Curiatii, three brothers in each army, who were selected to decide the contest by a combat, which resulted in favor of the Horatii, the Roman champions. Alba Longa thus became subject to Rome. Afterward, Alba Longa was razed to the ground, and all its people were transferred to Rome. Tullus, it is said, neglected the worship of the gods, and was at last, with his whole house, destroyed by the lightnings of Jove. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

After the reign of Tullus the people elected Ancus Marcius, a Sabine and a grandson of Numa Pompilius. He is said to have published the sacred laws of his grandfather, and to have tried to restore the arts of peace. But, threatened by the Latins, he conquered many of their cities, brought their inhabitants to Rome, and settled them upon the Aventine hill. He fortified the hill Janiculum, on the other side of the Tiber, to protect Rome from the Etruscans, and built across the river a wooden bridge (the Pons Sublicius). He also conquered the lands between Rome and the sea and built the port of Ostia at the mouth of the Tiber. \~\

David Silverman of Reed College wrote: “Ancus Marcius is, as Momigliano called him, &#147an inconsistent figure.” The tradition describes him as a peaceful man, but goes on to tot up his conquests, at Politorium (possibly = Castel di Decima), Tellecenae, Ficana. He is also credited with the foundation of the colony at Ostia, the port of Rome; this looks to be wildly false, as archaeology reveals no trace of permanent settlement at Ostia prior to the fourth century B.C. But Scullard sees a kernel of truth, supposing that the story could reflect the acquisition of control by the Romans over the salt flats on the south bank of the Tiber at Ostia. Scullard also accepts the idea that Ancus built the first bridge over the Tiber (the Pons Sublicius); this can not be proved, but if correct it is suggestive, because of the etymological connection between bridge-building and the priesthood (pontifex; rejected, probably wrongly, by Plutarch). Ancus Marcius is also assigned the institution of the declaration of war by the fetiales (Livy 1. 32, cf. 1. 24). [Source: David Silverman, Reed College, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class ^*^]

Tarquin and the Eagle

“With Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, we begin to move into the period where less reaching is involved in making connections between the archaeological record and the annalistic tradition. We read in Livy the story of how the Corinthian exile, Demaratus, came to settle in Etruria, and how his son Lucumo became the king of Rome. Etruscan inscriptions, at least, show that there were persons of mixed Greek and Etruscan descent, such as Rutile Hipukrates (Rutulus Hippokrates). Also, Tarquin is obviously an Etruscan name (a major Etruscan city was called Tarquinii).

“The elder Tarquin was also supposed to have vowed the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus (together with Minerva and Juno) on the Capitoline; both Livy (1. 56) and Dionysius (4. 59-61) record that the temple was dedicated by Priscus and completed by Superbus, then finally consecrated in the first year of the Republic, 509 B.C. Support for this is supposed to come from the Pontifical fasti (seen at Livy 2.8 and Polybius 3. 22, giving the name of Marcus Horatius). The custom was to put a nail in the wall of Jupiter's temple to mark each new year, and according to Pliny when the nails were counted in the year 304 there were 204 of them (NH 31. 19). This seems fairly strong. But the skeptics point out that there was a consular tribune of the same name as the consul of the first year of the Republic in 378 B.C. Moreover, looking at the preserved foundations of the temple, which was rebuilt in 83 B.C. on the original foundations, a change of around ten centimeters in the height of the building blocks can be observed from the twelfth course upwards. This suggests that work on the temple was suspended for some lengthy period of time and then resumed. Thus, while a delay in the building process is also built in to the traditional account, it is possible that the temple in its completed form is a work of the 4th century B.C. Its monumental size certainly fits that period better from a historical point of view. Although the annalists attempt to suggest that early Rome was already quite powerful, extending its dominion over its neighbors in Latium from the start of the Republican period, there is more than one reason to believe that this is mere boosterism on the part of the annalistic tradition.

Hills of Rome and Their Perspective on Rome’s Early History

“To obtain a more definite knowledge of the birth of Rome than we can get from the traditional stories, we must study that famous group of hills which may be called the “cradle of the Roman people.” By looking at these hills, we can see quite clearly how Rome must have come into being, and how it became a powerful city. The location of these hills was favorable for defense, and for the beginning of a strong settlement. Situated about eighteen miles from the mouth of the Tiber, they were far enough removed from the sea to be secure from the attacks of the pirates that infested these waters; while the river afforded an easy highway for commerce. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

To understand the relation of these hills to one another, we may consider them as forming two groups, the northern and the southern. The southern group comprised three hills—the Palatine, the Caelian, and the Aventine—arranged in the form of a triangle, with the Palatine projecting to the north. The northern group comprised four hills, arranged in the form of a crescent or semicircle, in the following order, beginning from the east: the Esquiline, the Viminal, the Quirinal, and the Capitoline—the last being a sort of spur of the Quirinal. These two groups of hills became, as we shall see, the seats of two different settlements. Of all the hills on the Tiber, the Palatine occupied the most central and commanding position. It was, therefore, the people of the Palatine settlement who would naturally become the controlling people of the seven-hilled city.

By looking at the neighboring lands about the Tiber we see that Rome was located at the point of contact between three important countries. On the south and east was Latium, the country of the Latins, already dotted with a number of cities, the most important of which was Alba Longa. On the north was the country of the Sabines, a branch of the Sabellian stock. On the northwest was Etruria, with a large number of cities organized in confederacies and inhabited by the most civilized and enterprising people of central Italy. The peoples of these three different countries were pushing their outposts in the direction of the seven hills. It is not difficult for us to see that the time must come when there would be a struggle for the possession of this important locality. \~\

Origin of the City of Rome

Seven Hills of Rome

It is said Palatine Hill in Rome is where Romulus and Remus were suckled by their she wolf mother and where Rome was founded in the 8th century B.C., when Romulus killed Remus there. The most interesting piece in the Capitoline Museum in Rome is a famous Etruscan bronze of a crazy-eyed she-wolf being suckled. Renaissance depictions of Romulus and Remus were added to the statue in the 15th century.

As far as we know, the first people to get a foothold upon the site of Rome were the Latins, who formed a settlement about the Palatine hill. This Latin settlement was at first a small village. It consisted of a few farmers and shepherds who were sent out from Latium (perhaps from Alba Longa) as a sort of outpost, both to protect the Latin frontier and to trade with the neighboring tribes. The people who formed this settlement were called Ramnes. They dwelt in their rude straw huts on the slopes of the Palatine, and on the lower lands in the direction of the Aventine and the Caelian. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

The outlying lands furnished the fields which they tilled and used for pasturage. In order to protect them from attacks, the sides of the Palatine hill were strengthened by a wall built of rude but solid masonry. This fortified place was called Roma Quadrata,1 or “Square Rome.” It formed the citadel of the colony, into which the settlers could drive their cattle and conduct their families when attacked by hostile neighbors. What some persons suppose to be the primitive wall of the Palatine city, known as the Wall of Romulus, has in recent years been uncovered, showing the general character of this first fortification of Rome. \~\

Wall of Romulus and Union with the Sabines

Opposite the Palatine settlement there grew up a settlement on the Quirinal hill. This Quirinal settlement seems to have been an outpost or colony of the Sabine people, just as the Palatine settlement was a Latin colony. The Sabines were pushing southward from beyond the Anio. The settlers on the Quirinal were called Tities; their colony formed a second hill-town, similar in character and nearly equal in extent to the Palatine town. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

The two hill-towns which thus faced each other naturally became rivals for the possession of the lands near the Tiber; but being so nearly of equal strength, neither could conquer the other. If these settlements had not been so close together, they might have indulged in occasional strife and still remained separate; but being near to each other, they were obliged to be constantly at war, or else to come to some friendly understanding. They chose the latter course, and after forming an alliance, were united by a permanent league, and really became a single city. To celebrate this union, the intervening space was dedicated to the two-faced god, Janus, who watched the approaches of both towns, and whose temple was said to have been built by Numa. The Capitoline hill was chosen as the common citadel. The space between the two towns was used as a common market place (forum), and also as a place for the common meeting of the people (comitium). This union of the Palatine and Quirinal towns into one community, with a common religion and government, was an event of great importance. It was, in fact, the first step in the process of “incorporation” which afterward made Rome the most powerful city of Latium, of Italy, and finally of the world. \~\

The union of the Romans (Ramnes) and the Sabines (Tities) was followed by the introduction of a third people, called the Luceres. This people was probably a body of Latins who had been conquered and settled upon the Caelian hill—although they are sometimes regarded as having been Etruscans. Whatever may have been their origin, it is quite certain that they soon came to be incorporated as a part of the whole city community. The city of the early Roman kings thus came to be made up of three divisions, or “tribes” (tribus, a third part, from tres, three). The evidence of this threefold origin was preserved in many institutions of later times. The three settlements were gradually united into a single city-state with common social, political, and religious institutions. By this union the new city became strong and able to compete successfully with its neighbors. \~\

Early Roman Society

Scholars are fairly well agreed that the city of Rome grew out of a settlement of Latin shepherds and farmers on the Palatine hill; and that this first settlement slowly expanded by taking in and uniting with itself the settlements established on the other hills. But to understand more fully the beginnings of this little city-state, we must look at the way in which the people were organized; how they were ruled; and how their society and government were held together and made strong by a common religion. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

Roman Gens: A number of families which were supposed to be descended from a common ancestor formed a clan, or gens. Like the family, the gens was bound together by common religious rites. It was also governed by a common chief or ruler (decurio), who performed the religious rites, and led the people in war. \~\

Roman Curia: A number of gentes formed a still larger group, called a curia. In ancient times, when different people wished to unite, it was customary for them to make the union sacred by worshiping some common god. So the curia was bound together by the worship of a common deity. To preside over the common worship, a chief (curio) was selected, who was also the military commander in time of war, and chief magistrate in time of peace. The chief was assisted by a council of elders; and upon the most important questions he consulted the members of the curia in a common place of meeting (comitium). So that the curia was a small confederation of gentes, and made what we might call a little state. \~\

Roman Tribes: There was in the early Roman society a still larger group than the curia; it was what was called the tribe. It was a collection of curiae which had united for purposes of common defense and had come to form quite a distinct and well-organized community, like that which had settled upon the Palatine hill, and also like the Sabine community which had settled upon the Quirinal. Each of these settlements was therefore a tribe. Each had its chief, or king (rex), who was priest of the common religion, military commander in time of war, and civil magistrate to settle all disputes. Like the curia, it had also a council of elders and a general assembly of all people capable of bearing arms. Three of such tribes formed the whole Roman people. \~\

Early Roman Government

In the early days or Rome, each of the tribes had its own chief, council of elders, and general assembly. When the tribes on the Palatine and Quirinal hills united and became one people, their governments were also united and became one government. For example, their two chiefs were replaced by one king chosen alternately from each tribe. Their two councils of one hundred members each were united in a single council of two hundred members. Their two assemblies, each one of which was made up of ten curiae, were combined into a single assembly of twenty curiae. And when the third tribe is added, we have a single king, a council of elders made up of three hundred members, and an assembly of the people composed of thirty curiae. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

The Roman king was the chief of the whole people. He was elected by all the people in their common assembly and inaugurated under the approval of the gods. He was in a sense the father of the whole nation. He was the chief priest of the national religion. He was the military commander of the people, whom he called to arms in time of war. He administered law and justice, and like the father of the household had the power of life and death over all his subjects. \~\

The Roman Senate: The council of elders for the united city was called the senate (from senex, an old man). It was composed of the chief men of the gentes, chosen by the king to assist him with their advice. It comprised at first one hundred members, then two hundred, and finally three hundred—the original number having been doubled and tripled, with the addition of the second and third tribes. The senate at first had no power to make laws, only the power to give advice, which the king might accept or not, as he pleased. \~\

The Comitia Curiata: All the people of the thirty curiae, capable of bearing arms, formed a general assembly of the united city, called the comitia curiata. In this assembly each curia had a single vote, and the will of the assembly was determined by a majority of such votes. In a certain sense the comitia curiata was the ultimate authority in the state. It elected the king and passed a law conferring upon him his power. It ratified or rejected the most important proposals of the king regarding peace and war. The early city-state of Rome may then be described as a democratic monarchy, in which the power of the king was based upon the will of the people. \~\

The oldest Roman government was based upon the patrician class. Over time the separation between the patricians and the plebeians was gradually broken down, with old patrician aristocracy passing away, and Rome becoming in theory, a democratic republic. Everyone who was enrolled in the thirty-five tribes was a full Roman citizen, and had a share in the government. But we must remember that not all the persons who were under the Roman authority were full Roman citizens. The inhabitants of the Latin colonies were not full Roman citizens. They could not hold office, and only under certain conditions could they vote. The Italian allies were not citizens at all, and could neither vote nor hold office. And now the conquests had added millions of people to those who were not citizens. The Roman world was, in fact, governed by the comparatively few people who lived in and about the city of Rome. But even within this class of citizens at Rome, there had gradually grown up a smaller body of persons, who became the real holders of political power. Later, this small body formed a new nobility—the optimates. All who had held the office of consul, praetor, or curule aedile—that is, a “curule office”—were regarded as nobles (nobiles), and their families were distinguished by the right of setting up the ancestral images in their homes (ius imaginis). Any citizen might, it is true, be elected to the curule offices; but the noble families were able, by their wealth, to influence the elections, so as practically to retain these offices in their own hands. \~\

Palatime Hill huts

Roman Way of Declaring War in 650 B.C.

On the following document, the American historian William Stearns Davis wrote: “Among the very old formulas and usages that survived at Rome down to relatively late times, this method of declaring war holds a notable place. It was highly needful to observe all the necessary formalities in beginning hostilities, otherwise the angry gods would turn their favor to the enemy. Ancus Marcius, the fourth king of Rome, was at once a man of peace and an efficient soldier; and on the outbreak of a war with the Latins he is said to have instituted the customs which later ages of Romans observed in war.”

On the Roman Way of Declaring War around 650 B.C., the Roman historian Livy (59 B.C.- A.D. 17 ) Wrote in “History of Rome” I. 32: “Inasmuch as Numa had instituted the religious rites for days of peace, Ancus Marcius desired that the ceremonies relating to war might be transmitted by himself to future ages. Accordingly he borrowed from an ancient folk, the Aequicolae, the form which the [Roman] heralds still observe, when they make public demand for restitution. The [Roman] envoy when he comes to the frontier of the offending nation, covers his head with a woolen fillet, and says: Hear, O Jupiter, and hear ye lands _____ [i.e., of such and such a nation], let Justice hear! I am a public messenger of the Roman people. Justly and religiously I come, and let my words bear credit! Then he makes his demands, and follows with a solemn appeal to Jupiter. If I demand unjustly and impiously that these men and goods [in question] be given to me, the herald of the Roman people, then suffer me never to enjoy again my native country! [Source: William Stearns Davis, ed., “Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources,” 2 Vols. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-13), Vol. II: Rome and the West, pp. 7-9.

“These words he repeats when he crosses the frontiers; he says them also to the first man he meets [on the way]; again when he passes the gate; again on entering the [foreigners'] market-place, some few words in the formula being changed. If the persons he demands are not surrendered after thirty days, he declares war, thus: Hear, O Jupiter and you too, Juno---Romulus also, and all the celestial, terrestrial, and infernal gods! Give us ear! I call you to witness that this nation _____ is unjust, and has acted contrary to right. And as for us, we will consult thereon with our elders in our homeland, as to how we may obtain our rights.

“After that the envoy returns to Rome to report, and the king was wont at once to consult with the Senators in some such words as these, Concerning such quarrels as to which the pater patratus [i.e., the head of the Roman heralds] of the Roman people has conferred with the pater patratus of the ____ people, and with that people themselves, touching what they ought to have surrendered or done and which things they have not surrendered nor done [as they ought]; speak forth, he said to the senator first questioned, what think you? Then the other said, I think that [our rights] should be demanded by a just and properly declared war, and for that I give my consent and vote. Next the others were asked in order, and when the majority of those present had reached an agreement, the war was resolved upon.

“It was customary for the fetialis to carry in his hand a javelin pointed with steel, or burnt at the end and dipped in blood. This he took to the confines of the enemy's country, and in the presence of at least three persons of adult years, he spoke thus: Forasmuch as the state of the __ has offended against the Roman People, the Quirites; and forasmuch as the Roman People the Quirites have ordered that there should be war with and the Senate of the Roman People has duly voted that war should be made upon the enemy ___ : I, acting for the Roman People, declare and make actual war upon the enemy!

“So saying he flung the spear within the hostile confines. After this manner restitution was at that time demanded from the Latins [by Ancus Marcius] and war proclaimed; and the usage then established was adopted by posterity.”

Legendary Etruscan Kings of Rome

Tarquin the Elder consulting Attus Nevius

The last three of the seven legendary kings were Etruscans and there are sometimes called Tarquins after the hometown of the first king. During the period of these last three legendary kings — a period of roughly 100 years — many changes took place which made Rome quite different from what it was in the early period. The history is still based upon legends; but these legends are somewhat more trustworthy than the older ones. We shall see that Rome now came under foreign princes; and that the city was greatly improved, and its institutions were changed in many respects. These new kings, instead of being Romans or Sabines, were Etruscans, who gave to Rome something of the character of an Etruscan city. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

Tarquinius Priscus: The first of these new kings, it is said, came from the Etruscan city of Tarquinii, from which he derived his name. The story is told that, as he approached the city, an eagle came from the sky, and, lifting his cap from his head, replaced it. His wife, who was skilled in the Etruscan art of augury, regarded the eagle as a messenger from heaven, and its act as a sign that her husband was to acquire honor and power. At the death of Ancus Marcius, Tarquinius became king. He carried on many wars with the neighboring peoples, the Latins and the Sabines. He was great in peace as well as in war. He drained the city, improved the Forum, and founded a temple to Jupiter on the Capitoline hill. After a reign of thirty-eight years, he was treacherously slain by the sons of Ancus Marcius. \~\

Servius Tullius: The next king was Servius Tullius, who is said to have been the son of a slave in the royal household, and whom the gods favored by mysterious signs. He proved a worthy successor to the first Tarquin. He made a treaty with the Latins, by which Rome was acknowledged as the head of Latium; and as a sign of this union, he built a temple to Diana on the Aventine hill. He enlarged the city and inclosed the seven hills within a single wall. After a reign of forty-four years, he was murdered by his own son-in-law, who became the next king. \~\

Tarquinius Superbus: Tradition represents the last king, Tarquinius Superbus, as a cruel despot. He obtained the throne by murder, and ruled without the consent of the senate or the people. He loved power and pomp. He continued the wars with the Latins. He also waged war with the Volscians on the southern borders of Latium; and with the spoils there obtained he finished the temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline hill. Although he scorned religion, it is related that he was induced to buy the Sibylline books from the inspired prophetess of Cumae. It is also said that later in life he was frightened by strange dreams, and sent his two sons, with his nephew Brutus, to consult the Greek oracle at Delphi. To one question asked the oracle, the response was given that the person who first kissed his mother should succeed to the power of Tarquin. Brutus showed that he was the person intended, by falling and kissing the earth, the common mother of all. The traditions tell us how at last the proud Tarquin was driven from the throne and the kingdom was ended. \~\

Significance of the Legends: We cannot of course accept these stories as real history. We can yet see in them the evidence that Rome was becoming different from what it had been under the early kings. We can see that Rome came under the power of the Etruscans; that it was much improved by the construction of great public works and buildings; and that it acquired a dominant power over the neighboring land of Latium. \~\

Etruscan Influence on the Romans

The Kingly Power: One of the most important features of the Etruscan dynasty was the increase of the kingly power. All the Etruscan kings were represented as powerful rulers. Although they could not change the spirit and character of the people, they gave to Rome a certain kind of strength and influence which it did not have before. This great power of the Etruscan kings was at first used for the good of the people; but finally it became a tyranny which was oppressive and hateful. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

The Insignia of Power: From the Etruscans came the royal insignia, that is, the symbols of power which were intended to make the person of the king more dignified and respected. These insignia consisted of a golden crown, an ivory scepter, an ivory chair called the “curule chair,” a white robe with a purple border (toga praetexta), and twelve lictors, or royal attendants, each carrying a bundle of rods (fasces) inclosing an ax. This last symbol was a sign of the absolute power of the king. \~\

The Haruspices: From Etruria also came the art of the haruspices, or soothsayers, who interpreted the will of the gods. These persons were supposed to ascertain the divine will by observing the lightning and other phenomena of nature, and also by examining the internal organs of animals offered in sacrifice, and even by watching the sacred chickens as they ate their food. The Etruscan soothsayers were supposed to be better versed in divine things than the Roman augurs; and the senate is said to have provided for the perpetual cultivation of the Etruscan ritual. \~\

Public Works: The buildings and other public works of the later kings bear the marks of Etruscan influence. The massive and durable style of architecture, especially as seen in the walls and the sewers constructed at this time, shows that they were the works of great and experienced builders, The name of the “Tuscan Street” (vicus Tuscus) which opened into the Forum, preserved the memory of this foreign influence in the Roman city. \~\

Growth of Rome in the Etruscan King Period

The Servian Walls: The expansion of the city under the Tarquins is shown, in the first place, by the construction of the new and larger walls which are ascribed to Servius Tullius, and which received his name. Previous to this time the principal city wall was on the Palatine. Some of the other hills were partly fortified. But now a single fortification was made to encircle all the seven hills, by joining the old walls and by erecting new defenses. The walls were generally built of large, rectangular blocks of stone, and so durable were they that they remained the only defenses of the city for many hundreds of years; and parts of them may be seen at the present day. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

Temple of Jupiter

The New Temples: Under the Tarquins, the temples of the city assumed a more imposing architectural appearance. Before this the places of worship were generally altars, set up on consecrated places, and perhaps covered with a simple roof. The Etruscan kings gave a new dignity to the sacred buildings. The most imposing example of the new structures was the temple dedicated to Jupiter Optimus Maximus, on the Capitoline hill, which contained shrines set apart for the worship of Juno and Minerva. Other new temples were the one dedicated to Saturn at the foot of the Capitoline near the Forum, and one dedicated to Diana on the Aventine. \~\

The Cloaca Maxima: Among the most remarkable works of the Tarquins were the sewers which were constructed to drain the city. The most important of these was the famous Cloaca Maxima, or great drain, which ran under the Forum and emptied into the Tiber. It was said to be large enough to admit a hay-cart, and one could sail down it in a boat. It was strongly built of stone, in the form of a semicircular arch, such as the Etruscans had used, and its mouth is still visible on the shore of the Tiber. \~\

The Circus Maximus: For the amusement of the people, games were introduced from Etruria, and a great circus, called the Circus Maximus, was laid out between the Aventine and the Palatine hill. Here the people assembled once every year, to witness chariot races and boxing and other sports, which were celebrated in honor of the gods who were worshiped on the Capitoline. \~\

Plebeians and Reforms in the Etruscan King Period

The Reforms of the Tarquins: We must not suppose that the work of the Etruscan kings was simply to give to Rome better buildings and more durable public works. However important these may have been, the Tarquins did something which was of still greater benefit to the Roman people. The first Tarquin and Servius Tullius are described as great reformers, who made the little Roman state stronger and more compact than it had been before. Let us see why the Roman state needed to be reformed, and how this reform was brought about. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

The Patrician Aristocracy: We have already seen that the early Roman people was made up of three tribes, that is, the three old communities which were settled on the Roman hills. We have also seen that these tribes were made up of curiae; and these curiae of gentes; and lastly, that these gentes were composed of the old families. It is therefore evident that no person could be a member of the state unless he was a member of some old Roman family. It was only the descendants of the old families who could vote in the assembly or could be chosen to the senate. And it was they only who were called upon to serve in the army. These old families and their descendants were called patricians; and the state was in reality a patrician state. As all other persons were excluded from political rights and privileges, the patricians formed an aristocratic class, exclusive and devoted to their own interests. \~\

Tarquin Superbus and the Sibylline books

The Growth of the Plebeians: But in the course of time there grew up by the side of the patricians a new class of persons. Though living at Rome, they were not members of the old families, and hence had no share in the government. These persons were called plebeians. There were no doubt many of these persons under the early kings; but they became more numerous under the later kings. They consisted largely of people of other cities who had been conquered and brought to Rome, and of people who had escaped from other cities and found refuge at Rome. They thus became subjects, but not citizens. They could not hold office, nor vote; nor could they marry into the patrician families; although they were allowed to hold property of their own. But as they became more numerous, and as some of them became wealthy, they desired to be made equal with the patricians. \~\

The New Plebeian Gentes: It was Tarquinius Priscus, the first Etruscan king, who, it is said, took the first step toward introducing the plebeians into the state. He did this by introducing into each one of the tribes a number of the more wealthy plebeian families, under the name of lesser gentes (gentes minores); while the old patrician gentes were called by the more honorable name of greater gentes (gentes maiores). In this way the line of separation between the patricians and the plebeians began to be broken down, but it was many years after this time before the two classes became entirely equal. \~\

Reformed Constitution in the Legendary Etruscan King Period

The New Local Tribes: More important than the reforms of Tarquinius Priscus were the reforms which are said to have been made by Servius Tullius. The previous changes had affected only a small part of the plebeian class; the great body of the plebeians remained just where they were before. Now Servius saw that Rome would be stronger and more able to compete with her enemies if the plebeians were called upon to serve in the army and pay taxes, just like the patricians. He therefore made a new division of the people, based not upon their birth and descent, like the old division into tribes, but upon their domicile, that is, the place where they lived. He divided the whole Roman territory, city and country, into local districts, like wards and townships. There were four of these in the city, and sixteen in the country, the former being called “city tribes” (tribus urbanae), and the latter “rural tribes” (tribus rusticae). All persons, whether patricians or plebeians, who had settled homes (assidui), were enrolled in their proper tribes and were made subject to military service and the tribal tax (tributum). [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

The New Classes and Centuries: The next step which Servius took was to reorganize the Roman army, so that it should include all persons who resided in the Roman territory and were enrolled in the new local tribes. First came the cavalry (equites), made up of young wealthy citizens, and arranged in eighteen centuries, or companies. Next came the infantry (pedites), which comprised all the rest of the men capable of bearing arms. In ancient times every man was obliged to furnish his own weapons. Now as all the people could not afford to obtain the heavier armor, they were subdivided into “classes” according to their wealth, and according to the armor it was supposed they could afford to furnish.

Comitia Centuriata

The first class consisted of eighty centuries, and was made up of the wealthiest men, who could afford a full armor—a brass shield carried on the left arm, greaves which covered the legs, a cuirass to protect the breast, and a helmet for the head, together with a sword and a spear. The second class had in place of the brass shield a wooden shield, covered with leather. The third class omitted the greaves, and the fourth class omitted also the cuirass and the helmet, carrying only the wooden shield, spear, and sword. The fifth class was made up of the poorest citizens, who fought only with darts and slings. Each of these classes, except the first, was arranged in twenty centuries, or companies. One half of the centuries in each class were composed of the younger men (iuniores), who might be called out at any time. The other half were composed of the older men (seniores), who were called out only in times of great danger. Besides, there were fifteen centuries of musicians, carpenters, and substitutes, We may perhaps get a clearer idea of this new military arrangement by the following table:
I. Cavalry (Equites): 18 centuries.
II. Infantry (Pedites)
1st class (40 iuniores, 40 seniores): 80 centuries.
2d class (10 iuniores, 10 seniores): 20 centuries.
3d class (10 iuniores, 10 seniores): 20 centuries.
4th class (10 iuniores, 10 seniores): 20 centuries.
5th class (10 iuniores, 10 seniores): 20 centuries.
Musicians, Carpenters, Substitutes :15 centuries.
Total: 193 centuries. \~\

The New Assembly, Comitia Centuriata: This arrangement of the people was first intended for a military purpose; but it soon came to have a political character also. There was every reason why the important questions relating to war, which had heretofore been left to the old body of armed citizens, should now be left to the new body of armed citizens. As a matter of fact, the new fighting body became a new voting body; and there thus arose a new assembly, called the assembly of the centuries (comitia centuriata). But this new assembly did not lose its original military character. For example, it was called together, not by the voice of the lictor, like the old assembly, but by the sound of the trumpet. Again, it did not meet in the Forum, where the old assembly met, but in the Field of Mars (Campus Martius), outside of the city. It also voted by centuries, that is, by military companies. After a time the comitia centuriata acquired the character of a real political and legislative body, of greater importance than the old comitia curiata. \~\

Rome Dominates Latium (the Region Around Rome)

Conquests in Latium: While Rome was thus becoming strong, and her people were becoming more united and better organized, she was also gaining power over the neighboring lands. The people with whom she first came into contact were the Latins. A number of Latin towns were conquered and brought under her power, and were made a part of the Roman domain (ager Romanus). She also pushed her conquests across the Anio into the Sabine country, and across the Tiber into Etruria. So that before the fall of the kingdom, Rome had begun to be a conquering power. But her conquests at present were limited, for the most part, to Latium, and it was from this conquered land in Latium that she had created the rural tribes already mentioned. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

Rome and the Latin League: Outside of this conquered territory were the independent Latin cities, united together into a strong confederacy. When Alba Longa was conquered, Rome succeeded to the headship of this confederacy of thirty cities. The people of these cities were not made Roman citizens; but they were given the right to trade and to intermarry with Romans. The Latin league was bound to Rome by a treaty, which made it partly subject to her; because it could not wage war without her consent, and it must assist her in her wars. \~\

By this time Rome had become a strong city, and was growing into something like a new nation, with a kind of national policy. If we should sum up this policy in two words, these words would be expansion and incorporation. By “expansion” we mean the extension of Roman power over the neighboring territory, whether by conquest or by alliance. By “incorporation” we mean the taking of subject people into the political body. For example, Rome had first incorporated the Sabine settlement on the Quirinal; then the Latin settlement on the Caelian; and finally the plebeian class, which had grown up by the side of the patrician class. By pursuing this kind of policy, Rome had come to be, at the end of the kingdom, a compact and quite well-organized city-state with a considerable territory of her own (ager Romanus) about the Tiber, and having a control over the cities of Latium.

Roman Rebellion Against the Etruscans

Sometime in the 6th century B.C. the leading Roman families were able to overthrew the Etruscan monarchs that ruled over them. According to one story, the Romans overthrew the Etruscans in 509 B.C. when the Etruscan king Superbus raped a virtuous Roman lady and the Roman populace responded by revolting. According to another account Etruscans domination ended when they were defeated by the Romans in a battle at Aricia south of Rome in 506 B.C. In any case the Roman republic was formed in 509 B.C. and the Etruscan monarchy collapsed around that the time.

Dr Mike Ibeji wrote for the BBC: “In 509 B.C., so the story goes, the son of the Etruscan tyrant of Rome, Tarquinius Superbus, fell in lust with a beautiful Roman bride called Lucretia. The young Superbus had no compunction in raping Lucretia and then casting her aside. In revenge, Lucretia’s family murdered the young Superbus and led the Romans in a rebellion against his father’s domination. They ousted the Etruscans and set up the Roman republic. [Source: Dr Mike Ibeji, BBC, February 17, 2011 |::|]

“The defining moment of this rebellion came when a hero called Horatius single-handedly held the bridge across the River Tiber against an Etruscan army as his fellows cut it down behind him. It doesn't matter that the mythology is at best exaggerated and at worst untrue. The rebel republic was saved and went on to defeat its old masters, conquering great tracts of Italy in defence of its new-found liberty.” |::|

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ; “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\; “The Private Life of the Romans” by Harold Whetstone Johnston, Revised by Mary Johnston, Scott, Foresman and Company (1903, 1932) forumromanum.org |+|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history/ ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian and various books and other publications.

Last updated October 2018

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