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Ancient Roman Monarchy: Timeline & Overview

Instructor: Flint Johnson

Flint has tutored mathematics through precalculus, science, and English and has taught college history. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Glasgow

Ever wondered why the Romans didn't have kings during the Punic Wars or while they were expanding over most of Europe? This lesson will provide a background as to why Romans despised the title.

Kingship to the Romans

When Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 B.C.E. it wasn't because anyone thought he was a bad ruler or because someone was hoping to replace him. He was killed just because he had taken the title of 'Dictator for Life,' and the Romans were horrified at the thought. In our country we don't like the idea of kings or nobility because we remember the British kings controlling us, but our history is nothing compared to the early Romans.

Roman Kingship

Roman kingship was almost absolute. A king was elected by the Senate, but once in office he was the ultimate authority in Rome. He generated laws, he controlled the military, he was the supreme judge, and was even the only soothsayer. He had the power to select all magistrates and judges, and the Senate was only used as advisors. The only thing he needed consent for was to declare war. Roman kings also held their office until death. Because of the king's power, Rome was able to make quick decisions in time of war. However, it also meant there was no way of curtailing a king's power short of assassination.

That would be like telling our President he could change every law we had, select governors, judges, and generals. If he personally hated someone he could change a parking ticket into a life sentence. Not that every king would do something like that, but there was no one to stop him if he did.

The First Kings

Rome flourished with kings; it was actually founded by one named Romulus. Legend has it that his rule started in 753 B.C.E. when he invited anyone and everyone to come to his city, including slaves. This 'open door policy' attracted a lot of people, but very few women. So because of this, Romulus invited all of the neighboring tribes to Rome for a festival and there he had all of the women abducted in what came to be known as Rape of the Sabine Women.

The Abduction of the Sabine Women
Rape of the Sabine Women

Later, Romulus took the 100 most noble men in his city and made them his Senate. Their descendants became the patricians, while 300 men became the equites, or a lower echelon of the upper class. The population was divided into 30 curiae, or voting districts.

Numa Pompilius succeeded him. He was peaceful and focused on religion and an improvement of the calendar. Tulla Hostilius was the king after Numa. He spent his entire career in warfare and expansion against the Latin, Sabine, and Etruscan tribes. Rome also grew under the fourth king, Ancus Marcius, but through diplomacy; he brought the last of the Latin tribes under Rome and made them plebeians, which were the lower class.

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