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The Early Kings of Rome


The term king (rex, rēgis, m.; whence "regal") was a loaded one for the Romans. When Rome began, kings normally ruled city-states. Other aristocrats of almost equal power around the monarch offered advice and, if necessary, forced the king from the throne and picked a successor, but kings, hereditary or otherwise, were the norm.

The Romans, after dealing with a succession of kings -- several from the neighboring area of Etruria -- were fed up with the institution and willing to try something new, more like the recent democratic techniques used in Greece. It took some doing and a few battles to firmly rid Rome of its kings, but it proudly did so and never wanted to suffer such an odious form of government again.

Times changed. Once again a strong one-man power would be needed to govern the Romans, but even if the function was similar, the title for king, rex, was out. After the legendary regal period of Rome, men would sometimes take power, becoming dictators or emperors.

Only the following men were kings of Rome. Their dates are approximate or guesses.

Next: Study Questions

1. Romulus 753-715 B.C.

Romulus and Remus at Rome
Claire Campbell
  • Romulus was the legendary founder of Rome. The Sabine king of Cures, Tatius, co-ruled with Romulus from the time of the rape of the Sabine women until his death in 648 B.C.

2. Numa Pompilius 715-673

Claude Lorrain, Egeria Mourns Numa
Public Domain, courtesy of Wikipedia
  • Numa Pompilius is credited with many of the ancient religious conventions of ancient Rome.

3. Tullus Hostilius 673-642 B.C.

PD Courtesy of Wikipedia
  • Tullus Hostilius doubled the population of Rome, added Alban nobles to the Senate of Rome, and built the Curia Hostilia. He was a warrior.

4. Ancus Martius 642-617 B.C.

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  • Ancus Marcius was a grandson of Numa Pompilius and a bridge builder. The bridge across the Tiber is credited to Ancus Marcius.

5. L. Tarquinius Priscus 616-579 B.C.

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  • The first Etruscan king of Rome, Tarquinius Priscus had a Corinthian father. Tarquin created 100 new senators and expanded Rome. He also established the Roman games.

6. Servius Tullius 578-535 B.C.

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7. Tarquinius Superbus (Tarquin the Proud) 534-510 B.C.

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  • The tyrannical Tarquinius Superbus or Tarquin the Proud was the last Etruscan or any king of Rome. He was forcibly ousted by Brutus.

Some of the ancient writers about the period of the Roman kings are Livy, Plutarch, and Dionysius of Halicarnasus, all of whom lived centuries after the events.

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