Regal Rome


The central theme continues to be the possibility of testing the annalistic tradition against the archaeological record. I'll start by making sure we are clear about what the annalistic tradition is.
In one sense “the annalistic tradition” is used as a kind of shorthand to designate the works of T. Livius (Livy) and Dionysius of Halicarnassus. Both of these were writers of the Augustan age. Both claimed to provide scholarly historical accounts stretching back to the foundation of the city of Rome by Romulus, an event which they believed had occurred some 700 years before their own day. How did information about a past so distant get down through the centuries to them? This, for the critical historian, is the crucial question to ask: what was the source, and how reliable was it? With ancient history, the ideal source is someone such as Thucydides or (on the Roman side) Polybius, who writes entirely or mostly about events which he himself has seen, or relies to the greatest extent possible upon eyewitnesses. Obviously that kind of method was impossible for someone in Livy's position, and he was well enough aware that what he was doing was not writing history in the Thucydidean mold. Rather, for each episode in the history of ancient Rome, he selected one or two from the available sources and rewrote their account (or cobbled them together if there were two), embellishing them liberally with speeches (for like Dionysius he was a rhetorician), and exercising only a minimum of critical judgement (understanding that to mean attempting to distinguish between truth and falsehood in the record of the past). Perhaps it is true, as Livy's modern champions such as Ogilvie and Walsh insist, that he brings a certain narrative genius to this task; but that is not germane to our present concern. As will become clear over the next few weeks, the inveterate weakness of the annalistic tradition is retrojection. Recent innovations were projected into the past in order to imbue them with the authority of early antiquity. Likewise, when the sources presented no filter or context in which to understand the few events from the regal period and the first century of the Republic which were recorded, the annalistic tradition responded by supplying one: namely, the struggle between the orders, the social and economic classes.


The first king of Rome's identity as a local legendary figure is implied both by his paternity (Mars sired him on Rhea) and his name. He is supposed to have ruled along with Titus Tatius, who represented the Sabines dwelling on the Capitoline hill (as a result of its being betrayed by Tarpeia and captured by the Sabines). The team of Titus and Romulus represent the retrojection of the Republican institution of the dual consulship. Romulus was also supposed to have founded the distinction between patricians and plebeians, a basic class distinction in Roman society, by choosing as his advisors 100 men, who received the title of patres (fathers). The annalistic tradition held that only the descendants of these original patres were patricians, and that these original patres comprised the first Roman senate. As is clear from the treatment by Mitchell, though, the definition of patrician is much more difficult than this; the senate was expanded at various times in the course of the regal period to reach its basic Republican complement of 300 members, and some writer believed that incorporation into the senate at this time also conferred patrician status. Notice that class struggle is imputed even to the time of Romulus; Livy assures us that the senators (patres) were hostile to Romulus and that his power base was among the people.
Trying to check the archaeological record against the tradition about Romulus does not get one very far. Many public works were attributed to Romulus and Titus: for example, temples of Jupiter Feretrius, Jupiter Stator, and Vulcan. But, as we saw in the last lecture, in the second half of the 8th century the Romans lived in huts, and there was no monumental building of any sort. There was, of course, a temple of Jupiter Feretrius at Rome; Augustus boasts of having restored it ( Res Gestae, 19) and many writers mention it. No trace of it survives.


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). 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 BC, 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 BC 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 BC, 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 BC, 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 BC. 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 BC. 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 is, as Momigliano called him, “an 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 BC. 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).
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 BC. 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 BC. Moreover, looking at the preserved foundations of the temple, which was rebuilt in 83 BC 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 BC. 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.

Servius Tullius, Part I (Continued, next lecture)

The problems of reconciling the annalistic tradition with the archaeological eveidence certainly do not end when we come to Servius Tullius. Timaeus of Tauromenium, the Sicilian annalist of the third century BC, recorded that he had introduced coinage. But the archaeological record shows that earliest Campanian coins are not in use at Rome until the fourth century BC; earlier, the Roman currency was cattle and sheep for barter (the Latin word for money, pecunia, derives from pecus meaning 'herd') and aes rude, uncoined bronze ingots such as were found in the votive deposit, dated to the sixth century, associated with the paving over of the monuments covered by the lapis niger.

Regal Period and Early Republic

  • Romulus Latin 753-716
    Titus Tatius Sabine
  • Numa Pompilius Sabine or Etruscan 715-673
  • Tullus Hostilius Latin 674-642
  • Ancus Marcius Sabine (partly) 642-617
  • L. Tarquinius Priscus Etruscan/Greek 616-579
  • Servius Tullius Latin or Etruscan 578-535
  • Tarquinius Superbus Etruscan 534-510
510 Glorious Foundation of the Roman Republic
509 Right of Provocatio Assured?
494 1st Secession of the Plebs? Creation of tribunate (first three, later ten)?
471 Lex Publilia recognizes Plebeian Assembly (Concilium Plebis).
456 Lex Icilia - Aventine land grant to plebs, 500 iugera limit??
454 Lex Aternia-Tarpeia fixes size of fines imposed by imperium.
451/0 End of decemvirate, publication of 12 Tables.
449 Valerio-Horatian Laws. Plebiscites ratified? Sacrosanctitas of tribunes guaranteed. Right of provocatio assured.
c 450 Pottery imports decline and public building slows. Gjerstad's transition to Republic.
445 Lex Canuleia permits intermarriage between plebs & patricians.
396 Conquest of Veii alleviates land hunger.
??? Lex Ovinia gives censors power over appointments to senate.
367 Licinio-Sextian rogations (laws first passed in 376). Guarantee of one plebeian consul. 500 iugera limit on holding of ager publicus? Debt reform fixes interest rates?
339 Patrum auctoritas formalized as probouleutic power.
326 Lex Poetilia-Papiria abolishes nexum contracts.
304 Publication of the calendar.
300 Lex Valeria guarantees provocatio for citizen w/in pomerium. Lex Ogulnia opens some priesthoods to plebeians.
287 Lex Hortensia gives plebiscites the force of law.
Grain shortages: 508, 496, 492, 486, 477, 456, 443, 440, 411.

Comitia Centuriata

  • 1st Class: 98 centuries
  • 2nd Class: 22 centuries (20 plus 2 of engineers)
  • 3rd Class: 20 centuries
  • 4th Class: 22 centuries (20 plus 2 of trumpeters)
  • 5th Class: 30 centuries
  • Head Count: 1 century

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