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Kingdom period in Roman history

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

The history of Rome in the educational canon of teaching history begins with the founding myth immediately enters the times of the republic. The royal period is often overlooked in silence. This is understandable given the tight schedule of history lessons. However, the royal period in Rome’s history, which lasted 244 years, prepared the ground and paved the way for further conquests on the Apennine Peninsula, literally and figuratively.

The place where Rome is 28 centuries ago was not conducive to settlement. The marshy terrain periodically flooded by the Tiber bordered the fifteen hills. Which arose as a result of the eroding of the nearby Avalanche plateau. In addition, Rome was not at the sea, which naturally limited the possibilities of maritime trade.

Why was Rome founded there? The flooding Tiber appears to be the only navigable river in the area. The routes leading to the rich lands of Etruria and Campania also meet here. However, this was not enough to win the competition with other developing cities in the quickly civilized Apennine peninsula.

The source of Rome’s wealth was not only the north-south trade route but also the east-west. To the west of Rome were high Apennines where the main occupation of the population of this area was farming.

To grow an ox or a cow you need about 30kg of salt for the year1. Only the mine at the mouth of the Tiber could provide such huge amounts of salt. Salt transported along this route became important for the region and the road was named Via Salaria (Salt Road). Trade with the Apennine region was not limited only to the sale of salt but was also traded with breeding products. The cattle market (Forum Boarium) was part of Rome that was at the salt depot (Salinae). The whole complex was located on the Island of Tiber connected to the left bank of the river through the first bridge on the Apennine Peninsula Pons Sublicius (Pile Bridge) which was made of wood without the use of nails. The structure was erected by driving a series of piles into the Tiber current and placing wooden beams on them. The construction of the bridge survived about 900 years until the times of Constantine, undergoing several renovations at that time. The Pile Bridge was the only crossing over the Tiber on the section between the Apennines and its estuary.

However, these advantages associated with the city’s location at the intersection of trade routes did not seal Rome’s victory in the race for domination in the Apennine peninsula.

Rome and the Lazio region were surrounded by, at most, neutral to the city peoples of the Etruscans in the north, the Sabinens in the east and Umbras in the south. Which peoples Rome will dominate in the Republic era. That is why the Royal period may seem so monotonous, where Rome was absorbed in local competition. However, without subordination to Lazio, Rome could not think of further conquests and the Royal period laid the foundation for the victorious march of the city.

The development of Rome, taking into account its location, depended strictly on the urban solutions adopted in the royal era. Rome in these times was divided into four regions, Collina and Palatina where the cradle of Rome was Quirinale and Palatine, as well as Suburana from the Forum and Esquilina or external settlement.

The location of Rome in a partly swampy area required drainage and regulation of watercourses that hitherto dug the plateau. The first stage of work was the combination of Quirinal and Palatine by covering a clay valley that crossed these two regions. Defensive walls were also built that protected the area with a total area of ​​over 400 ha (for comparison, the second city of Lazio, Ardea had an area of ​​90 ha). At the same time, the Pile Bridge mentioned above was erected.

Further urban achievements are attributed to the so-called period of the Great Rome of Tarquinius Priscus from the lands inhabited by the Etruscans became king thanks to his property and diplomatic skills. He is credited with building the first circus in Rome and winning campaigns against the Sabin. However, the greatest achievement of his time was the construction of a sewage system.

The scope of this undertaking was enormous for those times, both in terms of the amount of work and the scale of workmanship. The sewage system not only concerned the regulation of the outflow of sewage from homes, but also dealt with the transformation of streams into underground channels that converged in the well-known Cloaca Maxima. These works merged Rome into a large area that could be subjected to further urbanization. These activities included tufting all streets in Rome, which efficiently improved the quality of transport throughout the city. The Forum area was also paved with a red rock called the ore – which was an impressive undertaking.

At that time, the temple of Jupiter, the Greatest and Best, was built on the Capitol, which with its dimensions (74 x 53m) beat similar temples in Italy. Worshiping Jupiter was closely associated with further efforts to establish Rome’s domination over the cities-states of Lazio.

Latium peoples using the Latin language developed in a similar way to the Greek polis during the Royal period. Belonging to this group did not depend, however, on the language used by the city’s population, but on whether the city delegation took part in the celebration of Jupiter’s Latin worship on the Albanian Mountain (Monte Cavo).

During the royal period Rome reached the largest possible territorial range related to the settlement of uninhabited areas. Further conquests in Lazio could only take place as a result of the conquest of other city-states. However, Rome’s involvement in smaller or larger wars was an unfavorable solution for the city. Rome’s advantage over cities in the region was so great that the subordination of city-states was only a matter of time. This did not mean, however, that the Roman kings completely postponed the problem of unifying Lazio. Rome pursued an aggressive policy of economic dependence of city-states and signing alliances favorable to Rome. It also meant that Roman kings had sometimes led armies that were supposed to pacify a rebel city-state.

Such a loose alliance between Rome and city-states continued throughout the Royal period. The proof of this state of affairs is the Roman Carthaginian Treaty of the first year of the existence of the Roman Republic which regulated the presence of Carthaginians in Lazio. One of the points of the treaty was the obligation to return Rome to the city-state conquered by Carthaginians.

Serviusz Tulius

The Kingdom period in Rome’s history also left its mark on the city’s inhabitants. The reign of Servis Tulius and his social reforms formed the basis for the republican regime. This penultimate king was also the first who was not chosen by the people. The changeling carried out social and political reforms that consisted in transforming Rome into a densely inhabited city (about 80,000 inhabitants). Walled Rome, apart from Quirinal and Palatine, was sparsely populated. According to the Servian reform, a Roman citizen had to live in the city despite being engaged in agriculture.

During the reign of Servis, the land use was also transformed from private to private. Until the usurper, rich Roman families exercised joint control over their possessions. With the development of the client system, where the client worked for the patron cultivating his land in exchange for legal protection and remuneration, more and more power was concentrated at the heads of the families. The change in the social system also concerned military issues. Serwiusz introduced centurie and military duty which concerned citizens actively participating in hostilities. The salary for this effort was the increase in the number of votes and hence the development of Roman egalitarianism.

The Kingdom period ends with the overthrow of Tarquinius Superbus. The reason why the Roman people gave up this type of power is the transformation of the monarchy from elective into tyranny. The reason for changing the king’s choice was the development of the cult of the goddess Fortune, who was attributed to the capricious lifting of subsequent rulers.

The Kindgom period in the history of Rome is a field of further discoveries which from time to time cause a small revolution in the way of understanding that era. Nevertheless, this era is very important for understanding the next period of the Roman Republic whose origins are very turbulent.

Author: Andrzej Głuchowski
Sources
  • Cary M., Scullard H.H., Dzieje Rzymu. Od czasów najdawniejszych do Konstantyna. Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, Warszawa 1995
  • Rymsza J., Pons sublicius-konstrukcja najstarszego rzymskiego mostu przez Tyber, Kwartalnik Architektury i Urbanistyki, 43(4), 1998, 283-289.
  • Ziółkowski A., Historia Rzymu. PPTN. 2008. Poznań

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