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European Kingdoms

Ancient Italian Peninsula

 

Latin Kings of Alba Longa (Italics)

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The Indo-European Latins or Latini occupied a small area of territory between the River Tiber and the Monte Circeo promontory about a hundred kilometres (sixty miles) to the south-east of Rome. The later Romans knew this as Old Latium. By the ninth century BC, they were neighboured to the north by the Etruscans, and to the east and south by the Umbri, while the Tyrrhenian Sea formed their western border.

The Q-Celtic language of the Latins was a branch of the Italic group of Indo-European languages, and was therefore related to the Celtic tongue. A branch of Q-Italic may well have been spoken by the Indo-Europeans of the Bell Beaker culture. The Latins and other Italic peoples (the majority of them P-Italic speakers) migrated into the peninsula during Italy's late Iron Age, from the start of the tenth century BC, probably shortly before the ascent of the Etruscans, although the route they took is open to a great deal of speculation (indeed, could the arrival of the Latins even have spurred the Etruscans on to become ascendant?). These new arrivals disrupted and eventually superseded the remnants of the indigenous Apennine culture in the mountainous centre of Italy and the Villanovan culture nearer the coast. Strabo and Pliny, amongst other ancient writers, claim that the Latins defeat the Siculi around the Tiber, forcing this Italic people southwards and taking the land for themselves. This event took place probably in the eleventh century BC, although it is hard to pinpoint it with any accuracy at all.

The Latins benefited greatly from being subservient to the Etruscans, and from them learned to read, write, organise and standardise militarily. The foremost of their number were ruled by their eponymous first king, Latinus, following their (very early) arrival on the Tiber, perhaps as much as two centuries before the generally accepted arrival date for the Latins. Other Latin groups were formed by the Rutuli (or Rutulians) and at a settlement called Pallanteum. The tribe is popularly held to have been conquered by Dardanian refugees from the Trojan Wars who fled Troy when the Mycenaean Greeks took it around 1183 BC. Most of the names involved are legendary, but in all probability there were real versions of these rulers, living in a very rough early settlement that was probably little more than a collection of villages. The mythology surrounding Romulus and Remus developed during the fifth and second centuries BC, and was considerably refined, embellished and trimmed before it was committed to text by Varro in the first century BC.

(Additional information by Edward Dawson, from the BBC tv documentary series, Mary Beard's Ultimate Rome, first broadcast 27 April 2016, and from External Link: Geography, Strabo (H C Hamilton & W Falconer, London, 1903, Perseus Online Edition).)

fl c.1176 BC

Latinus (I)

Latin leader of Latium.

fl c.1176 BC

Turnus

Latin leader of the Rutulians. Killed by Aeneas.

Tradition links the Rutulians (or Rutuli) to the Pelasgians and Umbri, although this is an unlikely combination as the former are pre-Indo-Europeans while the latter are Indo-European Italic tribes. Instead, it is more likely, and more commonly accepted, that the Rutulians have links to the Etruscans or Ligurians. The Rutulians are largely unmentioned in the semi-legendary history of early Rome, but they make a reappearance during the late sixth century, when Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, king of Rome, attacks them.

fl c.1176 BC

Evander

Latin leader of Pallanteum. His son, Pallas, killed by Turnus.

c.1183 - 1176 BC

Aeneas and his Dardanian followers wander for seven years (travelling via Carthage) before reaching Italy. Initially opposed by Latinus, ruler of the Latins, Aeneas bests him in battle and is subsequently accepted, marrying his daughter, Lavinia. The Dardanians found the settlement of Lavinium (named after Lavinia but unlocated by archaeologists). It lies close to Laurentum, the principle Latin settlement, and serves as the leading Trojan city for a generation.

Aeneas in Latium
This second century AD relief in Rome depicts Aeneas landing in Latium, although such a migration myth was a much later addition to the history of the Latins than their true migration as Indo-Europeans

Aeneas fights the first Italian War against Turnus and his allies - most of the other Latin tribes. Aeneas is aided by Latinus and the aged King Evander of Pallanteum (on the site of present-day Rome), who sends a force under the leadership of his son, Pallas. Turnus is aided by an Etruscan force under Mezentius, and it is Turnus who kills Pallas. Despite this, Aeneas is victorious, ending the resistance by the Latins to the Dardanian settlement in the region.

c.1176 - ? BC

Aeneas (I) ('White Shield')

Allowed to leave Troy by friendly Mycenaean Greeks.

Ascanius

Son. First king of Alba Longa. Reigned for 28 years.

Ascanius founds the settlement of Alba Longa which, after the death of Latinus, serves as the principal Latin city until the founding of Rome. While never the urbanised city state painted by tradition, and doubted even to exist by some, Alba Longa is probably formed by a series of small villages set up close together, just like Rome itself in its earliest stages.

Silvius ('Born in the Woods')

Son. Founded the Silvian line. Reigned for 29 years.

c.1125 BC

FeatureGeoffrey of Monmouth in his History of the Kings of Britain expands on a story recorded by Nennius. In it he mentions Silvius, the father of Aeneas Silvius and one of the legendary Latin kings of Italy. Silvius also has another son. As foretold before his birth, the boy's mother dies bringing him into the world, and when grown the boy accidentally kills his father while they are hunting. It is this rough fate that had caused Silvius to name him Brutus.

For the death of his father, Brutus is expelled from Italy. He wanders into late Mycenaean Greece where he frees Trojan slaves who have been subjugated by one King Pandrasus (who is not otherwise connected with any known, historical kingdom, but there is a suggestion that the region may be Epirus). He marries the king's daughter, Imogen. Together with his new followers, he sails to the Atlantic coast of Spain where they are joined by more Trojan refugees under Corineus. The host sails to Britain, which they occupy as their own.

Aeneas (II) Silvius

Son. Reigned for 31 years.

Latinus (II) Silvius

Son. Reigned for 51 years.

AlbaSilvius

Son. Reigned for 39 years.

c.11th century BC

Lista, the 'metropolis' of the early Latins (which they had taken from the Umbri), is destroyed by the Sabini of Amiternum after a night attack. The inhabitants are never able to recover it and are seemingly forced westwards by the event, into the territory of the Siculi around the River Tiber. If true, this event which is taken from Varro and which is supported by Portius Cato would seem to mark the arrival of the Latins in the territory in which Rome would later be founded.

Now resettled, Dionysius says that the Latins are reinforced by the Etruscans of Curtun (modern Cortona). They send out yearly colonies into the territory of the dominant Siculi, in the form of consecrated bands, to settle in the territory that they are able to conquer from the Siculi. This process eventually drives the Siculi southwards and out of the region entirely.

Map of the Etruscans
This map shows the greatest extent of Etruscan influence in Italy, during the seventh to fifth centuries BC, something which the Roman descendants of the Latins would fight to reverse (click or tap on map to view full sized)

c.1000 - 700 BC

During this period, according to the archaeological record, the Latins appear to develop along different cultural lines from their Italic cousins to the east. Instead, a Latin variant of Villanovan culture emerges (which is often called Latial culture). Funerary urns are produced in the form of miniature huts known as tuguria, in small numbers at first, during Phase I of the culture (1000-900 BC), but in far greater numbers during Phase II (900-770 BC). The wattle-and-daub huts themselves remain the principle form of dwelling for the Latins until the mid-seventh century BC.

Atys Silvius

Son. Reigned for 26 years.

Capys Silvius

Son. Reigned for 28 years.

Capetus Silvius

Son. Reigned for 13 years.

Tiberinus Silvius

Son. Drowned in River Albula (renamed Tiber). Reigned 8 years.

In legend, Tiberinus drowns in the River Albula while trying to cross it. The river, which forms the border between the Latins and the Etruscans, is renamed in his honour.

Agrippa Silvius

Son. Reigned for 41 years.

Romulus (I) Silvius / Aremulus / Alladius

Son. Reigned for 19 years. Struck by lightening.

Aventinus Silvius

Son. Reigned 37 years. Buried on hill named Aventine after him.

Proca Silvius

Son. Reigned for 23 years.

Numitor

Son. Had a daughter, Rhea Silva. Reigned briefly, and usurped.

Numitor is overthrown by his brother, Amulius. He forces Rhea Silvia, Numitor's daughter, to become a Vestal Virgin, a priestess of Vesta, so that he can be sure that she will never bear any sons that might overthrow him. Rhea is raped or seduced by the god Mars, which results in the birth of Romulus and Remus. Thinking that she has violated her oaths of chastity, Amulius has Rhea buried alive and throws her sons into the Tiber. The river god, Tiberinus rescues the twins and passes them onto a she-wolf to suckle (or a prostitute - the Latin word for 'wolf' could also be interpreted this way). Then he saves and marries Rhea Silvia.

Alba Longa
A romantic view of the ruins of Alba Longa, following its destruction by Rome under Tullus Hostilius in the seventh century BC

Amulius

Brother. Reigned for 31 years. Killed by Romulus & Remus.

Numitor

Restored by Romulus & Remus.

Romulus (II)

Son of Rhea Silva, and grandson of Numitor.

Remus

Brother.

753 BC

According to legend, Romulus founds the settlement of Rome on 21 April 753 BC (although there is evidence to point to its existence as a small group of settlements for at least three centuries beforehand, most notably the legendary town of Pallanteum which had been ruled by Evander in the twelfth century BC). The event probably marks the point in history when the elders of several small villages scattered around the hills meet to create a single government, forming for the first time a united city state.

Romulus wishes to found the new 'city' on the Palatine Hill, while Remus prefers the Aventine Hill. The two dispute the choice and Remus is killed while construction of the new city progresses with Romulus as its first king. The settlement of Alba Longa becomes secondary to Rome while being governed by the elected descendants of Silvius following the eventual death of Numitor.