History Files

Please help the History Files

Contributed: 175

Target: 400

Totals slider

The History Files still needs your help. As a non-profit site, it is only able to support such a vast and ever-growing collection of information with your help, and this year your help is needed more than ever. Please make a donation so that we can continue to provide highly detailed historical research on a fully secure site. Your help really is appreciated.

European Kingdoms

Ancient Italian Peninsula



According to legend, Rome was founded as a city state by the Latin prince, Romulus on 21 April 753 BC. He was the city's first king, but after his death, the city was drawn under Etruscan rule in the form of a 'Kingdom of Rome'. The Etruscans governed large areas of the Italian peninsula to the north of Rome, and ruled the city as the southernmost of a chain of semi-independent city states, although there were further Etruscan settlements in the Campania region to the south.

When the weakening Etruscans were ejected in 509 BC, a 'Republic of Rome' was founded in its place, although there was for a time stiff opposition from a body of monarchists. Rome gradually began to established the greatness which would be the 'Empire of Rome' from the first century AD. The empire survived until the last quarter of the fifth century AD, when it was replaced by a Gothic kingdom which strived for continuity. By that time Rome was no longer the capital, having been found to be hard to defend.

Europe had changed a great deal in that time. The Germanic tribes now dominated large swathes of the continent in the west and central regions, while the east was fast becoming home to waves of nomadic Turkic invaders from the east. Rome's western empire failed to survive the speed and ferocity of the changes, but its Eastern Roman empire continued for another millennium.


Kingdom of Rome
753 - 509 BC

The traditional 'founding' of Rome by the Latins was probably a formal melding together of various small villages in the area, a process which has also been observed in the late Villanovan in Italy, when the first Etruscan cities began to emerge in the mid to late ninth century BC. The Etruscans were the dominant culture in central and northern Italy, rising to prominence between circa 850-750 BC. At the height of their power until the fifth century BC, they subdued and dominated the Latin Romans (or Romani) for a century, with hegemony over Rome being held by the city of Veii.

The earliest-known written history of Rome was compiled during the Second Punic War, in the third century BC. It mentioned Romulus and Remus and the founding of Rome. Following their deaths the next two rulers of Rome are little known. They may have been little more than village chieftains of what was still a settlement near an island on the Tiber, a convenient crossing point for Etruscans travelling between the Etruscan heartland and the settlements in Campania to the south.

That Roman settlement began to expand in the early seventh century, with the first dwellings being placed on the hills around Rome. Under Etruscan governance it gained much of its early culture and building, laying the seeds for the future republic.

Rome's colosseum

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from The Roman History: From Romulus and the Foundation of Rome to the Reign of the Emperor Tiberius, Velleius Paterculus, J C Yardley, & Anthony A Barrett, from The History of Rome, Volume 1, Titus Livius, translated by Rev Canon Roberts, and from External Link: Perseus Digital Library.)

753 - 717 BC

Romulus (II)

Legendary Latin founder of Rome. Killed.

753 BC

After completing the construction of his 'city' Romulus divides his warriors into regiments numbering three thousand infantry and three hundred cavalry, which he calls his legions. Then he forms the city's system of government by selecting the hundred richest and most noble elders - the patricians - and it is these men who become the first senators.

The Sabine Women
The Sabine Women, painted by Jacques-Louis David, depicts the intervention of the captured Sabine women in the fighting between Sabines and Romans

Romulus' city is built and many landless and homeless men settle in it, swelling the nascent population. Romulus raids the neighbouring Sabine tribes for women, which sparks war between the two. The Sabine ruler, Titus Tatius storms the city (aided by the Latin Crustumini people) and battle is joined, but thanks to the intervention of the Sabine women themselves, the two agree peace terms. The Sabines share Rome, settling on the Quirinal, and the two kings rule jointly, also doubling the size of the Senate and the early legions.

748 BC

The Sabine King Tatius is killed by the Latin inhabitants of Lavinium out of revenge for his sheltering of allies who have plundered that settlement. This ends the joint kingship of the city and Romulus continues to rule alone. Tatius' daughter is Tatia, and she marries Numa Pompilius, thereby giving him a legitimate claim to the throne.

748 - 717 BC

Having already subdued the Alban colony of the Camerini with Tatius, over the course of the next thirty years, Romulus goes on to expand Rome's territory. He conquers the Etruscan town of Fidenae, and defeats the Crustumini, but his rule grows increasingly dictatorial. Eventually it seems that he is killed by the weary Senate, with the deed being hidden by claiming that Romulus has ascended to heaven.

716 - 672 BC

Numa Pompilius

A Sabine. Elected after a year of deliberation by the Senate.

672 - 640 BC

Tullus Hostilius

Elected king. Fell ill during a plague.

According to Livy, two dictators rule in the former key Latin settlement of Alba Longa during the reign of Tullus Hostilius. They are quite possibly descendants of the kings of Alba Longa, and are therefore related to Romulus and Remus. Gaius Cluilius dies in a war against Tullus Hostilius and is succeeded by Mettius Fufetius. He is executed by Tullus Hostilius for treachery. The settlement of Alba Longa is razed to the ground and its inhabitants resettled on the Caelian Hill above Rome.

The Sabini settlement of Reate (modern Rieti) was founded by the Sabini and prospered under Roman control to survive into the modern age

Hostilius goes to war against the Sabini. The cause seems to be little more than an excuse, with Hostilius claiming that Roman merchants have been seized at a market while the Sabini claim in return that some of their people are being detained in Rome. The Sabini gain the help of volunteers from the Etruscan city of Veii, although no official support is forthcoming. In a battle in the forest of Malitiosa, the larger and stronger forces of Hostilius, augmented by Alban units, scatter the Sabini and inflict heavy casualties on them as they retreat.

657 or 656 BC

Kypselos, the former head of the army, seizes power to rule the Greek city of Corinth as tyrant. The Bacchiades, former kings of Corinth, are forced out and flee the city and one of their number is Demaratus, who flees to Italy and marries an Etruscan woman. He becomes the father of the future Etruscan king of Rome, Lucumo, or Lucius Tarquinius Priscus.

640 - 616 BC

Ancus Marcius

Grandson of Numa. Elected king. Built the port of Ostia.

The Latins declare war on Rome, expecting it to follow the former peace policy of Numa Pompilius. Instead, Ancus Marcius takes the town of Politorium (situated close to Lanuvium) and forces its inhabitants to resettle on the Aventine Hill as Romans. When the Latins resettle Politorium, Marcius takes it again and demolishes it. He does the same to the Latin villages of Tellenae and Ficana, and captures the town of Medullia, each time adding to Rome's burgeoning population.

Map of the Etruscans
This map shows the greatest extent of Etruscan influence in Italy, during the seventh to fifth centuries BC, including the Campania region to the south (click or tap on map to view full sized)

c.625 BC

The settlements of Rome now begin to expand. For the first time they spread into the valleys, a result of the marshes being drained and evidence of Etruscan engineering expertise at work. The Etruscans, already a powerful group of city states which trade widely along the Mediterranean, are beginning to influence and even dominate Roman culture and construction.

616 BC

With the death of Ancus Marcius his teenage sons are not selected for the kingship. Instead they are sidelined in what is a departure for Rome, as it marks the first time a non-Roman gains the kingship, and effectively confirms the Etruscan domination of central Italy.

616 - 578 BC

Lucius Tarquinius Priscus

Son of Demaratus of Corinth and an Etruscan. Murdered.

c.600 BC

Tarquinius Priscus drains the swampy area between the Capitoline and Palatine hills. This marketplace expands along with Rome and eventually became the centre of all things political, religious, and commercial in the ancient world. Tarquinius Priscus also seems to be responsible for introducing a good deal of Etruscan civilisation to the Romans (who are sometimes referred to as barbarians before this period).

The first archaic Latin inscriptions now begin to appear, as do Etruscan tombs, and it is at this stage that Rome begins to progress from being a large village to a promising and flourishing early city. (The name 'Lucius' may be a Latin corruption of the Etruscan word for ruler, lauchum.)

The Etruscan city of Rusellae quickly developed as an important river port facility on the River Ombrone, and remained important well into the Roman domination of Italy until it began to fade in the sixth century AD

The first century BC writer, Livy (Titus Livius Patavinus), writes of an invasion into Italy of Celts during the reign of Lucius Tarquinius Priscus. As archaeology seems to point to a start date of around 500 BC for the beginning of a serious wave of Celtic incursions into Italy, this event has either been misremembered by later Romans or is an early precursor to the main wave of incursions.

Livy writes that two centuries before major Celtic attacks take place against Etruscans and Romans in Italy, a first wave of invaders from Gaul fights many battles against the Etruscans who dwell between the Apennines and the Alps. They are apparently lead by Bellovesus of the Bituriges tribe.

c.586/585 BC

Livy describes how Tarquinius Priscus is preparing to construct a wall around Rome when the Sabini attack. The engagement is bloody but inconclusive and the Sabini withdraw to their encampment. A second battle is fought the next day, this time with Rome bringing up a much stronger force which ultimately breaks the Sabini, inflicting great slaughter on their number, many of whom drown in the River Teverone. With the conflict now escalating, Tarquinius proceeds into Sabini territory and inflicts another defeat on fresh forces. The Sabini sue for peace and relinquish control of the town of Collatia (nothing of which remains today).

578 BC

The Etruscan city of Clusium enters into an alliance with its sister city, Arret- (the full name has been lost), and other Etruscan towns against the dominant and powerful Tarquinius Priscus. Mastarna and his comrades, Aulus and Caeles Vibenna, from the city of Velch (modern Volci) play a key role in overthrowing Tarquinius Priscus, with Mastarna achieving this with a slight of hand. Mastarna assumes power and changes his name to Servius Tullius. He is considered a strong reformer, and becomes known as the second founder of Rome.

Early Rome
Early Rome would have looked more like a large, walled village than the collection of grand stone edifices which are more familiar from the imperial period

578 - 534 BC

Servius Tullius

Son-in-law. Etruscan. Assassinated by Lucius Superbus.

c.575 BC

It seems that Servius Tullius continues the work of Tarquinius Priscus in developing Rome. The familiar picture of primitive settlements suddenly changes, with the straw and reed-roofed wattle huts at the foot of the Palatine, Esquiline and Quirinal all disappearing as part of a planned building programme. They are replaced by grander buildings which mark the true beginnings of a city of Rome, along with a pebbled forum and the round temple of Vesta (or Hestia to the Etruscans).

534 BC

According to Livy, Servius Tullius is killed by his daughter and her husband, Tarquinius. The latter seizes the throne (he is also the son or grandson of Tarquinius Priscus) and establishes an absolute despotism, for which he is given the sobriquet 'superbus', meaning 'the proud'.

534 - 509 BC

Lucius Tarquinius Superbus (the Proud)

Son-in-law. Last Etruscan king. Died at Cumae in 495 BC.

c.510 - 509 BC

After having already commenced two centuries of Roman warfare by attacking the Volsci city of Suessa Pometia, Lucius Tarquinius goes to war against the Latin tribe of the Rutulians (or Rutuli). Livy mentions the wealth of that people, and this is the target of the Roman king. He attacks the Rutulian city of Ardea, and failing to take it by a surprise storming, lays siege to it. This siege is interrupted by the ejection of the king from Rome. The subsequent Roman republic renews it, although the final outcome is unknown.

River Liris
The ancient River Liris (now divided into the Liri and the Gari) along its upper length was an early home to the Volsci, and later formed Rome's border with the Samnites

509 BC

Etruscan rule is thrown out of Rome by a Latin insurrection which is supported by a group of senators who are led by Lucius Junius Brutus (another Etruscan nobleman and the great-grandson of Demaratus of Corinth, father of Lucius Tarquinius Priscus). According to several sources which include Livy, the final straw had been the rape of the noblewoman, Lucretia, by Tarquin's son Sextus, although the real reason is more likely to be a power struggle between the king and the leading aristocratic families.

The Etruscans continue to fight the Latins for some years during the sixth century, but eventually they fade under increasing Latin domination and by the first century BC are almost completely Romanised. Rome itself fights off monarchist elements to form the 'Republic of Rome'.

Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original king list page for the History Files.