Rome, History of. The accounts of the regal period have come down overlaid with such a mass of myth and legend that few can be verified; Roman historians of later times, lacking authentic records, relied on fabrications of a patriotic nature. Following this period, when a republic was established, Rome became a world power and emerged as an empire with extensive boundaries.

The Legendary Period of the Kings (753-510 BC)

Rome was said to have been founded by Latin colonists from Alba Longa, a nearby city in ancient Latium. The legendary date of the founding was 753 BC; it was ascribed to Romulus and Remus, the twin sons of Rhea Silvia, a vestal virgin and the daughter of Numitor, king of Alba Longa. Later legend carried the ancestry of the Romans back to the Trojans and their leader Aeneas, whose son Ascanius, or Iulus, was the founder and the first king of Alba Longa. The tales concerning Romulus's rule, notably the rape of the Sabine women and the war with the Sabines under the leader Titus Tatius, point to an early infiltration of Sabine peoples or to a union of Latin and Sabine elements at the beginning. The three tribes, the Ramnes, Tities, and Luceres, that appear in the legend of Romulus as the parts of the new commonwealth suggest that Rome arose from the amalgamation of three stocks, thought to be Latin, Sabine, and Etruscan.

The seven kings of the regal period and the dates traditionally assigned to their reigns are as follows: Romulus, from 753 to 715 BC; Numa Pompilius, from 715 to 676 or 672 BC, to whom was attributed the introduction of many religious customs; Tullus Hostilius, from 673 to 641 BC, a warlike king, who destroyed Alba Longa and fought against the Sabines; Ancus Marcius, from 641 to 616 BC, said to have built the port of Ostia and to have captured many Latin towns, transferring their inhabitants to Rome; Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, from 616 to 578 BC, celebrated both for his military exploits against neighboring peoples and for his construction of public buildings at Rome; Servius Tullius, from 578 to 534 BC, famed for his new constitution and for the enlargement of the boundaries of the city; and Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, from 534 to 510 BC, the seventh and last king, whose tyrannical rule was overthrown when his son ravished Lucretia, the wife of a kinsman. Tarquinius was banished, and attempts by Etruscan or Latin cities to reinstate him on the throne at Rome were unavailing.

Although the names, dates, and events of the regal period are considered as belonging to the realm of fiction and myth rather than to that of factual history, certain facts seem well attested: the existence of an early rule by kings; the growth of the city and its struggles with neighboring peoples; the conquest of Rome by Etruria and the establishment of a dynasty of Etruscan princes, symbolized by the rule of the Tarquins; the overthrow of this alien control; and the abolition of the kingship. The existence of certain social and political conditions may also be accepted, such as the division of the inhabitants, exclusive of slaves, from the beginning into two orders: the patricians, who alone possessed political rights and constituted the populus, or people; and their dependents, known as clients or the plebs, who had originally no political existence. The rex, or king, chosen by the Senate (senatus), or Council of Elders, from the ranks of the patricians, held office for life, called out the populus for war, and led the army in person; he was preceded by officers, known as lictors, who bore the fasces, the symbols of power and punishment, and was the supreme judge in all civil and criminal suits. The senatus gave its advice only when the king chose to consult it, but the elders (patres) possessed great moral authority, inasmuch as their tenure was for life. Originally only patricians could bear arms in defense of the state. At some stage in the regal period an important military reform occurred, usually designated as the Servian reform of the constitution, because it was ascribed to Servius Tullius. As the plebs could by this time acquire property and wealth, it was decided that all property holders, both patrician and plebian,