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Roman Kingdom
Rome's Earliest Growth
Historic Information
Date Founded: 753 B.C.E.
Date Ended: 509 B.C.E.
Continent: Europe
Region: Mediterranean
Capital: Rome
Type of Government: Monarchy
Language(s): Early Latin
Religion(s): Roman Religion

The Roman Kingdom was the first form of government used by Roman people. Although it lasting for at least 150 years, much of its' history is lost. Myths and legends have filled the gaps in the history of the first form of government the Romans ever followed.


The only claim Rome's foundation belongs to the legendary tale of Romulus, which is primarily preserved by Livy, Plutarch, and Dionysius of Halicarnassus. These authors wrote their records well over 500 years past the events, making their writings questionable[1]. Any earlier records were lost when Rome was first sacked by the Gauls after the Battle of Allia. Thus, these much later writers tell how Romulus, alongside his brother Remus founded the city of Rome on both sides of the river Tiber. Romulus was to have slain Remus shortly afterwards in a quarrel over power.[2] He built his city by taking in refugees from other neigboring tribes, creating a monarchy based upon the patriarchal system quite popular in the area.

To secure his fledgling kingdom, Romulus expanded his influence through war, although not from the desire to hold more land, but the fear of neighboring tribes seizing his still small kingdom. In his battles, he brought the Sabines people under his fold, gaining more power and security[3]. It is also claimed that he established Rome's legal system, creating the Senate and system of election for each successive king. This pattern would hold for seven kings, with Rome ever expanding defensively and building upon its governing system.

The Roman Kingdom faced three major threats as it struggled to grow, the Sabines in the west, the Etruscans in the north, and the Latins in the south. By the end of Romulus' reign, the Sabines were largely under Roman authority. By the time of King Tarquinius Priscus, their northern rivals came under the Roman Kingdom as well. This merger was achieved by the political takeover from the Etruscans, whom Tarquinius hailed from. His connection to them led his people to submit to this growing kingdom. With two of their foes now a part of their kingdom, the Roman Kingdom flourished, with Rome itself profiting greatly, expanding out into the entirety of its seven surrounding mountains[4].

Now a major player in the local political arena, the Roman Kingdom would set its sights upon the last group of resistant people, the Latins. Although the Roman kingdom defeated the Latins and subjugated their cities, trouble was brewing for this monarchy. The latest king, Tarquinius Superbus, was considered a tyrant who abused his power, having claimed the throne without proper nomination and election. Two leading Roman citizens, Brutus and Collatinus led the people of the Roman Kingdom in revolt, casting out their king and abolishing the Roman Kingdom in favor of a Roman Republic.

Politics and Government[]

The Roman Kingdom was an electoral monarchy, where political and religious authority resided in one man. However, when this leader died, the next king would be nominated and elected by the Senate. This man was expected to receive this position due to his merits, not his bloodline. The Roman Kingdom had seven kings over the course of its existence. It should be noted that neither the first nor the last king of Rome was elected, as Romulus was the kingdoms founder.and king by default and Tarquinius Superbus seized power without the Senate's approval.

Alongside the monarchy, the senate was also created to help govern the kingdom. Created with 300 members from the three distinct peoples (Latins, Sabines, and Etruscans) who made up the Roman Kingdoms. The senate served as the king's advisors with very limited power. They could only convene when the king called them to counsel. The king also appointed citizens from their different Curia (racially divided districts) to serve in the Curiate Assembly, which would work with the Senate in advising the king. The king would also appoint two Quaestores Parricidi (investigators) and Duumviri Perduellionis (judges) to handle most criminal cases.

These two institutions They did, however, control the appointment of the next king when the old one died. They achieved this function by appointing an Interrex to bring men he considered qualified to serve as king before the Senate. Once the Senate settled on one man, they would bring him before the Curiate Assembly for another vote. If he passed, the future king needed a religious omen to signify the gods approval and finally for the Curiate to grant him imperium power, the power of the king.

As the Kingdom of Rome expanded and grew in both numbers and power, the positions of power began to evolve. Both assemblies were traditionally controlled by the original Roman leading families, with no new families permitted in. They were known as the Patricians, while the Roman citizens who could not enter politics were called Plebeians. As the Plebeians grew in power, the Roman kings Priscus and Tullius reorganized the political landscape, changing from direct tribal divisions to regional divisions. To keep the former elite still in the elite class, the Patricians serving on the Senate were called Gentes Majories, or greater gentes. Several of these changes carried over from the collapse of the Roman Kingdom to the Roman Republic.

Finances and Economics[]

Armed Forces[]

At first, only abled bodied citizens from within the original ruling families. However, the growth and success of the Roman Kingdom provoked reform, creating a larger, more organized army. Each district supplied a specific type of soldier, which was designated by how much armor and weaponry a citizen could provide. The highest ranking units were the Equites (Cavalry), who came from the richer classes of society, as they supplied their entire armor, sword, spear, and horse. The Pedites (infantry) were under the Equites and were themselves divided into five categories dependent on much equipment they could provide for themselves[5].

Culture and Society[]


Religion in the Roman Kingdom was a religion founded on tradition and ancestral heritage. They worshipped many gods, with most households having a god to be worshipped, alongside shrines for the entire neighborhood[6]. The head of their faith was the king, who had priests under him drawn from the upper classes, who could also serve as members of the Senate. The Romans were open to brining new gods into their pantheons, especially striving to connect the Greek gods to their own gods, who tended to lack diverse backstories. They tended to view their gods as divine beings one traded worship with for blessings, requiring no true faith in them. A uniting aspect, however, was the focus on the blessing Rome and her leaders received. These patterns of worship would hold into the Republic and Empire, until supplanted by Christianity.

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  1. Asimov, Isaac. "Asimov's Chronology of the World". New York: HarperCollins, 1991. p. 69.
  2. Livy. "The History of Rome part 1". The commoner story is that Remus leaped over the new walls in mockery of his brother, whereupon Romulus in great anger slew him, and in menacing wise added these words withal, “So perish whoever else shall leap over my walls!” Thus Romulus acquired sole power, and the city, thus founded, was called by its founder's name.
  3. Morey, William C. "Outlines of Roman History". New York, Cincinnati, Chicago: American Book Company (1901). Chapter 2.
  4. Morey, William C. "Outlines of Roman History". New York, Cincinnati, Chicago: American Book Company (1901). Chapter 4.
  5. Morey, William C. "Outlines of Roman History". New York, Cincinnati, Chicago: American Book Company (1901). Chapter 5.
  6. Apuleius, Florides 1.1; John Scheid, "Sacrifices for Gods and Ancestors," in A Companion to Roman Religion (Blackwell, 2007), p. 279.