Roman Kingdom (753 - 509 BC)

Updated on 23 April 2023
Reading time: 5 minutes

The Roman Kingdom was a period of ancient Roman history that lasted from 753 BC to 509 BC. During this time, Rome was ruled by a series of seven kings. The kingdom began with three tribes living in and around Rome: the Etruscans, the Latins, and the Sabines. While few historical records remain of the kingdom, later accounts by historians of the Republic and the Empire provide some insight into the period. Moreover, all written records were lost during the Battle of the Allia in 390 BC when the Gauls invaded Rome and set many buildings on fire (see the Paul Jamin painting depicting the first Gallic invasion of Rome).

Roman Kingdom: the king's powers

One of the remarkable facts about the Roman Kingdom was that no king ever took power by force. Instead, kings were elected by the people for life. The king's powers were vast and included serving as commander-in-chief of the army, head of justice, head of religion, and responsible for major religious ceremonies and the appointment of all the priests. The king was considered the bridge to God (hence the Latin word pontifex). He was also the head of justice and surrounded by advisors. There was an assembly as well.

Religion played a significant role in the Roman Kingdom. The Romans worshipped a pantheon of gods and goddesses, with each deity associated with specific aspects of life. For example, Jupiter was the king of the gods and associated with the sky and thunder, while Mars was the god of war. The Romans held several religious festivals and ceremonies throughout the year, many of which were overseen by the king. The king was responsible for ensuring that the gods were properly honoured and appeased, and he appointed all the priests who oversaw the religious ceremonies.

While the king had extensive powers, he was not an absolute ruler. He was surrounded by advisors and there even was an assembly. The senators in the Senate served as advisors to the king, while the Curiate Assembly passed laws submitted by the king. Initially, Romulus selected 100 men to become senators, called patres (from the word pater or father), and their descendants became members of the patrician class. All decisions regarding laws were made by the king, except for decisions regarding war, where he had to get the approval of both the Curiate Assembly and the Senate.

numa pompilius

Numa Pompilius

List of Roman kings

The first king and founder of Rome was Romulus (approximately 753-717 BC, see our section on the founding of Rome), and the king's seat of power was in the Forum. The second king was Numa Pompilius (approximately 716-673 BC), who built large buildings such as the royal palace used by later kings and the Temple of Vesta. He also created Rome's main religious and political institutions and introduced the month of January.

Tullus Hostilius (approximately 673-642 BC) was the third king of Rome and is known for the war with Alba Longa (and the complete destruction of it). It is worth noting that Romulus was from Alba Longa, which was a city by the sea a few miles away from Rome. The fourth king was Ancus Marcius (approximately 640-616 BC), known for the wars with the Sabines and Alba Longa. The fifth king was Tarquinius Priscus (approximately 616-579 BC), who built the Circus Maximus.

The sixth king was Servius Tullius (approximately 578-535 BC), who developed Roman coinage and introduced the Compitalia, a festival organized once a year to honour the Lares Compitales, the household deities. At crossroads (in Latin: compitum), sacrifices were offered to these deities. The seventh and last king of the Roman Kingdom was Tarquinius Superbus (approximately 535-509 BC).

The Roman Kingdom was marked by significant cultural and architectural developments. For instance, the Forum Romanum, a rectangular plaza in the centre of Rome, was developed during this period. The forum was the centre of Roman public life and the site of many important buildings and events.

Additionally, the Roman Kingdom was known for its impressive military organization, which laid the foundation for the powerful Roman army of later periods. The Roman army during the Kingdom period was made up of citizens who were required to serve for a certain number of years. The army was divided into legions, each consisting of around 4,000 to 5,000 men. The legions were further divided into centuries, each consisting of around 100 men. This military organization was highly effective and contributed significantly to Rome's military success in the centuries to come.

Despite the relative lack of written records from the Kingdom period, some important literary works did emerge during this time. For example, the poet and philosopher Lucretius wrote his famous poem De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things) during the late Kingdom period. The poem explores the nature of the universe, the meaning of life, and the role of the gods in human affairs.


In conclusion, the Roman Kingdom was an important period in the history of Rome, laying the foundation for the powerful Roman Republic and Empire that would follow. The Kingdom period saw the rise of Rome as a major power in Italy, with a powerful army, effective government, and a rich culture and religion. Although much of the history of the Kingdom period has been lost to time, the legacy of the Roman Kingdom lives on in the enduring institutions and culture of Rome.


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