chapter  5
32 Pages

Traditional History: Kings, Queens, Events and Dates

Early Rome was ruled by kings. Of that there can be no doubt.! But when it comes to reconstructing the history of the regal period, all we can be certain of is that much of our information is legendary. Traditionally there were seven kings, some of whom are probably historical, at least in the sense that men named Numa Pompilius, Tullus Hostilius, and so on, may indeed have ruled at Rome. But that does not take us very far (and is not certain in any case).2 Paradoxically, some of the actions for which they were supposedly responsible are more easily authenticated than the kings themselves. For example, although Romulus is legendary, institutions attributed to him can be shown to be historical and to date back to the early regal period. This is simply another way of saying that information about institutions and structures is more reliable than that dealing with individual persons and events. This was the principle behind Mommsen's account of early Rome, which dealt at length with the 'regal constitution', but made no reference to the individual kings. Mommsen's principle remains valid to this day, and is too readily forgotten by those scholars who are determined, at almost any cost, to show that the kings were historical figures.