As I’m sure all of you know and deeply care about, Rome was a monarchy before it was a republic and an empire. Rome had seven different kings, ranging from the father of Rome to the father of one of the most infamous rapists in history. In this article, I will rank all the kings based on how successful they were in leading Rome, how well they were liked, and their overall goodness. Obviously, this ranking is not just my opinion, but the correct order of the kings. Any other ideas on the ranking are wrong.
- Numa Pompilius
He is obviously the greatest king because he reigned for forty-three peaceful years. He came into power after the death of Romulus, and it is said that he didn’t want the throne (those who don’t want to be leaders are the best leaders btw). Instead of being a warrior king, he was very religious, and many Romans believed that he was so wise because he received divine guidance from the gods. When he came into power, Rome was not a society but rather a collection of peasants, criminals, and bride stealers (see Romulus). Numa turned Rome into a civilization, making him the father of Roman culture and society. He also made changes that we still see today. For example, he reformed the calendar by adding the months January and February, increasing the length of a year to 360 days. After forty-three years in power, he died a natural death, which not many Roman monarchs did.
- Ancus Marcius
He was the grandson of Numa Pomilius and ruled for twenty-five years, and like his grandfather, he was a very skilled diplomat, administrator, and priest. He built a lot of architecture in Rome, including the first bridge across the Tiber River, and he was the first to settle Aventine Hill. However, this caused some of Rome’s enemies to believe that Rome was vulnerable and eager to pursue peace because of the peaceful tendencies of Ancus Marcius. The prisci latini (Old Latins) thought they were taking advantage of a weak government and attacked Rome. This backfired for them as Ancus Marcius proved to be a very skilled warrior who handily defeated them and destroyed their city (ladies and gentlemen, he can do it all). He was very well respected by the Roman people, and he also died a natural death.
- Servius Tullius
He came to rule after the untimely death of his father-in-law Tarquinius Priscus. While we do not know much about his childhood, it is widely believed that he was the son of a slave. The legend states that one day, his parents discovered him asleep with his head on fire, but he continued sleeping and was not harmed (what were his parents smoking?!). This caught the attention of Tanaquil, wife of Tarquinius Priscus, and he quickly became her protégé. When in power, he waged many successful wars against Rome’s enemies, especially the Etruscans. He also built the first wall around the seven hills of Rome and its first census. Throughout his forty-four-year rule, he implemented various reforms, many of which favored the poor at the expense of the patricians. He was well-liked by the Roman people, so it was a shock to them when he was assassinated by his daughter Tullia (really, you couldn’t have thought of anything better than the girl version of one of your names? C’mon dude) and her husband Tarquinius Superbus (see worst Roman king).
- Tarquinius Priscus
He was the first Etruscan king and came into rule after Ancus Marcius. He moved to Rome from the Etruscan city of Tarquinii with his wife Tanaquil, who was an Etruscan aristocrat. When in Rome, he became a very significant figure and was even made the guardian of Ancus Marcius’s two sons. This was important because when Ancus Marcius died, he sent his two sons on a hunting trip while he made the funeral arrangements. When the sons returned, they found that Tarquinius Priscus had taken power (a pretty baller move). On the throne, he is most known for adding 100 members to the Senate and for building many essential pieces of architecture, including the sewer system and the Circus Maximus. His rule came to an abrupt end after thirty-eight years when Ancus Marcius’ two sons hired two assassins to kill him. The first one came up to him pretending to be in dispute with him while the other snuck behind him and smacked his head with an ax (OUCH!). He died instantly, but Tanaquil told the Roman people that he was still alive, and he wanted Servius Tullius to rule on his behalf until he recovered. By the time the Romans figured out what had happened, Servius Tullius was already on the throne.
While this ranking may come as a surprise, there is a good reason for this. While Romulus founded Rome, the Roman Senate, and the Roman army, he also was the leader behind the “Rape of the Sabine women.” In early Rome, there weren’t that many women living in the city, so Romulus sought to change that. He hosted the festival for Consus (one of many, many Roman Gods) and invited all the neighboring tribes to attend. Midway through the festival, the celebrations quickly stopped, and the Roman plot began. The Romans stole many of the unmarried Sabines by force and took them as brides. I know you may be thinking, Well, maybe Romulus didn’t know what was happening. After all, the father of Rome wouldn’t do such a thing, right? You’re incredibly mistaken. Romulus stole his wife, Hersilia, in this way. The Sabines understandingly declared war on the Romans, and they eventually reached peace as they united to become one people.
- Tullus Hostilius
He came into rule after Numa Pomilius and was his exact opposite in many ways. Unlike Numa, he was extremely warlike and waged war with Rome’s neighbors, the Alba Longa. He destroyed the city and moved its citizens to the Caelian Hill in Rome. Also, he had no respect for the Roman Gods and died a suspicious death. According to lore, he was struck by a bolt of lightning (Jupiter) and died (that’s why you respect the Roman Gods kids).
- Tarquinius Superbus
He was the son of Tarquinius Priscus and the son-in-law of Servius Tullius. He instigated many wars during his rule and ruled through intimidation. He was disrespectful toward the Roman Senate and the Roman people. His son, Sextus Tarquinius was the man who raped Lucretia. In 509 BCE, he was deposed, and his family was expelled from Rome. He’s the worst, nuff said.