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6 - Rome and Latium to 390 B.C.

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2008

T. J. Cornell
Affiliation:
University College London
F. W. Walbank
Affiliation:
University of Liverpool
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Summary

THE GROWTH OF ROMAN POWER UNDER THE KINGS

When King Tarquinius Superbus was overthrown in 509 B.C., Rome was by all accounts a powerful city-state with a relatively extensive territory (see below, Figs. 40–1), a developed urban centre, an advanced institutional structure and a strong army. We are told moreover that the Romans exercised a kind of formal hegemony over the other Latin peoples, and dealt on equal terms with the great cities of Etruria and Campania. Their horizon extended as far as Sicily and Magna Graecia; they had diplomatic and commercial links with Carthage, and perhaps also with Massalia, the Greek colony at the mouth of the Rhone.

This situation did not come into being overnight, however, but was the result of a process of expansion and conquest undertaken by the kings. Our knowledge of the process is naturally uncertain. One is bound to be sceptical of narrative accounts which purport to describe campaigns led by mythical or semi-mythical figures such as Romulus or Tullus Hostilius. Although some of the stories may have a factual basis, the circumstantial details given in the surviving sources are completely unhistorical. Generally speaking they are the product of secondary elaboration by annalists writing in the late Republic who had no clear idea of the social and economic conditions of the archaic period and did not appreciate how far they differed from those of their own age. The annalists had no understanding of the character of primitive warfare, and the imaginary details with which they enlivened their accounts are largely anachronistic.

Even so, we need not doubt that under the kings armed conflicts with neighbouring communities did take place, and it is possible that some memory of them survived into the historical period.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1990

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