If I told you a story about the eighth king of Rome, the clever ones among you might notice that something doesn’t quite add up. Your minds might start whirring, scanning the memory for facts about early Roman history… way back when, before the Republic even. And then you remember: of course! Ancient Rome was a city built on seven hills… and it had seven kings. Seven: no more no less. You might well be thinking: ‘Anyone who tries to tell me about the eighth king is either a joker or just sadly misinformed!’ Well, in that case the joke is on you, because I have learned from reliable sources that the eighth king of Rome is alive, well and living in one of Rome’s more exclusive leafy suburbs.
Known by his legions of fans and devoted Roman citizens as L’Ottavo Re di Roma, Francesco Totti, captain of AS Roma, is not such an unlikely candidate for Rome’s crown. He certainly has the looks and the noble Roman profile (which is, of course, only my humble opinion). What is beyond dispute are his stage presence and chariot skills, as he recently demonstrated in a friendly match between Roma and France. His grand entrance into Rome’s Olympic Stadium at the helm of a Roman quadriga led by four black horses in full triumphal regalia was quite spectacular, and provided rich fodder for the Italian football press.
Accompanying Totti was a battalion of Roman centurions who entered the stadium in testudo formation (protecting themselves from enemy arrows in this case more likely to be beer bottles or flares using their shields to form a tortoise-like barrier). Of course, any occasion is good for dressing up as a Roman soldier, but this particular event was to celebrate the career of a Roma player, Vincent Candela, who was retiring on 5 June. But it was Totti, also known to faithful Romans as San Francesco, who took centre stage, his number 10 shirt visible to all as he raced Zinedine Zidane around the pitch. The friendly match went on to see Roma win 5-3 against France.
And now for the history bit…
Those seven kings of Rome that I mentioned earlier? Well, here they are:
1. Romulus, who became king of Rome by default when he founded the city and killed his twin brother Remus. He ruled from 753-716 BC.
2. Numa Pompilius (715-674 BC) was Romulus’s successor. From a Sabine tribe, his election was intended to unite the Romans and the Sabines. He is believed to have been a pacifist and an ascetic.
3. Tullus Hostilius (673-642 BC), the third king of Rome, was said to have been an aggressive and war-hungry monarch who spent most of his reign in bellicose activities. He is said to have built the Curia Hostilia, the original meeting place in Rome where the Curia now stands in the Roman Forum.
4. Ancus Marcius (642-617 BC) followed Hostilius. It is possible he was a legendary figure, but he was nonetheless credited with several infrastructure projects, including building a wooden bridge across the Tiber, a new prison, founding Ostia and establishing some salt-works.
5. Lucius Tarquinius Priscus (616-579 BC) was the first Etruscan king of Rome. He was thought to come from Tarquinii and was married to Tanaquil, who is thought to have been a very astute queen. Priscus was assassinated.
6. Servius Tullius (578-535 BC) succeeded Priscus by dint of being married to his daughter. He was also Etruscan and is said to have brought reform to Rome’e political order. He was assassinated according to legend by his daughter and son-in-law.
7. Lucius Tarquinius Superbus (535-509 BC), apparently a tyrant and a dictator, was Rome’s last king. He ruled until the Roman revolt in 509 BC, when the Republic was established. The revolt was sparked when Superbus’s son, Tarquinius Superbus, raped the noblewoman Lucretia dramatised in Shakespeare’s poem The Rape of Lucrece.
Photos courtesy of Foto Artefatti and www.forzaroma.info.