Category: bija-knowles - Part 10

Etruscan Beauty Secrets Revealed

Resins from pine and cashew trees, and Egyptian moringa oil: these are the essential ingredients of a rich woman’s beauty routine in Italy before the dawn of the Roman empire. The solid, yellow cream was found in an Egyptian alabaster vase belonging to an aristocratic Etruscan lady and is thought to be more than 2,000 years old. The results of a scientific analysis have just been published in July’s edition of Journal of Archaeological Science.

While a concoction of these oils may not sound particularly attractive to modern women (let’s face it, the oily unction sounds like a sure pore-blocking formula), its Egyptian origin meant it was probably a highly-prized beauty product that only elite Etruscans could afford. Moringa oil is native to Africa and India and was used by ancient cultures for its high vitamin content and skin-softening properties. Egyptians used to place vases of it in their tombs and it was also used as a hair conditioner and deodorant.

The Etruscan tomb where this particular vase of cream was found belonged to a lady called Thana Presnti Plecunia Umranalisa a member of one of Chiusi‘s most important Etruscan families, according to researchers. The cream’s container was found in a beauty case, which also contained other objects such as rings and tweezers. The tomb was discovered in 2005 in an Etruscan necropolis near Chiusi, in Tuscany, Italy. The team of archaeologists was lead by Dr Mario Iozzo, until 2008 director of the National Archaeological Museum of Chiusi, and responsible for the Archaeological patrimony of that area.

According to Dr Iozzo, now vice-director of the National Archaeological Museum of Florence and curator of the Greek and Magna Grecia sections, less than one-quarter of the cream was left inside the alabaster container. He told Heritage Key by email that “this is still a great deal, and analyses are currently being done in Brussels and Paris as well, in order to try to recover as much data as we can.”

This is almost unique in archaeology. Even though more than 2,000 years have passed, the oxidation of the organic material has not yet been completed.

Discovery News reported the results of some chemical analysis of the cream and quoted Erika Ribechini, a researcher at the department of chemistry and industrial chemistry of Pisa University, as saying: “The content of the cosmetic case was found under a clay layer which deposited throughout time. This made it possible for the ointment to survive despite (the fact that) the vessel had no cap. This is almost unique in archaeology. Even though more than 2,000 years have passed, the oxidation of the organic material has not yet been completed.”

This modern retailer of moringa oil may now have to update their web site, which says the oil has a stable shelf life of just five years. How about changing this to 2,000 years plus?

Saint Paul: Bones and Portrait Discovered in Rome

In what seems like a strange coincidence, two astonishing discoveries providing evidence of the life of Saint Paul have been made within days of each other at two religious sites in Rome. First of all a fourth century fresco of the Christian saint was uncovered on 19 June at the Catacombs of Santa Thekla in Rome. Paul formerly Saul was a Hellenic Jew who converted to Christianity after his religious experience on the road to Damascus but was then executed during the reign of the emperor Nero between 60-67 AD. The Christian catacombs of Santa Thekla, closed to the public, are reported to be full of frescoes, although most are in need of restoration. It was during an ongoing preservation project that the discovery was made. The fresco is in line with other Christian iconography of the saint from that time showing him with a thin face and beard, with his head against a red background and gold halo. The director of restoration work at the catacomb of Santa Thekla, Barbara Mazzei, was quoted by the Telegraph as saying: It is a sensational discovery and is of tremendous significance. This is then first time that a single image of Saint Paul in such good condition has been found and it is the oldest one known of. Experts used laser treatment to clean residues of limestone off the frescoes. The catacombs of Santa Thekla are one of 40 catacombs in the capital – others include the catacombs of Domitilla, which were recently part of a pioneering laser-scan project to map out the interior, which also contains valuable early Christian paintings.

The second ‘revelation’ came when the Vatican decided to carry out a carbon-dating test of human remains inside a tomb at the basilica of San Paolo Fuori le Mura (Saint Paul’s Outside the Walls). Traditionally it is said to be the resting place of Saint Paul, even though he is thought to have been beheaded at the Abbey of the Three Fountains, also in Rome. The tomb in question was discovered in 2006 beneath the marble floor of San Paolo Fuori le Mura, beneath an inscription that reads Paulo Apostolo Mart (Paul the Apostle and Martyr), at the foot of the church’s main altar. The tomb hasn’t been opened, but a small hole in it has revealed its contents to include human remains and purple linen embroidered with gold. The tests suggest that the human inside lived between the first and second century AD which would be in keeping with Saint Paul’s lifetime. The Pope himself was quoted by the Guardian as saying: “This seems to confirm the unanimous and uncontested tradition that these are the mortal remains of Paul the apostle,” adding that the discovery “fills our souls with great emotion”.

These two discoveries, both announced by the Vatican, come at the end of the Pauline year, which ended on the 29 June 2009. According to the Vatican, this marks the 2,000th anniversary of Saint Paul’s birth. The 29 June is also the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul most Romans celebrate their city’s public holiday by heading to the beach at Ostia.

Photos by LostBob and Stefano Palmieri.

Hidden Rome: The Stadium Underneath Piazza Navona

Go to Rome’s Piazza Navona on a Saturday night in July and you’ll find yourself having to pick your way through the crowds of locals and tourists, some standing in large semi-circles watching a unicyclist juggle with fire or a guitarist play his Led Zeppelin back catalogue, others perusing the displays of gaudy paintings on wooden easels and trying to avoid buying a rose from street sellers. It’s one of the main hubs of Roman night life: the area’s bars and granita vendors are usually thronged and groups of barefoot college students jostle with each other around Bernini‘s famous Fountain of the Four Rivers. It’s a lively place to take an evening stroll and there is enough people-watching to last several beers at one of the piazza’s pricey cafs.

Piazza Navona has long-been a hive of Roman social life and entertainment. It’s popularly believed that its name derives from its shape (Navona = big ship). And the square’s association with water doesn’t end there: strange though it sounds, between 1652 and 1866 the piazza was regularly flooded and used as a centre for water games by the Pamphilj family.

The square’s importance as a centre of spectacle and popular entertainment actually goes back much further than the Renaissance, but to find out about that you have to avoid the crowds and find a small doorway to the north of the square in piazza di Tor Sanguigna. Passers-by can look down over the railings and see part of the northern entrance to the Stadium of Domitian about eight metres below street level and this is about as much as you can usually see of the structure that was built shortly after the Colosseum and once rivalled it as one of ancient Rome’s premier entertainment venues. But as part of Rome’s summer initiatives to open up archaeological sites usually closed to the public, guided tours are taking place at weekends during July, August and September (see below for more info).

The stadium was built in 86 AD, less than a decade after the Colosseum, during the reign of Domitian the third Flavian emperor, second son of Vespasian. It was built on the Campus Martius, near to the thermal baths of Nero. Made of travertine stone, it is the only example of a stone stadium from the Roman empire. It was 275m long and 106m wide and was to form a blueprint for Piazza Navona, which follows the shape of Domitian’s stadium beneath it. The piazza is superimposed over the ancient racetrack, while the stadium’s terraces form the foundations for the baroque buildings that surround the modern piazza.

Domitian built it as a gift to the people and as a venue for a sporting event called the Certamen Capitolino Iovi, dedicated to the Capitoline Jupiter, which included games inspired by the Greek Olympics, such as wrestling (pancrazio), discus, javelin, horse racing and athletics (the word stadium comes from the Greek unit of measurement, stadion, which was the standard distance for short sprints). The stadium was known as the Circus Agonalis (meaning competitive games circus) and it is more likely that the modern piazza’s name is actually a derivation of this (from ‘in agone’ to ‘navone’, to ‘navona’).

Unfortunately, Domitian‘s love of Greek games was not shared by the plebeians of Rome. When he built his stadium, the cultured, educated emperor simply hadn’t figured on the people’s taste for violence, blood and sensation. By the latter half of the third century AD, his grand 30,000-seater stadium fell into disuse, while the Colosseum, with a crowd capacity of 70,000, continued to attract the hoards with its cruel gladiatorial battles, wild animals and condemned victims forced to fight for their lives. (The ancient venues don’t compare badly with super-modern stadiums such as 90,000-seater Wembley in north London or the Millennium Stadium in Wales which seats 74,500).

Today the only part still visible of Domitian’s stadium is the north curve. As with modern stadiums, the terraces were divided and each section had its own entrance. Part of the steps up onto the terraces can still be seen, as well as the supporting walls with their niches that once contained statues. The stadium was built with two levels of arches (it was slightly lower than the Colosseum) and would have been embellished with hundreds of statues of athletes in each niche. Most of these statues have been lost in time, but one example (just the torso remains) is thought to be the work of the famous Greek sculptor Praxiteles and depicts the god Apollo.

Opening Times

The entrance to the Stadium of Domitian (Stadio di Domiziano) is at Piazza di Tor Sanquigna, 13.
Open on the following dates at 21:00 and 22:00:
Fridays: 17, 24, 31 July; 7, 21, 28 August; 4, 11 September.
Saturdays: 18 July; 1, 8, 29 August; 5, 12 September.
Sundays: 26 July; 23 August.
Entrance is 5, free for children up to 6 years old.
For further information contact: Cooperativa Archeologia +39 06 4893 0393

Other summer initiatives include:
The Moon on the Colosseum – Flavian Nights
Summer Archaeology (opening of the House of Gryphons and Livia’s House in the Roman Forum)

Roman Boat Goes on Display at Herculaneum

The archaeological site at Herculaneum is opening a new exhibition space this Thursday, 16 July, according to Blogging Pompeii, a blog written by archaeological experts currently working on excavation zones in the Bay of Naples. On display for the first time will be a boat and other nautical equipment, carbonized and discovered along the ancient shoreline near the ancient town.

Herculaneum (present day Ercolano, a small Neopolitan suburb at the foot of the volcano that wiped it out over 1,900 years ago) is one of four towns that were destroyed when Vesuvius erupted in August 79 AD. Pompeii is today the most well known of these towns, and a major tourist attraction, but Herculaneum, a smaller but wealthier town than Pompeii, was also lost along with Stabiae and Oplontis. About 250 of Herculaneum’s inhabitants had taken refuge from the falling lava and ash in boat houses along the beach, but unfortunately for them there was no escaping the pyroclastic flow of hot gas that followed the eruption, or the 20 metres or so of debris that later engulfed the town, sealing it completely until it was discovered in the 18th century by Italian workmen. The preservation of the remains is currently supported by the Herculaneum Conservation Project. Many of the houses at Herculaneum are well preserved – more so than at Pompeii. Papyrus scrolls have been found at a villa there and are currently being digitally ‘read’ – read this blog for more info.

The skeletons in the boathouses weren’t discovered until 1982 and excavations are still going on in the ancient town. The boat now on display is a more recent discovery and will be open to the public at weekends between 10am-12pm, then from 2pm-5pm (only 20 visitors allowed at a time due to limited space). Other exhibits on display will include fishing equipment such as nets, hooks, winches, oars and a boat’s decorated prow. Information will be available in both English and Italian. This exhibition will give an interesting insight into fishing during the Roman period. Click here for panoramic views of the archaeological site of Herculaneum.

Israel’s Finest Roman Mosaic on Public View

This weekend a Roman-era fourth century mosaic in the Israeli city of Lod, or Lydda, about 20 km south-east of Tel Aviv, will be on view to the public for only the second time since its discovery. The Lod mosaic, dating back 1700 years, is being uncovered and prepared for restoration. It is described as one of the most magnificent and largest mosaics ever revealed in Israel by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), the government agency responsible for its conservation.

For those who can’t make it to Lod in person for 11-12 July, it will also be possible to see a live video stream of the mosaic here.

It is extremely well preserved and covers an area of 180 square metres, made up of more than two million individual stones. It shows vivid colourful scenes of fish, ships, birds and hunting scenes of native African animals. According to a spokesperson for the IAA, the mosaic is similar to others found in Tunisia and elsewhere in northern Africa.

The mosaic was originally discovered in 1996 during an excavation led by archaeologist Miriam Avissar on behalf of the IAA. Since then, there has been much discussion about how it should be preserved and presented. A US$2.5 million donation from the Leon Levy Foundation and Shelby White – Chairman of the Friends of the Israel Antiquities Authority will now enable a two-year restoration programme to take place and there are plans for a Lod Mosaic Archaeological Centre to be established at the original site in 2012. During the two-year conservation project, a section of the mosaic will be sent to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for public display, but will then be returned to Lod to be displayed with the rest of the mosaic. It is thought the mosaic will be a star tourist attraction for Lod and will become an important stop on Israel’s tourist trail.

Previously known as Lydda, the city of Lod re-assumed its Hebrew name in 1948 when it became part of Israel. It is also home to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion international airport. The city, which has evidence of settlers as far back as 5,600 BC, was subject to Roman occupation of Judaea during the first century AD and was variously destroyed, rebuilt and conquered by Roman emperors. Vespasian took control of the city in 68 AD as part of his military campaign in Judaea, which culminated in the siege and sack of Jerusalem. Nearer to the period during which the Lod mosaic is thought to have been laid down, Septimus Severus built a new Roman city on the site, naming it Colonia Lucia Septimia Severa Diospolis. This was in 200 AD, possibly 100 years before the Lod mosaic was actually created. By around 300 AD, most of the city’s inhabitants were Christian and one of Diocletian’s guards was martyred at Lod in 303 AD for refusing to deny his Christian faith the Church of Saint George was built in his memory, a reconstruction of which still stands today.

Photos courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The Disappearing Roads of Provence

According to a recent article in the Smithsonian magazine, parts of southern France’s Roman heritage are disappearing fast. Worse still, they are being lost to new building sites, motorways and developments west of the busy tourist area of the Cte d’Azur. Of particular concern is the gradual disappearance of one of the Roman empire’s artery roads the via Aurelia, which once stretched all the way from Rome to France. The section of it in question lies in Provence between Nice and Arles and was originally built by Augustus as a means of dominating the province of Gallia Narbonensis in the first two decades of the empire. This section of the via Aurelia wasn’t connected to Italy until an Alpine pass was hewn from the rock much later during the empire and eventually it joined up with the more famous Rome to Pisa section (today’s strada statale no.1 in Italy), which was constructed under the censor Caius Aurelius Cotta in 241 BC.

But according to the article’s author, Joshua Hammer, many tracts of the ancient road in Provence are now untraceable. His exploration of the region, in the company of local amateur archaeologist and film-maker Bruno Tasson, found that, while some parts of the road have been completely destroyed by developers and companies laying gas pipes, other stretches of the road in rural areas are simply disappearing due to lack of preservation and local awareness. While the Roman monuments of Nmes, Pont du Gard and Arles are well preserved some of which are on the Unesco’s list of World Heritage sites the via Aurelia has been sorely neglected. Tasson’s passion for saving the ancient Roman highway has even led to him to set up his own website about it, (French only). He acknowledges that the issue of preserving heritage from the past often comes into conflict with the relentless pace of modern urban development, saying: “Of course, modernization is obligatory, but there should be some effort made to preserve what’s left.” Hammer relates in his article that Tasson has made a valuable contribution to the local history of Provence by documenting and raising awareness of its disintegrating Roman roads.

The empire’s road network comprised 250,000 miles of tracks, up to a fifth of them paved with large stones similar to the photo above of the via Appia, which runs from Rome to Brindisi in the heel of southern Italy. Construction and dimensions of the empire’s roads were written into Rome’s legislative codes, for example, the standard width of a road was 2.4 metres supposedly wide enough to let two chariots pass each other. Usage of the roads was also legislated for by the Lex Iulia Municipalis in 45 BC, which said that vehicles should not enter urban areas, and that commercial vehicles could only enter or come within a mile of city walls at night time. This seems like a stroke of genius on the part of Rome’s municipal authorities. While keeping town centres free of those noisy and polluting chariots and horse carts, it also established an excellent precedent for today’s Congestion Charge.

Fire Engulfs Archaeological Area of Solunto in Sicily

Fire-fighting: A Losing Battle

Wildfires are a big problem in southern Italy. Every year they sweep the tinder-dry countryside and often threaten forests, farmers’ land and human habitation. In Sicily and Campania in particular, ancient heritage sites can also be in danger from summer fires. Despite state publicity about not throwing cigarette butts out of car windows and well-publicised hot-lines (no pun intended) for reporting local fires, it seems that the authorities are fighting a losing battle.

This year looks like it will be no different, with the countryside around Palermo in Sicily being one of the first to suffer. This week, on 21 June, a blaze tore through scrub land near the town of Bagheria, 10 km east of Palermo on the north Sicilian coast. Despite efforts from a fire-fighting plane and helicopter, it took many hours to get the fire under control and during that time it unfortunately spread to the valuable archaeological area of Solunto. The extent of the damage to the Roman ruins is not yet known.

The Roman Ruins of Solunto

While Solunto may not be the most important archaeological site in Sicily, it would still be a sad loss if it has been seriously damaged by fire. Its ruins amount to no more than some mosaics and the lower part of buildings and columns and it is certainly no match for the grandeur of the temples at Agrigento or the impressive expanse of mosaics at the imperial villa at Piazza Armerina.

But what Solunto lacks in well-preserved ancient architecture, it makes up for in its history. As one of only three main Phoenician settlements in Sicily (the other two being Zis in present-day Palermo, and Motya, now Mozia on Sicily’s west coast), Solunto certainly deserves some respect, dating back as it does to 700 BC when it was called Kfra by the Phoenicians. It would later be known as Solus by the Greeks when they conquered it in 396 BC, and Soluntum by the Romans after they took it in 254 BC. Later that century the town was abandoned and was left uninhabited and undiscovered until the sixteenth century. Almost all of its buildings are Roman and the ruins of a small theatre are still visible.

According to local news sources, the local fire brigade has not yet ruled out the possibility that the fire was started on purpose. It would be sad indeed if Italy’s cultural heritage had arsonists, as well as time, against it.

Hidden Rome: Pyramids and Man-made Mounds

South of Corso

Still on the trail of some of the lesser-known Roman sites, at the weekend I found myself wandering around a quiet area south of via del Corso. Testaccio is still very much a people’s neighbourhood. Old men gather on benches in shady piazzas, constantly gabbling away about who-knows-what (hotly debating the government’s latest PR disaster or contesting who won the last game of boules, it’s difficult to tell in their Romanaccio dialect), while children play with the pigeons.

There aren’t many tourists to be seen, even though the area holds a couple of attractions. I stop short of calling them ‘hidden jems’ because there aren’t many plausible ways to argue that a 36-metre high pyramid or a 35-metre hill can be disguised.

Rome’s Only Pyramid

The Pyramid of Cestius is one of the more incongruous monuments in Rome. It was built between 18-12 BC as a monument to Gaius Cestius Epulo, a rich magistrate and member of the Septemviri Epulones during the rule of Augustus.

It wasn’t the only pyramid built in Rome during the Augustan age there were strong Egyptian influences but it is the only surviving example. Another larger pyramid once stood between the Vatican and Castel Sant’Angelo, but it was destroyed during the 16th century.

Cestius’s pyramid was incorporated into the Aurelian Walls between 271-275 AD and is well preserved. It was rediscovered during the late 17th century, when excavators tunnelled underneath it and found the internal chamber decorated with frescoes. Recent restoration work means that these frescoes are now open again to the public. They are well worth a visit and can be seen as part of a tour group. For more information on booking a visit, see

The Man-made Mound of Pottery

A short walk from the pyramid is another monument that probably goes for whole days without so much as a photo opportunity. Walk away from the pyramid down via Marmorata, take the first left that will take you all the way to via Zabaglia.

If you fancy a quiet stop-off on the way, pop inside the non-Catholic cemetery on via Caio Cestio, where Keats, Shelley and Gramsci are all buried: it’s a quiet oasis set apart from the constant whir and screech of tyres on sanpietrini.

At the end of via Zabaglia you find the entrance to a unique and peculiar site: a man-made hill, made of more than 80 million terracotta jars, which were used to transport olive oil from the Roman provinces of Hispania Baetica and Northern Africa between the first century BC and 260 AD. The oil was imported into Rome for cooking and burning, but the large clay amphorae about 60cm in diameter and 80cm high couldn’t be recycled, perhaps for hygiene reasons or maybe because it was simply too expensive to ship the empty jars back to the olive groves. It was just cheaper to fire new containers.

So each year about 320,000 containers were discarded. Of course, the methodical Romans didn’t just throw the jars away randomly. They deliberately broken them in half, filling the bottom with the pieces from the top of the amphora and stacked them in perfect layers. Over the years, layer upon layer grew and today Monte Testacccio stands 50 metres high, 35 of which are above ground. Although it is ‘just a hill’, it is still a fascinating place to visit, just because it tells you so much about the Romans. You can climb right to the top, walking on top of the 2,000-year old pottery pieces, by booking a visit through a cultural tour group (for more information see

Vindolanda Tablets Head for Home

Early Roman Texts to be Sent Back to Vindolanda

Roman soldiers based at Vindolanda, the Roman fort and settlement at the coldest extremity of the Roman Empire, were not so different to modern Britons. While they had a job to do in maintaining order and control of the north western border (along Hadrian’s Wall, although Vindolanda was inhabited before Hadrian built his frontier), they also ensured they weren’t out of pocket for their troubles.

Discovered in 1973, the Vindolanda Tablets are wooden message boards dating back to 85 AD. Their messages include an invitation to a birthday party as well as expense claims for all those Roman soldier essentials (mostly items of food and basic clothing to keep those Mediterraneans warm in the cooler climes of northern Britain). These wooden boards were then sent around the empire in the Roman postal system.

An Important Step for the Heritage of North East England

Up until now they have been on display in the British Museum in London. But now funding of 1.8 million from regional development agency One North East will enable these Roman scripts to be displayed at Vindolanda and Hadrian’s Wall for a series of themed exhibitions.

According to Linda Tuttiett, chief executive of Hadrians Wall Heritage Ltd, the return of the Vindolanda Tablets to their location of discovery is an important step in celebrating the home of Britain’s earliest handwriting. She said: The transformation at Vindolanda will be the first manifestation of the future vision of the Hadrians Wall World Heritage site, the north west frontier of the Roman Empire.

Moats and Duck Houses: Not the Roman Way

Of course it would be impossible to mention Roman expense claims without making a passing comment about the modern-day expenses fiasco being endlessly debated in the British press. I can’t help noticing that, unlike British MPs, those Roman soldiers’ expense claims were fairly modest: items include pigs, animal hides, nails and bread. Not a duck house of a moat in site for those hard-living, spartan Roman soldiers. Of course the soldiers were a breed apart from the notoriously excessive emperors. Unfortunately the daily tabloids from 85 AD (or at least the Roman equivalent) haven’t survived, so there is no way of knowing if there was any kind of expense scandal 2,000 years ago. I suspect there wasn’t.

The Eighth King of Rome

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