The Roman Kingdom is the first period of the Roman history and includes the years from 753 AC (foundation of Rome) to 509 AC (overthrow of the last king). Very little is known about this period and the only sources, which belong to the Republic and the Empire, are largely based on legends.
According to the myth, there were seven kings: Romulus, Numas Pompilius, Tullius Hostilius, Ancus Marcius, Tarquinius Priscus, Servius Tullius, Tarquinius Superbus. But what power did they own?
Ancient historians are almost unanimous putting down these powers:
– executive jurisdiction. Thanks to the Lex Curiata de Imperio, which was given from the Comitia Curiata (the first political assembly of the Ancient Rome) , the king owned the supreme command of the army and the ultimate executive power. He was also able to appoint the officials to their offices.
– religious authority. The king was appointed as the pontifex maximus. This expression comes from two latin words and means “bridge – builder”, stating a link between men and gods, thanks to the king. He was the supreme chief of the augurs and he controlled the calendar. As a consequence, he organised all religious cerimonies.
– legislative power. The king was the supreme legislator, as the Senate was only an advisory and honorary body. Nevertheless every law which the king submitted had to be approved by Comitia Curiata.
– judicial power. The king was the chief justice. Although he could point some officials for the minor cases, he possessed the supreme authority both in civil and criminal instances.
When a king died, Rome entered in a period called interregnum, in which the supreme power would be handed over to the Senate. It has in turn the responsibility to find a new kings, through a complex process in which every five days a senator would have been elected as interrex, in order to nominate a king. If the interrex did not succeed, the task passed to another interrex chose by his colleagues.
Once the king was selected, the Curiate Assembly had to approve or reject the nomination. If yes, the king had to go through a religious cerimony performed by an augur, with the purpose of understanding the divine consent to the appointment.
The king received also the imperium, which stated the supreme power in the Ancient Rome. The insignia of the kings of Rome were twelve lictors wielding the fasces bearing axes, the right to sit upon a Curule chair, the purple Toga Picta, red shoes, and a white diadem around the head. Lictors, fasces and axes were got back as the symbols of the consuls, who were the supreme offices of the Roman republica. Interestingly these insignia were used by the Italian dictator Mussolini in the XX century to declare the “New Empire”.