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509 BC (or so) Romans revolt against King Tarquin


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The Early Roman Republic

 

The Revolt against King Tarquin

 

In 510 BC Rome witnessed a revolt against the rule of the Etruscan kings.

 

The traditional story goes as follows;

 

Sextus, the son of king Tarquinius Superbus raped the wife of a nobleman, Tarquinius Collatinus. King Tarquinius' rule was already deeply unpopular with the people. This rape was too great an offence to be tolerated by the Roman nobles.

 

Lead by Lucius Iunius Brutus, they rose in revolt against the king.

 

Brutus was the nephew of King Tarquin by marriage. Related he may have been to the king, but he had no reason to love him. Brutus was the son of Marcus, whose substantial wealth had been illegaly seized by King Tarquin at his death. Not only had Tarquin abused his power to steal Brutus' inheritence. Brutus' older brother had been murdered as part of the plot. Believed somewhat of a harmless fool, he had been ridiculed by Tarquin by being made second in command (Tribunus Celerum). There seems little doubt that Brutus' elevation to this position was not meant as a promotion, but a humiliation. His inheritence stole and his brother murdered, Brutus was being mocked by a tyrant.

 

Now Lucius Iunius Brutus took revenge and led the city's nobility in revolt.

Prince Sextus fled to Gabii but was killed. Meanwhile the King with his family escaped to Caere. His palace was demolished.

 

The rebellion against Tarquinius failed to achieve final independence for Rome, but it should be the birth of the Roman republic. It was after this revolt, that the senate handed power to two consuls, although at first they were called praetors (a title which later should come to be the name of a different office of the republic). These consuls each held power for one year, in which they ruled much like joint kings of Rome.

 

What also needs to be kept in mind is that this rebellion was indeed a revolt by the aristocracy of Rome. Rome was never a democracy as we would understand it today, nor as the Greeks understood it. In the early days of the Roman republic all power would reside in the hands of the Roman aristocracy, the so-called patricians ( patricii).

 

(Snip)

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