5 Diabolical Roman Kings (And How Karma Screwed Them All Over)

  • January 22, 2014
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Servius Tullius (578-535)

servius tullius

You see, old Tarquin had a thing or two up his sleeve. Since he probably spent the majority of his life looking over his shoulder for the two sons whom he had royally screwed, he also likely saw the assassination coming a couple of years away, and decided to leave a plan should he ever die.

Obviously, Tarquin died instantly. This is not what the Romans were told. Instead, Tanaquil, Tarquin's wife, told them that he was suffering from a debilitating illness and would be bed-ridden for a number of weeks. In his stead, Servius Tullius, a protégé of Tanaquil's and Tarquin's son in law, would rule Rome. Needless to say, Tarquin never quite "recovered." However, by the time the Roman public found out, Servius was already firmly on the throne. The sons of Ancus were jailed (obviously axe-murdering, even in those days, was not a very discrete way to kill someone), making him the sole claim to the throne.

How karma screwed him over:

All of Rome's kings seemed to have two several traits in common. First, they were all very good at killing. Killing, it seems, was the national pastime of Rome. And who, of course, could do it any better than the king? Servius proved to be a good soldier when the Estrucan city of Veii declared war. In fact, his victory over the Estruscans was so impressive; he literally never had to take command of an army again.

Even more importantly, all of the kings died in hilariously violent ways, and Servius is quite possibly the greatest example for this. Like kings before him, Servius died in another coup for the throne even more preposterous than the previous coups combined. The culprits behind the plot: his very own daughter Tullia and Lucius Tarquin, the grandson of the man who had helped him usurp the throne decades ago.

Lucious Tarquinius Superbus, a.k.a Tarquin the Proud, was not a very roundabout person. He usurped the throne quite simply by showing up in the Senate and declaring himself king. Servius, obviously confused and a tiny bit upset that his supreme authority was being challenged, rushed to the Senate. If you the phrase "It's a trap!" just sprang to your mind like the words of Admiral Ackbar, then you’re probably more than qualified to be supreme ruler of an ancient superpower. Servius did not have a good track record with the senators of Rome and they literally threw him out of the hall and into the street. Amidst the confusion, hired assassins (by now a respected and profitable profession in Rome) stabbed Servius to death.

That, strangely enough, is not the climax of this story though. By the time Tullia had emerged from the Senate to go home, her father's body had not yet been taken out of the streets. When Tullia got in her carriage, her father's body blocked the way. Contrary to what one would think, this did not serve as a problem to Tullia and she simply ran it over. The street in which King Servius was assassinated and run over on was forever known afterward as the "street of guilt." We'd like to suspect that Tullia bragged about this part for the rest of her life.


Lucious Tarquinius Superbus a.k.a Tarquin the Proud (535-510)

lucious tarquinius01

Tarquin the Proud is chronologically the last king of Rome, and came to power in a preposterously violent coup that still landed him the throne.

Having come to power using violent means, the only way he was going to be able to get things done was by using the same methods. Tarquin was a tyrant and an absolute prat. He pronounced himself the supreme judge of Rome, passing judgment on others in a maniacal fashion that could make a Bond villain cream his jeans. As well, any property of the accused would be seized by the monarchy. Without giving the accused any recourse for appeal, Tarquin the Proud turned himself into the Judge Dredd of Ancient Rome.

The poor (afraid for their lives) and the wealthy (afraid for their possessions) quite understandably hated the living Hades out of Tarquin the Proud. Revolt and revolution was about as predictable as financial Armageddon to the auto industry.

How karma screwed him over:

Like all of the other kings of Rome, Tarquin's downfall came from a combination of power lust and annoying relatives. In this case, his horny (and thus appropriately named) son Sextus, looking for some loving, raped the noblewoman Lucretia, and got even the highest echelons of Roman society cheesed at the royals.

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Also, two of Tarquin’s victims in court were the father and brother of one Lucius Iunius Brutus. In an act of revenge of Alexandre Dumas proportions, Brutus led the rebels against Tarquin and declared Rome a republic. Tarquin wouldn't have needed to worry about much about the rebels, of course, had he not been so hated by pretty much every other Roman as well, which meant that the army in Rome quickly joined in the revolution.

In the years to follow, Rome became engaged in civil wars that would eventually lead to its establishment as a republic. Prince Sextus fled to Gabii, but was killed. The king, however, managed to escape. Over the next few decades, he attempted to recapture Rome, but ultimately spent his last years powerless in exile.

Ready to join the historical cagematch? Join the discussion below! Written by Matthew Neuteboom – Copyrighted © www.weirdworm.com Image Sources

Image sources:

  • - Romulus (753-716 AD): http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/fd/Jean_Auguste_Dominique_Ingres_019.jpg/800px-Jean_Auguste_Dominique_Ingres_019.jpg
  • - Tullus Hostillius (673-642 BC): http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1e/Tulius-Hostilius.jpg
  • - Tarquinius Priscus a.k.a Tarquin the Elder (616-579 BC): http://www.getty.edu/art/collections/images/l/00069101.jpg
  • - Servius Tullius (578-535): http://historyofscience.com/G2I/timeline/images/servius_tullius.jpg
  • - Lucious Tarquinius Superbus a.k.a Tarquin the Proud (535-510): http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/8d/Comic_History_of_Rome_Table_02_Tarquinius_Superbus_makes_himself_King.jpg/800px-Comic_History_of_Rome_Table_02_Tarquinius_Superbus_makes_himself_King.jpg http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_3GeLPlID5vs/Sakgxw5rMgI/AAAAAAAAAWU/QP-VlplUBBU/s1600/550px-Sebastiano_Ricci_048.jpg