Monday, August 8, 2011

The Seven Kings of Rome: More on Romulus

On Friday evening I attended this summer’s final performance of the Miracle Players’ new show.  An annual tradition I look forward to every year, it’s a very entertaining way to kick off the weekend. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of attending one of these outdoor performances, they are produced by 5 English-speaking actors who put together a 40-minute play about Rome (ancient or not) every summer, and perform it overlooking the Roman Forum. This year’s subject was quite apropos, and has me back on the topic I left off last Monday: The Seven Kings of Rome.

I know that I will never be able to tell the story half as amusingly as the Miracle Players did. My favorite bit is when the twin brothers, sporting British boarding school drawls, first decide to found their new civilization. It goes something like this:
-Hallo, Rommy!
-Hallo, Remmy!
-What d'you say we build a city?
Stop reading now if you are expecting me to come up with anything half so witty.

So we all know how Romulus became king, as well as his brilliant (if brutal) plan for intermarriage with the ladies of the nearby Sabine Hills, but what happened next? I'm sure you are simply dying to know…

After peace was reached between the Romans and the Sabines, thanks to the intercession of the Roman-by-marriage Sabine women, Rome was co-ruled for a time by Romulus, whose seat of power was still the Palatine Hill and, Titus Tatius, King of the Sabines, who ruled from the Quirinal Hill. The Comitium, a public meeting space that later came to house the Curia, became the mutual government center of the now joint kingdom. One hundred of the Sabine’s leading citizens were invited to become members of the Roman Senate, the two cultures merged and voilà, the population (and army) doubled.

The Sabines seemingly invented the concept, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” and this philosophy served them well, but it served the Romans even more so. This was the first instance of what would come to be a common political tool for the Romans: granting citizenship (at times in limited form) to Rome’s allies or conquered peoples. A conquered people were much less likely to revolt if they felt they were part of the whole, and if Rome could offer them an improved standard of living. Romanization, this absorption of other smaller and less powerful kingdoms or city-states into the fabric of Rome over the centuries, is one of the main reasons Rome succeeded in conquering most of the known world.

Photo sources: 1, 2, 3
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