Servius Tullius

Servius Tullius was the sixth legendary king of ancient Rome, and the second king from the Etruscan dynasty.

Described in one account as originally a slave, he is said to have married a daughter of Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, and succeeded him after the latter's assassination in 579 BC. He was the first king to come to power without the consultation of the plebeians, having gained the throne by the contrivance of Tanaquil, his mother-in-law. In this account (found in Livy) Tullius was anointed as a young child to become king, after he spontaneously caught on fire. He was then raised as a prince. Incidentally, Livy did not believe that Servius Tullius was born a slave. Livy postulated that Tullius' mother was a queen of an Etruscan city which had been sacked by the Romans. His mother was captured and to pay homage to her regal origins she was allowed to live in the palace. Another legend represented him as a soldier of fortune originally named Mastarna, from Etruria, who attached himself to Cæles Vibenna, the founder of an Etruscan city on the Cælian Hill.

After military campaigns against Veii and the Etruscans, he improved the administrative and political organization of Rome. He instituted the census and divided the population into five classes (themselves divided into centuries) according to wealth; the census showed that there were 25 000 citizens of military age (according to Fabius Pictor).

Servius moved the pomerium, the boundary of the city, and included within one circuit the five separately fortified hills which were then inhabited and added two more, the Quirinal and Viminal, thus completing the "Septimontium"; the space thus enclosed he divided into four urban tribes, the Suburana, Esquilina, Collina, and Palatina. According to Livy the taxes, the "tribute," derived from the word "tribe." He built up the Esquiline where he chose to reside to improve the prestige of the area.

Servius reformed the army and also radically transformed the Roman constitution: voting rights now depended on wealth as determined by the what is believed to be the worlds first census. From now on power began to move into the hands of the most wealthy citizens. However, as time passed, Servius increasingly favoured the most impoverished people in order to obtain favours from the plebs. His legislation was extremely distasteful to the patrician order, and his reign of forty-four years was brought to a close by a conspiracy in 535 BC headed by his son-in-law Tarquinius Superbus and his own daughter Tullia. The street in which Tullia drove her cart over her father's body ever after bore the name of the "Vicus Sceleratus." (Street of Infamy)

Incorporates text from the 9th edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica

Preceded by:
Tarquinius Priscus
King of Rome
Succeeded by:
Tarquinius Superbus

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