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Servius Tullius

SERVIUS TULLIUS, sixth legendary king of Rome (578- 534 B.C.). According to one account he was the son of the household genius (Lar) and a slave named Ocrisia, of the household of Tarquinius Priscus. He married a daughter of Tarquinius and succeeded to the throne by the contrivance of his mother-in-law, Tanaquil, who was skilled in divination and foresaw his greatness. Another legend, alluded to in a speech by the emperor Claudius (fragments of which were discovered on a bronze tablet dug up at Lyons in 1524), represented him as an Etruscan soldier of fortune named Mastarna, who attached himself to Caeles Vibenna (Caelius Vivenna), the founder of an Etruscan city on the Caelian Hill (see also Tacitus, Annals, iv. 65). An important event of his reign was the conclusion of an alliance with the Latins, whereby Rome and the cities of Latium became members of one great league, whose common sanctuary was the temple of Diana on the Aventine. His reign of forty-four years was brought to a close by a conspiracy headed by his son-in-law, Tarquinius Superbus.

The legend of Servius presents certain similarities to that of the founder of Rome. His miraculous birth, commemorated by Servius himself in the festival established by him in honour of the Lares, recalls that of Romulus. Again, as Romulus was the author of the patrician groundwork of the constitution, so Servius was regarded as the originator of a new classification of the people, which laid the foundation of the gradual political enfranchisement of the plebeians (for the constitutional alterations with which his name is associated, see ROME: Ancient History; for the Servian Wall see ROME: Archaeology). His supposed Latin descent is contradicted by the Etruscan tradition alluded to above (on which see V. Gardthausen, Mastarna oder Servius Tullius, 1882), and his insertion among the kings of Rome is due to the need of providing an initiator of subsequent republican institutions. The treaty with the Latins is mentioned by Dionysius of Halicarnassus alone, who had not seen it himself; indeed, it is doubtful whether it was then in existence, and in any case, considering the changes which the language had undergone, it would have been unintelligible. It is also suspicious that no list of the members of the league is given, contrary to the usual custom.

For a critical examination of the story see Schwegler, Rdmische Geschichte, bks. xvi., xvii. ; Sir G. Cornewall Lewis, Credibility of early Roman History, ch. xi.; W. Ihne, History of Rome, i. ; E. Pais, Storia di Roma, i. (1898) ; and Ancient Legends of Roman History (Eng. trans., 1906), where he comes to the conclusion that " instead of being the sixth rex of Rome, he was originally the rex servus, the priest of the cult of Diana Aricina transferred to the Aventine, the priest of the protecting goddess of fugitive slaves "; C. Pascal, Fatti e legende di Roma antica (Florence, 1903) ; also O. Gilbert, Geschichte und Topographie der Stadt Rom im Altertum (1883-1885), and J. B. Carter, The Religion of Numa (1906), on the reorganization of Servius.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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