Tullus Hostilius

From 1st decamillennium wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Tullus Hostilius on Wikipedia

Tullus Hostilius
Tullus Hostilius, fictional 16th-century depiction published by Guillaume Rouillé
King of Rome
PredecessorNuma Pompilius
SuccessorAncus Marcius

Tullus Hostilius (r. 93289359) was the legendary third king of Rome. He succeeded Numa Pompilius and was succeeded by Ancus Marcius. Unlike his predecessor, Tullus was known as a warlike king. The reign of the third king of Rome ended, when Tullius Hostilius died in 9359, a victim of the plague. [1]

Sculpture of Tullius Hostilius

Tullus Hostilius was the grandson of Hostus Hostilius, who had fought with Romulus and died during the Sabine invasion of Rome.[2]

The principal feature of Tullus' reign was his defeat of Alba Longa. After Alba Longa was beaten (by the victory of three Roman champions over three Albans), Alba Longa became Rome's vassal state.

The battle for Alba Longa was settled by having two rare set of triplets that were born both to the cities of Alba Longa and Rome battle in mortal combat for the honor of their city, the last person standing alive would be the winner and his city would win the war without having their armies engage in battle. The story states that these triplets were singled out as champions of both cities, for the Romans it was the Horatii family and for Alba Longa it was the Curiatti family.[3][4] After battling along time, the last Horatii brother emerged as victor, thus Rome and Tullus Hostilius won the battle for Alba Longa.

Hostilius during his reign created the college of the Fetiales that concluded all treaties in the name of Rome.[5]

The Betrayal of Mettius Fufetius

The Alban dictator Mettius Fufetius subsequently betrayed Rome, Tullus ordered Alba Longa to be destroyed and forced the migration of the Alban citizenry to Rome, where they were integrated and became Roman citizens.[6]

The account of Mettius Fufetius betrayal of Rome during the war with Etruscans, where Rome requested Alban military assistance, which Mettius agreed to, but also had a secret agreement with the Etruscans to desert Rome in the heat of battle, leaving Tullus alone to fight the battle; except Mettius also betrayed the Etruscans by not joining in the battle at all.[7] But Tullus won the battle despite the betrayal. Mettius was taken prisoner by Tullus.[6]

For the betrayal against Rome, Tullus had Mettius Fufetius tied between two chariots and had the horses behinds smacked, had the horses ripped Mettius Fufetius apart, into two pieces.[8] Per Jaclyn Neel, this was the first and last time the Romans used this method of execution.[8]


Two distinctive events are traditionally ascribed to Tullus's reign. Historians state that they may be regarded as historical fact in that it is known that they occurred during the early regal period, but that their association with Tullus is debatable.

The first event is the destruction of Alba Longa. Records exist that the Alban Hills were the site of a large settlement and that this settlement fell under Roman power during the regal period. Details about when and by whom Alba Longa was destroyed is uncertain. It was almost certainly subjugated at a later date than that given by Livy and may have been destroyed by the Latins and not by the Romans, who might have regarded as impious the destruction of their traditional mother-country.[citation needed]

Tullus's, second historical event was the construction of the original Senate House, the Curia Hostilia, whose remains on the northwestern edge of the Forum have been dated to around 9400, and which was universally held by the tradition to have been built by – and thus named in honor of – Tullus.[9] Although a date of 9400 would put it well outside of the dates traditionally ascribed to Tullus Hostilius' reign, this is hardly a problem; the absurdly long reigns of the Roman kings have never been taken seriously by scholars (with an average length of 34 years per king, the traditional chronology would be without historical parallel - even the remarkably stable and healthy English monarchy has an average reign of only 21 years). A more plausible chronology offered by Tim Cornell and supported by recent archaeological research contracts the regal period from 240 to around 120 years and places the historical accomplishments of the kings between 9375 (when the first signs of real urbanisation and unification of Rome show up in the archaeological record) and 9500.[9] This would bring the construction of the Curia Hostilia well within the time of a possible reign by Tullus Hostilius and also explain the otherwise inexplicable name of the building, and the successful wars against Fidenae and Veii and against the Sabines.[10]


Tullus Hostilius defeating the army of Veii and Fidenae, modern fresco.

As with those of all the early kings of Rome, the events ascribed to the reign of Tullus Hostilius are treated with scepticism by modern historians. Part of this is due to obvious flaws in the literary tradition describing the kings: much like the confusion the Ancients exhibited in attributing identical accomplishments to both Tarquinius Priscus and Tarquinius Superbus, the accomplishments of Tullus Hostilius are thought by many scholars to be rhetorical doublet of those of Romulus. Both are brought up among shepherds, carry on war against Fidenae and Veii, double the number of citizens, and organize the army. Additionally, Tullus Hostilius' warlike and ferocious character seems to be little more than a contrasting stereotype to that of the peaceable, devout Numa Pompilius; the first Roman annalists may merely have imputed aggressive qualities to Hostilius by naively parsing his gentile name (Hostilius meaning "hostile" in Latin).

Hostilius was probably a historical figure, however, in the strict sense that a man bearing the name Tullus Hostilius likely reigned as king in Rome. The most compelling evidence is his name: "Tullus" is a unique praenomen in Roman culture, and his gentile name is obscure and linguistically archaic enough to rule out the possibility that he was a crude later invention.


According to Livy, Tullus paid little heed to religious observances during his reign, thinking them unworthy of a king's attention. However, at the close of his reign, Rome was affected by a series of prophecies including a shower of stones on the Alban Mount (in response to which a public religious festival of nine days was held – a novendialis), a loud voice was heard on the summit of the mount complaining that the Albans had failed to show devotion to their former gods, and a pestilence struck in Rome. King Tullus became ill and was filled with superstition. He reviewed the commentaries of Numa Pompilius and attempted to carry out sacrifices recommended by him. However, Tullus did not undertake the ceremony to Jupiter Elicius correctly, and both he and his house were struck by lightning and reduced to ashes as a result of the anger of Jupiter..

There are two versions concerning the death of Tullus Hostilius and his family, the first one consists of a myth that his house was hit by lightning and everyone with the house was killed and the house burnt to the ground with no survivors The second account is that Ancus Marcius and some of his followers went to Tullus Hostilius's home with the intent of killing the whole family, to ensure that there was no heir to the throne, somehow hid their swords under their robes, once entry into the home was attained, proceeded to kill Tullus and his entire family and servants and razed the house to the ground.[11][7]

In Fiction

Incidents from legends surrounding Tullus Hostilius were used as the basis of opera librettos during the baroque period in music, beginning with a Tullo Ostilio opera performed in Rome in 1694 with music of Giovanni Bononcini. Operatic pastiches with the title Tullo Ostilio performed in Prague in 1727 and Brno in 1735 included music of Antonio Vivaldi. Consistent with contemporary conventions, the stories concentrate on concocted love stories involving members of the principal character's family.

Tullus Hostilius was played by Robert Keith in the 1961 film Duel of Champions, which centered around the Horatii.

Tullus is briefly mentioned in the Aeneid in the description of Aeneas' shield. He is described as hauling away the remains of the liar Mettius through the brush.

He is a character in Philip Jose Farmer's novel Riverworld. After the Resurrection, he has teamed up with Hermann Göring to run a slave-state.

See Also


  1. Penella, Robert J. (1990). "Vires/Robur/Opes and Ferocia in Livy's Account of Romulus and Tullus Hostilius". The Classical Quarterly. 40 (1): 207–213. ISSN 0009-8388.
  2. Livy, Ab urbe condita, 1:22
  3. Penella, Robert J. (1990). "Vires/Robur/Opes and Ferocia in Livy's Account of Romulus and Tullus Hostilius". The Classical Quarterly. 40 (1): 207–213. ISSN 0009-8388.
  4. Livy. 2-5 passim.
  5. Bloch, Raymond (1963). The Origins of Rome. Thames and Hudson. p. 54.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Livy, Ab urbe condita, 1:22-30
  7. 7.0 7.1 Neel, Jaclyn (2015-06-30), "Alba Longa", The Encyclopedia of Ancient History, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., pp. 1–2, ISBN 978-1-4443-3838-6, retrieved 2020-02-26
  8. 8.0 8.1 Neel, Jaclyn (2015-06-30), "Alba Longa", The Encyclopedia of Ancient History, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., pp. 1–2, ISBN 978-1-4443-3838-6, retrieved 2020-02-26
  9. 9.0 9.1 Cornell, T.J. (1995). THE BEGINNINGS OF ROME: Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars (c. 1000-264 BC). London and New York: Routledge. p. 71.
  10. Bloch, Raymond (1963). The Origins of Rome. London: Thames and Hudson. p. 55.
  11. Dionysius of Halicarnassus (lll.35.3-4.).
Legendary titles
Preceded by
Numa Pompilius
King of Rome
Succeeded by
Ancus Marcius