Numa Pompilius

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Numa Pompilius

Image ID: 1804963 Numa Pompilius.
Image ID: 1804963 Numa Pompilius. Romulus | Numa Pompilius | Tullus Hostilius | Ancus Marcius | L. Tarquinius Priscus | Servius Tullius | L. Tarquinius Superbus |. NYPL Digital Library

Numa Pompilius was the first of a select few reluctant heads of Rome. When Romulus, according to the legends about the founding of Rome, the first king of Rome, died, Numa Pompilius, said to have been born on the day on which Rome was founded, was the choice of the Romans for their ruler. He was a Sabine, from Cures, son-in-law of the Titus Tatius who had ruled jointly (until the death of his wife) with Romulus, and as such would help cement the alliance between Rome and the Sabines that had been damaged by the Rape of Sabines. Numa was a religious man whom Plutarch describes as not interested in ruling a city-state that was so prone to violence. Eventually, a 40-year old Numa was persuaded it would be his religious duty to rule Rome, so he accepted the throne, was officially elected by the Roman comitia curiata, confirmed by the Senate, and endorsed by the augurs, and started a peaceful reign in which he introduced land reforms, and developed the religious system of the Romans. Some of the main Roman priesthoods stem from his reign. Numa himself was at the head of the state religion, assisted by the flamen dialis.He had the temple of Janus built to be an index of whether Rome was at peace or at war. Numa also worked on the calendar to establish days for commerce and days for religion. He added the months of Januarius and Februarius to make the calendar solar.

Early Kings of Rome

More on Numa.

"The Significance of Numa's Religious Reforms," by Edna M. Hooker; Numen 1963.

Relevant Passages From Plutarch and Livy on Numa

  1. There was living, in those days, at Cures, a Sabine city, a man of renowned justice and piety - Numa Pompilius. He was as conversant as any one in that age could be with all divine and human law. His master is given as Pythagoras of Samos, as tradition speaks of no other. But this is erroneous, for it is generally agreed that it was more than a century later, in the reign of Servius Tullius....
  2. I should but be, methinks, a laughingstock, while I should go about to inculcate the worship of the gods and give lessons in the love of justice and the abhorrence of violence and war, to a city whose needs are rather for a captain than for a king.
  3. "Yet Romulus had the advantage to be thought divinely born and miraculously preserved and nurtured. My birth was mortal.... The very points of my character that are most commended mark me as unfit to reign, love of retirement and of studies inconsistent with business, a passion that has become inveterate in me for peace, for unwarlike occupations...."
  4. "[Numa Pompilius] built the temple of Janus at the foot of the Aventine as an index of peace and war, to signify when it was open that the State was under arms, and when it was shut that all the surrounding nations were at peace."
    Livy I.19

Kings of Rome and Their Dates

753-715 - Romulus

715-673 - Numa Pompilius

673-642 - Tullus Hostilius

642-617 - Ancus Marcius

616-579 - L. Tarquinius Priscus

578-535 - Servius Tullius

534-510 - L. Tarquinius Superbus