Tullus Hostilius (r. 673–642 BC) 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.
Tullus Hostilius was the grandson of Hostus Hostilius, who had fought with
Romulus and died during the Sabine invasion of Rome.
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. However, after 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.
Tullus also fought successful wars against Fidenae and Veii and against
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 Numa to Jupiter Elicius. However, Tullus
did not undertake the ceremony correctly, and both he and his house were
struck by lightning and reduced to ashes as a result of the anger of Jupiter.
Myth and history:
As with those of all the early kings of Rome, the events ascribed to the
reign of Tullus Hostilius are treated with skepticism 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 doublets 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.
Additionally, two distinctive events traditionally ascribed to his reign
may be regarded as historical fact in the sense that we know they happened
during the early regal period, although their association with Hostilius
is debatable. The first event is the destruction of Alba Longa.
It is beyond doubt that the Alban mountains were the site of a large settlement
and that this settlement fell under Roman power during the regal period.
But 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.
The second historical event is the construction of the original Senate
House, the Curia Hostilia, whose remains on the northwestern edge of the
Forum have been dated to around 600 BC, and which was universally held
by the tradition to have been built by – and thus named in honor of – Tullus.
Although a date of 600 BC 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 625 BC (when the first
signs of real urbanisation and unification of Rome show up in the archaeological
record) and 500 BC. 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.
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.
Information was taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
at this URL: