Numa Pompilius, Second King of Rome
If you thought Romulus was a great king, just wait until you meet Numa Pompilius! Considered by many to have been Rome’s greatest king, Numa was as much into religion as Romulus was into war. Not only that, he wasn’t even a Roman. He was a Sabine.
After peace was reached between the Sabines and the Romans, the Sabine King Titus Tatius co-ruled with Romulus until his death and the two cultures integrated, but not completely. The ethnic distinctions still existed. After Romulus’ death, and a one-year period of rule by the Senate, it was decided that another co-rule of a Sabine and a Roman king would be ideal. The Romans were to elect the Sabine king and vice versa. The Romans picked Numa Pompilius, who had, by coincidence, been born on 21 April 753 BC, the traditional date of the founding of Rome. (He was also the son-in-law of King Tatius, so it seems that nepotism in Italy is as old as Rome itself.)
The Sabines were so pleased with the Romans’ choice of Numa, that they neglected to elect a Roman co-king, and (though it seems strange that the Romans would have been okay with this) Numa Pompilius was informed of his election. After consulting the Augurs (the prophets who interpreted flights of birds believed to be signs of will of the gods*) Numa accepted and became the second king of Rome in 715 AD, at 38 years old.
Numa was a peace-loving man and in order to divert the natural warrior-like Romans from their hostile ways, he instituted many religious orders, ceremonies and rituals. The most famous of these was the Vestal Virgins, a fascinating cult that deserves its own post.
Numa was also responsible for the reworking the calendar. It would only be adjusted two more times before our own time, by Julius Caesar in the 1st century BC and much later by Pope Gregory the XIII in the 1580s. Next week I'll continue with the life and reign of Numa Pompilius, including more on the calendar and the Vestal Virgins!
What have we covered so far?
*This process was called “taking the Auspices” and was a fascinating and vital part of ancient Roman life. I promise to write more thoroughly about it soon.