Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Etruscan shoes and early Roman Kings

The question came up about the mode of succession of the early Roman kings. These seven kings held enormous civil and religious powers, as this Wikipedia article makes clear. Interestingly, the office of rex apparently was not hereditary:
The kings after Romulus were not known to be dynasts and no reference is made to the hereditary principle until after the fifth king Tarquinius Priscus. Consequently, some have assumed that the Tarquins and their attempt to institute a hereditary monarchy over this conjectured earlier elective monarchy resulted in the formation of the republic.. . . 
. . . Whenever a Roman king died, Rome entered a period of interregnum (literally: between kings). Supreme power in the state would devolve to the Senate, which had the task of finding a new king. The Senate would assemble and appoint one of its own members as the interrex to serve for a period of five days with the sole purpose of nominating the next king of Rome. After the five-day period, the interrex would appoint (with the Senate's consent) another Senator for another five-day term. This process would continue until the election of a new king. Once the interrex found a suitable nominee for the kingship, he would bring the nominee before the Senate and the Senate would review him.[citation needed] If the Senate passed the nominee, the interrex would convene the Curiate Assembly and preside as its president during the election of the King. 
Once a candidate was proposed to the Curiate Assembly, the people of Rome could either accept or reject the candidate-king.

The insignia of the king was twelve lictors wielding the fasces, a throne of a Curule chair, the purple Toga Picta, red shoes, and a white diadem around the head. Only the king could wear a purple toga.

About those shoes - there's an Etruscan link: Why the Pope Wears Red Shoes. from the New York Review of Books:

A few more odds and ends:

A review of Robert Knapp's Invisible Romans (thanks, Jutta!).

The first eight chapters of Peter D'Epiro's Sprezzatura: Fifty Ways Italian Genius Shaped the World offer a range of views of Roman life and culture.

The first chapter of D'Epiro's The Book of Firsts: 150 World-Changing People and Events from Caesar Augustus to the Internet is about Augustus Caesar. The second is about Ovid's Metamorphoses.

(Disclaimer: I have essays in the two latter books but all cited here are by Peter D'Epiro).

Finally, on his latest album, Bob Dylan sings of the early Roman kings.