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Tullius, Servius

The Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization

Andrew Drummond

Tullius, Servius, 

the sixth king of Rome (conventionally 578–535 bc), murdered by Tarquinius Superbus at the instigation of his daughter Tullia. Claudius identified him with the Etruscan adventurer Mastarna but Roman sources, deriving Servius from servus (‘slave’), made him the son of a Latin captive Ocrisia and brought up in the household of Tarquinius Priscus. Because of his supposed slave ancestry he was credited with the enfranchisement of freedmen, the creation of the Compitalia, a close association with Fortuna (cf. Degrassi, Inscriptiones Latinae Liberae Rei Republicae 1070 (3rd cent.?), and perhaps the establishment of the (certainly archaic) federal Latin sanctuary of Diana on the Aventine (whose dedication date coincided with a slave festival). As the penultimate king he was credited (probably by the time of Timaeus) with political and military institutions that were deemed fundamental to the republic but believed to antedate it: the centuriate organization, the first territorial tribes (see tribus), and the census. Although their initial phases may well date from the 6th cent., the form in which our sources present these innovations is anachronistic, as is the associated ascription to Servius of the first Roman coinage, direct taxation (tributum), and army pay. The ‘Servian wall’ of Rome dates from the early 4th cent. (earlier 6th-cent. defences have not been securely identified) but two phases of the Sant'Omobono sanctuary (with which Servius was associated) do belong to the 6th cent. Accius already celebrated Servius as establishing ‘liberty’ for the citizens, but later writers offer varying interpretations of his reforms: as concentrating political power in the hands of the wealthy (Cicero Rep 2. 37ff.), as creating a timocratic socio-political hierarchy (Livy 1. 42ff.), or simply as the work of a skilful pragmatic populist (Dionysius Halicarnassius Antiquitates Romanae 4. 1ff.). Recent speculation has seen him as (in part) attempting to combat the power of the nascent patriciate.

Andrew Drummond