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The Golden Bough

Chapter 14. The Succession to the Kingdom in Ancient
Latium
IN REGARD to the Roman king, whose priestly functions were inherited by his
successor the king of the Sacred Rites, the foregoing discussion has led us to the
following conclusions. He represented and indeed personated Jupiter, the great god of the
sky, the thunder, and the oak, and in that character made rain, thunder, and lightning for
the good of his subjects, like many more kings of the weather in other parts of the world.
Further, he not only mimicked the oak-god by wearing an oak wreath and other insignia
of divinity, but he was married to an oak-nymph Egeria, who appears to have been
merely a local form of Diana in her character of a goddess of woods, of waters, and of
child-birth. All these conclusions, which we have reached mainly by a consideration of
the Roman evidence, may with great probability be applied to the other Latin
communities. They too probably had of old their divine or priestly kings, who transmitted
their religious functions, without their civil powers, to their successors the Kings of the
Sacred Rites.
But we have still to ask, What was the rule of succession to the kingdom among the old
Latin tribes? According to tradition, there were in all eight kings of Rome, and with
regard to the five last of them, at all events, we can hardly doubt that they actually sat on
the throne, and that the traditional history of their reigns is, in its main outlines, correct.
Now it is very remarkable that though the first king of Rome, Romulus, is said to have
been descended from the royal house of Alba, in which the kingship is represented as
hereditary in the male line, not one of the Roman kings was immediately succeeded by
his son on the throne. Yet several left sons or grandsons behind them. On the other hand,
one of them was descended from a former king through his mother, not through his
father, and three of the kings, namely Tatius, the elder Tarquin, and Servius Tullius, were
succeeded by their sons-in-law, who were all either foreigners or of foreign descent. This
suggests that the right to the kingship was transmitted in the female line, and was actually
exercised by foreigners who married the royal princesses. To put it in technical language,
the succession to the kingship at Rome and probably in Latium generally would seem to
have been determined by certain rules which have moulded early society in many parts of
the world, namely exogamy, beena marriage, and female kinship or mother-kin.
Exogamy is the rule which obliges a man to marry a woman of a different clan from his
own: beena marriage is the rule that he must leave the home of his birth and live with his
wife's people; and female kinship or mother-kin is the system of tracing relationship and
transmitting the family name through women instead of through men. If these principles
regulated descent of the kingship among the ancient Latins, the state of things in this
respect would be somewhat as follows. The political and religious centre of each
community would be the perpetual fire on the king's hearth tended by Vestal Virgins of
the royal clan. The king would be a man of another clan, perhaps of another town or even
of another race, who had married a daughter of his predecessor and received the kingdom
with her. The children whom he had by her would inherit their mother's name, not his;
the daughters would remain at home; the sons, when they grew up, would go away into
the world, marry, and settle in their wives' country, whether as kings or commoners. Of
 
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