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According to legend, Numa Pompilius was the second of the Kings of Rome, succeeding Romulus. The Romans in the city, after Romulus died, elected a Sabine man to be king, so as to make him loyal to both tribes in Rome.
His father was Pomponius; Numa was the youngest of his four sons, being born on the day of the foundation of Rome. He lived a severe life of discipline and he banished all luxury from his home. Tatius, colleague of Romulus married his only daughter, Tatia, to Numa. She died after being married to Numa for 13 years and Numa retired to a country life, advised by the nymph Egeria who met him by her spring in a sacred grove and taught him to be a wise legislator. He had one daughter, Pompilia (who some say was his first wife Tatia's daughter and some say she was his second wife Lucretia's daughter), who married Marcius II and had the future King Ancus Marcius. Plutarch (Life) credited him with four sons, Pompo, Pinus, Calpus and Mamercus, but that from them descended the noble families of Pomponii, Pinarii, Calpurnii and Aemilii he suggested was a flattery invented after the early records were destroyed by the Gauls.
Numa was around forty when he was offered the kingship. He was residing "at a famous city of the Sabines called Cures, whence the Romans and Sabines gave themselves the joint name of Quirites" (Plutarch), and he at first refused, but his father and Marcius I (Marcius II's father) took him aside and persuaded him to accept.
He was later celebrated for his natural wisdom and piety. Wishing to show his favour, the god Jupiter caused a shield to fall from the sky on the Palatine Hill, which had letters of prophecy written on it, and in which the fate of Rome as a city was tied up. Recognizing the importance of this sacred shield, King Numa had eleven matching shields made. These shields were the ancilia, the sacred shields of Jupiter, which were carried each year in a procession by the Salii priests.
By tradition, Numa promulgated a calendar reform that adjusted the solar and lunar years, and he established the original constitution of the priests, called Pontifices. In other Roman institutions established by Numa, Plutarch thought he detected a Laconian influence, attributing the connection to the Sabine culture of Numa, for "Numa was descended of the Sabines, who declare themselves to be a colony of the Lacedaemonians."
Numa was credited with dividing the immediate territory of Roman into pagi and establishing the tradition occupational guilds of Rome:
- "So, distinguishing the whole people by the several arts and trades, he formed the companies of musicians, goldsmiths, carpenters, dyers, shoemakers, skinners, braziers, and potters; and all other handicraftsmen he composed and reduced into a single company, appointing every one their proper courts, councils, and religious observances." (Plutarch)
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