The Rutuli or Rutulians (ancient italic Rudhuli, "the red ones" with the meaning of "the blond ones"[1]) were members of a legendary Italic tribe. The Rutuli were located in a territory whose capital was the ancient town of Ardea, located about 35 km southeast of Rome.[2]

Thought to have been descended from the Umbri and the Pelasgians, according to modern scholars they were more probably connected with the Etruscan or Ligurian peoples.[3]

Mythological history

In Virgil's Aeneid, and also according to Livy,[4] the Rutuli are led by Turnus, a young prince to whom Latinus, king of the Latins, had promised the hand of his daughter Lavinia in marriage. When the Trojans arrived in Italy, Latinus decided to give his daughter to Aeneas because of instructions he had received from the gods to marry his daughter to a foreigner. Turnus was outraged and led his people as well as several other Italian tribes against the Trojans in war. Virgil's text ends when Aeneas defeats Turnus in single combat and therefore gains the right to marry Lavinia. In some other accounts of the story of Aeneas, he is later killed in a subsequent battle with the Rutuli.[5]

War with Rome under Tarquinius Superbus

During the 6th century BC, in Rome's early semi-legendary history, Rome's seventh and final king Lucius Tarquinius Superbus went to war with the Rutuli. According to Livy, the Rutuli were, at that time, a very wealthy and powerful nation. Tarquinius was desirous of obtaining the booty that would come with victory over the Rutuli.[6]

Tarquin unsuccessfully sought to take Ardea by storm, and subsequently began an extensive siege of the city. The war was interrupted by the revolution that overthrew the Roman monarchy. The Roman army, camped outside Ardea, welcomed Lucius Junius Brutus as their new leader, and expelled the king's sons. It is unclear as to the eventual outcomes of the siege and the war.[7]


  1. Giacomo Devoto, Gli antichi Italici, Firenze, Vallecchi, 1931, p. 85.
  2. Hazlit, William. The Classical Gazetteer (1851), p. 297.
  3. Nicholas Hammond, Howard Scullard.Dizionario di antichità classiche. Milano, Edizioni San Paolo, 1995, p.1836-1836. ISBN 88-215-3024-8.
  4. Livy, Ab urbe condita, 1.2
  5. Strabo, Geographica, 5:3:2
  6. Livy, Ab urbe condita, 1.57
  7. Livy, Ab urbe condita, 1.57-60

See also

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