|“||Oh, my dear. Did you think ‘that’ was the invasion? Those troops were just my skirmishers, tasked with keeping you all divided and confused while I came here to secure the books. Now I know where they are, which means the city can be properly pillaged! The rest of my army should be coming through your sewers right about now.||”|
–Tarquin taunting Hazel shortly before the battle goes in her favor in The Tyrant’s Tomb.
Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, better known as simply Tarquin, was the seventh and final king of Rome before it became a republic.
Lucius Tarquinius Superbus was said to be the son of Lucius Tarquinius Priscus and Tanaquil, the fifth king and queen of Rome. He was praised for his manly looks and physical strength at the time. His wife was Tullia Minor, the younger daughter of the current king, Servius Tullius. Together, they arranged the deaths of her husband and father so Tarquin can become king. In 535 BCE (Before the Common Era), Tarquin dazzled the senators with flattery and gifts then sat on the throne and persuaded them to make him the new king. When King Tullius arrived to defend his position, Tarquin picked him up, carried him outside, and threw him in the street. Tullia then drove her chariot over her father killing him.
During his reign, Tarquin had many senators who were still loyal to Servius Tullius put to death. He changed the constitution of the Roman Kingdom to give himself complete power and used violence to rule. He was obsessed with building projects, he was responsible for the construction of Rome's main Sewer and the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus. Tarquin also made many wars forcing many countries to sign treaties so he could get land to build more temples for the gods. One of the Latin cities that rejected his treaties was Gabii, so Tarquin sent his son, Sextus Tarquinius, pretending to be abused by his father and covered in blood there. Once he gained their unlimited trust with the command of their troops, Sextus sent a messenger to his father. Tarquin was in his garden when he received it but he made no reply, instead, he just struck off the heads of the tallest poppies with a stick. But Sextus knew what that meant, he banished or put to death all the leading men of Gabii resulting in the city to submit.
One day, Tarquin was visited by the Cumaean Sibyl who offered nine books containing prophecies. Seeing that the price would cause the kingdom to go bankrupt, Tarquin simply sent her away. The Sybil burned three of the books then came back to the Senate room to offer them for the same price. Tarquin tried not to laugh, but the Sybil said that knowledge is expensive and that less is worth more. She told him that the books would help their kingdom in the future to avert disasters and summon help from the gods. Tarquin said that as the high priest as well, only he can appease the gods. Before he could finish talking, she threw three more books into the nearest brazier burning them, then offered the same price. All around Tarquin, senators shifted and whispered uneasily, guards' faces went pale with fear, and the enslaved women did their best to hide behind the dais. Tarquin knew that the Romans were superstitious, as the high priest he couldn't make the gods angry. If the last three books were burned, the guards may impale him instead. So he reluctantly agreed to the sibyl's terms and had the payment brought to the Pomerian Line. Tarquin would consult these Sibylline books in times when Rome is in need.
In 509 BCE, the kingdom had finally had enough of King Tarquin's tyranny when Sextus Tarquinius raped a noblewoman named Lucretia who then stabbed herself to death with a dagger. It was that along with the weariness of taxes and forced labor that caused his subjects to rebel. The revolt was led by Lucius Junius Brutus, Tarquin's nephew from his sister and the head of his bodyguard. The king and his family were refused entry of the kingdom, so they fled to exile, and Rome became a republic. One of the examples that led to this was Servius Tullius' death, which was regarded as a "tragic crime", Tullia Minor fled the city fearing for her life. Sextus went back to Gabii for protection but was assassinated on the spot for his actions there.
Tarquin attempted to take back control over Rome many times. He joined forces with the Etruscan king and battled Rome in the Silva Arsia forest, although Brutus lost his life Tarquin was not able to take back the throne. Then he turned to Lars Porsena, the king of Clusium, for help but that didn't work either. His final attempt was at the battle of Lake Regillus, but soon after that failed Tarquin went to the court of Aristodemus at Cumae where he died in 495 BCE, or 254 AUC (Ab urbe condita), his tomb was never discovered.
Tarquin was first mentioned by Apollo when he, Meg McCaffrey, and Grover Underwood were solving puzzles sent by Herophile, the Oracle of Erythaea, in Burning Maze. The clue is a quote from Ovid in Latin, Now must I tell of the flight of the king. The last to reign over the Roman people Was a man unjust yet puissant in arms. Tarquin brought Apollo back some bad memories even though the Roman Kingdom was a little hazy, he even had trouble remembering his name but he did know that it started with Ta like taco. A prophecy they made stated that Apollo will die in the tomb of Tarquin unless Reyna Ramírez-Arellano opens the door to some soundless god.
A few days later Hazel, Apollo, Meg McCaffrey, and Lavinia Asimov sneak into his tomb, which moved to America like the gods, and learn he plans to join in on Caligula and Commodus’ attack before calling out to the four intruders. He triggers the poison in Apollo’s system from the scratch he received three days before. Hazel then collapses a wall on him, crushing him but not killing him.
During the second wave of the assault, he interrogates Aristophanes on the location of the Sibylline Books. When he sees Apollo he forces him to reveal that the prophecies are tattooed on Tyson’s skin. He then unleashes his full force. Nothing happens and he is attacked on cue by the cat. Hazel then delivers a strike before Diana arrives and finishes him off, leaving only his crown behind.
When he was still alive back in the days of the Roman Kingdom, Tarquin's face was like wet porcelain cut with a steak knife. A wide glistening mouth pulled into a lopsided scowl and his cheekbones were too pronounced. His nose was broken and healed in an ugly zig-zag, his eyes were heavy-lidded and suspicious and his long, stringy hair looked like drizzled clay. Over time, he'd grown hunched and thick, he wore the hide of a wolf for a cloak. His robes were mottled pink, it was impossible to tell if they'd once been red then splattered with bleach or had once been white then splattered with blood.
- Necromancy: Tarquin is able to control a massive army of undead with ease and convince sentient undead to support him over Hades. He is even able to control those that are partially undead or dying to some extent.
- Immortality (Limited): Tarquin had some form of undead immortality allowing him to survive what other undead could not, surviving a tunnel collapsing on top of him and fatal attacks from Meg and Hazel. His immortality is limited, however, as Tarquin was killed by Diana.
- Geokinesis: Tarquin's control of the earth was capable of confusing Hazel's earthsense, to the point that she couldn't find her way out of his tomb.
- Some versions of the myth say that Tarquin's men killed Servius Tullius and that Tullia Minor only ran over her father's corpse.
- The concept of tall poppy syndrome, where people of high status are cut down or at least resented by their superiors, derives its name from the episode in Livy with Tarquin.
- The Tyrant's Tomb, Ch. 11