|“||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, having reigned for 25 years before it became a republic. He was the main antagonist and titular character of The Tyrant's Tomb.Tarquin was killed by Diana, who was summoned by her twin to help defeat him.
Lucius Tarquinius Superbus was said to be the son of Lucius Tarquinius Priscus and Tanaquil, the fifth king and queen of Rome. 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 that Tarquin could be crowned king. In 535 BCE, Tarquin marched with a host of armed men into the Forum, took the throne, and proclaimed himself king. When Tullius arrived to defend his position, saying: "What is the meaning of this, Tarquin? With what boldness do you dare assemble the senators, or sit upon my seat?" Tarquin took him up and cast him down the steps. Tullia then drove her carriage over her father, killing him. The street on which this deed took place was thereafter called the vīcus scelerātus, or "wicked street". Tarquin refused to bury Servius Tullius, a deed from which he earned his name Superbus, meaning "the proud".
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, surrounding himself with an armed guard, lest anyone attempt to kill him. He was obsessed with building projects, he was responsible for the construction of Rome's main Sewer (cloāca maxima) 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. However, Sextus knew what that meant, he banished or put to death all the leading men of Gabii, forcing in the city to submit.
While Tarquin was overseeing these building projects, an ostent came to him: a snake had fallen down from a wooden column, and after stirring up terror and flight in the palace, it filled the king's mind with not so much fear as with fearful worries of what it meant. Thus, that several seers might been summoned to interpret the sign, Tarquin, terrified by the vision, sent some men to Delphi, where resided the most renowned prophets in the lands. He did not dare to reveal the occurrence to anyone else, but he sent only two of his sons across unknown (at that time) lands, and across the seas to Greece, whose names were Titus and Arruns. Lucius Junius Brutus was to accompany them, the son of Tarquinia, sister of the king, whose true nature he disguised under a pretense of stupidity. For he, when he had heard the leaders of the city, amongst whom was his brother, had been killed by his uncle, he made sure there was nothing in his mind that could threaten the king, lest he be killed as well. Brutus hardly rejected his nickname (brūtus meaning "slow-witted, thick" in Latin), for under his feigned stupidity, he waited for the opportunity to liberate the Roman people from the tyranny of the king.
When they arrived, after they had done their father's command, they were seized by a desire to find out the fate of their kingdom. Then, from a cave deep in the ground, it is said that a voice was heard, saying: "He amongst you, O youths, that first gives a kiss to his mother, will hold the highest power in Rome." Titus and Arruns, that Sextus (who had been left in Rome) might not know of the response, and that he might not inherit the kingdom, made sure the words were quieted; they themselves hastened to Rome, and entrusted to fate which one of them might first give their mother a kiss. Brutus however, thinking the voice meant something else, pretended to fall over accidentally, and touched the earth with a kiss, for of course the earth is the universal mother of all mortals. He then returned to Rome, where war was being prepared against the Rutuli with all of their resources.
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 in indignity. 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, who, upon Lucretia's suicide, made a vow upon her blood and the gods that no other king would rule the Roman people: "I swear upon this blood, chastest ere the royal crime, and I make you, gods, witnesses that I will hereafter pursue Tarquin the Proud, his sinful wife, and the whole line of his offspring with steel and fire and whatsoever power wherewith I am able; Nor will I suffer them, nor any other man to reign in Rome." The king, abandoning his war against the Rutuli, fled in exile, and Rome became a republic. 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.
Brutus was elected one of the first Roman consuls. In a subsequent conflict, Brutus was killed by Arruns, who was killed simultaneously. After his death, the women of Rome mourned him for a year. Two years after the kings had been driven out, Tarquin, that he might again hold power into Rome, waged war against the Romans with an ally Porsenna, the king of Etruria, who brought help to him. Although he almost captured the city, he was defeated. In the third year after he had been expelled, since Porsenna had made peace with Rome and would no longer bring aid to him, Tarquin retired to Tusculum, which was not far from Rome, and for fourteen years he grew old with his wife in a private estate. Six years later, after Tarquin's son-in-law, Octavius Mamilius, had gathered a great army to avenge the wrong done to his father-in-law, they made a final attempt to regain their power at the battle of Lake Regillus, in which Mamilius was slain. The attempt proved unsuccessful, and thus Tarquin went to the court of Aristodemus at Cumae where he died in 495 BCE, or 254 AUC (Ab urbe conditā, "from the founding of the city"). His tomb was never discovered.
Despite his death, Tarquin somehow managed to return in an undead state. After seeing him, Apollo suggests that his sheer hatred and ambition kept Tarquin going for centuries after he was supposed to have died.
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 Book 2 of Ovid's Fasti 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 the 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 with an arrow to the head, 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 with an arrow to the head.
- Geokinesis: Tarquin's control of the earth was capable of confusing Hazel's earth-sense, 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