Back to our Women's Wednesday! Our guest this time is Tanaquil, Roman queen of Etruscan descent.

Married to Lucumo (whose name meant "king" in Etruscan), Tanaquil believed her husband would make a good leader; for this reason, she convinced him to move their family to Rome, still a somehow new city at the time and thus open to new (and even foreign) aristocracy. While on the way to Rome, the couple was met with a prophetic sign: an eagle flew over Lucumo's head and took his hat, but eventually returned it to its place. Tanaquil interpreted this sign as the gods being in favor of her husband; and so it was, apparently, as Lucumo soon became a close friend with the Roman king of the time, Ancus Marcius. When he died, being his children too young to reign, Lucumo was soon elected as the new king with the name of Tarquinius Priscus, the fifth king of Rome. Tanaquil had also changed her name to Gaia Caecilia (sometimes rendered as Caja Cyrilla, the name used by Boccaccio himself).

When Tarquinius eventually died, being assassinated by Marcius' sons, Tanaquil hid the fact and gave out that the king was merely wounded. Taking advantage of the confusion, she managed to establish her foster son, Servius Tullius, as regent until Tarquinius got better; only after they had gained the people's full respect as ruler, Servius and Tanaquil officialized Tarquinius' death.

“Caja Cyrilla”, illumination from the manuscript “De Mulieribus Claris”, decorated by Robinet Testard, ms. Français 599, f. 41v, 1488-1496, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Paris.

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