A Famous Lars – Lars Porsena

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There are many names that have meanings to them and others which have been lost or forgotten. In “A Famous…” I show famous examples of names which are either looked down upon or rarely used. The name Lars is not very common these days and is mostly relegated to the Scandinavian region across Denmark, Norway, and Sweden and outside Scandinavia to Finland. One origin for the name Lars is from the name Laurentius, meaning laureled or from Laurentum, a city in Italy. The name Laurentius was used throughout the Middle Ages but began splitting off later into alternative versions. Below are some notable men named Lars:

Lars Ulrich – the drummer of Metallica

Lars von Trier – film director                         

Lauri Kristian Relander – President of Finland

Lars Løkke Rasmussen – Prime Minister of Denmark

Lars Onsager & Lars Peter Hansen – Nobel laureates

Yngwie Malmsteen born Lars Johan Yngve Lannerbäck – guitarist

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The Lars we will be talking about is Lars Porsena or Porsinna (Etruscan: Pursenas), the Etruscan king of Clusium (Etr: Clevsin). Where his name comes from, either from Latium or a Romanized or Anglicized version of his original name, isn’t known. In the ancient period of Italy, before the rise of Roman power, there were multiple city-states, kings, confederations and tribes which also contained elements of oligarchies and democracies. Clusium was a powerful kingdom next to Rome, believed to be modern Chiusi, in the Etruscan League and became involved with Rome when it transitioned to a republic with the ousting of the monarchy. Lucius Tarquinis Superbus was the last King of Rome and turned to Lars for aid, arguing that the precedent of ousting kings would set an example for other states to follow. Lars was convinced by this argument along with the wish to see an Etruscan king rule Rome (Livy 2.9).

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In the war, he was impressed with the bravery of specific Romans and decided to leave peacefully(Livy 2.12-13). After asking them to restore Tarquin after the war they continually refused and he eventually returned the Roman hostages he had kept and the land from Veii which he took from them (Livy 2.15). He apparently hadn’t known that the Romans would refuse their old king and reversed course when he discovered the truth (Livy 2.13).

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After the peace Livy stated that Lars sent his son Aruns with a force to attack Aricia, a powerful and important religious member of the Latin League in Latium, to salvage something from the failed campaign. Unfortunately the Latin League was assembled along with Cumaean reinforcements which utterly crushed the Clusians. Afterwards some Clusian soldiers arrived at Rome and asked to be allowed to settle in the city, forming the Vicus Tuscus street. It was located in Rome and ran southwest from the Roman Forum near the Colosseum (Livy 2.14).

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When Lars died he was buried in an ornate tomb complete with bells and multiple pyramids upon pyramids which created an impressive monument. Unfortunately Sulla destroyed Clusium in 89 BC during the Social War. Pliny cited Varro in his account of the king’s tomb which is filled with spectacular details (Pliny 39.16).

At this point in history, mention of Lars ceases thus he either died around this time or did nothing of note until his death some time later. The legacy of his city however lived on. The modern town of Chiusi has a national museum displaying their historical artifacts and a cistern from the Roman period. They even have the purported location of the historical Labyrinth of Poresenna although this is disputed. Until the next Lars is covered, remember the great power and influence of King Lars.

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                                                                                                Sources

Livy, The History of Rome = Book 2, Chapters 9, 12-13, 14, 15

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0151%3Abook%3D2%3Achapter%3D9

Pliny the Elder, The Natural History – Book 36, Chapter 19

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0137%3Abook%3D36%3Achapter%3D19

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