Founding of Rome  

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This page Founding of Rome is part of the Ancient Rome series.  Illustration: Antichita Romanae (1748) by Piranesi
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This page Founding of Rome is part of the Ancient Rome series.
Illustration: Antichita Romanae (1748) by Piranesi

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Romulus and Remus, History of Rome, Ancient Rome

The founding of Rome is reported by many legends, which in recent times are beginning to be supplemented by more scientific reconstructions.

Virgil's Aeneid is an important source for information about those early times or, at least, the myth-historical events current in the Augustan period.

The Latins originally stayed in Colli Albani (the Alban hills, modern Castelli -- 30–80 km (20–50 miles) southeast of the Capitoline hill); later, they moved down towards the valleys, which provided better land for animal breeding and agriculture. The area around the Tiber river was particularly advantageous and also offered notable strategic resources, as the river was a natural border on one side, while the hills could provide a safe defensive position on the other side. This position would also have enabled the Latins to control the river (and commercial or military traffic on it), from the natural observation point at Isola Tiberina (the island facing modern Trastevere). Moreover, road traffic could also be controlled, since Rome was at the intersection of the principal roads to the sea coming from Sabinum (in the northeast) and Etruria (to the northwest).

The development of the town is presumed to have started from the development of separate small villages, located on top of hills, which joined together to form Rome.

Although recent studies suggest that the Quirinal hill was very important in ancient times, the first hill to be inhabited seems to have been the Palatine (therefore confirming the legend), which is also at the center of ancient Rome. Its three peaks, minor hills (Cermalus or Germalus, Palatium, and Velia) united with the three peaks of the Esquiline (Cispius, Fagutal, and Oppius), and then villages on the Caelian hill and Suburra (between modern Rione Monti and the Oppius hill) joined them.

These hills had expressive names: the Caelian hill was also called Querquetulanus, from quercus (oak), while Fagutal points to beech-woods, from fagus (beech). Recent discoveries reveal that the Germalus on the northern part of the Palatine, was the site of a village (dated to the 9th century BC) with circular or elliptic dwellings. It was protected by a clay wall (perhaps reinforced with wood), and it is likely that this is where Rome was really founded.

The territory of this federation was surrounded by a sacred border called the pomerium, which enclosed the so-called Roma Quadrata (Square Rome). This would have been extended with the inclusion of the Capitoline hill and Tiber island at the time Rome became an oppidum or fortified town. The Esquiline still was a satellite village that would be included at the time of the Servian expansion of Rome.

Festivals for the Septimontium (literally "of the seven hills"), on December 11, were in the past considered related to the foundation. However, as April 21 is the only datum for foundation upon which all the legends agree, it has been recently argued that Septimontium was likely to have actually celebrated the first federations among Roman hills: a similar federation was, in fact, celebrated by the Latins at Cave (a village southeast of Rome) or at Monte Cavo (in Castelli).

According to Francis Owen in The Germanic People (1960), the people which settled Rome may have been immigrants from outside the Italian peninsula, possibly an off-shoot from the same group that would become Celtic or Germanic peoples. Traces of the founding population were apparently evident in the appearance of the aristocracy long into the time of the republic. According to Owens the evidence available from Roman literature, historical records and statuary and personal names shows that in physical appearance the Roman aristocracy differed from most of the population in the rest of the peninsula. The records describe a very large number of well known historical personalities as blonde. In addition, 250 individuals are recorded to have had the name Flavius, meaning blonde, and there are many named Rufus and Rutilius, meaning red haired and reddish haired respectively. The following Roman gods are said to have had blonde hair: Amor, Apollo, Aurora, Bacchus, Ceres, Diana, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Minerva and Venus.

Rape of the Sabine Women

The Rape of the Sabine Women is an important part of the foundation legends of Rome (8th century BC). Romulus had established the settlement on the Palatine Hill with mostly male followers. Seeking wives, the Romans negotiated with the neighboring tribe of the Sabines, without success. Faced with the extinction of their community, the Romans planned to abduct Sabine women. Romulus invited Sabine families to a festival of Neptune Equester. At the meeting he gave a signal, at which the Romans grabbed the Sabine women and fought off the Sabine men. The indignant abductees were implored by Romulus to accept Roman husbands. Livy is clear that no sexual assault took place. On the contrary, Romulus offered them free choice and promised civil and property rights to women. According to Livy he spoke to them each in person, "and pointed out to them that it was all owing to the pride of their parents in denying right of intermarriage to their neighbours. They would live in honourable wedlock, and share all their property and civil rights, and—dearest of all to human nature—would be the mothers of free men." The women married Roman men, but the Sabines went to war with the Romans. The conflict was eventually resolved when the women, who now had children by their Roman husbands, intervened in a battle to reconcile the warring parties. The tale is parodied by English short-story writer Saki in The Schartz-Metterklume Method. It also serves as the main plot of the movie Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Founding of Rome" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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