||The beginning of Rome, one of
the greatest cities of all time, was surprisingly modest. The
first settlers were farmers and shepherds from various regions
who settled in scattered groups around what is now known as
the Seven Hills of Rome. However, this historical fact’s
accompanying legend is much more fascinating. As many have discovered,
the line between where the fable ends and ancient history begins,
Many Romans believed that the start of their city resulted from
the fall of another. As Troy fell, the hero Aeneas managed to escape
the city’s demise and fled to Italy. Generations later, Aeneas’s
female descendant, the priestess Rhea Silva, gave birth to twins
Romulus and Remus, by the god Mars. The birth was considered criminal,
as priestesses were sworn to celibacy, and the twins were given
to a servant to be killed. The servant wrapped the infants in cloth
and threw them in the Tiber River, assuming they would eventually
drown. Instead, they washed ashore in the location of modern day
Rome, and were found and raised by a she-wolf. Eventually rising
to great power, the twins decided to form a new city, Rome, and
competed for the right to rule. In the fight for power, Romulus
killed Remus and, in 753 BC, became the first King and ruler of
Rome. For over 200 years, Rome was lead by seven consecutive kings.
The monarchy came to an end following the rape of the virtuous Lucretia
by the son of king Tarquinius Superbus. The act was considered unforgivable
by Roman standards, and the monarchy was overthrown.
In 509 BC, the Romans formed a Republic, placing much influence
in the hands of the Senate. Although the Senate represented the
views of various people, rather than just one soveirghn, the government
retained a bias in favor of the aristocracy. The Senate was composed
solely of members of the upper, or “patrician”, class.
As a result of the Republic’s fair nature, the lower, or “plebian”,
class slowly rose in status. The sporadic appointment of various
laws, permitting the lower class to freedoms they had not previously
enjoyed, allowed for temporary periods of peace. Still, the fights
between the two classes caused internal dilemmas and eventually
aided in the fall of the Republic.
The Roman Empire followed the Republic, and many believe the shift
resulted from the dictatorship of Julius Caesar in 44 BC. The first
official Emperor is generally believed to be Augustus in 27 BC.
Rome saw many different types of Emperors rule; some were great
while others were completely insane. The Emperor Claudius conquered
Great Britain and the Emperor Vespasiano oversaw the building of
the Coliseum. A later Emperor, Nero, was known for brutally slaying
hundreds of Christians, killing his mother, and, eventually, himself.
This period also brought about the division of Rome into an Eastern
and Western Empire. The Eastern Roman Empire was founded by Constantine
I in 330 AD, and outlived the Western Roman Empire, which fell to
invaders in 476 AD. The demise of the Western Roman Empire cannot
be attributed to one factor. The major upset occurred as a result
of the influx of European, specifically German, peoples. Struggling
with their own citizens, the Empire could not additionally control
other groups in such large numbers. It is important to note that
while Rome ceased to be ruled as an Empire, Rome itself did not
cease to exist. The Eastern Roman Empire saw the rise of Christianity
and respectfully lasted for almost another thousand years. In 1453
AD, the Empire fell to the Turks.
After Western Rome was conquered, the invaders squandered the city’s
power and caused the once dense population to decline severely.
Despite the barbaric rule inflicted upon Rome, Christian figureheads,
especially Popes, began to see an increase in their authority. In
800, the conqueror Charlemagne lent much support to the Popes and
in exchange was crowned as the first Holy Roman Emperor. Until the
15th century, the power of Rome was in the hands of the Emperor,
the Pope, and the upper class.
The Empire of Rome was interspersed with various attempts at a
reformed Republic, most notably in the 1700’s and 1800’s.
In 1870, Italy became a unified nation, and forced Rome, whose ruling
Pope objected, to comply with the unification. In 1871, Rome was
declared the capital of the newly formed Italy.