History of Rome
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glorious Roman civilization had its origins in small groups
of farmers and shepherds who settled along the banks of the
Tiber, on the Palatine hills and the surrounding areas.
The most famous myth regarding Rome's origins recounts that
the Trojans escaped from their ruined city of Troy, with
Aeneas as their guide, they reached Lazio, settled there and
intermarried with the Latin people. Ascanius, son of Aeneas,
founded Albalonga, his ancestor, Amulius took the throne
from his older brother, Numitore and forced his daughter
Rhea Silvia to become a vestal virgin. However Silvia was
loved by the god Mars and bore him twin sons, Romulus and
Remus, who were thrown into the Tiber. The twins survived
and were washed up close to the Palatine hills. A she-wolf
raised the newborn babies, who were later found and adopted
by a shepherd and his wife. An argument between the two
brothers over who was to be the founder of the city was
decided when Romulus murdered his brother and Rome is said
to have been established in 753 BC.
The Roman republic was characterized by internal struggles
that eventually led to the success of the plebeians (lower
class Romans) and a new order of ruling class. The city
expanded and gradually, the whole of Lazio, the Italic
peninsula and the Mediterranean basin were conquered. For
almost four centuries, Rome concentrated her energies on
building a strong, solid empire. Mighty conquests came thick
and fast: from Sannitic and Tarantine wars, to clashes with
Carthage and Syracuse. Rome expanded over land and sea and
managed to accomplish what no other civilization had managed
i.e. the unification of the East and West.
In the first two centuries of the empire, Rome reached the
height of her power, but the first signs of her downfall
were already apparent towards the end of the second century.
The imperial age opened with a long period of peace and the
unity of the empire was secure during the period between
Emperors Octavian and Caracallus, however, this unity became
increasingly unstable and eventually dissolved.
The fall of the Roman Empire is dated 476 BC. The causes of
Rome's decline are numerous: the empire was unable to
control her many subjects, social and economic changes made
for an unstable climate as did the forceful arrival of the
Barbarians. Christianity also began to spread and emperors
tried to unite the empire using religion. Emperors wanted to
have their titles sanctified and became Holy Roman Emperors.
Emperor Constantine sanctioned the freedom and tolerance of
Christians in the empire in his edict of 313 but he unwisely
decided to move the capital of the empire to Constantinople
undermining the empire's power. The pontificate was
re-established in Rome with Gregory XI in 1377. The power of
the Popes increased, they were able to assign public
offices, which led to clashes and schisms.
The centralizing of the papacy and the power absolute that
the church had made a cultural impact. Rome became the
centre of artistic life. The face of the city changed, as
palaces, villas, piazzas and churches were built. New
streets were created and the basilica of Saint Peter was
restored. The sack of Rome occurred in 1527, and although
the effects were disastrous (all the artists abandoned the
city), the wounds were soon healed and a new spirit of
rebirth and development enveloped the city. More new
districts and streets were created and the population began
to move back to the city.
In the 17th century, Rome also had a period of expansion and
beautification, largely due to the work of two major
artists, Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini.
Clashes continued between the nobility and the populace.
Rome's fortune waxed and waned under Napoleonic rule: the
church's estates were confiscated and divided amongst French
officials and Italian laymen. The city was subject to French
rule until the fall of Napoleon III and the annexation of
Rome became the capital of Italy in 1870 and the city
received a huge influx of immigrants; this led to the rapid,
and disordered creation of new dwellings. The situation did
not become any better with the advent of fascism. During
WWII, the city was bombarded heavily by America, causing
major damage, particularly in the areas of Verano and Porta
Maggiore. The city was attacked during the period of German
occupation until the end of the war. From June 2, 1946 Italy
chose to be a republic, ousting its monarchy and Rome was
chosen as the capital.
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