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Rome History

It’s hard to think of a city in the world that has been at the center of so many history-altering moments in the last 2,500 years. The saying is very true: Rome was not built in a day. In fact, Rome history began—according to the myth of the city’s founding—around 753 B.C. when the two orphaned twin brothers, Romulus and Remus, were found on the banks of the Tiber River and raised by a female wolf. Romulus eventually killed Remus and a city—named after him—was born. For a few centuries, Rome was a growing city, governed by an elected senate. But things declined and a power struggle between generals ensued. The victor? Julius Caesar, who helped ease the so-called democratic Roman Republic into the not-so-democratic Roman Empire. At this time in the 1st century BC, Rome’s influence stretched from Spain to Egypt and into Asia, making the Mediterranean Sea a “Roman lake.”  By the time of Emperor Augustus (where we get the name of our month August), Rome was the center of the world, the most powerful city on the planet. And this force of strength ushered in a long period of peace (known as the Pax Romana), followed by Christianity—a once outlawed cult—becoming the official religion of the state in the 4th century. But, perhaps like all empires, things fell apart. Next in Rome history were the successive invasions from Germanic tribes, which sealed the fate of Rome, and by the 5th century the power the city once held was over. Rome, caput mundi—the head of the world, in Latin—was now kaput, broken, as they say in German. The Middle Ages were rough on Rome. In the year 300 A.D., Rome had a million inhabitants, but by the 13th century there were only 30,000 people living there. Eventually even the popes fled; from around 1305 to 1378 the papal seat was relocated to Avignon, in the south of France. But the Renaissance would help bring back a sense of glory to Rome history, highlighted by the debauched lifestyles of the popes, who spent their money on art and extravagant lifestyles. For which we’re indebted: otherwise, the great works of Michelangelo and Raphael, for example, would have never been created in the Eternal City during this time. In the 19th century, Rome became the capital of the newly unified Italian state. The Catholic Church stood to lose a lot of its property in the unification, and from 1870 to 1929 a cold war of sorts between the Vatican and the new Italian state in Rome existed until finally fascist dictator Benito Mussolini cut a deal with the pope, recognizing the Vatican as an autonomous state, and one of the world’s smallest nations, at some 108 acres, was born. In the 20th and 21st centuries Rome no longer had the powerful sway it once had in centuries and millennia past. But Rome will always have its charm and its layers upon layers of history (in many cases, literal layers). And that makes us eternally happy.