|The she-wolf suckles Romulus and Remus|
The Romans created an empire that ranged from Djem in north Africa to Hadrian’s Wall, from Baalbek in Lebanon and the Euphrates to southern France. The heirs of ancient civilizations such as the Phoenicians, Egyptians and Greeks became subject to Roman rule and part of an empire that at its height numbered about 100 million people. The Roman Empire lasted for centuries, not collapsing in the east until the fall of Constantinople in 1453.
|The restored Ara Pacis (Altar of Peace)|
Like Augustus, Mussolini wished to recreate Rome. Much of the history of Fascist Italy – and of the French Revolution – is incomprehensible without a realization that the politicians had the ancient Romans constantly in mind. But which Romans? If Mussolini saw himself as a Roman Emperor, the Renaissance political theorist Machiavelli, the English republicans of the seventeenth century, and the American revolutionaries of the eighteenth, all looked back to the ideal of the Republic. The American Senate is located on a hill called the Capitol.
Foundation mythsThe Romans had two, not particularly compatible, foundation myths.
Romulus and Remus: As early as the 5th century BC the establishment of the city was already being ascribed to a vague figure known as Romulus. The fullest version of the story is found in the writings of the historian, Livy. Romulus and his twin brother Remus were the sons of the vestal virgin Rhea Silvia and the god Mars. They were also the great-nephews of the usurper Amulius, who had seized power from his brother Numitor. Amulius ordered the twins to be exposed but they were suckled by a she-wolf. When the boys grew to manhood they avenged their grandfather, and set out to found a city of their own. But the two brothers quarrelled. Romulus wished to found his city on the Palatine Hill, Remus on the Aventine. Romulus killed Remus and proceeded to found his city.
If you click here you will be taken to Melvyn Bragg's 'In our Time' programme in which he and his guests discuss the story of Romulus and Remus.
The foundation of Rome
|The Etruscan Confederation|
From the Etruscans the Romans took their temples, the fasces (the symbol of the magistrates), and the cult of Jupiter. In 509 the Temple of Jupiter was founded on the Capitoline Hill. The last two kings of Rome were Etruscans.
|Model of the Temple of|
Jupiter Optimus Maximus
('the best and greatest')
The three periods of Roman history
- The Regal period dates from the alleged foundation of the city in 753 BC on the Palatine Hill when Rome was ruled by several Etruscan kings. In 509 the republican Lucius Junius Brutus expelled Tarquin the Proud, the last king of Rome. There is no written account of this period earlier than the third century BC.
- The Republic: 509-27 BC. In this period, Rome won dominance first in Italy and then in the Mediterranean. The Republic collapsed after a century of disorder, beginning in 133 BC. This period is the best documented in Roman history.
- The Empire, which was founded in 27 BC. The term (imperium) refers to a method of government, not the acquisition of territory. Augustus, the first Emperor, always insisted that he had restored the Republic and wished to be referred to as Princeps. The Empire collapsed in the west in 476 AD and in the east in 1453.