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Early Rome

History of Rome: The wolf while fed Romolus and Remus

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With the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age in the C10 BC, the population of central Italy was increasing. Large nucleated settlements, mostly located on hilltops, began to develop, and Rome was one of them.
The fortune of the city is bound to its good position. The Tiber river, wide and easily navigable, guaranteed to the inhabitants an important way of communication while the inland offered highly volcanic soils, natural amenities, a rich wildlife, fresh water springs and, on the hills, refugees from floods, summer heat, and animal and human predators.
The first settlements originated on the seven hills that circle the city, mostly on the Palatine and Esquiline.
Between the 8th and 7th centuries BC, Rome grew from a tiny settlement of shepherds to an emerging city. In that time two other distinct groupings emerged within central Italy as a whole (Latium): one on the north (Etruria), and one in the Apennine mountains to the east (Samnium).

Politically, the history of ancient Rome is marked by three periods.
From 753-509 BC the city developed from a village to a city ruled by kings. In the period from 509-27 BC the Romans expelled the kings and established the Roman Republic. From 27BC-AD 476 Rome flourished as the Roman Empire, stretching its domination from England to North Africa and from the Atlantic Ocean to Arabia.


Numa Pompilius

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According to tradition the foundation of Rome dates back to 753 BC, when Romulus (a son of the god Mars and a descendent of the Trojan prince Aeneas) killed his twin Remus and became the first king of the city.
Even if this is only a fascinating legend Rome is very proud of its mythic origins. In fact, the symbol of the city is still the she-wolf, the mythic animal that found and suckled the two abandoned twins.
To guarantee the population of his city, Romulus is told to have organized the famous "rape of the Sabine women".
The second king of Rome, Numa Pompilius (715-673 BC), was a Sabine regarded as especially just and devoted to religion.
One of the religious traditions that he instituted is the selection of vergins to be priestesses of the goddess Vesta.
Under the third king, Tullus Hostilius (672-641 BC) the Romans began to expand with the conquest of nearby cities like Alba Longa.
After he contracted the plague the Romans deposed him, thinking it was a punishment for the neglect of the gods, and named Ancus Marcius as their fourth king. Marcius , who reigned from 640- 617 BC, founded the port of Ostia at the mouth of the Tiber.
The last thre kings of Rome were three Etruscan wealthy men. Lucius Tarquinus Priscus (616-579 BC) was said to have drained the marshes between the hills and paved an area destined to became the market place (the future Roman Forum). Servius Tullius (578-535BC) organized the Roman army into groups of 100 men called centuries and was said to have built a new wall around the city.
The seventh king, Lucius Tarquinus Suberbus was expelled in 510 BC after his son cruelly raped Lucretia, a virtuous roman matron and wife of his kinsman Collatius.
With the deposition of the last Etruscan king ends not only the monarchy as form of government, but also the great and deep influence that the Etruscans have had since than on all the aspects of the early Roman life.


The Etruscans had a great cultural, political, and social influence on early Rome.
Culturally they transmitted to the Romans their intense religious beliefs, their artistic accomplishments, and their sophistication.
They contributed to the development of the city and its countryside with their skill at urban planning, engineering, and waterworks.
The Romans would also develop their professional tradition in metalwork. But the cultural impact reflects itself also in the decoration style. For centuries the Roman decorated the temples in the Etruscan style. Far more than this, Etruscans constituted also a link between Italy and Greece. Via Greeks, Roman inherited a highly developed form of culture.
For example they incorporated the Olympian gods into their own array of deities.

From a political point of view Romans adopted the Etruscan kind of government, hierarchically organized with a king on the top of society assisted by the nobility.

Another aspect of the social influence that the Etruscans initially had on Roman life is mirrored in the free manner in which women were treated.


From earliest times the two pillars on which has relied the roman society during the five centuries of the Roman Republic were family and religion. They both deeply influenced life in al its aspects, social and political.


Being a conservative agrarian society, Romans held strong moral values that permitted them to hold together as a group and eventually consider themselves superior to the other peoples. Strong workers and frugal, self-reliant and cautious, serious about their responsibilities and steadfast in the face of adversity, Romans particularly valued virtus, pietas and fides.
The typical patriarchal nature of the Romans conferred great power and responsibilities to the man, who held decisional power both in the political and in the familiar life. But women enjoyed a private and social freedom far more than their counterparts in Greece.
They played an important role in child guidance, household, and could attend public and private banquets.

Since the very beginning, slaves played a fundamental role in Roman society and survived as an institution throughout Roman history. The earliest slaves were poor peasants reduced to slavery by debt.
They helped to work in the fields but their condition was not so bad as it will be later. They were considered part of the family and could keep savings (peculium) to emancipate and became free Roman citizens.
When Rome began its conquest, by the 2nd century, huge numbers of foreign captives were brought to Rome to work on immense plantations. The cruelty within which Romans treated them led to various rebellions and insurrections.
The most famous one recorded is that of Spartacus, an army deserter sold into slavery as a gladiator.


The earliest Romans were an agricultural people and focus their religion on spirits who, according to their believing, presided over nearly every aspect of the natural world.
Much of the rites and practices in honour of those gods, as many superstitions were so deeply rooted in the believing of the people that have survived even after the introduction of new religious practices.
Romans also inherited many practices and gods from Etruscan and Greek beliefs. Religion always played a fundamental role in the roman society.
The rulers of the society had to ensure that the community remained at peace with the gods. In the belief that gods responded to their offerings (quid pro quo), Romans have always cultivated their deep devotion though many manifestations including prayers, festivals, sacrifices, sacred groups (as the Vestal virgins, who served Vesta, the goddess of the hearth), and eventually erecting many great temples and constructions in their honour.
The deep influence of religion on all the aspects of the daily life reflects itself also in the organization of the calendar and the week, mostly named after gods. Believes, as political institutions, had to suit the progress and changes of the society and the happenings.
In this sense, religion mirrored the ability of Romans to adapt themselves to the changes and the times in order to guarantee the survival of their developments and enlargement.


Do you want to read more about the Roma's History? Here are the links to the other sections:

The Republican Rome
The Roman Empire
Rome in the Middle Age
The Renaissance
Baroque Rome
The Risorgimento
Modern Rome
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