The history of Rome spans more than two-and-a-half millennia of the existence of a city that grew from a small Latin village in the 8th century BC into the centre of a vast civilisation that dominated the Mediterranean region for centuries. The population of the city fell in the Late Empire after Rome ceased to be the capital of the Empire, and remained far lower than its ancient peak until Rome became the capital of a reunited Italy in the late 19th century. This assured the survival of very significant ancient Roman material remains in the centre of the city, some abandoned and others continuing in use. For most of the centuries in between, the Papacy was the ruler of the city and Rome became the capital of the Papal States, which grew to include large parts of central Italy. Although economically weak, Rome remained a centre of pilgrimage and also tourism.
Legend of Rome
Rome is one of the oldest named cities in the world. Its political power was eventually replaced by that of peoplesof mostly Germanic origin, marking the beginning of the Middle Ages. Rome became the seat of the Roman Catholic Church and the home of a sovereign state, the Vatican City, within its walls. Today it is the capital of Italy, an international worldwide political and cultural centre, a major global city, and is regarded as one of the most beautiful cities of the ancient world. The traditional date for the founding of Rome, following Marcus Terentius Varro, is 21 April 753 BC, and the city and surrounding region of Latium has continued to be inhabited with little interruption since around that time. Recent (2014) excavations have revealed a wall built long before the city’s official founding year. Archaeologists uncovered a stone wall, and pieces of pottery dating to the 9th century and the beginning of the 8th century, and there is evidence of people arriving on the Palatine hill as early as the 10th century BC.
There is archaeological evidence of human occupation of the Rome area from at least 5,000 years, but the dense layer of much younger debris obscures Palaeolithic and Neolithic sites. Evidence of stone tools, pottery and stone weapons attest to at least 6,000 years of human presence. The power of the well known tale of Rome’s legendary foundation tends also to deflect attention from its actual, and much more ancient, origins. The origin of the city’s name is thought to be that of the reputed founder and first ruler, the legendary Romulus. It is said that Romulus and his twin brother Remus, apparent sons of the god Mars, who were suckled by a she-wolf after being abandoned, decided to build a city. After an argument, Romulus killed Remus and named the city Rome, after himself. After founding and naming (as the story goes) Rome, he permitted men of all classes to come to Rome as citizens, including slaves and freemen without distinction.