‘He who has seen Rome has seen everything’ Johann Wolfgang Goethe
The great legend of the founding of Rome
After a coupling with the god Mars, the vestal virgin Rea Silvia gave birth to the twin Romulus and Remus. These twins were thrown into the Tiber river by an uncle, but fortunately saved and suckled by a she-wolf. They founded Rome on April 21st 753 BC. Romulus killed his brother Remus and gave shleter to undesirables, kidnapping Sabine women as wives for the Romans. Six kings ruled after him.
Rome began it’s life as a humble group of villages within the Palatinate. It was not until eight centuries later that it became the controlling force of the Mediterranean. Rome’s transformation came about thanks to the etruscan kings, evolving to the founding of the republic in 509 BC, and the later conquest of the Meditteranean in the 3rd century BC. With the overpowering of Greece, close contact with this civilisation brought about a great deal of influence over roman art, architecture and culture, so strongly so that it was quoted that ‘conquered Greece conquered it’s savage victor’.
The very first roman emperor was Octavian Augustus (27BC - 14AD). He was the first to begin the many transformations necessary to adapt the city to reflect it’s newfound power and vast state. Rome quickly became a city of marble where before there were bricks and wood.
Successively after Octavian were the emperors Trajan, Hadrian and the Antonines who all followed suit in making even more wonderful and imposing buildings. However, the rise of such an empire began to decline in the 2nd century AD due to social tensions and economic crisis, but worst of all were the barbarian raids upon this empire which was finding it more and more difficult to withstand continuos attack on it’s frontiers. Today we can still find the ruins of the great wall that were built around the city by the emperor Aurelian (AD 270 – 5) in his bid to protect the empire in what was clearly becoming alosing battle.
A surge of building activity began once more under the ruling of Diocletian (AD 284 – 305) although he abandoned the idea that Rome was still the imperial capital. Christianity was fast becoming the official religion of the entire empire and it was the christian movement that supported Constantine in his bid to re-institute the divine right of emperors. The centre of power was moved eastward, only to be completely destroyed in 476 by Hodacres who proceeded to overthrow the last roman emperor in the east Romulus Augustus. The ancient city was no more, but there was to emerge a spectacular brand new city... Christian Rome.
Hard times were still upon the eternal city and the middle ages saw a great decline in population, and the almost disappearance of cultural life among the people. Pagan temples were converted into churches and finally in the 9th century a ray of light brought hope to the people as an alliace began between the Papacy and the Carolingians. With this alliance it was widely wished that there may be a political and spiritual re-birth, but unfortunately this was not to be the case. What instead followed was a long and tiresome battle between various noble families and a great lack of collaboration between the emperor and city authorities.
However all was not lostin this time of irritation and great divides, and Pope Innocent III (1198 – 1216) restored the church’s moral standing, a great move that influenced a cultural and artistic renaissance. Due to this renaissance Rome became a place of interest for atists and architects alike who flocked to the city and in doing so transformed a great deal the face of Rome throughout the 15th century. As the renaissance continued Rome found itself under major restoration and reconstruction that was initiated and enforced mainly by the papal patronage.
The restoration was complete in it’s overhaul with great thought going into roadwork, sanitaion, buildings and urban planning. During this time glories of the past were also re-discovered including Michelangelo’s Capitol, and all developments encouraged a great increase in foreign visitors, helping the city to flourish. Baroque style took centre stage with the likes of Bernini and Borromini adding immensely to the great transformations. With so much development it is hard to believe that there was political weakness within the papacy but the ideals of the french revolution and a short napoleonic rule exposed just that, the papay was unable to meet the demands of it’s state.
In the early 18th century it seemed that everything was in decay apart from the great architectural heritage acquired which continued to maintain it’s rythm in development and restoration, amidst a great decline in sanitary conditions, a lack of administration and once more a disappearance of cultural life.
It was the very architecture that ensured the steady ongoing flow or visitorsto Rome although apparent that there was a widening gap between the people and it’s government. Septembre 1870 saw the fall of Napoleon III and not log after the city was once and for all declared the proud capital of Italy, a name it certainly lives up tp to this very day.
What we can find today in this breathtaking city is a reflection of all that is Rome’s colourful past. The great rise and fall of the empire, the influence of foreign civilisations, the input of emperors and popes whom all wanted to mark the city with their own personal style, can be witnessed around every bend.
Rome is today the result of an amazing history that re-enacts it’s past through it’s ruins, grand piazzas and stunning monuments. One can never tire of a city that offers so much, and just maybe there is no other that can bedazzle the eye quite like Rome.