Brief City’s History
In the far past, Rome was a rural area around the Tiber river, close to the Adriatic sea. The legend talks of twins, born from a mortal girl and Marte, a God living on Mount Olympus. Thrown in the river by their uncle the Emperor, incredibly the twins survived and were rescued and brought up by a wolf female and then by a shepherd. The twins, once adults, founded the City of Rome in the 753 B.C. . For a problem tied to an edge, one of them, Romulus, killed the other one, Remus. Afterwards, Romolus went, with some faithful friends, to a village close to Rome, in a zone called Sabinia, there, he kidnapped some girls, and gave them to his friends , with the aim of giving birth to a new generations of Romans. After his Reign, there were seven subsequent Reigns, ruled by seven different Kings. The last King was dismissed by an internal revolution and a new form of Republic was founded. A new City was born, leaded by the Consuls. Meanwhile, Rome was increasing its power over many Italian territories, and its powerful army’s commanders became more and more rich. The Republic was more and more torn apart by differencies and contrasts between the political classes, who ruled, and the other rich families, often bound to military groups. In the City were formed two principal classes: Patricians and Plebeians, rich and poor, in simple words. The first class was often directly involved in the City’s political life; the second one was excluded and for this reason the rage and the contempt were increasing. Even the slaves, becomig more and more numerous, from the new conquered lands, were becoming a big problem; indeed, they weren’t very easy to control…from here they came some slave’s rebellions ( famous the Spartaco’s one in the 73 B.C.) always suppressed by the army. The overwhelming power of generals showed itself with the coup d’etat made by an union of them called “ The Triumvirate” between Cesare, Pompeo and Crasso that overthrew the Republic. Cesare went on, then, conquering lands after lands, till to the Gallia.Returned in Rome, Cesare declared himself Emperor, and killed his old friend Pompeo. With a power that big, Cesare’s name became famous throughout the world then known. His influence was becoming so huge that a group of Senators, fearing his unstoppable ascent, decided to kill him, and, directly lead by his own son Brutus, they succeded in doing it. Bruto, however, failed to get away with it, and was afterwards punished with the death, procured to him by two other military leaders: Antonio and Ottaviano. Rome, in later years, was put in danger by the love affair born between Anthony and the Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra. It was Ottaviano, who, once discovered the conspiracy, defeated Antonio in the name of Roman Empire, and conquered the Egypt, further extending Roman possessed lands. Ottaviano declared then himself as the new Emperor with the name of Augusto. Augusto continued to win new lands, in the northern Europe and Germany, and Rome saw a new golden period of great power and influence. Augusto reigned over vaste territories, with wisdom, keeping the peace, and organizing the public empire’s life as never it had been organized before. The City of Rome, and, consequentially, even the smaller Cities of the Empire, were organized with a new construction scheme, that comprehended roads, squares, temples, buildings and acqueduct. Rome grew in wealth, importance and population. After Augusto, in the 64 A.C., a sadly famous emperor, Nero, burned a part of Rome, destroying it,, but then, paradoxically, maybe for the subsequent feelings of guilt , committed himself in a new City’s expansion plan. After Nero, many other Emperors followed one another, as Settimio Severo, Traiano and Hadrian, who made the Empire more and more strong and wealthy. The Empire, meanwhile, was expanding until the Mesopotamia. All the free men were, in those times, proclamed Roman’s citizens. Emperor Philip in the 248 A.C., with a great event, proclamed the thousandth year of Roman rule.Meanwhile,the Roman military policy was changing, becoming quieter and fulfilled; the Empire had become too ealthy, therefore weaker, and the nobles had become too rich, lazy and perverted. The Barbarians started to push at the Empire’s northern edges, and Rome’s emperor of that time, Valeriano, was also killed by the Sassanidi warriors. Another one, Gallieno, faced , and succeded in stopping, the Goths’ army in the Greek lands. After the Emperor Gallieno, the Emperor Diocleziano gave the Empire to four Princes of Rome: a Tetrarchy that was formed by two Augustinans and their two helpers, and designated heirs, two Ceasars. This tetrarchy lasted a few years, before the star of Costantino arose, which turned upside down the Empire, carrying the Capital to Bisanzio ( Constantinoples ) and gathering all the Empire’s territories under a new religion: the Christianity. Other emperors followed, like Giuliano and Teodosio. Meanwhile the Barbarians were becoming ever more powerful, and aggressive, at the edges of the Empire; they broke the boundaries, passing the Reno river and not stopping until the capture of Rome, that was occupied by Goths ( 419 A.D..) and by Vandali (455 A.D.). That part of the Western Roman Empire, by now torn apart and divided, passed into the barbarian and Odoacre’s control, chief of the Eruli, in the 476 A.D., who deposed the last Western Roman Emperor Romolo Augustolo, submitting himself to the Constantinople’s Empire. Subsequently, a war between the Oriental Empire leaded by Giustiniano and the Rome’s Empire was done by Giustiniano, Bizantine emperor, in the 535 A.D. to reaffirm his power over Italy . While in Rome the Senate was setting and the Pope Gregorio Magno was taking the temporale power and asking to the Empire to give him back Rome and Ravenna, since, according to him , once already donated to him by Costantino.Meanwhile the Barbarians Lombards began to expand their presence in the country. The Pope also obtained the official acknowledgment of his temporal power from the German warlord Carlo Magno, in change of his crowning as Christian Emperor in Rome. Carlo Magno always protected the Pope, but he was far from Rome, and the Pope’s power weakened in favor of the Nobles ( Dukes and Counts ) and rich lands owners. When Carlo Magno died, the Pope Empire’s protection diminished,until a confrontation occurred between him and the Emperor. The eleventh century was a difficult period for Papacy, with strong tensions both with the Empire and the Roman people. This last one rebelled against the Pope and the Noble’s power in the 1143 dC , forming the first indipendent public Senate: the Municipality. The Emperor Federico Barbarossa, then, killed the strong Municipality defender Arnaldo da Brescia, giving back the power to the Pope, but, surprisingly, this last one officially riconobbè the Municipality as a popular important institution. The Popes, at that Roman times, had a huge power and importance; they effectively ruled this wonderful City, even though the officially acknowledged presence of the aristocracy and of the Municipality. Rome was the World’s Sacred City. Until their exile in Avignon ( France), for about 68 years, the Popes had mantained the largest power in Rome. During the Pope’s exile, the Nobles had became more powerful. But then the Popes came back to their City, and the three elements of the Society of that time: the Popes, the Nobleness and the People, once more began to fight each other to emerge. Popes made, during the 1400 and the 1500, the Renaissance into reality. The best italian artists ( painters, sculptors, architects ) were called to the Capital to build, paint and sculpt the incredible beauties that , still today, show themselves to the tourists ecstatic’s gazes. The Popes were ,now, as Princes, Princes of the Church. They made some alliances with European Countries to fight against the powerful indipendent italian Cities for Italy’s domination. The period of the splendor of Rome had a break in 1527 AD, when the Austrian Imperial troops, along with Spanish troops, conquered Rome and kept it under their control for about a year before retiring, decimated by plague and desertion. During this period the Pope fled from Rome, and took refuge in Orvieto. In subsequent years, in the Council of Trento, the Pope decreed his religious and political power, over Rome. The new commercial maritime routes in the Atlantic Ocean, weakened the economic power of Rome. The Protestant Reformation of Martin Luther began, in that time, to divide the Christian world.With the Counterreformation, during the Council of Trento, the Catholic Church regained power, finding a valuable ally in the Spanish Monarchy. The Popes became great patrons, calling Rome the greatest artists of the time to build and paint their Churches, Palaces and Villas. In 1701 AD the great European Families of the time fought for domination of Spain in the War of Spanish Succession; with the French, on the one hand; and the Austrian Empire, the British, and other allies, on the other. The Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 AD sanctioned a new European balance. Rome did not join the war because of its economic, political and military weakness, becoming a mere artistic, religious and archaeological Capital.In the 1798 AD a French General, Mathurin Dupot, was being killed in Rome and this occurrence was the excuse, for the French, for entering in Rome with their troops, scaring the Cardinals and making them flee. Once Rome was taken, the French proclaimed the first Roman Republic, twinned with the French one. After a brief period of time, the King of Naples, decided to chase away the French, and, with an army made up of soldiers and peasants, he regained the City.The French came back once more some years later, in the 1805 AD, annexing Rome to the Napoleonic Empire. The Napoleonic domination lasted till 1814 AD, when he was defeated and forced to abdicate. In the 1814 AD the Vienna Congress, with the participation of all the European Powers ( Austria, England, Spain, France, etc…), decreed the restoration of the Papal Power in Rome. In the nineteenth century Rome was being crossed by liberal ideals in Politic, social claims, and patriotic aspirations. All over Italy there were popular insurrections against the Rulers. In the 1849 AD in Rome it was founded a second Republic, after that one born during Napoleonic domination, after the first italian war of independence. Yet, the French reconquered the Town and the Pope could return to his throne. Then, a second, independence war occurred in Rome, but the French withstood it, they still helped the Pope. In the 1861 AD the Italian Reign of the Savoia was born. The end of the Papal Temporal Power occurred in the 1870 A.D. when Garibaldi with the Savoia’s troups entered in Rome, conquering it and declaring Rome the new Capital of Italy.
Rome, also called the Eternal City, is the largest and most populous City of Italy, with about 2,800,000 inhabitants, and it is also the Capital of the Italian Republic. It has been the heart of the Roman Empire, which long dominated the Ancient World in the Mediterranean basin. Within this wonderful and unique City, a civilization rich in culture, art, architecture, literature, science, philosophy of law, has developed In Rome there still are the majority of Ancient Monuments of the World. Rome is also where the Headquarters of the Vatican are located; an independent State, foreign and sovereign inside another State and even inside another City. Its history has developed along three millennia and turning its streets and its beautiful squares, you’ll find out which marvels this long history has given her. The ancient Rome still shows many great, historical buildings and monuments: from the public buildings (amphitheatres, theaters, Arcades, Circuses, Thermae, etc …), to the private buildings (Gardens, Imperial Villas, Domus, etc …), from the monuments (Columns, Tombs, Arches, Obelisks, etc. .. .), to the infrastructures (Roads, Stairs, Fountains, Aqueducts, Bridges, Nymphaea, Ports, etc …), from the religious buildings (Churches, Basilicas Temples, Altars, etc …), to the defensive structures (Walls, etc. …). The City, subsequently, during the Fascist period, saw the demolition of many Medieval buildings and the construction of major, huge streets such as Fori Imperiali Avenue and Conciliazione Avenue , which links Rome to the Vatican City (declared as independent State in 1929 with the Lateran Treaty); successively many other districts are born, extending the Metropolitan Area. Today Rome has more than 19 Municipalities (which will become 15 with Rome Capital) and 35 Districts. The City, with its Mediterranean and breezy climate, mild in the spring and autumn, is crossed by the river Tiber, very large and navigable. There aren’t many words or phrases suitable to describe Rome; with its history, its charm, its”slowness” and its “confusion”, perpetually packed with tourists from all over the World, it is the richest City, in History and Art, that you can find. Its center is simply unique. But to savor its charm and its uniqueness, the only possibility is to go there !
Here are the main Monuments to visit in Rome:
1. Sistina Chapel ( 1475 aC -1481 aC ): it is an extraordinary Chapel, located inside Vatican Museums’ Walk, and perhaps the most famous monument in Rome. Many famous painters of the time, who frescoed the walls, worked within, as Ghirlandaio, Perugino and Botticelli, but the most famous was, undoubtedly, Michelangelo, who painted on the ceilings, between 1508 and 1541, : “the nine episodes of Genesis, ” the Salvation of Israeli People”,” The Prophets and Sibyls “and the famous” Last Judgment “painted above the altar. Inside, the Conclave and other important ecclesiastical Ceremonies, are held.
2. Colosseo ( 72 aC – 80 aC ): it is the most famous, and big, Amphitheatre of Rome, at the beginning called Amphitheatre Flavius and then Colosseo in honor of a nearby statue of the colossus of the Sun god. It is located in the very centre of the City. Public events, naval battles, shows, and gladiator combats took place inside. It could contain till 50.000 people. After the sixth Century it wasn’t used anymore, and became a burial place and also a brick pit. It is Unesco world heritage site and it is included among the “the 7 wonders of the World.
3. Vittoriano: this huge and fascinating building, in front of Venezia Square, was erected from 1885 to 1911. It’s titled to the first King of italy: Vittorio Emanuele, and represent the concepts of freedom of italians and unity of the Country. The two fountains, located beside the wide staircase, represent the Adriatic and Tirrenian seas; 16 statues represent the regions at that time. Upon the top sides of the building are placed two statues representing unity and freedom: the quadrigae ( chariots ). Within the edifice is buried an unknown soldier of the first world war, and there is the seat of the National Resurgence Museum.
4. Sant’Angelo Castle takes its name from a beautiful marble statue of an angel placed around 590 AD; is located in ” the Borough ” neighborhood, near the Vatican, on the right side of the Tiber.It was built by Emperor Hadrian in 123 AD to become the imperial mausoleum. Several emperors and their families were buried here. Afterwards, the castle was fortified and became a famous prison, within the Aurelian walls.In more recent times, it underwent to many restorations and became a museum. Inside, there are beautiful collections of ceramics, from Early-Christian to Renaissance Age, famous paintings, ancient weapons, and charming sculptures.
5. St. Peter Church is the most important Church of Rome, and probably the most important of the whole World. It is “home” of the Pope, and located inside Vatican City, a small foreign and sovereign Country in the center of Rome, part of ancient possessions of the Church. The Church, founded in 315 AD by Emperor Constantine was built on a first pagan and then consecrated site, where St. Peter was buried. Afterward, the huge Church was rebuilt by some of the major Architects of the Renaissance. It is located in front of the enormous St. Peter Square (built by architect Bernini), at the center of a semicircular colonnade (284 columns, 88 columns and 140 statues of Saints), overlooking a large obelisk and two large fountains.The size and grandeur of the Church make it unique. Fully lined in white marble, it has five large bronze doors leading inside. Inside, the impact is incredible. Altars, huge statues, mosaics, terrific columns, artworks everywhere! Its construction never stopped…in fact it continued throughout the centuries, with additions and embellishments, thanks to the generosity of Popes and Princes. In the Medieval period, with the decline of Roman Empire, the Church also fell in disrepair. Whilst in the Renaissance, it was once again rebuilt with a new design by the Architect Bramante. After a period in which the work stopped, the work resumed, under the guidance of various Architects, until the very famous Michelangelo, who also built in the great Dome (later completed by Architects Della Porta and Fontana) got the assignment. The latest version of the Church, Latin cross shaped, was finished by Architect Maderno in 1614.
6. Imperial Forums: The Imperial Forums are a wonderful example of public squares, built in Rome between 46 BC and 113 AD. The forums were the centre of the public life in the late Roman Republic and into the next Roman Empire. The Forums are five: 1. Caesar’s Forum: also called ” The Roman Forum “, built by the great Julius Caesar in 46 BC; 2. Augustus Forum: built by Emperor Augustus in 2 BC and dedicated to Mars god; 3. Peace’s Forum: built by Emperor Vespasianus in 75 AD; 4. Nerva Forum: buitl by Emperor Domitianus to celebrate his successor in 98 AD; 5. Traian Forum: built by Emperor Traian to celebrate his victories, holding its wonderful column Politics, economy and religion in the ancient Rome were held in these Fora. Their address is: Fori Imperiali street / Quattro Novembre street
7. The four Major Basilicas of Rome: These are the most important Churches in Rome .
a) St. John in Lateran ArchBasilica is the most important and oldest (fourth century AD) It is located on the hill of Celio, and it is the ecclesiastical seat of the Pope. This Church was the seat of the Popes of the past until they were exiled to Avignon. It was called the Golden Basilica for its beauty, due to the many columns, fountains and decorations. The first Basilica, which had five degrading naves , was destroyed by an earthquake in late 800 AD. The Basilica has then been rebuilt in the tenth century AD, but also this one has been short-lived, since it has been destroyed by a great fire in 1308 AD. Subsequently, the Basilica suffered another earthquake and other fires and had to be restored several times. Then Pope Innocent X demolished and rebuilt the Basilica (architect Borromini draft), whose Medieval appearance remained only in the floors and in some mosaics. This reconstruction ended in the early eighteenth century. The façade was instead built by Galileo in 1732 AD. Beside the Basilica stands the imposing Palace of the Lateran, Papal residence for over 1000 years.
b) Saint Peter Basilica ( see above )
c) St. Paul outside the Walls Basilica is one of the four Papal Basilicas of Rome, the second largest after St. Peter’s. It is located on the Via Ostiense, near the left bank of the Tiber, about two kilometers outside the Aurelian walls (hence his name), getting out of the Porta San Paolo. Initially founded as a small memorial to St. Paul, built by Constantine in 324 AD, then later enlarged in 391 AD, and destroyed by fire in 1823 AD. Pope Leo XII in 1825 AD began its reconstruction (architect Valadier). The work was completed in 1854 AD. The Church has a Latin Cross with five aisles, the floors are made of polychrome marble and the apse has a beautiful golden mosaic. The exterior features a courtyard with colonnades on all four sides, in front of the entrance. The façade has a portico and above it the beautiful mosaics on golden background with the prophets of the Old Testament and Jesus.
d ) Saint Mary Major Basilica is located on the top of the Esquiline Hill, and is the only one to have kept the original Christian structure. It was built by Pope Sixtus III between 432 dC and 440 dC and by him dedicated to the cult of the Virgin Mary. The basilica built by Pope Sixtus III , appears with three aisles divided by 21 columns on each side. Inside there are many beautiful mosaics.
8. The three Minor Basilicas of Rome:
e) The Basilica of St. Lawrence outside the Walls is located close to the Verano cemetery. inside it there is the tomb of St. Lawrence. The Basilica was built in the fourth century by the Emperor Constantine. Afterward, it has been enlarged and renovated several times.
f) The Basilica of Saint Sebastian outside the Walls is a small Church, dedicated to the Roman martyr who lived in the third century AD. It is located outside the Aurelian Walls. The Turks Saracens destroyed it around 800 AD. It was then rebuilt in ‘858 AD, although the present Church dates back to 1600.
g) The Basilica of Saint Cross in Jerusalem, which is located in the same Square, was born from the ruins of an Imperial Villa where, in 400 AD, Emperor Constantine’s mother lived. The Church has been restored several times. Inside there are beautiful frescoes and some important relics. There is not, however, assurance of the authenticity of these relics.
9. The Domus Aurea: The Domus Aurea was the huge Palace, built by Emperor Nero in 64 AD to celebrate his greatness. The Domus, also called the “Golden House” , for the many frescoes and gold platings present in it, was extended between the areas of the Palatine Hill, Caelian, Esquilino and Opium. After the early death of Nero, who committed suicide, in the area once occupied by the residence, the Baths of Trajan and the Colosseum were subsequently built, and the rest of the residence has been intended for public use. Currently only a small part of the original Domus Aurea has survived and visits are allowed only through guided tours.
10. The Thermae of Caracalla: The Thermae of Caracalla are the most important of Ancient Rome. They were built in the area of the Aventine by Emperor Caracalla in 212 AD. The Frigidarium, the Tepidarium , the Calidarium, the two gyms, the swimming pool and the many other rooms were inserted in this great architectural complex, built for the amusement of the citizens of Rome and able to accommodate over 1,000 people at a time
11. Trevi Fountain: the Trevi Fountain (1735 AD) is a unique and extraordinary monument of the Antiquity, which persisted in almost perfect conditions until the present days. It is the largest and most famous Fountain in whole Rome. The original Fountain was born as a point of arrival of the famous, ancient aqueduct, called ” Virgin Water Acqueduct “, which still exists today in the form of a pipeline, At the beginning of 1400 AD, the architect Leon Battista Alberti designed, for Pope Niccolò V, a single large basin to collect the acqueduct’s water, in order to replace the previous three. In 1643 AD, the architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini began to restructure Trevi Square, expanding spaces and designing a Fountain, but, caused by a lack of funds, it was never built. In the following years many architects proposed projects aimed at the construction of the Fountain and at last one of them, Nicolò Salvi,-in 1731 AD, received the definitive assignment by Pope Clement XII. The works lasted thirty years and finished in 1762 AD although, unfortunately, its designer was not able to see it completed. The Trevi Fountain is leaning on a facade of Palazzo Poli. Its theme is” the Sea “. Above the large basin that takes up most of the Square there is a rocky cliff, centrally, on top of it, within a niche, there is the imposing statue of “Ocean”, which ride a strange chariot, shell shaped, pulled by two winged horses (a calm horse representing the ocean when quiet, the other runaway horse representing the ocean when agitated) and by two giant newts. On both sides of “Ocean” there are two other niches where minor statues representing the Healthiness and Abundance are housed. Above this wonderful colonnade some other smaller niches rise up, where there are four smaller statues representing: the “Stately Gardens”, “The abundance of the fruits”, “The Fertility of the Fields” and “The Wealth of the Autumn” and a commemorative engraving of the 1735 AD year (the year of the anticipated inauguration of the Fountain) and of Clement XII.
12. The Catacombs: The Catacombs present in Rome are about sixty and extend for many kilometers, but currently it’s only possible to visit five of them: Catacombs of St. Sebastian, Catacombs of Domitilla, Catacombs of Priscilla, Catacombs of St. Agnes and Catacombs of St.Callisto. The catacombs were underground cemeteries, where Christians and Jews buried their loved ones and periodically worshiped them . In Rome all these numerous underground tunnels were located under the wide Consular Avenues, outside the Center,, bounded by walls; in that period, indeed, there was a law that forbade burying people within the City Wall. Inside, Christians were free to use their symbols without being persecuted for their religion, considered, at the time, sacrilegious.