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HISTORY OF ITALY >> Roman History of Italy

Roman History of Italy

The city of Rome rose up over a settlement of shepherds and farmers living on the Palatine hills between the late 9th and early 7th centuries B.C. Legend and history have set the date at 753 BC, near the Isola Tiberina perhaps on the Palatine Hill and, also according to tradition, the first of the seven Kings of Rome was its mythical founder Romulus.

Rome was a monarchy until Tarquinius Superbus, the last king, was expelled and it became a Republic (509 BC). In the fourth and third centuries BC. it went to war with its neighbours (Latins, Etruscans, Aequi, Volsci, Sabini, Samnites, Umbrians, etc.) for supremacy over the area and the whole of central-southern Italy, until in 264 BC, it gained control of the peninsula.

It was in this subsequent Republican period that Rome made its grand entrance on the world stage, thanks to its headlong Mediterranean expansion and to its political/institutional consolidation, which culminated with the taking of Carthage in 201 B.C. and the resulting absolute hegemony over the Mediterranean region (Mare Nostrum).

Julius Cesar continued this expansion over land, giving the Republic "imperial" connotations and borders. Thus when the actual imperial regime came about with Octavian in 27 B.C., Rome could rightly call itself "Caput Mundi".
At the apex of its strength, approximately two centuries later, its legions had conquered from the Valley of Hadrian near the border with Scotland all the way to Persia and vast areas of sub-Saharan Africa, stretching to the ancient Columns of Hercules near Gibraltar to the west.

The Punic Wars (264-146) and the Macedonian Wars (215-168) marked the first great Roman conquests and prepared Rome for rule over the lands then known. After the battle of Actium (31 BC) when Anthony was defeated by Octavian, the latter took the title of Emperor, opening the greatest period in Roman history, marked by conquest but also by great urban development of the city.

Shortly thereafter the Empire began a long period of decline that lasted until 476 AD, when it was crushed by the Barbarian invasions. Military defeat was the logical consequence of the political, cultural, artistic and demographic decadence of a Rome that had lost its moral greatness - a role that it would rediscover with the Papacy, born with St. Peter but institutionalised perhaps only with Pope Calixtus I (217-222 AD).

Nevertheless, Rome's supremacy would never again be of a political/military nature and its protagonists would no longer be the people but the Church - the seat of a new worldwide institution with the conversion of emperor Constantine. 312 AD. The Western Roman Empire (divided from the Eastern Empire) fell in 476 AD to Odoacer, king of the Heruli.

After an initial period of decadence linked to the Greek-Gothic war (535-553 A.D.) and frequent battles with the Lombard's, the city gradually succeeded in reorganizing under papal guidance and, after the arrival of the Franks and the creation of the Patrimony of St. Peter (the early nucleus of the Papal States) the Popes succeeded in combining temporal and spiritual power.

Ancient Rome reached its maximum urban expansion (perhaps a million inhabitants) in the 3rd century AD., surrounded by the Aurelian walls which still define the city's historical centre. After the fall of the Empire, Rome had a rapidly declining population, reduced to a few tens of thousands of inhabitants.

Important monuments still standing today in Rome which are of extraordinary archaeological, cultural and artistic value from the ancient Roman period, include the Colosseum (1st century AD), the Roman Forum, the Imperial Forum, Trajan's Column (113 AD.), the Column of Marcus Aurelius (193 AD), the Arch of Titus (1st century AD.), the Arch of Constantine (315 AD), the Basilica of Massenzio (312 AD), the Pantheon (1-2 AD), the Baths of Caracalla (217 AD) and the evocative ancient Appian Way.
Further Reading
The Roman Age in Tuscany
The Romans established their supremacy in Tuscany at the beginning of the 3rd century B.C. between the latest Samnite wars and the first Punic war. Sometimes their leadership was hindered by the alliance of the Etruscans with the Gauls, but it was all the same fostered by the support of some Etruscan towns as Arezzo, Cortona, and Perugia....

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