Rome, a brief history

Rome, a brief history (1)

According to the legend, the city of Rome was founded by the twins Romulus and Remus in 753 BC, but the reality is, experts assure us, the city was shaped by the settlement of nomadic groups close to Monte Palatino.

Initially, the city did not have an important role, being just another port on the coastal salt route, but under the reign of Etruscan kings such as Tarquin the Proud, expansionist campaigns were undertaken that enabled him to control Latium.

In fact, the monarchy was the first political form of government in Rome, and that is how it remained until 510 BC, when Tarquin was expelled and the Roman Republic established.

Around 270 BC Rome dominated the entire peninsula and in the second half of the 3rd century BC the expansion beyond the borders of Italy began. The first two Punic wars meant the beginning of control of the whole Mediterranean, a fact that enabled the conquest of lands that had formed part of the empire of Alexander the Great, as well as Hispania and Gaul. 

During the following century the expansion continued. They conquered Great Britain, annexed Palestine and, under the reign of Trajan, the Empire reached its maximum extension: from the British isles to Asia Minor. 

This new Empire made Rome the capital of world civilisation, and its population surpassed one million inhabitants. 

However, during the second half of the second century, Barbarian tribes began to pose a threat. The overreaching of the Empire meant that the Romans no longer dominated the battlefields and, meanwhile, the confrontations with the Barbarians increased. At this time in history, Rome had become the centre of Christianity.

It was in 410 when the Visigoths reached the city and, after pillaging for three days, put an end to the fame of Rome’s invincibility. In 476, the German warrior Odoacer dethroned the last emperor, Romulus Augustus. 

In the mid-6th century, Rome was simply one more city within the Byzantine Empire. The population of the city was no more than 40,000, and they were concentrated on the banks of the River Tiber, while the rest of the city began to crumble in ruins. 

In the 8th and 9th centuries, the growing importance of papal influence revitalised the city and once more turned it into a centre of power. Nevertheless, the conflict between the Pope and the Holy Roman Empire weakened the Papacy. The following centuries were harsh: the continual struggles with invaders and the internal struggles between the nobility ended up by destroying what little remained of the grand Rome. 

In 1309, the Pope was forced to move to Avignon, leaving the city at the mercy of famine and war. The popes remained there until well into the 16th century when, during the period of Gregory 14th, they returned to the Eternal City. 

By the mid-15th century, the popes had strengthened their authority over the city and a series of ambitious and erudite popes devoted a great deal of their efforts in embellishing Rome and turning it into a monumental city again. This was the period of the Renaissance, a time in which artists such as Michelangelo or Bramante left their mark.

Napoleon took Rome in 1797, and in 1815 the French established the papal mandate in the city. During the next 50 years, men like Mazzini and Garibaldi fought for a united and independent Italy and, in 1848, a nationalist uprising in the city forced the Pope to flee. The French continued protecting the Pontiff, while Italy was united under the crown of Victor Emmanuel of Savoy. In 1870 the royalist troops took Rome, completing the reunification of the country and once again naming the city as capital of Italy.

The population of Rome began to increase from then on. In 1930 more than one million people lived there, and the inhabitants began to spread beyond the old Aurelian walls. 

The next major blow for the city was the arrival to power of the dictator Mussolini in 1922, who dismantled the constitutional system and banned freedom of expression and association. Il Duce had pretensions of recovering the power and immensity of the Ancient Roman Empire, and his military alliance with Hitler’s Germany resulted in economic and military disaster. In 1943, Mussolini was arrested and forced to resign and, one year later, the allies were able to liberate Rome. 

After the Second World War the city was devastated and demoralised, and it was then when the Italians voted to end the monarchy and found the Republic. Shortly after, in 1948 the new constitution was agreed which, with time, enabled Italy to place itself among the most developed nations in the world.

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