Founding of Rome

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The founding of Rome is reported by many legends, which in recent times are beginning to be supplemented by more scientific reconstructions.


Development of the city

Virgil's Aeneid is an important source for information about those early times or, at least, the myth-historical events current in the Augustan period

The Latins originally stayed in Colli Albani (the Alban hills, modern Castelli– 30–80 km (20–50 miles) southeast of the Capitoline hill); later, they moved down from the hills into the valleys, which provided better land for animal breeding and agriculture. The area around the Tiber river was particularly advantageous and also offered notable strategic resources, as the river was a natural border on one side, while the hills could provide a safe defensive position on the other side. This position would also have enabled the Latins to control the river (and commercial or military traffic on it), from the natural observation point at Isola Tiberina (the island facing modern Trastevere). Moreover, road traffic could also be controlled, since Rome was at the intersection of the principal roads to the sea coming from Sabinum (in the northeast) and Etruria (to the northwest).

The development of the town is presumed to have started from the development of separate small villages, located at the top of hills, which joined together to form Rome.

Although recent studies suggest that the Quirinal hill was very important in ancient times, the first hill to be inhabited seems to have been the Palatine (therefore confirming the legend), which is also at the center of ancient Rome. Its three peaks, minor hills (Cermalus or Germalus, Palatium, and Velia) united with the three peaks of the Esquiline (Cispius, Fagutal, and Oppius), and then villages on the Caelian hill and Suburra (between modern Rione Monti and the Oppius hill) joined them.

These hills had expressive names: the Caelian hill was also called Querquetulanus, from quercus (oak), while Fagutal points to beech-woods, from fagus (beech). Recent discoveries reveal that the Germalus on the northern part of the Palatine, was the site of a village (dated to the 9th century BC) with circular or elliptic dwellings. It was protected by a clay wall (perhaps reinforced with wood), and it is likely that this is where Rome was really founded.

The territory of this federation was surrounded by a sacred border called the pomerium, which enclosed the so-called Roma Quadrata (Square Rome). This would have been extended with the inclusion of the Capitoline hill and Tiber island at the time Rome became an oppidum or fortified town. The Esquiline still was a satellite village that would be included at the time of the Servian expansion of Rome.

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