Rome: The Eternal City
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?The history of Rome is shrouded in myth and legend.? Tales of glorious victories, conquering heroes, and vanquished foes color our perception of this legendary city.? Myth and reality are so closely intertwined that we would be remiss to examine the one without the other.? From a cluster of humble villages, arose a mighty people who would capture the admiration of the world for centuries thereafter.? To look at the history of Rome is to look at the history of civilization itself, for with Rome, modern civilization began.
The Beginnings: Myth and Reality
?The circumstances surrounding the founding of this ancient city remain a mystery.? With the Gaul?s destruction of Rome in 330 B.C., much of the early writings and archaeological remains recording the city?s past were destroyed.[i]? This lack of information did not hinder the early Roman historians, though: they simply created their own version of history.? Anxious to connect their city to a noble origin comparable to the heroic Greeks?, early Romans pointed to the Trojan hero Aeneas as the founder of their homeland.? In Plutarch?s Life of Romulus, Aeneas is said to have sailed to southern Italy where he met a soothsayer who allowed him to commune with his deceased father.[ii]? His father predicted that Aeneas would sire a great race and that his descendents, namely Romulus and Remus, would eventually establish a city that would rule the entire world and whose spirit will match that of the gods.[iii]? According to the myth, Romulus and Remus were born into the lineage of Aeneas, but were abandoned while they were infants under the orders of their evil uncle who had usurped the throne.? The twins were saved by a she-wolf who cared for them until a shepherd adopted them.? When the brothers had grown up, they learned of their true identities, overthrew their uncle, and set out to found their own nation.? Along the way, the brothers quarreled and Romulus slew his brother Remus.? Therefore, Romulus was left the sole founder of the new city of Rome.? Although fanciful, this tale has become an important part of Rome?s heritage.? And, as the Roman historian Livy states, ?If any city deserved a miraculous origin, Rome did.?[iv]
?Archaeology offers us a more practical explanation to the early years of Roman civilization.? The discovery of several clusters of primitive huts on Rome?s soil and in the surrounding countryside has led historians to believe that Rome began as a ?long complex process of inhabitation? in which scattered villages coalesced into small towns and, later, into a unified city around the eighth century BC.[v]? Rome?s close proximity to the Tiber, the protection offered by its Palatine Hill, and the area?s rich soil, probably attracted numerous Latin tribes to settle in the area.[vi]? The mountain people of the Apennine culture were believed to be one of these original inhabiting tribes.[vii]? Rome?s early days were...