Rome is now the capital of Italy, but used to be more or less the capital of the world. It has more than two thousand five hundred years of history behind it and left its mark on all of the Mediterranean and most of northern Europe and northern Africa.
A Very Short History of Rome
Rome is supposed to have been founded by the twins Remus and Romulus, who were fed and raised by the famous Roman she-wolf (still the symbol of the Eternal City) before being found by a shepherd, who took them in and raised them as his own sons. The birthplace of the city is thought to have been somewhere on the Palatine Hill (the Lupercale, the cave where the two twins were suckled by the she-wolf, is thought to have been discovered below the ruins a couple of years ago) and its first settlements date back to the 8th century BC.
The original village quickly became important. Being located along the banks of the river Tiber, it became an important centre of trade.
Initially the land was settled by the Etruscans, who made Rome the capital of their Kingdom, then (500 BC) it became the seat of the Roman Republic and then the capital of the Roman Empire (27 BC). Until the Middle Ages it remained the most important, powerful and wealthy city of the known world.
Constantine the Great was the first emperor to embrace Christianity in the early 4th century AD and under his reign Rome became the major city of the Catholic Church as well.
Although its wordly power diminished during the Middle Ages, it became an important destination for pilgrims (and the focus of power struggles between the Holy Roman Empire and the Pope).
In the 15th century the Italian Renaissance brought new life into the city and churches (a.o. the present Saint Peter’s Basilica), bridges, etc. were constructed all over the city. These works were often commissioned by the church, which at the same time and as a result, also gained political importance.
In the 19th century a new struggle for power took place, with the French troops defending the Pope from the people who wanted a unified Kingdom of Italy. In the end the latter prevailed and Rome became the capital of the new country.
After World War I, during the fascist period under the dictator Mussolini, Rome‘s population grew and many public works were ordered, though this often led to ordinary citizens being forced to move from the inner city to ugly dwellings on the outskirts.
After World War II, the monarchy was dismantled and the Italian Republic was created.