The rule of the Roman Republic, together with Imperial Rome, lasted for over 1,000 years. It spanned countries and continents, incorporating many cultures, religions and languages. All roads within this vast territory led to Rome, which remains the capital of modern Italy. The city, according to legend, was founded in 750 BC. But how much do we really know about the origins and early years of ‘The Eternal City’?
What follows are 10 facts about the birth of Roman power.
1. The Romulus and Remus story is a myth
The name Romulus was probably invented to fit the name of the city he was said to have founded on the Palatine Hill before killing his twin.
2. By the fourth century BC, the story was accepted by Romans who were proud of their warrior founder
The story was included in the first history of the city, by the Greek writer Diocles of Peparethus, and the twins and their wolf step-mother were depicted on Rome’s first coins.
3. The new city’s first conflict was with the Sabine people
Packed with immigrating young men, the Romans needed female inhabitants and kidnapped Sabine women, sparking a war that ended with a truce and the two sides joining forces.
4. From the start Rome had an organised military
Regiments of 3,000 infantry and 300 cavalry were called legions and their foundation was ascribed to Romulus himself.
5. Almost the only source on this period of Roman history is Titus Livius or Livy (59 BC – 17 AD)
Some 200 years after the conquest of Italy had been completed, he wrote 142 books on Rome’s early history, but only 54 survive as complete volumes.
6. Tradition has it that Rome had seven kings before it became a republic
The last, Tarquin the Proud, was deposed in 509 BC in a revolt lead by Lucius Junius Brutus, the founder of the Roman Republic. Elected consuls would now rule.
7. After victory in the Latin War, Rome granted citizens’ rights, short of voting, to its conquered foes
This model for integrating vanquished peoples was followed for most of Roman history.
8. Victory in the Pyrrhic War in 275 BC made Rome dominant in Italy
Their defeated Greek opponents had been believed to be the best in the ancient world. By 264 BC all of Italy was under Roman control.
9. In the Pyrrhic War Rome allied with Carthage
The North African city state was soon to be its foe in over a century’s struggle for Mediterranean dominance.
10. Rome was already a deeply hierarchical society
Plebeians, small landowners and tradesmen, had few rights, while the aristocratic Patricians ruled the city, until the Conflict of the Orders between 494 BC and 287 BCE saw the Plebs win concessions by using withdrawal of labour and sometimes evacuation of the city.