The History of the city of Rome spans 2,800 years of the existence of a city that grew from a small Italian village in the 9th century BC into the center of a vast civilization that dominated the Mediterranean region for centuries. Its political power was eventually replaced by that of peoples of mostly Germanic origin, marking the beginning of the Middle Ages. Rome became the seat of the Roman Catholic Church and the home of a sovereign state within its walls, the Vatican City. Today it is the capital of Italy.
The traditional date for the founding of Rome, based on a mythological account, is April 21, 753 BC, and the city and surrounding region of Latium has continued to be inhabited with little interruption since around that time.
|Roman Kingdom and Republic|
|753 BC||According to legend, Romulus founds Rome.|
|753–509 BC||Rule of the seven Kings of Rome.|
|509 BC||Creation of the Republic.|
|390 BC||The Gauls invade Rome. Rome sacked.|
|264-146 BC||Punic Wars.|
|146-44 BC||Social and Civil Wars. Emergence of Marius, Sulla, Pompey and Caesar.|
Rome grew from pastoral settlements on the Palatine Hill and surrounding hills approximately from the Tyrrhenian Sea on the south side of the Tiber. Another of these hills, the Quirinal Hill, was probably an outpost for another Italic-speaking people, the Sabines. At this location the Tiber forms a Z-shape curve that contains an island where the river can be forded. Because of the river and the ford, Rome was at a crossroads of traffic following the river valley and of traders travelling north and south on the west side of the peninsula.
Archaeological finds have confirmed that in the 8th century BC in the area of the future Rome there were two fortified settlements, the Rumi one on the Palatine Hill and the Titientes one on the Quirinal Hill, backed by the Luceres living in the nearby woods. These were simply three of numerous Italic-speaking communities that existed in Latium, a plain on the Italian peninsula, by the 1st millennium BC. The origins of the Italic peoples is not known, but their Indo-European languages migrated from the east in the second-half of the 2nd millennium BC.
The Etruscans (Etrusci or Tusci in Latin) were settled north of Rome in Etruria (modern northern Lazio and Tuscany). They deeply influenced Roman culture, as clearly showed by the Etruscan origin of some of the mythical Roman kings. The behaviour of the Etruscans has led to some confusion. Like Latin, Etruscan is inflected and Hellenised. Like the Indo-Europeans, the Etruscans were patrilineal and patriarchal. Like the Italics, they were war-like. The gladiatorial displays actually evolved out of Etruscan funerary customs. Future studies of Etruscan and more excavations in the region will no doubt clarify the origin of Rome and the Romans even more.
The Greeks had founded many colonies in Southern Italy (that the Romans later called Magna Graecia), such as Cumae, Naples and Taranto, as well as in the eastern two-thirds of Sicily, between 750 and 550 BC.
The physical appearance of Emperor Nero, descended from an aristocratic family, is by the historian Suetonius described as: "He was about the average height, his body marked with spots and malodorous, his hair light blond, his features regular rather than attractive, his eyes blue and somewhat weak, his neck over thick, his belly prominent, and his legs very slender."
It may be argued, however, that such descriptions of hair and eye colour are relative, and do not correspond to 'blondes' or 'redheads' in English or other northern European languages. A more direct translation of the Latin text of Suetonius renders 'grey-blue' or 'grey' rather than 'blue' for Nero's eyes, and 'yellowish' rather than 'light blond' for Nero's hair. His hair, in other words, was yellowish in comparison to the brown or black hair common in ancient Rome, rather than being actual blonde in colour. In addition to this, the overwhelming majority of colour images from Roman art, such as Pompeian frescoes, show both male gods and aristocrats, as well as ordinary people, with tan complexions, resembling people in Spain, Greece, and Italy today.
After 650 BC, the Etruscans became dominant in Italy and expanded into north-central Italy. Roman tradition claimed that Rome had been under the control of seven kings from 753 to 509 BC beginning with the mythic Romulus who along with his brother Remus were said to have founded the city of Rome. Two of the last three kings, namely Tarquinius Priscus and Tarquinius Superbus, were said to be (at least partially) Etruscan (Priscus is said by the ancient literary sources to be the son of a refugee Greek, and an Etruscan mother), their names referring to the Etruscan town of Tarquinia. The list of kings is of dubious historical value, though the last-named kings may be historical figures. It is believed by some historians (again, this is disputed) that Rome was under the influence of the Etruscans for about a century. During this period a bridge called the Pons Sublicius was built to replace the Tiber ford, and the Cloaca Maxima was also built; the Etruscans are said to have been great engineers of this type of structure. From a cultural and technical point of view, Etruscans had arguably the second-greatest impact on Roman development, only surpassed by the Greeks.
Expanding further south, the Etruscans came into direct contact with the Greeks. After initial success in conflicts with the Greek colonists, Etruria went into a decline. Taking advantage of this, around 500 BC Rome rebelled and gained independence from the Etruscans. It also abandoned monarchy in favour of a republican system based on a Senate, composed of the nobles of the city, along with popular assemblies which ensured political participation for most of the freeborn men and elected magistrates annually.
The Etruscans left a lasting influence on Rome. The Romans learned to build temples from them, and the Etruscans may have introduced the worship of a triad of gods — Juno, Minerva, and Jupiter — from the Etruscan gods: Uni, Menrva, and Tinia. However, the influence of Etruscan people in the evolution of Rome is often overstated. Rome was primarily a Latin city. It never became fully Etruscan. Also, evidence shows that Romans were heavily influenced by the Greek cities in the South, mainly through trade.
After 500 BC, Rome joined with the Latin cities in defence against incursions by the Sabines. Winning the Battle of Lake Regillus in 493 BC, Rome established again the supremacy over the Latin countries it had lost after the fall of the monarchy. After a lengthy series of struggles, this supremacy became fixed in 393, when the Romans finally subdued the Volsci and Aequi. In 394 BC, they also conquered the menacing Etruscan neighbour of Veii. The Etruscan power was now limited to Etruria itself, and Rome was the dominant city in Latium.
Also a formal treaty with the city of Carthage is reported to have been made in the end of the sixth century B.C., which defined the spheres of influence of each city and regulated the trade between them.
Rome's early enemies were the neighbouring hill tribes of the Volscians, the Aequi, and of course the Etruscans. As years passed and military successes increased Roman territory, new enemies appeared. The fiercest were the Gauls who lived in what is modern North and Central-East Italy.
In 387 BC, Rome was suddenly sacked and burned by the Senones coming from eastern Italy and led by Brennus, who had successfully invaded Etruria . The northern menace was thwarted by the dictator Furius Camillus, who defeated Brennus at Tusculum soon afterwards.
After that, Rome hastily rebuilt its buildings and went on the offensive, conquering the Etruscans and seizing territory from the Gauls in the north. After 345 BC, Rome pushed south against other Latins. Their main enemy in this quadrant were the fierce Samnites, who heavily defeated the legions in 321 BC at the Battle of Caudine Forks. In spite of these and other temporary setbacks, the Romans advanced steadily. By 290 BC, Rome controlled over half of the Italian peninsula. In the 3rd century BC, Rome brought the Greek poleis in the south under its control as well.
Amidst the never ending wars (from the beginning of the Republic up to the Principate, the doors of the temple of Janus were closed only twice - when they were open it meant that Rome was at war), Rome had to face a severe major social crisis, the struggle between patricians and plebeians.
According to tradition, Rome became a republic in 509 BC. However, it took a few centuries for Rome to become the great city of popular imagination. By the 3rd century BC, Rome had become the pre-eminent city of the Italian peninsula. During the Punic Wars between Rome and the great Mediterranean empire of Carthage, Rome's stature increased further as it became the capital of an overseas empire for the first time. Beginning in the 2nd century BC, Rome went through a significant population expansion as Italian farmers, driven from their ancestral farmlands by the advent of massive, slave-operated farms called latifundia, flocked to the city in great numbers. The victory over Carthage in the Second Punic War brought the first two provinces outside the Italian peninsula, Sicily and Sardinia. Parts of Spain (Hispania) followed, and in the beginning of the 2nd century the Romans got involved in the affairs of the Greek world. By then all Hellenistic kingdoms and the Greek city-states were in decline, exhausted from endless civil wars and relying on mercenary troops.
The Romans looked upon the Greek civilisation with great admiration. The Greeks saw Rome as a useful ally in their civil strifes, and it wasn't long before the Roman legions were invited to intervene in Greece. However the Romans had their own agenda, and in less than 50 years the whole of mainland Greece was subdued. The Roman legions crushed the Macedonian phalanx twice, in 197 and 168 BC; in 146 BC the Roman consul Lucius Mummius razed Corinth, marking the end of free Greece. The same year, Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus, the son of Scipio Africanus destroyed the city of Carthage, making it a Roman province.
In the following years, Rome continued its conquests in Spain with Tiberius Gracchus, and it set foot in Asia, when the last king of Pergamus gave his kingdom to the Roman people. The end of the 2nd century brought once again threat, when a great host of Germanic peoples, namely Cimbri and Teutones, crossed the river Rhone and moved to Italy. Gaius Marius was consul five consecutive times (seven total), and won two decisive battles in 102 and 101 B.C. He also reformed the Roman army, giving it such a good reorganisation that it remained unchanged for centuries.
The first thirty years of the last century B.C. were characterized by serious internal problems that threatened the existence of the Republic. The Social War, between Rome and its allies, and the Servile Wars (slave uprisings) were very hard conflicts, all within Italy, and forced the Romans to change their policy with regards to their allies and subjects. By then Rome had become an extensive power, with great wealth which derived from the conquered people (as tribute, food or manpower, i.e. slaves). The allies of Rome felt bitter since they had fought by the side of the Romans, and yet they were not citizens and shared little in the rewards. Although they lost the war, they finally got what they asked, and by the beginning of the first century AD practically all free inhabitants of Italy were Roman citizens.
However, the growth of the Imperium Romanum (Roman power) created new problems, and new demands, that the old political system of the Republic, with its annually elected magistrates and its sharing of power, could not solve. The dictatorship of Sulla, the extraordinary commands of Pompey Magnus, and the first triumvirate made that clear. In January 49 BC, Julius Caesar the conqueror of Gaul, marched his legions against Rome. In the following years, he vanquished his opponents, and ruled Rome for four years. After his assassination in 44 BC, the Senate tried to reestablish the Republic, but its champions, Marcus Junius Brutus (descendant of the founder of the republic) and Gaius Cassius Longinus were defeated by Caesar's lieutenant Mark Antony and Caesar's nephew, Octavian.
The years 44-31 mark the struggle for power between Marc Anthony and Octavian (later known as Augustus). Finally, on September 2nd, 31 BC, in the Greek promontory of Actium, the final battle took place in the sea. Octavian was victorious, and became the sole ruler of Rome (and its empire). That date marks the end of the Republic and the beginning of the Principate.
|44-14 BC||Augustus establishes the Empire.|
|AD 64||Great Fire of Rome during the Nero's rule.|
|69-96||Flavian Dynasty. Building of the Colosseum.|
|3rd century||Crisis of the Roman Empire. Building of the Baths of Caracalla and the Aurelian Walls.|
|284-337||Diocletian and Constantine. Building of the first Christian basilicas. Battle of Milvian Bridge. Rome is replaced by Constantinople as the capital of the Empire.|
|395||Definitive separation of Western and Eastern Roman Empire.|
|410||The Goths of Alaric sack Rome.|
|455||The Vandals of Gaiseric sack Rome.|
|476||Fall of the empire and execution of the final emperor Romulus Augustus.|
|6th century||Gothic Wars.|
By the end of the Republic, the city of Rome had achieved a grandeur befitting the capital of an empire dominating the whole of the Mediterranean. It was, at the time, the largest city in the world (and probably the largest city ever built until the nineteenth century). Estimates of its peak population range from 450,000 to over 3.5 million people with estimates of 1 to 2 million being most popular with historians. This grandeur increased under Augustus, who completed Caesar's projects and added many of his own, such as the Forum of Augustus and the Ara Pacis. He is said to have remarked that he found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble. Augustus' successors sought to emulate his success in part by adding their own contributions to the city. The Great Fire of Rome during the reign of Nero left much of the city destroyed, but in many ways it was used as an excuse for new development.
Rome was a subsidized city at the time, with roughly 15 to 25 percent of its grain supply being paid by the central government. Commerce and industry played a smaller role compared to that of other cities like Alexandria. This meant that Rome had to depend upon goods and production from other parts of the Empire to sustain such a large population. This was mostly paid by taxes that were levied by the Roman government. If it had not been subsidised, Rome would have been significantly smaller.
Rome's population declined after its peak in the 2nd century. At the end of that century, during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, a plague killed 2,000 people a day. Plague killed Roman grave dead Marcus Aurelius was killed in 180, his reign being the last of the "Five Good Emperors" and Pax Romana. His son Commodus, who had been co-emperor since 177, assumed full imperial power, which most generally associate with the gradual decline of the Western Roman Empire. Rome's population was only a fraction of its peak when the Aurelian Wall was completed in the year 273 (at that year its population was only around 500,000).
Starting in the early 3rd century, matters changed. The "Crisis of the third century" defines the disasters and political troubles for the Empire, which nearly collapsed. The new feeling of danger and the menace of barbarian invasions was clearly shown by the decision of Emperor Aurelian, who at year 273 finished encircling the capital itself with a massive wall which had a perimeter that measured close to 20km. Rome formally remained capital of the empire, but emperors spent less and less time there. At the end of 3rd century Diocletian's political reforms, Rome was deprived of its traditional role of administrative capital of the Empire. Later, western emperors ruled from Milan or Ravenna, or cities in Gaul. In 330, Constantine I established a second capital at Constantinople. At this time, part of the Roman aristocratic class moved to this new centre, followed by many of the artists and craftsmen who were living in the city.
However, the Senate, while stripped of most of its political power, was socially prestigious. The Empire's conversion to Christianity made the Bishop of Rome (later called the Pope) the senior religious figure in the Western Empire, as officially stated in 380 by the Edict of Thessalonica. In spite of its increasingly marginal role in the Empire, Rome retained its historic prestige, and this period saw the last wave of construction activity: Constantine's predecessor Maxentius built notable buildings such its spectacular basilica in the Forum, Constantine himself erected its famous arch to celebrate his victory over the former, and Diocletian built the greatest baths of all. Constantine was also the first patron of official Christian buildings in the city. He donated the Lateran Palace to the Pope, and built the first great basilica, the old St. Peter's Basilica.
Still Rome remained one of the strongholds of Paganism, led by the aristocrats and senators. When the Visigoths showed off before the walls in 408, the Senate and the prefect proposed pagan sacrifices, and it seems that even the pope was agreeable if this could help to save the city. However, the new walls did not stop the city being sacked first by Alaric on August 24, 410, by Geiseric in 455 and even by general Ricimer's unpaid Roman troops (largely composed of barbarians) on July 11, 472. The sackings of the city, which had remained untouched by barbarians since the times of Brennus 800 years earlier (390 B.C.), astonished all the Roman world. The fall of Rome was read as the definitive fall of the ancient order. Many inhabitants fled, and at the end of the century Rome's population may have been less than 50,000. In any case, the damage the sackings made has been probably overestimated. The city was already in a steep decline, and many monuments had been destroyed by the citizens themselves, who stripped stones from closed temples and other precious buildings, and even burned statues to make lime for their personal use. In addition, most of the increasing number of churches were built in this way. For example, the first St. Peter was erected using spoils from the abandoned Circus of Nero. This "self-eating" attitude was a constant feature of Rome until the Renaissance. From the 4th century imperial edicts against stripping of stones and especially marble were common, but the need for their repetition shows that they were ineffective. Sometimes new churches were created by simply taking advantage of early Pagan temples, perhaps changing the Pagan god or hero to a corresponding Christian saint or martyr. In this way the Temple of Romulus and Remus became the basilica of the twin saints Cosmas and Damian. Later, the Pantheon, Temple of All Gods, become the church of All Martyrs.
|800||Charlemagne is crowned Holy Roman Emperor in St. Peter's Basilica.|
|846||The Saracens sack St. Peter.|
|852||Building of the Leonine Walls.|
|1000||Emperor Otto III and Pope Sylvester II.|
|1084||The Normans sack Rome.|
|1144||Creation of the commune of Rome.|
|1300||First Jubilee proclaimed by Pope Boniface VIII.|
|1303||Foundation of the Roman University.|
|1309||Pope Clement V moves the Holy Seat to Avignon.|
|1347||Cola di Rienzo proclaims himself tribune.|
|1377||Pope Gregory XI moves the Holy Seat back to Rome.|
On December 17, 546, the Ostrogoths under Totila recaptured and sacked the city. The Byzantine general Belisarius recaptured Rome, but the Ostrogoths retook it in 549. Belisarius was replaced by Narses, who captured Rome from the Ostrogoths for good in 552, ending the so-called Gothic Wars which had turned much of Italy into desert. The continual war around Rome in the 530s and 540s left it in a state of total disrepair — near abandoned and desolate with much of its lower-lying parts turned into unhealthy marshes as the drainage systems were neglected and the Tiber's embankments fell into disrepair in the course of the latter half of the sixth century. Here, malaria developed. The aqueducts were never repaired, leading to a shrinking population of less than 50,000 concentrated near the Tiber and around the Campus Martius, abandoning those districts without water supply. There is a legend, significant though untrue, that there was a moment where no one remained living in Rome.
Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I (reigned 527–565) tried to grant Rome subsidies for the maintenance of public buildings, aqueducts and bridges — though, being mostly drawn from an Italy dramatically impoverished by the recent wars, these were not always sufficient. He also styled himself the patron of its remaining scholars, orators, physicians and lawyers in the stated hope that eventually more youths would seek a better education. After the wars, the Senate was theoretically restored, but under the supervision of a prefect and other officials appointed by, and responsible to, the Byzantine authorities in Ravenna.
However, the Pope was now one of the leading religious figures in the entire Byzantine Empire and effectively more powerful locally than either the remaining senators or local Byzantine officials. In practice, local power in Rome devolved to the Pope and, over the next few decades, both much of the remaining possessions of the senatorial aristocracy and the local Byzantine administration in Rome were absorbed by the Church.
The reign of Justinian's nephew and successor Justin II (reigned 565–578) was marked from the Italian point of view by the invasion of the Lombards under Alboin (568). In capturing the regions of Benevento, Lombardy, Piedmont, Spoleto and Tuscany, the invaders effectively restricted Imperial authority to small islands of land surrounding a number of coastal cities, including Ravenna, Naples, Rome and the area of the future Venice. The one inland city continuing under Byzantine control was Perugia, which provided a repeatedly threatened overland link between Rome and Ravenna. In 578 and again in 580, the Senate, in its last recorded acts, had to ask for the support of Tiberius II Constantine (reigned 578–582) against the approaching Dukes, Faroald I of Spoleto and Zotto of Benevento.
Maurice (reigned 582–602) added a new factor in the continuing conflict by creating an alliance with Childebert II of Austrasia (reigned 575–595). The armies of the Frankish King invaded the Lombard territories in 584, 585, 588 and 590. Rome had suffered badly from a disastrous flood of the Tiber in 589, followed by a plague in 590. The latter is notable for the legend of the angel seen, while the newly elected Pope Gregory I (term 590–604) was passing in procession by Hadrian's Tomb, to hover over the building and to sheathe his flaming sword as a sign that the pestilence was about to cease. The city was safe from capture at least.
Agilulf, however, the new Lombard King (reigned 591 to c. 616), managed to secure peace with Childebert, reorganized his territories and resumed activities against both Naples and Rome by 592. With the Emperor preoccupied with wars in the eastern borders and the various succeeding Exarchs unable to secure Rome from invasion, Gregory took personal initiative in starting negotiations for a peace treaty. This was completed in the autumn of 598 — only later recognized by Maurice. It would last till the end of his reign.
The position of the Bishop of Rome was further strengthened under the usurper Phocas (reigned 602–610). Phocas recognized his primacy over that of the Patriarch of Constantinople and even decreed Pope Boniface III (607) to be "the head of all the Churches". Phocas' reign saw the erection of the last imperial monument in the Roman Forum, the column bearing his name. He also gave the Pope the Pantheon, at the time closed for centuries, and thus probably saved it from destruction.
During the 7th century, an influx of both Byzantine officials and churchmen from elsewhere in the empire made both the local lay aristocracy and Church leadership largely Greek speaking. However, the strong Byzantine cultural influence did not always lead to political harmony between Rome and Constantinople. In the controversy over Monothelitism, popes found themselves under severe pressure (sometimes amounting to physical force) when they failed to keep in step with Constantinople's shifting theological positions. In 653, Pope Martin I was deported to Constantinople and, after a show trial, exiled to the Crimea, where he died.
Then, in 663, Rome had its first imperial visit for two centuries, by Constans II — its worst disaster since the Gothic Wars when the emperor proceeded to strip Rome of metal, including that from buildings and statues, to provide armament materials for use against the Saracens. However, for the next half century, despite further tensions, Rome and the Papacy continued to prefer continued Byzantine rule - in part because the alternative was Lombard rule, and in part because Rome's food was largely coming from Papal estates elsewhere in the Empire, particularly Sicily.
However, in 727, Pope Gregory II refused to accept the decrees of Emperor Leo III, establishing iconoclasm. Leo reacted first by trying in vain to abduct the Pontiff, and then by sending a force of Ravennate troops under the command of the Exarch Paulus, but they were pushed back by the Lombards of Tuscia and Benevento. Roman general Eutychius sent west by the emperor successfully captured Rome and restored it as a part of the empire in 728.
On November 1, 731, a council was called in St. Peter by Gregory III to excommunicate the iconoclasts. The Emperor responded by confiscating large Papal estates in Sicily and Calabria and transferring areas previously ecclesiastically under the Pope to the Patriarch of Constantinople. Despite the tensions Gregory III never discontinued his support to the imperial efforts against external threats.
In this period the Lombard kingdom was living an age of revival under the strong Liutprand. In 730 he razed the countryside of Rome to punish the Pope who had supported the duke of Spoleto. Though still protected by his massive walls, the pope could do little against the Lombard king, who managed to ally himself with the Byzantines. Other protectors were now needed. Gregory III was the first Pope to ask for concrete help from the Frankish Kingdom, then under the command of Charles Martel (739).
Liutprand's successor Aistulf was even more aggressive. He conquered Ferrara and Ravenna, ending the Exarchate of Ravenna. Rome seemed his next victim. In 754, Pope Stephen II went to France to name Pippin the Younger, king of the Franks, as patricius romanorum, i.e. protector of Rome. In the August of that year the King and Pope together crossed back the Alps and defeated Aistulf at Pavia. When Pippin went back to St. Denis however, Aistulf did not keep his promises, and in 756 besieged Rome for 56 days. The Lombards returned north when they heard news of Pippin again moving to Italy. This time he agreed to give the Pope the promised territories, and the Papal States were born.
In 771 the new King of the Lombards, Desiderius, devised a plot to conquer Rome and seize Pope Stephen III during a feigned pilgrimage within its walls. His main ally was one Paulus Afiarta, chief of the Lombard party within the city. However the plan failed, and Stephens' successor, Pope Hadrian I called Charlemagne against Desiderius, who was finally defeated in 773. The Life of Charlemange The Lombard Kingdom was no more, and now Rome entered into the orbit of a new, greater political institution.
Numerous remains from this period, along with a museum devoted to Medieval Rome, can be seen at Crypta Balbi in Rome.
This act forever severed the loyalty of Rome from its imperial progeny, Constantinople. It created instead a rival empire which, after a long series of conquests by Charlemagne, now encompassed most of the Christian Western territories.
Following the death of Charlemagne, the lack of a figure with equal prestige led the new institution into disagreement. At the same time the universal church of Rome had to face emergence of the lay interests of the City itself, spurred on by the conviction that the Roman people, though impoverished and abased, had again the right to elect the Western Emperor. The famous counterfeit document called the Donation of Constantine, prepared by the Papal notaries, guaranteed to the Pope a dominion stretching from Ravenna to Gaeta. This nominally included the suzerainty over Rome, but this was often highly disputed and as the centuries passed only the strongest Popes were to be able to assert it. The main element of weakness of the Papacy within the walls of the city was the continued necessity of the election of new popes, in which the emerging noble families soon managed to insert a leading role for themselves. The neighbouring powers, namely the Duchy of Spoleto and Toscana, and later the Emperors, learned how to take their own advantage of this internal weakness, playing the role of arbiters among the contestants.
Led by Giordano Pierleoni, the Romans rebelled against the aristocracy and Church rule in 1143. The Senate and the Roman Republic, the Commune of Rome, were born again. Through the inflammatory words of preacher Arnaldo da Brescia, an idealistic, fierce opponent of ecclesiastical property and church interference in temporal affairs, the revolt that led to the creation of the Commune of Rome continued until it was put down in 1155, though it left its mark on the civil government of the Eternal City for centuries. Twelfth-century Rome, however, had little in common with the empire which had ruled over the Mediterranean some 700 years before, and soon the new Senate had to work hard to survive, choosing an ambiguous policy of shifting its support from the Pope to the Holy Roman Empire and vice versa as the political situation required. At Monteporzio, in 1167, during one of these shifts, in the war with Tusculum, Roman troops were defeated by the imperial forces of Frederick Barbarossa. Luckily, the winning enemies were soon dispersed by a plague and Rome was saved.
In 1188 the new communal government was finally recognized by Pope Clement III. The Pope had to make large cash payments to the communal officials, while the 56 senators became papal vassals. The Senate always had problems in the accomplishment of its function, and various changes were tried. Often a single Senator was in charge. This sometimes led to tyrannies, which did not help the stability of the new-born organism.
In 1204 the streets of Rome were again in flames when the struggle between Pope Innocent III's family and its rivals, the powerful Orsini family, led to riots in the city. Many ancient buildings were then destroyed by machines used by the rival bands to besiege their enemies in the innumerable towers and strongholds which were a hallmark of the Middle Age Italian towns.
The struggle between the Popes and the emperor Frederick II, also king of Naples and Sicily, saw Rome support the Ghibellines. To repay his loyalty, Frederick sent to the commune the Carroccio he had won to the Lombards at the battle of Cortenuova in 1234, and which was exposed in the Campidoglio. In that year, during another revolt against the Pope, the Romans headed by senator Luca Savelli sacked the Lateran. Curiously, Savelli was the nephew of Pope Honorius III and father of Honorius IV, but in that age family ties often did not determine one's allegiance. Rome was never to evolve into an autonomous, stable reign, as happened to other communes like Florence, Siena or Milan. The endless struggles between noble families (Savelli, Orsini, Colonna, Annibaldi), the ambiguous position of the Popes, the haughtiness of a population which never abandoned the dreams of their splendid past but, at the same time, thought only of immediate advantage, and the weakness of the republican institutions always deprived the city of this possibility.
In an attempt to imitate more successful communes, in 1252 the people elected a foreign Senator, the Bolognese Brancaleone degli Andalò. In order to bring peace in the city he suppressed the most powerful nobles (destroying some 140 towers), reorganized the working classes and issued a code of laws inspired by those of northern Italy. Brancaleone was a tough figure, but died in 1258 with almost nothing of his reforms turned into reality. Five years later Charles I of Anjou, then king of Naples, was elected Senator. He entered the city only in 1265, but soon his presence was needed to face Conradin, the Hohenstaufen's heir who was coming to claim his family's rights over southern Italy, and left the city. After June 1265 Rome was again a democratic republic, electing Henry of Castile as senator. But Conradin and the Ghibelline party were crushed in the Battle of Tagliacozzo (1268), and therefore Rome fell again in the hands of Charles.
Nicholas III, a member of Orsini family, was elected in 1277 and moved the seat of the Popes from the Lateran to the more defensible Vatican. He also ordered that no foreigner could become senator of Rome. Being a Roman himself, he had himself elected senator by the people. With this move, the city began again to side for the papal party. In 1285 Charles was again Senator, but the Sicilian Vespers reduced his charisma, and the city was thenceforth free from his authority. The next senator was again a Roman, and again a pope, Honorius IV of the Savelli.
Boniface's successor, Clement V, never entered in the city, starting the so-called "Babylonian Captivity", the absence of the Pope from their Roman seat in favour of Avignon, which will last for more than 70 years. This situation brought the independence of the local powers, but these revealed largely unstable; and the lack of the holy revenues caused a deep decay of Rome. For more than a century Rome had no new major buildings. Furthermore, many of the monuments of the city, including the main churches, began to ruin.
In spite of its decline and the absence of the Pope, Rome had not lost its spiritual prestige: in 1341 the famous poet Petrarca came to the city to be crowned as poet in Capitoline Hill. Noblemen and poor people at one time demanded with one voice the return of the Pope. Among the many ambassadors that in this period took their way to Avignon, emerged the bizarre but eloquent figure of Cola di Rienzo. As his personal power among the people increased by time, on May 30 1347 he conquered the Capitoline at the head of an enthusiast crowd. The period of his power, though very short-lived, is anyway one of the most interesting in the life of Rome in Middle Ages, as Cola tried to assure himself a renovating, almost mystical aura of a paladin of Italian independence, within a confused political dream inspired to the prestige of the Ancient Rome. Now in possession of dictatorial powers, he took the title of "tribune", referring to the pleb's magistracy of the Roman Republic. Cola also considered himself at an equal status of that of the Holy Roman Emperor. On August 1, he conferred Roman citizenship on all the Italian cities, and even prepared for the election of a Roman emperor of Italy. It was too much: the Pope denounced him as heretic, criminal and pagan, the populace had began to be disenchanted with him, while the nobles had always hated him. On December 15, he was forced to flee.
In August 1354, Cola was again a protagonist, when Cardinal Gil Alvarez De Albornoz entrusted him with the role of "senator of Rome" in his program of reassuring the Pope's rule in the Papal States. In October the tyrannical Cola, who had become again very unpopular for his delirious behaviour and heavy bills, was killed in a riot provoked by the powerful family of the Colonna. In April of 1355, Charles IV of Bohemia entered the city for the ritual coronation as Emperor. His visit was very disappointing for the citizens. He had little money, received the crown not from the Pope but from a Cardinal, and moved away after a few days.
With the emperor back in his lands, Albornoz could regain a certain control over the city, while remaining in his safe citadel in Montefiascone, in the Northern Lazio. The senators were chosen directly by the Pope from several cities of Italy, but the city was in fact independent. The Senate council included six judges, five notaries, six marshals, several familiars, twenty knights and twenty armed men. Albornoz had heavily suppressed the traditional aristocratic families, and the "democratic" party felt confident enough to start an aggressive policy. In 1362 Rome declared war on Velletri. This move, however, provoked a civil war. The countryside party hired a condottieri band called "Del Cappello" ("Hat"), while the Romans bought the services of German and Hungarian troops, plus a citizen levy of 600 knights and even 22,000 infantry. This was the period in which Italy was scourged by these ruthless condottieri bands. Many of the Savelli, Orsini and Annibaldi expelled from Rome became leaders of such military units. The war with Velletri languished, and Rome again gave itself to the new Pope, Urban V, provided the dreadful Albornoz did not enter the walls.
On October 16, 1367, in reply to the prayers of St. Brigid and Petrarca, Urban finally visited for the city. During his presence, Charles IV was again crowned in the city (October 1368). In addition, the Byzantine emperor John V Palaeologus came in Rome to beg for a crusade against the Ottoman Empire, but in vain. However, Urban did not like the unhealthy air of the city, and on September 5 1370 he sailed again to Avignon. His successor, Gregory XI, officially set the date of his return to Rome at May 1372, but again the French cardinals and the King stopped him.
|1420-1519||Rome becomes a centre of the Italian Renaissance. Founding of the new St. Peter's Basilica. Sistine Chapel.|
|1527||The Landsknechts sack Rome.|
|1555||Creation of the Ghetto.|
|1585-1590||Urban reforms under Pope Sixtus V.|
|1592-1606||Caravaggio working in Rome.|
|1600||Giordano Bruno is burned.|
|1626||The new St. Peter's Basilica is consecrated.|
|1638-1667||Baroque era. Bernini and Borromini. Rome has 120,000 inhabitants.|
|1703||Building of the Port of Ripetta.|
|1732-1762||Building of the Fontana di Trevi.|
|1798-1799 and 1800-1814||French occupation.|
|1848-1849||Roman Republic with Mazzini and Garibaldi.|
|1870||Rome conquered by Italian troops.|
|1874-1885||Building of the Termini Station and founding of the Vittoriano.|
|1922||March on Rome.|
|1932-1939||Building of Cinecittà.|
|1943||Bombing of Rome.|
|1960||Rome is seat of the Summer Olympics.|
|1975-1985||Years of terrorism. Death of Aldo Moro. Pope John Paul II is shot.|
|1990||Rome is seat of the Football World Championship.|
|2000||Rome is seat of the Jubilee.|
However, the Banderari soon proved incapable to govern the city, and their misfits and violences deprived it soon of the popular support. The city was therefore returned to Eugene by the army of Giovanni Vitelleschi on October 26 1434. After the death of Vitelleschi in mysterious circumstances, the power in the city was under Ludovico Scarampo, Patriarch of Aquileia. Eugene returned in Rome on 28 September 1443.
On September 4 1449 Nicholas proclaimed a Jubilee for the following year, which saw a great influx of pilgrims from all Europe. The crowd was so large that in December, on Ponte Sant'Angelo, some 200 people died crushed under their feet or drowned in the Tiber. But that year the plague reappeared in the city, and Nicholas fled dishonourably.
In any case, Nicholas asserted in a stable way the temporal power of the Papacy, a power in which the Emperor was to have no part at all. In this way, the coronation and the marriage of Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor on March 16, 1452, was more a civil ceremony. The Papacy now controlled Rome with a strong hand. A plot by Stefano Porcari, whose aim was the restoration of the Republic, was ruthlessly suppressed on January 1453. Porcari was hanged together with the other plotters, Francesco Gabadeo, Pietro de Monterotondo, Battista Sciarra and Angiolo Ronconi, but the Pope gained a treacherous reputation, as when the execution was beginning he was too drunk to confirm the grace he had previously given to Sciarra and Ronconi.
Nicholas' successor Calixtus III neglected the new cultural policy of Nicholas, devoting himself instead to his greatest passion, the love for his nephews. The Tuscan Pius II, who took the reins after his death in 1458, was a great Humanist, but did little for Rome. During his reign Lorenzo Valla demonstrated that the Donation of Constantine was a forgery. Pius was the first pope to use guns, in campaign against the rebel barons Savelli in the neighbourhood of Rome, in 1461. One year later the moving to Rome of the head of the apostle St. Andrew produced a great number of pilgrims. The reign of Pope Paul II (1464-1471) was notable only for the reintroduction of the Carnival, which was to become a very popular feast in Rome in the following centuries. In the same year (1468) a plot was discovered against the pope, organized by the intellectuals of the Roman Academy founded by Pomponio Leto. The plotters were sent to Castel Sant'Angelo.
More important by far was the pontificate of Sixtus IV. In order to favour his relative Girolamo Riario, he promoted the unsuccessful Congiura dei Pazzi against the Medici of Florence (April 26 1478) and in Rome fought the Colonna and the Orsini. The personal politics of intrigues and wars needed much money, but in spite of this Sixtus was a true patron of art in the wake of Nicholas V. He reopened the Academy and reorganized the Collegio degli Abbreviatori, and in 1471 started the construction of the Vatican Library, whose first curator was Platina. The Library was officially founded on June 15, 1475. He restored several churches, including Santa Maria del Popolo, the Aqua Virgo and the Hospital of the Holy Spirit, paved some streets and also built a famous bridge on the Tiber which still today carries his name. However, his main building project was the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Palace. Its decoration called on some of the most renowned artists of that age, including Mino da Fiesole, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Pietro Perugino, Luca Signorelli and Pinturicchio, and in the 16th century Michelangelo painted it with his famous masterpiece and made it one of the most outstanding monuments of the world. Sixtus died on August 12, 1484. He is considered the first Pope-king of Rome.
Chaos, corruption and nepotism appeared in Rome under the reign of his successors, Innocent VIII and Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503). During the vacation period between the death of the former and the election of the latter there were 220 murders in the city. Alexander had to face Charles VIII of France, who invaded Italy in 1494 and entered in Rome on December 31 of that year. The Pope could only barricade himself into Castel Sant'Angelo, which had been turned into a true fortress by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger. In the end, the skilful Alexander was able to gain the support of the king, assigning his son Cesare Borgia as military counsellor for the subsequent invasion of the Kingdom of Naples. Rome was safe and, as the King directed himself southwards, the Pope again changed his position, joining the anti-French League of the Italian States which finally compelled Charles to flee to France.
The most nepotist Pope of all, Alexander favoured his ruthless son Cesare, creating for him a personal duchy out of territories of the Papal States, and banning from Rome the Orsini family, Cesare's most relentless enemy. In 1500 the city hosted a new Jubilee, but its street grew even more unsafe as, especially at night, when they were controlled by bands of lawless "bravi". Cesare himself assassinated Alfonso of Bisceglie, his sister Lucrezia's, as well as, presumably, the Pope's son, Giovanni of Gandia.
The Renaissance had a great impact on Rome's face, with works like the Pietà by Michelangelo and the frescoes of the Borgia Apartment, all made during Innocent's reign. Rome reached the highest point of splendour under Pope Julius II (1503-1513) and his successors Leo X and Clement VII, both members of the Medici family. In this twenty-years period Rome became the greatest centre of art of the world. The old St. Peter's Basilica was demolished and a new one begun. The city hosted artists like Bramante, who built the temple of San Pietro in Montorio and planned a great project to renovate the Vatican. Raphael, who in Rome became the most famous painter of Italy creating frescos in the Cappella Niccolina, the Villa Farnesina, the Raphael's Rooms, plus many other famous paintings. Michelangelo started the decoration of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and executed the famous statue of the Moses for the tomb of Julius. Rome lost in part its religious character, becoming increasingly a true Renaissance city, with a great number of popular feasts, horse races, parties, intrigues and licentious episodes. Its economy was rich, with the presence of several Tuscan bankers, including Agostino Chigi, who was a friend of Raphael and a patron of arts. Before his early death, Raphael also promoted for the first time the preservation of the ancient ruins.
The 1525's Jubilee resulted in a farce, as Martin Luther's claims had spread criticism and even despise against the Pope's greed of money throughout Europe. The prestige of Rome was then challenged by the defections of the churches of Germany and England. Pope Paul III (1534-1549) tried to recover the situation by summoning the Council of Trento, although being, at the same time, the most nepotist Pope of all. He even separated Parma and Piacenza from the Papal States to create an independent duchy for his son Pier Luigi. He continued the patronage of art supporting the Michelangelo's Last Judgment, asking him to renovate the Campidoglio and the on-going construction of St. Peter's. After the shock of the sack, he also called the brilliant architect Giuliano da Sangallo the Younger to strengthen the walls of the Leonine City.
The need for renovation in the religious costumes became evident in the vacancy period after Paulus' death, when the streets of Rome became seat of masked carousels which satirized the Cardinals attending the conclave. His two immediate successors were feeble figures who did nothing to escape the actual Spanish suzerainty over Rome.
Paul IV, elected in 1555, was a member of the anti-Spanish party, but his policy resulted in the Neapolitan troops of the viceroy again besieging Rome in 1556. Paul sued for peace, but had to accept the supremacy of Philip II of Spain. He was one of the most hated Popes of all, and, after his death the raging populace burned the Holy Inquisition's palace and destroyed his marble statue on the Campidoglio. Paul's Counter-Reformation views are well shown by his order that a central area of Rome, around the Porticus Octaviae, be delimited, creating the famous Roman Ghetto,the very constricted area in which the city's Jews were forced to live.
The Counter-Reformation gained pace under his successors, the milder Pope Pius IV and the severe Saint Pius V. The former was a nepotist lover of court splendours, but more severe costumes arrived anyway through the ideas of his advisor, the prelate Charles Borromeo, who was to become one of the most popular figures among the Rome's people. Pius V and Borromeo gave Rome a true Counter-Reformation character. All pomp was removed from the court, the jokers were expelled, and cardinals and bishops were obliged to live in the city. Blasphemy and concubinage were severely punished. Prostitutes were expelled or confined in a reserved district. The Inquisition's power in the city was reasserted, and its palace rebuilt with an increased space for prisons. During this period Michelangelo and opened the Porta Pia and turned the Baths of Diocletian into the spectacular basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, where Pius IV was buried.
The pontificate of his successor, Gregory XIII, was considered a failure. As he tried to use milder measures than those of St. Pius, the worst element of the Roman population felt free to scourge again the streets. The French writer and philosopher Montaigne maintained that "life and goods were never as unsure as at the time of Gregorius XIII, perhaps", and that a confraternity even held homosexual marriage in the church of San Giovanni a Porta Latina. The courtesans repressed by Pius had now returned.
Sixtus V was of very different temper. Although short (1585-1590), his reign his however remembered as one of the most effective in the modern Rome's history. He was even tougher than Pius V, and was variously nicknamed castigamatti ("punisher of the mad"), papa di ferro ("Iron Pope"), dictator and even, ironically, demon, since no other Pope before him pursued with such a determination the reform of the church and the costumes. Sixtus profoundly reorganized the Papal States' administration, and cleaned the streets of Rome of thugs, procurers, dueling and so on. Even the nobles and Cardinals could not consider themselves free from the arms of Sixtus' police. The money from taxes, which were not now wasted in corruption, permitted an ambitious building program. Some ancient aqueducts were restored, and new one, the Acquedotto Felice (from Sixtus' name, Felice Peretti) was constructed. New houses were built in the desolate district of Esquilino, Viminale and Quirinale, while old houses in the centre of the city were destroyed to open new, larger streets. Sixtus's principal aim was to make Rome a better destination for pilgrimages, and the new streets were intended to permit a better access to the major Basilicas. Old obelisks were moved or erected to embellish St. John in Lateran, Santa Maria Maggiore and St. Peter, as well as Piazza del Popolo, in front of Santa Maria del Popolo.
|Population of Rome|
Another Roman Republic arose in 1849, within the framework of revolutions of 1848. Two of the most influential figures of the Italian unification, Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi, fought for the short-lived republic. However, the actions of these two great men would not have resulted in unification without the sly leadership of Camille Cavour, Prime Minister of Piedmont-Sardinia.
In his attempt to unify Northern Italy under the kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, Cavour enacted major industrialization of the country in order to become the economic leader of Italy. In doing so, he believed that the other states would naturally come under his rule. Next, he sent the army of Piedmont to the Crimean War to join the French and British. Making minor successes in the war against Russia, cordial relations were established between Piedmont-Sardinia and France; a relationship to be exploited in the future.
The return of Pope Pius IX in Rome, with help of French troops, marked the exclusion of Rome from the unification process that was embodied in the Second Italian Independence War and the Mille expedition, after which all the Italian peninsula, except Rome and Venetia, would be unified under the House of Savoy. Garibaldi first attacked Sicily, luckily under the guise of passing British ships and landing with little resistance.
Taking the island, Garibaldi's actions were publicly denounced by Cavour but secretly encouraged via weapons supplements. This policy or real-politik, where the ends justified the means of unification, was continued as Garibaldi faced crossing the Strait of Messina. Cavour privately asked the British navy to allow Garibaldi's troops across the sea while publicly he again, denounced Garibaldi's actions. The maneuver was a success and Garibaldi's military genius carried him on to take the entire kingdom.
Cavour then moved to take Venetia and Lombardy via an alliance with France. The Italians and French together would attack the two states with France getting the city of Nice and the region of Savoy in return. However, the French pulled out of their agreement soon after, enraging Cavour who subsequently resigned. Only Lombardy had been captured at the time.
With French units still stationed at Rome however, Cavour, being called back to office, foresaw a possibility of Garibaldi attacking the Papal States and accidentally disrupting French-Italian relations. The army of Sardinia was therefore mobilized to attack the Papal States but remain outside Rome.
In the Austro-Prussian war however, a deal was made between the new Italy and Prussia, where Italy would attack Austria in return for the region of Venetia. The war was a major success for the Prussians (though the Italians did not win a single battle), and the northern front of Italy was complete.
In July, 1870, the Franco-Prussian War started, and French Emperor Napoleon III could no longer protect the Papal States. Soon after, the Italian army under general Raffaele Cadorna entered Rome on September 20, after a cannonade of three hours, through Porta Pia (see capture of Rome). The Leonine City was occupied the following day, a provisional Government Joint created by Cadorna out of local noblemen to avoid the rise of the radical factions. Rome and Latium were annexed to the Kingdom of Italy after a plebiscite held on October 2. 133,681 voted for annexion, 1,507 opposed (in Rome itself, there were 40,785 "Yes" and 57 "No").
Initially, the Italian government had offered to let Pope Pius IX keep the Leonine City, but the pope rejected the offer because acceptance would have been an implied endorsement of the legitimacy of the Italian kingdom's rule over his former domain. Pope Pius IX declared himself a prisoner in the Vatican, although he was not actually restrained from coming and going. Officially, the capital was moved from Florence to Rome in early 1871.
During World War II, Rome suffered few bombings (notably at San Lorenzo) and relatively little damage because none of the sides involved wanted to endanger the life of Pope Pius XII in Vatican City. Rome fell to the Allies on June 4 1944. It was the first capital of an Axis nation to fall, and was relatively undamaged because the Germans had declared it an "open city" and withdrawn, meaning that the Allies did not have to fight their way in.
After the war, Rome continued to expand due to Italy's growing state administration and industry, with the creation of new quartieri and suburbs. The current official population stands at 2.5 million; during the business day workers increase this figure to over 3.5 million. This is a dramatic increase from previous figures, which were 138,000 in 1825, 244,000 in 1871, 692,000 in 1921, 1,600,000 in 1931.
Rome hosted the 1960 Summer Olympics, using many ancient sites such as the Villa Borghese and the Thermae of Caracalla as venues. For the Olympic Games many new structures were created, notably the new large Olympic Stadium (which was also enlarged and renewed to host qualification and the final match of the 1990 FIFA football World Cup), the Villaggio Olimpico (Olympic Village, created to host the athletes and redeveloped after the games as a residential district), etc.
Being the capital city of Italy, Rome hosts all the principal institutions of the nation, like the Presidency of the Republic, the government (and its single Ministeri), the Parliament, the main judicial Courts, and the diplomatic representatives of all the countries for the states of Italy and the Vatican City (curiously, Rome also hosts, in the Italian part of its territory, the Embassy of Italy for the Vatican City, a unique case of an Embassy within the boundaries of its own country). Many international institutions are located in Rome, notably cultural and scientific ones - such as the American Institute, the British School, the French Academy, the Scandinavian Institutes, the German Archaeological Institute - for the honour of scholarship in the Eternal City, and humanitarian ones, such as the FAO.
Rome today is one of the most important tourist destinations of the world, due to the incalculable immensity of its archaeological and artistic treasures, as well as for the charm of its unique traditions, the beauty of its panoramic views, and the majesty of its magnificent "villas" (parks). Among the most significant resources: plenty of museums - (Musei Capitolini, the Vatican Museums, Galleria Borghese, and a great many others) — aqueducts, fountains, churches, palaces, historical buildings, the monuments and ruins of the Roman Forum, and the Catacombs.
Among its hundreds of churches, Rome contains the five Major Basilicas of the Catholic church: Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano (St. John Lateran, Rome's cathedral), Basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano (St. Peter's Basilica), Basilica di San Paolo fuori le Mura (St. Paul Outside the Walls), Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore (St. Mary Major), and Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura (St. Lawrence Outside the Walls). The Bishop of Rome is the Pope.