It all began with a she-wolf and two abandoned babies, Source: Depositphotos

Happy Birthday, Rome!

Happy Birthday, Rome!

Even an Eternal City had to start from somewhere

Many cities have a founding year or a year when they gained a charter that grants them city status, but there are only a few that can claim to have a specific birthday, and one of them is the Eternal City – Rome.

Every year, on 21 April, Rome adds one more candle to what must be an enormous cake already. Serving as the capital of Italy is only the latest of jobs in a long and glorious CV.

It all began in 753 BC with a legendary story that is engraved in the popular imagination. Rea Silvia, a Latin princess and the god of war Mars had twins, Romulus and Remus, who were abandoned because they were illegitimate. After all, the mother was supposed to become a Vestal Virgin and serve as a priestess. The legend says that the two babies were left in a basket which found its way to the banks of the Tiber River where a she-wolf found them and raised them as her own.

Romulus then became the first of the Seven Kings of Rome founding a city that since then has been on everyone’s must-visit lists.

Legend and reality

Actually, the legend is modest when it comes to assigning ancient status to the city. Archaeologists have found that the Capitoline Hill, for instance, had likely already been settled circa 1700 BC, predating the legendary founding by a millennium.

Nevertheless, it is likely that the true founding of the city came after the various villages established on the seven hills (Aventinus, Caelius, Capitolinus, Esquilinus, Palatinus, Quirinalis and Viminalis) decided to form a union and drained the valleys that divided them.

The reason for having an exact founding date stems from the fact that the ancient Romans who lived in the Empire were themselves interested in the history and origin of their city. Even at their time, it was already rather old.

Ancient Roman texts, such as Livy’s “History of Rome,” provide valuable insights into the mythology surrounding the city’s foundation. What’s more, there’s some intertwining between myth and reality as the date (21 April) coincided with the Palilia festival. This was when shepherds celebrated the beginning of the year with rituals of flock purification. Ancient Imperial Romans decided to keep celebrating this decidedly rural festival as a way of keeping a link to their roots and thus it came to be a symbolic birthday of the city.

On 21 April, Rome bursts into vibrant life with a diverse array of public festivities and events. These include elaborate parades, theatrical performances, and exhibitions that showcase artefacts from ancient Rome. The city’s main squares and streets are adorned with decorations, and the atmosphere is filled with traditional Roman music. 



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