Roma Condita: Celebrating Rome’s Founding

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

From the world of Ancient Rome there are many things in which to be celebrated or actually were celebrated. The month of Aprilis (April) celebrates the birth of Emperors Septimius Severus (11 April 145 AD) and Marcus Aurelius (26 April 121 AD) along with the festivals of Veneralia (1) and Fordicidia (15).

If you haven’t yet got on the Roman party-train you need to jump aboard, for there’s plenty of stops to celebrate and there’s plenty of tickets available for everyone. But without a single event, no of this would happen nor would this website exist.

Today we are going to witness the impactful event that was the Roma Condita (Founding of Rome)!

Aeneas flees burning Troy by Federico Barocci, 1598 (Galleria Borghese, Rome).

One thing the Romans were certain of was the day Rome was founded, and that day is today – 4 April. What they were not so certain of was the year in which their city was established as several dates had been proposed by ancient authorities.

This is a reason they preferred to date their years by the presiding Consuls rather than using the formula Ab Urbe Condita (AUC). Dionysius of Halicarnassus, a Greek historian and teacher of rhetoric who flourished during the reign of Caesar Augustus, stated the following:

the Greek historian Timaeus, the first to write a history of the Romans, stated that Rome was founded in the 38th year prior to the first Olympiad, or 814 BC; Quintus Fabius Pictor, the first Roman to write the history of his people, stated Rome was founded in the first year of the eighth Olympiad, or 748/7 BC; Cincius Alimentus claimed Rome was founded in the fourth year of the twelfth Olympiad, or 719/8 BC; and Cato the Elder calculated that Rome was founded 432 years after the Trojan War, which Dionysius stated was the first year of the seventh Olympiad, or 752/3 BC.

Dionysius himself provided calculations showing that Rome was founded in 751 BC, starting with the Battle of the Allia, which he dated to the 1st year of the 9th Olympiad (390 BC), then added 119 years to reach the date of the primary Consuls, Junius Brutus and Tarquinius Collatinus, and then he added the combined total of the reigns of the Kings of Rome (244 years) to arrive at his own date, 751 BC. Even the official Fasti Capitolini offers its own date, 752 BC.

Building what would become The Eternal City, as Romulus plows the boundary (inset).

The most familiar date given for the foundation of Rome, 753 BC, was derived by the Roman antiquarian Titus Pomponius Atticus, and adopted by Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro.

Varro created a timeline of Roman History by using a combination of a list of Roman Consuls, together with a little bit of historical license to allow for periods of dictatorial rule.

Therefore Varro’s timeline is known to be slightly inaccurate, but nobody has ever provided sufficiently trustworthy evidence to propose a different calendar. Therefore his system is accepted as the standard chronology.

Despite the inaccuracies of Varro’s work, the recent discoveries by Andrea Carandini on Rome’s Palatine Hill have also yielded evidence of a series of fortification walls on the North Slope that can be dated to the middle of the 8th Century BC. According to the legend, Romulus plowed a sulcus (furrow) around the hill in order to mark the boundary of his new city.

The she-wolf feeding the twins Romulus and Remus, the most famous image associated with the founding of Rome.

You may already be familiar with the myth of Romulus and Remus, the twin brothers who were suckled by a she-wolf. The story goes that, as adults, they decided to establish a new city but disagreed on the location.

After a quarrel about the walls, Remus was killed by his brother and so Romulus named the city after himself. The foundation myth became quite commonly accepted by ancient historians, although modern scholars disagree.

We appreciate you taking this journey with us to discover the Founding of Rome. We look forward to having you join us on future adventures, for we never know where we’ll be heading.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Carandini, Andrea. Rome: Day One. Princeton University Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-691-13922-7.

Forsythe, Gary. A Critical History of Early Rome: From Prehistory to the First Punic War. University of California Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0-520-22651-7.

Livy. The Early History of Rome. Penguin Books Ltd, 26 May 2005. ISBN 978-0-14-196307-5.

 

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