The city of Roma, (‘Amor’ when reversed, meaning love) goes by many names- the city of love, the eternal city, the Capital of the World, etc. The phrase ’Rome wasn’t built in a day’ is not uncommon. It is used by people worldwide as a reminder to be patient and develop resilience. Rome is living proof of it. Although this French saying came out in the 12th century, Roman history winds further back. So, how long did it take to build Rome?
When one pictures Rome, some of the few images could include its architectural grandeur and, and course, the pizza. The stories of Roman empires are highlighted throughout the pages of history. So how did the Eternal City become as we know it? Is it since the times of Caesar or is it older? This article aims to delve into the anecdotes of the Roman Empire.
1. Understanding the Timeline- How Long Did It Take to Build Rome?
According to legends, Rome was founded in 753 B.C. Romans were creative geniuses and innovators, who focused on expanding their resources and rich heritage. But it wasn’t an overnight success story. Rome, like any other city, was merely a humble dwelling with no riches or fortunes as such. Every great thing takes time and so did Rome.
We can break it down into different phases it had- the origin, the Roman Republic, the birth of the Roman Empire, its fall, the Renaissance and the construction of cities.
It is customary in Greece to use mythology to justify the origins of different places. The Romans adopted this practice as well. Rome has a famous foundation myth that serves as the background to its name and marks its origin.
2. The Founding Brothers of Rome
2.1) The Tale Behind the Name
Rome’s history began with the twins Romulus and Remus. Their story played a significant role in shaping Rome’s cultural identity and distinctness. Romulus and Remus were the offspring of the deity Mars and a human woman named Rhea Silvia. Silvia’s father Numitor was king then. There was a feud between the king and his brother Amulius for the throne. He eventually overthrew his brother Nupitor, to become king. Amidst the strenuous political circumstances, Rhea Silvia got pregnant with the twins despite being forbidden from having children.
Amulius, who was king then, imprisoned Silvia and gave her children the death penalty when they were born. But he was scared of upsetting the gods and he did not want to directly kill the kids. Instead, he came up with a devious plan and gave the order for the kids to be slaughtered in a natural environment, such as being thrown into a river. The kids would be exposed to natural dangers that could fatally hurt or eventually kill them.
2.2) What Happened Between the Twins?
The legend is that the river deity protected the kids, taking the form of a she-wolf, and prevented them from drowning. The kids eventually managed to float to safety and were found by Faustulus, a shepherd. He raised the kids who eventually grew up to be shepherds themselves. As the boys became mean, Amulius ordered and got Remus captured. His brother didn’t sit back. He fought for his brother’s freedom. He ended up killing Amulius as he rescued Remus.
They gave the crown back to Numitor, Silvia’s father as they wanted to create a city of their own. To decide who’d make king, they used an ancient practice called Augury. They checked for signs from God looking at the sky. However, both saw different things and believed to have seen the better or more significant one. They couldn’t reach a common ground on the matter.
The details of the events that followed are varied. Nevertheless, it ended the same- With the death of Remus. Romulus killed his brother to become the first king and named the historic city after him.
To honour the legend of Rome’s foundation, a bronze sculpture –The Capitoline Wolf (Italian- Lupa Capitolina), now sits in Rome’s Palazzo dei Conservatori.
3. Ancient Rome
3.1) Rome- Before It All Began
Research suggests Rome as a city-state began between 500-600 B.C. It began as a small farming settlement. From its founding to its destruction, Rome’s construction spun through various phases over 1,229 years.
The origins of Rome began in the regions of Etruria and Latium in ancient Italy. It is believed that the Latium townspeople joined forces with inhabitants from the nearby hills, forming the city-state of Rome in response to an Etruscan invasion. It is believed by some that it was Romulus who created the first defence walls, fortifying the castle. However, it is considered more factual that it was the indigenous people who built the defence for their protection.
4. The Period of Kings
4.1) The Regal Times
This was the official formative years of the Roman identity. There are lots of myths and tales about this time. It is believed that Romulus created the city-state’s laws, army, social and religious structures. He even founded the Roman Senate and the Circus Maximus, one of the biggest sports arenas ever to be created. In short, it is believed that Romulus laid down the fundamental administrative systems and policies.
Historian Livy writes that Romulus built walls around the city to procure new lands and prepare for the increasing population, but modern scholars believe that to be false. This period has a lot of tales and facts mixed so it is challenging, even for scholars to analyse the factuality behind each.
From the formation years until the political turmoil that overthrew the Roman monarchy, it is believed that Rome was ruled by a total of seven kings. However, modern scholars have varied opinions on it. But it is a fact that the regal period saw at least six rulers.
An Interesting Fact- The Servian Wall, named after Servius Tullius, the sixth ruler of Romeis the oldest known defensive wall surrounding the city.
4.2) Archaeological Findings
Numerous researches and excavations have been undertaken to gather authentic proof for this period. The Sant’Omobono Project, a large-scale archaeological excavation, has recently uncovered some of the oldest known structures from this Period of Kings.
The researchers discovered a temple called the ‘Fortuna temple’ from the sixth century B.C. at Capitoline Hill in the centre of Rome. This temple served as a trading hub where traders from all over the ancient globe could exchange goods. So, it could be inferred towards the time, the city was engaging in different trading ventures expanding its frontiers.
5. Birth of the Roman Republic
5.1) Julius Caesar
This might be the phase of Roman times more known to most of us. The Roman Republic was established in approximately 509 B.C. and lasted until roughly 31 B.C. It witnessed the uprising of Julius Caesar, Rome’s popular commander. It was also beginning to be a time of wars and conquerors. This era began a new system of administration and personnel affairs.
The traditional system of a monarchy was changing. The senators and knights had power and authority unlike it all being vested solely in a king. However, they had an arrangement that in times of crisis, they could choose a dictator for stability. A standardised system of laws called ‘Twelve Tables” was created. There was clarity within the administrative system. Even though Caesar was a powerful commander, he paved the way for the Romans’ progress. It saw a series of actions to modernize and increase the welfare of the Roman Republic.
They were becoming powerful and had already established their dominion in most regions near the Pacific and Asia.
5.2) The Development of Rome
The victorious wars came with their set of rewards. The good thing was that they used these to prosper the city. The conquered riches allowed the Republic to make investments in a variety of capital projects, especially the city of Rome. They built sewage lines, aqueducts and roads. They also created a fleet of vessels which could help with their naval wars.
Temples like the Pantheon were also built in Republican Rome, as were larger amusement parks like the Circus Maximus. (Known for its brilliant construction ideas, the Amphitheatre of Pompeii, the legendary Pantheon and the Colosseum are sights of grandeur to tourists even today)
Republican Rome was a turbulent time. It witnessed the revolt of the slaves thrice. The empire was divided into several different factions as the period came to an end.
6. Rome In the Middle Ages
Amidst the political turmoil, Rome bore a few significant structural changes. During its medieval period, political structure changed, cities declined, Roman culture began disappearing, buildings collapsed, and even Latin lost its dominance. There was a spread of new languages, such as French, Spanish, and Catalan. The transition was gradual but steady and it was largely supported by Roman law.
7. Imperial Rome
In 31 B.C., Octavian or Caesar Augustus fought and conquered leaders like Mark Antony and Cleopatra of Egypt and celebrated his victory. Octavian afterwards adopted the name Augustus. He became the founder of the Roman Empire and was crowned the first Roman Emperor.
7.1) Contributions of Agrippa
Marcus Agrippa was a well-known Roman general, politician, and builder who served as Augustus’ most trusted advisor. He can be credited as one of the significant architects of Rome. Most of the infrastructure that Rome enjoys today, is from him.
His creations may be seen all around the city. Rome’s network of sewers and water pipes, public baths, buildings, ornate gardens, etc. all owe it to Agrippa. Augustus stated that his general had changed Rome from a city of brick to a city of marble.
Rome continued to vanquish other civilizations over several centuries, using the resources of their previous empire, until the city eventually held much of Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. Rome grew to have peace, prosperity, and growth throughout this time although to the distress of many others.
The Roman Empire was divided in AD 286 into an Eastern (Byzantine Empire) and a Western empire, each with its emperor.
7.2) Building Rome
Roman engineers built a network of tunnels and bridges in modern-day Jordan and Syria around 90 A.D. that delivered water over the desert. Building projects increased to unimaginable proportions in Rome.
8. The Fall of a Great Empire
The Roman pride came before its fall. After years of joy and peace, the Romans endured a series of plagues, invasions and internal wars.
Rome’s economic drive began to slow down around the time of the Punic Wars in the second century A.D. Some say the fall of the Roman Empire probably involved climate change and it was not just the wars. The answer could include both. Romans were finally vanquished by the Germans in 476 AD- the last fatal blow that Rome endured.
The Roman Empire had fallen, and they fell hard. It is believed that the city couldn’t attain their population number before their collapse, until recent times. It is believed that Eastern Rome managed to survive till the 15th century. Then it was defeated by the Turks who took their capital city, Constantinople.
Nevertheless, many of Rome’s greatest technical achievements made through as many temples are still in existence today. They are also an inspiration to many, as one can notice that even if men fall, art survives.
9.1) What was the Renaissance?
The Renaissance (which lasted from the 14th to 17th centuries), is a significant period in World history. The 14th century in Rome was a nightmare. It was a century of neglect and suffering. Rome’s population fell to its lowest point and those who remained were poor and famished. It was indicated that the place needed a strong administration and a leader who could control and ensure security and prosperity for all.
There were huge internal struggles, between factions. The unrest went on for four decades and the period saw a lot of power struggle, leading the city to chaos and distress. power struggles between the commune and the municipal and central government.
Martin V of the Colonna dynasty finally came to the rescue and was ultimately successful in establishing order in the. He laid the fundamentals for the Roman Renaissance.
10. Contributions of Leaders to the Renaissance
10.1) Nicholas V
Churches were rebuilt, mansions were built, and defence walls were renovated and maintained under Nicholas V. He made new buildings and also preserved old administration buildings to celebrate the great Roman heritage.
The leader invited famous artists to the city, and by the end of the century, Rome had become the main epicentre of the Renaissance.
10.2) Pope Sixtus IV
Pope Sixtus IV (in office from 1471 to 1484) had a significant role in the Renaissance of Rome. He is most noted for the building of the Sistine Chapel, which bears his name. One of his biggest and most well-known creative achievements is the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, painted by the legendary artist, Michaelangelo.
The statues that now make up the Capitoline museums were gifted by him to the city in 1471. He also expanded the Vatican Library’s collections and made them accessible to the general public. He also rearranged the city’s streets. The magnificent Renaissance Palazzo della Cancelleria, the largest of all the homes of the period, was built by his nephew Cardinal Raffaello Riario. All the content creators and photographers could offer their gratitude to him for gifting these sights to see.
11. 20th Century
11.1) Rise of Fascism and Mussolini
Rome witnessed different leadership eras. From monarchy to fascism, it had its share of gains and terrible losses. After World War 1, Italian fascism emerged strongly backed by Benito Mussolini. He declared a new empire, became a monarch and joined hands with the German Nazis. However, the alliance and dictatorship came to a standstill after World War 2. Mussolini was executed in 1946, a referendum was passed and the monarchy was abolished in Italy favouring the Roman Republic.
11.2) Post-War Reconstruction- How Long Did It Take to Build Rome?
Now comes the real question. How long did it take to build Rome? The city we know is all about glam, lifestyle and food. After the war, the city started to grow outside the old wall towards the 20th century when the entire territory was built up. Along the Tiber River, embankments were created in addition to the city to prevent flooding. It marked the advent of modernization and technological development.
Political Changes- A republic with an elected president was established less than a month later, according to a vote and the new republican constitution was adopted by the constituent assembly in 1947.
After the war, Italy grew fast focusing on post-war reconstruction. It became known as one of the most fashionable cities in the world, including being home to some of the famous luxury brands like Gucci, Prada, Versace, etc. Naturally, one would wonder how the most famous brands are Italian. Italians are great artists and are known for their excellent craftsmanship skills. Manufacturing and exporting items in fashion are significant factors in the Italian economy today.
12. Rome Today
Rome is recognised as a global city or a city of the world. It was the most popular tourist destination in Italy(and continues to be) and was the third most visited city in the European Union in 2011. It was also the 18th most visited city overall.
Monuments and museums like the Coliseum and the Vatican Museums are some of the most visited tourist destinations in the world. Rome was the Olympic host city in 1960 and is home to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations.
Along with its historical interest, Rome’s religious significance draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The Catholic world’s centre of gravity is still Rome. The Vatican City is within a Roman enclave. It has been recognised as an independent state by the Italian government since 1929. The Dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City outlines the beautiful skies of Rome.
13. Rome in a Nutshell
The poet Virgil, in Aeneid, mentions Rome to be “Imperium sine fine,” translated as “an empire without end.” This phrase’s pride towards the city marks the pride of its people. They believed with conviction that the city would survive and thrive no matter how many empires came and went. The vision these people had, could never perish. What they managed to accomplish are examples of eternal masterpieces. Rome was not built in a day. So she will live, even if men fail her. The name and the city, and the art associated with it, have persisted even thousands of years after.
For your next trip to Rome, keep these facts in mind as you experience something surreal. You can read this article- Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day…’ for more information on how these magnificent architectures came to be.