The city of Rome was to become the capital of one of the largest superpowers the world has ever known. This huge empire stretched across the globe from North Africa to Russia. However, it was not always a grand empire.
It was some time before the Romans built gigantic aqueducts and impressive amphitheatres around the world. Rome started life as a little town. This little town appeared on the Palatine Hills along the River Tiber in Central Italy in the 8th century.
Over the next few centuries, this small town turned into the huge Roman Empire that covered thousands of miles and ruled over millions of people.
The Romans kept fantastic records. They produced lots of art and built long lasting-structures. This is why we know so much about them to this day.
Rome as a Kingdom
Rome was in a good position on the Tiber River and went on to grow and grow. It was situated on the Palatine Hill. Being surrounded by these hills was always an advantage when defending against enemy attacks. Over time, Rome spread out over the Aventine Hill, Caelian Hill, Capitoline Hill, Esquiline Hill, Quirinal Hill and the Viminal Hill.
Even in Rome’s later history, the rich and important people, including emperors and noblemen, had large villas on these hills.
Early Rome was governed by Kings which made early Rome a Kingdom. Romulus was claimed in the records to be the first King of Rome, and Numa Pompilius was the second King according to legends.
Historians have some records that contain myths about how Rome began. The most famous myth is of Romulus and Remus.
The Myth of Romulus and Remus
The most famous myth about the beginnings of Rome claims Rome began with a dispute between two special twin brothers, Romulus and Remus.
These twins were the sons of the god of war, Mars. The two twins were left in a basket on the River Tiber. As the legend goes, Romulus and Remus had no mother and were brought up by a wolf. When they grew up, they decided to build a town.
Romulus and Remus argued about whether to build Rome on the Aventine Hill or the Palatine Hill. Romulus built a wall around the town. The myth says that his brother, Remus, laughed at Romulus’s wall and mocked him. Romulus then killed Remus and named the town after himself, Rome.
The senate in the myth
Romulus selected 100 men from groups of people in the surrounding area. These groups of men became the powerful classes. They were named patricians. These patricians became the Senate. The Senate was the group of men who controlled Rome and made all the decisions during the Republic.
The Senate were supposed to be related to the original men of early Rome. In the myth and real life, they helped to govern the city throughout the 1000 years that the Romans ruled.
In the myth, Romulus organised the army too. The organisation of the army in the myth was very similar to the way the army was organised throughout Rome’s history.
Is this myth true?
This myth about early Rome became more popular than other myths during the era of the Roman Empire.
A myth is a story that explains how something happens, often the early history of a people. Myths are generally seen as false. However, they are normally important to the societies that produce them.
We should remember that within each myth there can be truths. Within history there can also be small myths too.
Myths help people to understand the world. They contain messages for people at the time about how things are organised. They also contain messages for historians about what was important to a society in the past.
Historians have some records from this time but not many. There are archaeological records that historians have used to understand the history of early Rome. Historians look at the findings of archaeology alongside written records and myths. Archaeologists find remains in the ground of old structures or objects.
Archaeological records show that there was a small town around the Palatine Hill from around the 8th Century. Archaeologists have found evidence of a small wall around the town. However, this wall dated 100 years later than the wall that Romulus built in the legend. They have dated this wall to the 9th century.
What happened to the Kings?
Rome had seven kings after Romulus. This made it a kingdom. Rome then became the Roman Republic in 509 BC. The Republic did not have a king but consuls. These were elected by a group of noblemen called the Senate, just like in the myth.