Rome (Italian and Latin: Roma) is the capital city of Italy and of its Latium region. It is located on the lower Tiber river, near the Mediterranean Sea, at 41°54' N 12°29' E . The Vatican City, a sovereign enclave within Rome, is the seat of the Roman Catholic Church and the home of the Pope.
Rome is the largest city in Italy; it has a population of 2,546,807 (2004) with 3.3 million living in the metropolitan area. The current mayor of Rome is Walter Veltroni.
The city's history extends nearly 2,800 years, during which time it has been the seat of the ancient Rome (the Roman Kingdom, Roman Republic, Roman Empire), and later the Papal States, Kingdom of Italy and Italian Republic.
The origin of the city's name is unknown, with several theories already circulating in Antiquity; the least likely is derived from Greek ??µ? meaning braveness, courage; more probably the connection is with a root *rum-, "teat", with possible reference to the totem wolf (Latin lupa, a word also meaning "prostitute") that gave suck to the cognately-named twins Romulus and Remus.
Rome grew from pastoral settlements on the Palatine Hill and surrounding hills approximately eighteen miles 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 an S shaped curve which contains an island where the river can be forded. Because of the river and the ford, Rome was at a cross roads of traffic following the river valley and of traders traveling north and south on the west side of the peninsula.
The settlements at Palatine and Quirinal were two of numerous Italic speaking communities which existed in Latium, a plain on the Italian peninsula, by the 1st millenium BC. Pieces of pottery have been discovered that indicate the area of Rome may have been inhabited as early as 1400 BC. The origins of the Italic peoples is not known, but they may have descended from Indo-Europeans who migrated from north of the Alps in the second half of the 2nd millenium BC or from a blending of these peoples with Mediterranean people, perhaps from North Africa. In the 8th century BC these Italic speaker — Latins (in the west), Sabines (in the upper valley of the Tiber), Umbrians (in the north-east), Samnites (in the South), Oscans and others shared the penisula with two other major ethnic groups: the Etruscans and the Greeks.
The Etruscans (Etrusci or Tusci in Latin) were settled north of Rome in Etruria (modern Tuscany). There territory stretched north of the Tiber to the Arno and beyond the Arno as far north as the fertile Po river valley where there also lived a Celtic group of peoples knowns as Gauls. The Greeks knew them as the Tyrrhenoi (from which we get the name Tyrrhenian Sea); they called themselves Rasenna (or Rasna). It is not known if they originated in Italy or if they migrated from the east. Some ancient sources including Dionysius believed that the Etruscans were indeginous to Italy while the Greek historian Herodotus said they came from Asia Minor. Support for Herodotus may come from the fact that they knew how to use the arch in building practices, their use of Near Eastern religious rites and practices such as divination (they passed onto the Romans the custom of examing the flights of birds or animal inards to foretell the future), and the fact that they spoke a non-Indo-European language; however, many now believe that the Etruscans evolved from an Italian non-Indo-European speaking people called the Villanovans who lived in northern Italy circa 1100 to 700 BC.
Greek settlers colonized about 50 poleis in Southern Italy such as Cumae (the oldest Greek colony in Italy), Naples (Neapolis), and Tarentum and the eastern two-thirds of Sicily in large numbers between 750 and 550 BC. (The western third of Sicily was settle by Carthaginians.) The Romans called this area Magna Graecia (Great Greece) which led to the people who call themselves Hellenes being known as Greeks in modern English.
After 650 BC, the Etruscans became dominant in Italy and expanded into north-central Italy. They came to control Rome and perhaps all of Latium. Roman tradition claimed that Rome had been under the control of seven kings from 753 to 509 BC begining 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 were said to be Etruscan. While the king list is of dubious historical value, it is known that Rome was under the influence of the Etruscans for about a century during this period. During this period a bridge called the Pons Sublicius was built to replace the Tiber ford.
Expanding further south, the Etruscans came into direct contact the Greeks. After intial success in conflicts with the Greek colonists, Etruria went into a decline. Around 500 BC Rome gained independence from the Etruscans.
However, the Etruscans left a lasting influence on Rome. The Romans learned to build temples from them, and they introduced the worship of a triad of gods — Juno, Minerva, and Jupiter — from the Etruscan gods: Uni, Menrva, and Tinia. They transformed Rome from a pastoral communinity into a city. They also passed on elements of Greek culture they had adopted such as the Western version of the Greek alphabet.
After 500 BC, Rome joined with the Latin cities in defense against incursions by the Sabines. By 400 BC Etruscan power was limited to Etruria itself. Rome began to emerge as the dominate city in Latium, but in 387 BC was sacked by invaders from Gaul who had successfuly invaded Etruria. After that Rome went on the offensive conquering the Etruscans and ceizing terroritory from the Gauls in the north and pushing south against other Latins and the Samites in the South. By 290 BC over half of the Italian penisula was controlled by Rome. In the 3rd century BC the Greek poleis in the south were brought under Roman control as well.
According to tradition, Rome became a republic in 509 BC. 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. This grandeur increased under Caesar Augustus and his successors: if anything, the Great Fire of Rome during the reign of Nero acted as an excuse for further development.
From the early 3rd century, matters changed. Rome formally remained capital of the empire but emperors spent less and less time there. In 330, Constantine established a second capital at Constantinople, and even the later western emperors ruled from Milan or Ravenna, not Rome. However, the Senate, while stripped of most of its political power, was still socially prestigious and the Empire's conversion to Christianity made the Bishop of Rome (later called the Pope) the senior religious figure in the Western Empire. Also, the empire was now more open to external attack - Rome's first city walls for several hundred years were built in about 270, and even these did not stop the city being sacked first by Alaric in 410 and then by Geiseric in 455.
The fall of the Western Roman Empire made little difference to Rome. Odoacer and then the Ostrogoths continued, like the last emperors, to rule Italy from Ravenna. Meanwhile, the Senate, even though long since stripped of wider powers, continued to administer Rome itself, and the Pope usually came from a senatorial family. This situation continued until the Eastern Roman Empire, under Justinian I, captured the city in 536.
In 546, the Ostrogoths under Totila recaptured and sacked the city. The Byzantine general Belisarius recaptured Rome but the Ostrogoths took it again in 549. Belisarius was replaced by Narses, who captured Rome from the Ostrogoths for good in 552.
Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I (reigned 527–565) granted Rome subsidies for the maintenance of public buildings, aqueducts and bridges - though, being mostly drawn from an Italy impoverished by the recent wars, these were not always fully sufficient. He also styled himself the patron of its remaining scholars, orators, physicians and lawyers in the stated hope that in time more youths would seek for a better education. After the wars, the Senate was in theory 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) would see the invasion of the Lombards under Alboin (568). By 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 and Rome. 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 of Spoleto and Zotto of Benevento.
Maurice I (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 later 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. But 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 a personal initiative of starting negotiations for a peace treaty. It was completed during the autumn of 598 and was only after recognized by Maurice. But it would last till the end of his reign.
The position of the Patriarch of Rome was further strengthened under the usurper Phocas (reigned 602–610). Phocas recognized their primacy over that of the Patriarch of Constantinople and even decreed Pope Boniface III (607) to be "the head of all the Churches".
During the seventh 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 from buildings and statues, to provide materials for armaments to 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 proceeded, unsuccessfully, to impose iconoclasm on Rome by military force and then confiscated the Papal estates in Sicily and transferred areas previously ecclesiastically under the Pope but stil under Byzantine control to the Patriarch of Constantinople. In effect, Rome had been expelled from the Byzantine Empire.
This left Rome reliant purely on its own local forces to protect itself against Lombard encroachment - sometimes now, indeed, encouraged by the Byzantines. Other protectors were now needed - and finally, in 753, Pope Stephen III induced Pepin III, king of the Franks, to attack the Lombards on the Papacy's behalf.
In the 9th century, Pope Leo IV commisioned the construction of a wall around an area on the opposite side of the Tiber from the seven hills of Rome, which has since been called the Leonine City.
When Pepin III defeated the Lombards in 756, Rome became the capital city of the Papal States, a territorial entity at least nominally ruled by the Papacy. In practice, however, the government of the city was hotly contested between various factions of Roman nobility, the Pope, the Holy Roman Emperor, and occasional republican insurrections. After the suppression of the republic of 1434 , the Papacy folded the government of Rome into the ecclesiastical bureaucracy. During this period Rome became the worldwide centre of Christianity and increasingly developed a relevant political role that made it one of the most important towns of the Old Continent. In art, although Florence became the center of humanism and the Rinascimento (Renaissance), Rome was the center of baroque, and architecture deeply affected its central areas.
In the 16th century a central area was delimited around the Porticus Octaviae, for the creation of the famous Roman Ghetto, in which the city's Jews were forced to live.
Some of the most famous views of Rome in the 18th century were etched by Giovanni Battista Piranesi. His grand vision of classic Rome inspired many to visit the city and examine the ruins themselves.
Following the unification of Italy in 1870 Rome became the capital of the new Italian nation-state. The Roman urban form reflects the stratification of the epochs of its long history, with a wide historical center; this today contains many areas from Ancient Rome, very few areas from Quattrocento (mainly around piazza Farnese), and many churches and palaces from baroque times. The historical center is identified as within the limits of the ancient imperial walls. Some central areas were reorganised after the unification (1880–1910 - Roma Umbertina), and some important additions and adaptations made during the Fascist period, with the discussed creation of Fori Imperiali and the founding of new quartieri (among which Eur, San Basilio, Garbatella, Cinecittà and, on the coast, the restructuring of Ostia) and the inclusion of bordering villages (Labaro, Osteria del Curato, Quarto Miglio, Capannelle, Pisana, Torrevecchia, Ottavia, Casalotti). These expansions were needed to face the huge increase of population due to the centralisation of the Italian state.
During the Second World War Rome suffered some heavy bombings (notably at San Lorenzo fuori le Mura) and battles (Porta San Paolo, La Storta) and was considered an "open town" (as in the film by Roberto Rossellini). However, Rome was spared the wholesale destruction of cities such as Berlin or Warsaw. Rome fell to the Allies on June 4, 1944. It was the first capital of an Axis nation to fall.
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 1961.
Rome hosted the 1960 Summer Olympics, using many ancient sites such as the Villa Borghese and the Thermae of Caracalla as venues.
Many of the monuments of Rome were restored by the Italian state and by the Vatican for the 2000 Jubilee.
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 based in Rome, notably cultural and scientific ones, or humanitarian like the FAO.
Rome today is one of the most important tourist destinations of the world, due to its immense heritage of archaeological and artistic treasures, as well as for its unique traditions and the beauty of its views and its "villas" (parks). Among the most interesting resources, plenty of museums (Musei Capitolini, the Vatican Museums, Galleria Borghese, and a great many others), churches, historical buildings, the monuments and ruins such as the Roman Forum or 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, in his pastoral activity strictly applicable to the city, he is assisted by a vicar (usually a cardinal).
Tourism is Rome's principal industry. The city is also a centre of the banking, publishing, insurance and fashion industries. Shopping at the Spanish Steps is a big tourist attraction.