Rome

The City of Rome was formed (traditionally about 753 BC) by the linking of a number of villages. By doing this, the area that was to become the Forum was no longer used as a place for burials but instead became the public open space of the new city. One interesting note is that the Etruscan city of Veii, which was to be the principal rival of Rome for many years, consisted of a plateau also originally occupied by separate villages.

The long hard road to Mediterranean domination was set upon unconsciously. Rome first went through a period of a monarchy, a time of seven kings. The first was Romulus, the founder and namesake of the city. The legend tells of Romulus being fathered by Mars and traces his descent from Aeneas. The twin boys, Romulus and Remus, survived a trip harrowing trip down the Tiber in a basket to be rescued and nurtured by a she wolf.

From this auspicious beginning, other kings followed though they have long been obscured in a nonhistorical haze. They lent their names in later times to institutions whose actual origins had by that time been forgotten. Numa, Rome's second king, was believed to have established the state cult and given Romans their religion. The organization of Rome's citizen assemblies has been credited to Servius Tullius, the fifth king of Rome and one of two Etruscan kings.

The fact that two of Rome's kings were Etruscan adventurers is notable because it illustrates an important aspect of society in Rome and Italy at this time, namely its openness to horizontal penetration. There is no rigid conception of citizenship to tie a person to the community of their birth.

The monarchy ended when Tarquinius Superbus, the last king and an Etruscan, was expelled in 509 BC. Rome became a republic for almost five centuries due to the work of a patriot named Brutus. The form of government that took the place of the kings included three assemblies with electoral and legislative powers and the Senate which was the guiding body of the new regime.

From it's humble beginnings, Rome had to fight for its existence. The Etruscans, an advanced people from northern Italy, dominated the landscape and had become a major land and sea power before Rome had reached any significance. The Etruscans provided the majority of the earliest major non Latin cultural influence on the developing Romans. Indeed even many Greek practices came to the Romans through the Etruscans. Some symbols of political authority such as the fasces (bound bundles of rods with axe blades projecting) are Etruscan in origin.

Rome succeeded in not only successfully fending off subsequent attempts by the Etruscans to regain the city but also conquered them and absorbed them by the early third century. Ultimately the Etruscans combined with the Latin and Sabine elements to form the main fabric of the Roman people despite the time honored Roman tradition that they were the descendants of Troy.

During the same period as the assimilation of the Etruscans, Rome's other rivals succumbed and the neighboring Latin cities in Latium were brought under control with the defeat of the Latin League. The sack of the city by Gauls in 387 BC almost brought Rome to an end, but out of the ashes Rome was rebuilt. The resolve among her citizens to never let such a thing happen again is a major consideration in understanding Rome's ultimate success in Italy and the Mediterranean. A growing 'defensive imperialism' began to characterize Roman policy toward neighbors and foreigners. Suspicions, legitimate or not, often led Rome to embark upon preventative wars to protect herself.

Livy, The Early History of Rome as translated by Aubrey De Selincourt, Penguin Books, 1971

John Boardman, Jasper Griffin, Oswyn Murray. The Oxford History of the Classical World New York, Oxford University Press, 1986

Robert B. Kebric. Roman People, Second Edition. Mayfield Publishing Company, 1997

Arthur Cotterell, The Penquin Encyclopedia of Classical Civilizations, Penguin Books, 1993