The early history of Rome is somewhat shrouded in mystery. A lot of Rome's early historical records were destroyed when barbarians sacked the city in 390 BC. Historians and archeologists have put pieces of the puzzle together to give us a picture of how Rome was likely founded.
The Founding of Rome
There are several different stories telling how the city of Rome was founded. Some are more historical, while others are mythological tales told by poets and authors.
Historical - Rome was likely first settled around 1000 BC. The first settlement was built on Palatine Hill because it was easily defended. Over time, the six other hills around Palatine were also settled. As the settlement grew, it became a city. A public area was built between the hills of Palatine and Capitoline that became known as the Roman Forum.
Mythical - Roman mythology says that Rome was founded in 753 BC by the twins Romulus and Remus. While building the settlement on Palatine Hill, Romulus killed Remus and became the first king of Rome. You can go here to learn more about the legend of Romulus and Remus.
Where does the name "Rome" come from?
Roman mythology and history states that the name comes from its founder Romulus. There are other theories put forth by historians and archeologists as to where Rome got its name. It may have come from the Etruscan word for the Tiber River, "rumon".
Settlement of Italy
During the early formation of Rome, Italy was settled by many different peoples. These included the Latin peoples (the first to settle Rome), the Greeks (who settled along the coast of Italy), the Sabines, and the Etruscans. The Etruscans were a powerful people who lived nearby Rome. They likely had a significant influence on the culture and the early formation of Rome. Some of the kings of Rome were Etruscan.
The Kings of Rome
Before the Roman Republic was formed, Rome was ruled by kings. Roman history tells of seven kings starting with Romulus in 753 BC. Each king was elected by the people for life. The king was very powerful and acted as the leader of both the government and the Roman religion. Under the king was a group of 300 men called the senate. Senators had little real power during the Kingdom of Rome. They served more as advisors to the king and helped him to run the government.
Beginning of the Roman Republic
The last king of Rome was Tarquin the Proud. Tarquin was a cruel and violent king. Eventually the Roman people and the senate revolted and expelled Tarquin from the city. They formed a new government without a king called the Roman Republic in 509 BC.
Under the Roman Republic, the government of Rome was ruled by two elected leaders called consuls. The consuls only served for one year and were advised by the senate. It was during the republic that Rome expanded to become one of the great civilizations in world history.
Interesting Facts About the Early History of Rome
The poet Virgil told another founding tale of Rome where the Trojan hero Aeneas founded Rome many years before Romulus and Remus.
Palatine Hill later became the home to many of the most wealthy and famous Romans such as Augustus, Mark Antony, and Cicero. The hill stands around 230 feet above the city and provided good views and fresh air.
When Rome was first founded there were only 100 senators. More were added later and the number reached 300 by the founding of the republic.
Much of what we know about early Rome comes to us from Roman historians such as Livy and Varro.