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Corot: The arch of Constantine and the Forum

According to the legendary story of the founding of Rome, the abandoned twin sons of Rea Silvia, a vestal virgin and the daughter of a local king, Numitor, were discovered in the marshes by a she-wolf, who nursed the infants. These twins, Romulus and Remus, became the founders of the city. A conflict between the brothers, however, led to the slaying of Remus by Romulus. Images of the twins and the wolf adorn Roman emblems even today.

The traditonal date for Romes founding is 753 B.C. It is believed that Rome was begun as a simple market place or a fortified village at a spot where the territories of three ancient people-the Latins, the Sabines and the Etruscans-met. Rome was an obvious spot to build a city: the Palatine and Capitoline hills provided security and its geographical loaction in the center of the peninsula, near the sea, contributed to its growth in importance, as did the bold, adventureous character of its people. First under the rule of kings and then, from 510 B.C., under a republic, Romes armies steadlily expanded the citys territory. By the time the republic had become an empire in 27 B.C., Rome ruled much of the known Western world. Romes maximum expansion was achieved under the Emperor Trajan (A.D. 53?-117), who ruled from 98 to 117. In that period, Rome goverened not only the shores of the Mediterranean but also much of what is now Austria, the Balcans, Hungary, Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, France, Switzerland, and part of Asia Minor.

In the 5th century barbarian tribes from what is now Germany began invading Rome. Rome was sacked by people known as the Goths and the Vandals. In 476, Rome fell as capital of the western part of the empire. (More than a century earlier, an eastern capital had been established at Constantinople, now Istanbul, Turkey).

The glory of ancient Rome was gradually succeeded by the glory of the Romes of the popes. The pope was based in Rome due to the fact that Saint Peter was martyred here in  64 A.D. The Catholic Church and its leaders had remained in Rome after its fall, and the pope emerged as the ruler of Rome.

Under the burgeoning power of the pope, the city began to take on a new aspect: churches were built, the citys pagan monuments redicovered and preserved, and artists began to arrive in Rome to work on commissions for the latest pope. This reached its head during the renaissance; Bramante, Raphael and Michelangelo all worked in the city. The reigns of Pope Julius II and his successor, Leo X, were something of a golden age. Rome again was the site of creation of great works of arts like Michlangelo's frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, Raphael's stanze in the Vatican Place and great buildings like the Palazzo Farnese and Palazzo Spada.

The 1800th century saw the decline of the papacy as a political force. In 1798 this was marked by the occupation of Rome by Napoleon. Napoleon declared another Roman republic with himself as its head which lasted till 1815 when papal rule was restored.

In the 1800s a movement arose in italy to unite the peninsula, which at that time still consisted of many separate nations. But the city of Rome and the area surrounding it resisted unfication until 1870 when Garibaldi stormed the walls, ten years after most of Italy had been united. Roma o morte, he reportedly shouted as he declared the city the capital of the new kingdom. After world war I, Benito Mussolini rose to power. Mussolini ruled from 1922 until 1943. When the Italian Republic was proclaimed after world war II, Rome, which was little damaged in the war, continued as the capital of the country.