Rome is the Eternal City. With an almost uninterrupted history as an important centre of power for more than two millennia, Rome is as close to eternal as it gets.
According to the legend, Rome was founded on the Palatine Hill on April 21, 753 BC, by Romulus who also became the first king of Rome. The legend is not all wrong. The first traces of human settlement in the area have been found on the western slope of the Palatine Hill, dating from the 10th century BC, while the first evidence of the existence of a city is from the middle of the 8th century BC.
The city soon encompassed the adjacent Capitoline Hill and the drained lowland between the hills became the Forum Romanum. This became the political and economic centre of the city for all antiquity, while the Capitoline Hill became the religious centre. Later the rest of the seven hills of Rome became part of the town. For most of the republican era the city remained within the ancient Severian Walls, and only in the 1st century BC the city started to grown larger. Three centuries later the city covered the area within the Aurelian Walls which remained the largest extent of the town until the 19th century.
The only social force remaining after the fall of the Roman Empire of the West was the Christian Church. Rome soon became the capital of the catholic world, and this would be the importance of Rome for more than a thousand years to come. The wife of emperor Constantine gave what was to become San Giovanni in Laterano to the church, and this sanctuary became the centre of papal power for centuries to come. Also of the 4th century is the Basilica of Saint Peter, which was constructed on the site of the death and burial of Saint Peter.
Many non-christian sanctuaries were converted to christian churches, and thus owe their survival to the church. This is the case of the two temples in Piazza Bocca della Verità and also Castel Sant'Angelo, originally the mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian.
Rome was artistically enriched by artists as Michelangelo Buonarroti, the creator of the marvellous Piazza di Campidoglio and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who created the colonnade in Piazza San Pietro and the Spanish Steps.
The new Rome, the 'Third Rome', underwent many changes. Within a few decades the city had spread also outside the ancient walls, and entirely new areas were developed. Second, the town centre suffered many changes too. A renaissance quarter constructed on top of the ancient Imperial Fora was completely demolished to create space for the new Piazza Venezia and the massive Vittoriano monument, and an entire wing of the Palazzo Venezia had to be moved to a nearby location. Similar urban interventions were made to create the Corso Vittorio Emanuele connecting Piazza Venezia and the Vatican.
When the fascists took over power in 1921, they immediately started to adapt Rome to their ideas of an imperial capital. The fascists used Piazza Venezia (called Piazza Italia) as the location public meetings, so to enlarge and improve the square the Via dei Fori Imperiali was created, connecting Piazza Venezia with the Colosseum.
In the other end of town, to the north, the new Olympic Stadium, the Foro Italico, was built, and on the other side of the river the Olympian village, Villaggio Olimpico, to accommodate the athletes. The outbreak of the second world war effectively cancelled the Olympic Games of 1940, so the whole complex was unfinished and unused until the Olympics of 1960, held in Rome.
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