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 Essential Architecture-  ROME

History of Rome

A simplified plan of the city of Rome from the 15th-century illuminated manuscript Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry.

A simplified plan of the city of Rome from the 15th-century illuminated manuscript Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry.

The History of Rome spans 2,800 years of the existence of a city that grew from a small Italian village in the 9th century BC into the center of a vast civilization that dominated the Mediterranean region for centuries, but was eventually overrun by Germanic tribes, marking the beginning of the Middle Ages, and that eventually became the seat of the Roman Catholic Church and the home of a sovereign state within its walls, Vatican City. It has continued to play a major role in global politics, just as it has enormously influenced the history and culture of European peoples for millennia.

The traditional date for the founding of Rome, based on a mythological account, is April 21, 753 BC, and the city and surrounding region of Latium has continued to be inhabited with little interruption since around that time.

Ancient Rome

Rome Timeline 
Roman Kingdom and Republic 
753 BC According to legend, Romulus founds Rome. 
753-509 BC Rule of the seven Kings of Rome. 
509 BC Creation of the Republic. 
390 BC The Gauls invade Rome. 
264-146 BC Punic Wars. 
146-44 BC Social and Civil Wars. Emergence of Marius, Sulla, Pompey and Caesar. 

Origins
The origin of the city's name is unknown, with several theories already circulating in Antiquity; the least likely is derived from Greek language Ρώμη 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 adopted and suckled the cognately-named twins Romulus and Remus. Romulus and Remus are believed to come from the people of Lavinium. Romulus killed Remus and founded Rome. The Basque scholar Manuel de Larramendi thought that the origin could be related to the Basque language word orma (modern Basque horma), "wall".

In the past few decades further progress in the Etruscan language and the archaeology of Italy made the above theories less likely, and made more definitive hypotheses possible. We know now that Etruscan was spoken from what became Rhaetia in the Alps through Etruria to include Latium all the way south to Capua. The Italic tribes intruded into Latium from a core Italic region in the central mountains, into which they had moved from the east coast. Regardless of the circumstances of Rome's founding, its original population was certainly a combination of Etruscan and Italic elements, with the Etruscan predominating. Gradually Italic infiltration increased to a flood and overwhelmed the Etruscans; that is, the Etruscan population within and outside Rome assimilated to Italic.

Etruscan gives us the word Rumach, "from Rome", from which Ruma can be extracted. Its further etymology, as is that of most Etruscan words, remains unknown. That it might mean "teat" is pure speculation. Its later mythological associations cast doubt upon that meaning; after all, none of the original settlers was raised by wolves, and the founders were unlikely to have been familiar with this myth about themselves. The name, Tiberius, may well contain the name of the Tiber. It is believed now to be from an Etruscan name, Thefarie, in which case Tiber would be from *Thefar.

The most telling evidence comes from the people themselves. In the expression, Senatus populusque Romanus, "populus" is of Etruscan origin. The place name, Populonia, is from Etruscan Pupluna or Fufluna. Related to populus is the typical Roman praenomen (personal name) of Publius, from Puplie.

Indeed the whole history of early Rome is the story of the struggle between the original families and the newcomers. The praenomina of those families give them away as Etruscan in origin; for example, Gaius, deriving from Cai. It was used by the Julian gens among others. We do not have a derivation of Julus, the mythical founder of the gens, but he is supposed to have been Etruscan. The Etruscans also had a word for gentes, which was lautun. It is not known if this is the origin of Latins, but the etymologizing of most such words pertaining to early Rome has been difficult and resistive, which is likely to mean that they are not Indo-European.

The behaviour of the Etruscans has led to some confusion. Like Latin, Etruscan is inflected and Hellenized. Like the Indo-Europeans, the Etruscans were patrilineal and patriarchal. Like the Italics, they were war-like. The gladiatorial displays actually evolved out of Etruscan funerary customs. Future studies of Etruscan and more excavations in the region will no doubt clarify the origin of Rome and the Romans even more.

Early peoples of Italy

Forum Romanum

Forum Romanum

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 a Z-shape curve that contains an island where the river can be forded. Because of the river and the ford, Rome was at a crossroads of traffic following the river valley and of traders travelling north and south on the west side of the peninsula.

The traditional date of founding (753 BC) is a conventional date set much later by the historian Varro, assigning a length of 35 years to each of the seven generations corresponding to the seven mythological kings. Pieces of pottery that indicate the area of Rome may have been inhabited as early as 1400 BC have been discovered. Archaeological finds have also confirmed that in the 8th century BC in the area of the future Rome there were two fortified settlements, the Rumi one on the Palatine Hill and the Titientes one on the Quirinal Hill, backed by the Luceres living in the nearby woods. These were simply three of numerous Italic-speaking communities that existed in Latium, a plain on the Italian peninsula, by the 1st millennium BC. The origins of the Italic peoples is not known, but their Indo-European languages migrated from north of the Alps in the second-half of the 2nd millennium BC. In the 8th century BC, these Italic speakers — 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 peninsula with two other major ethnic groups: the Etruscans in the North, and the Greeks in the south.

The Etruscans (Etrusci or Tusci in Latin) were settled north of Rome in Etruria (modern northern Lazio and Tuscany). They deeply influenced Roman culture, as clearly showed by the Etruscan origin of some of the mythical Roman kings.

The Greeks had founded many colonies in Southern Italy (that the Romans later called Magna Graecia), such as Cumae, Naples and Taranto, as well as in the eastern two-thirds of Sicily, between 750 and 550 BC.

Etruscan dominance

The Servian Wall take their name from king Servius Tullius and are the first true walls of Rome

The Servian Wall take their name from king Servius Tullius and are the first true walls of Rome

After 650 BC, the Etruscans became dominant in Italy and expanded into north-central Italy. Some modern historians believe that they came to control Rome and perhaps all of Latium, though this is disputed. Roman tradition claimed that Rome had been under the control of seven kings from 753 to 509 BC beginning 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, namely Tarquinius Priscus and Tarquinius Superbus, were said to be (at least partially) Etruscan (Priscus is said by the ancient literary sources to be the son of a refugee Greek, and an Etruscan mother), their names referring to the Etruscan town of Tarquinia. The list of kings is of dubious historical value, though the last-named kings may be historical figures. It is believed by some historians (again, this is disputed) 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, and the Cloaca Maxima was also built; the Etruscans are said to have been great engineers of this type of structure. From a cultural and technical point of view, Etruscans had arguably the second-greatest impact on Roman development, only surpassed by the Greeks.

Expanding further south, the Etruscans came into direct contact with the Greeks. After initial success in conflicts with the Greek colonists, Etruria went into a decline. Taking advantage of this, around 500 BC Rome rebelled and gained independence from the Etruscans. It also abandoned monarchy in favour of a republican system based on a Senate, composed of the nobles of the city, along with popular assemblies which ensured political participation for most of the freeborn men and elected magistrates annually.

However, the Etruscans left a lasting influence on Rome. The Romans learned to build temples from them, and the Etruscans may have 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 community into a city. They also passed on elements of Greek culture that they had adopted, such as the Western version of the Greek alphabet.

Roman Republic
After 500 BC, Rome joined with the Latin cities in defence against incursions by the Sabines. Winning the Battle of Lake Regillus in 493 BC, Rome established again the supremacy over the Latin countries it had lost after the fall of the monarchy. After a lengthy series of struggles, this supremacy became fixed in 393, when the Romans finally subdued the Volsci and Aequi. In 394 BC, they also conquered the menacing Etruscan neighbour of Veii. The Etruscan power was now limited to Etruria itself, and Rome was the dominant city in Latium. In 387 BC, however, Rome was suddenly sacked and burned by invaders coming from Gaul and led by Brennus, who had successfully invaded Etruria. The northern menace was thwarted by consul Furius Camillus, who defeated Brennus at Tusculum soon afterwards.

After that, Rome hastily rebuilt its buildings and went on the offensive, conquering the Etruscans and seizing territory from the Gauls in the north. After 345 BC, Rome pushed south against other Latins. Their main enemy in this quadrant were the fierce Samnites, who heavily defeated the legions in 321. In spite of these and other temporary setbacks, the Romans advanced steadily. By 290 BC, Rome controlled over half of the Italian peninsula. In the 3rd century BC, Rome brought the Greek poleis in the south under its control as well.

According to tradition, Rome became a republic in 509 BC. However, it took a few centuries for Rome to become the great city of popular imagination. By the 3rd century BC, Rome had become the pre-eminent city of the Italian peninsula. During the Punic Wars between Rome and the great Mediterranean empire of Carthage, Rome's stature increased further as it became the capital of an overseas empire for the first time. Beginning in the 2nd century BC, Rome went through a significant population expansion as Italian farmers, driven from their ancestral farmlands by the advent of massive, slave-operated farms called latifundia, flocked to the city in great numbers. In 146 BC, the Romans razed the cities of Carthage and Corinth, adding North Africa and Greece to its empire and making Rome the most important city in the western world. From this point until the end of the Republic, individual citizens would compete to enhance their personal prestige by erecting monuments and great structures for public use around the city. Most notable was the Theatre of Pompey, erected by the great general Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, which was the first permanent theatre built in the city. After Caesar emerged victorious from his Gallic conquests and subsequent civil war with Pompey, he embarked on a building program unprecedented in Roman history. He was assassinated in 44 BC, however, with most of his projects, such as the Basilica Iulia and a new Senate house (Curia), still under construction.

Roman Empire

44-14 BC Augustus establishes the Empire. 
64 AD Great Fire of Rome during the Nero's rule. 
68-96 AD Flavian Dynasty. Building of the Colosseum. 
3rd century Crisis of the Roman Empire. Building of the Baths of Caracalla and the Aurelian Walls. 
284-337 Diocletian and Constantine. Building of the first Christian basilicas. Battle of Milvian Bridge. Rome is replaced by Constantinople as the capital of the Empire. 
395 Definitive separation of Western and Eastern Roman Empire. 
410 The Goths of Alaric sack Rome. 
455 The Vandals of Gaiseric sack Rome. 
6th century Gothic Wars. 

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. It was, at the time, the largest city of the world (and probably the largest city ever built until the nineteenth century). Estimates of its peak population range from 450,000 to over 3.5 million people with estimates of 1 to 2 million being most popular with historians. This grandeur increased under Augustus, who completed Caesar's projects and added many of his own, such as the Forum of Augustus and the Ara Pacis. He is said to have remarked that he found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble. Augustus' successors sought to emulate his success in part by adding their own contributions to the city. The Great Fire of Rome during the reign of Nero left much of the city destroyed, but in many ways it was used as an excuse for new development.

Rome was a subsidized city at the time, with roughly 15 to 25 percent of its grain supply being paid by the central government. Commerce and industry played a smaller role compared to that of other cities like Alexandria. This meant that Rome had to depend upon goods and production from other parts of the Empire to sustain such a large population. This was mostly paid by taxes that were levied by the Roman government. If it had not been subsidized, Rome would have been significantly smaller.

The Arch of Gallienus is one of the few monuments of ancient Rome from 3rd century, and was a gate in the Servian Wall. Two side gates were destroyed in 1447.
The Arch of Gallienus is one of the few monuments of ancient Rome from 3rd century, and was a gate in the Servian Wall. Two side gates were destroyed in 1447.

Rome's population declined after its peak in the 2nd century. At the end of that century, during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, a plague killed 2,000 people a day. Rome's population was only a fraction of its peak when the Aurelian Wall was completed in the year 273 (at that year its population was only around 500,000).

Starting in the early 3rd century, matters changed. The "Crisis of the third century" defines the disasters and political troubles for the Empire, which nearly collapsed. The new feeling of danger and the menace of barbarian invasions was clearly shown by the decision of Emperor Aurelian, who at year 273 finished encircling the capital itself with a massive wall which had a perimeter that measured close to 20km. Rome formally remained capital of the empire, but emperors spent less and less time there. At the end of 3rd century Diocletian's political reforms, Rome was deprived of its traditional role of administrative capital of the Empire. Later, western emperors ruled from Milan or Ravenna, or cities in Gaul. In 330, Constantine established a second capital at Constantinople. At this time, part of the Roman aristocratic class moved to this new centre, followed by many of the artists and craftsmen who were living in the city.

However, the Senate, while stripped of most of its political power, was still socially prestigious. The Empire's conversion to Christianity made the Bishop of Rome (later called the Pope) the senior religious figure in the Western Empire, as officially stated in 380 by the Edict of Thessalonica. In spite of its increasingly marginal role in the Empire, Rome retained its historic prestige, and this period saw the last wave of construction activity: Constantine's predecessor Maxentius built notable buildings such its spectacular basilica in the Forum, Constantine himself erected its famous arch to celebrate his victory over the former, and Diocletian built the greatest baths of all. Constantine was also the first patron of official Christian buildings in the city. He donated the Lateran Palace to the Pope, and built the first great basilica, the old St. Peter's Basilica.

The ancient basilica of St. Lawrence outside the walls was built directly over the tomb of the people's favourite Roman martyr
The ancient basilica of St. Lawrence outside the walls was built directly over the tomb of the people's favourite Roman martyr

Still Rome remained one of the strongholds of Paganism, led by the aristocrats and senators. When the Visigoths showed off before the walls in 408, the Senate and the prefect proposed pagan sacrifices, and it seems that even the pope was agreeable if this could help to save the city. However, the new walls did not stop the city being sacked first by Alaric on August 24, 410, by Geiseric in 455 and even by general Ricimer's unpaid Roman troops (largely composed of barbarians) on July 11, 472. The sackings of the city, which had remained untouched by barbarians since the times of Brennus, astonished all the Roman world. The fall of Rome was read as the definitive fall of the ancient order. Many inhabitants fled, and at the end of the century Rome's population may have been less than 50,000. In any case, the damage the sackings made has been probably overestimated. The city was already in a steep decline, and many monuments had been destroyed by the citizens themselves, who stripped stones from closed temples and other precious buildings, and even burned statues to make lime for their personal use. In addition, most of the increasing number of churches were built in this way. For example, the first St. Peter was erected using spoils from the abandoned Circus of Nero. This "self-eating" attitude was a constant feature of Rome until the Renaissance. From the 4th century imperial edicts against stripping of stones and especially marble were common, but the need of their repetition show how they were ineffective. Sometimes new churches were created by simply taking advantage of early Pagan temples, perhaps changing the Pagan god or hero to a corresponding Christian saint or martyr. In this way the Temple of Romulus and Remus became the basilica of the twin saints Cosmas and Damian. Later, the Pantheon, Temple of All Gods, become the church of All Martyrs.

Medieval Rome 
800 Charlemagne is crowned Holy Roman Emperor in St. Peter's Basilica. 
846 The Saracens sack St. Peter. 
852 Building of the Leonine Walls. 
1000 Emperor Otto III and Pope Sylvester II. 
1084 The Normans sack Rome. 
1144 Creation of the commune of Rome. 
1300 First Jubilee proclaimed by Pope Boniface VIII. 
1303 Foundation of the Roman University. 
1309 Pope Clement V moves the Holy Seat to Avignon. 
1347 Cola di Rienzo proclaims himself tribune. 
1377 Pope Gregory XI moves back the Holy Seat to Rome. 
Numerous remains from this period, along with a museum devoted to Medieval Rome, can be seen at Crypta Balbi in Rome.

Barbarian and Byzantine rule
In 476, the last Western Roman emperor Romulus Augustus, a puppet (like almost all emperors of this period) in the hands of a general, his father Orestes, was deposed by a riot of barbarian troops led by Odoacer and exiled to Naples. The fall of the Western Roman Empire had little impact on Rome. Odoacer and later 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, with the Pope usually coming from a senatorial family. This situation continued until the forces of the Eastern Roman Empire, sent West by Justinian I under Belisarius, captured the city in 536.

On December 17, 546, the Ostrogoths under Totila recaptured and sacked the city. The Byzantine general Belisarius recaptured Rome, but the Ostrogoths retook it in 549. Belisarius was replaced by Narses, who captured Rome from the Ostrogoths for good in 552, ending the so-called Gothic Wars which had turned much of Italy into desert. The continual war around Rome in the 530s and 540s left it in a state of total disrepair - near abandoned and desolate with much of its environment turned into an unhealthy marsh. The aqueducts were never repaired, leading to a shrinking population of less than 50,000 concentrated near the Tiber and around Campo Marzio, abandoning those districts without water supply. There is a legend, significant though untrue, that there was a moment where no-one remained living in Rome.

During Gothic Wars (6th century) Rome was besieged several times by Byzantine and Ostrogoth armies
During Gothic Wars (6th century) Rome was besieged several times by Byzantine and Ostrogoth armies

Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I (reigned 527–565) tried to grant Rome subsidies for the maintenance of public buildings, aqueducts and bridges - though, being mostly drawn from an Italy dramatically impoverished by the recent wars, these were not always sufficient. He also styled himself the patron of its remaining scholars, orators, physicians and lawyers in the stated hope that eventually more youths would seek a better education. After the wars, the Senate was theoretically 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) was marked from the Italian point of view by the invasion of the Lombards under Alboin (568). In 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, Rome and the area of the future Venice. 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 (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 latter 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. 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 personal initiative in starting negotiations for a peace treaty. This was completed in the autumn of 598- only later recognized by Maurice. It would last till the end of his reign.

The Column of Phocas, last imperial monument in Roman Forum.
The Column of Phocas, last imperial monument in Roman Forum.

The position of the Patriarch of Rome was further strengthened under the usurper Phocas (reigned 602–610). Phocas recognized the primacy over that of the Patriarch of Constantinople and even decreed Pope Boniface III (607) to be "the head of all the Churches". Phocas' reign saw the erection of the last imperial monument in the Roman Forum, the column bearing his name. He also gave the Pope the Pantheon, at the time closed for centuries, and thus probably saved it from destruction.

During the 7th 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 that from buildings and statues, to provide armament materials for 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 reacted first by trying in vain to abduct the Pontiff, and then by sending a force of Ravennate troops under the command of the Exarch Paulus, but they were pushed back by the Lombards of Tuscia and Benevento. On November 1, 731, a council was called in St. Peter by Gregory III to excommunicate the iconoclasts. The Emperor responded by confiscating large Papal estates in Sicily and Calabria and transferring areas previously ecclesiastically under the Pope but still under Byzantine control to the Patriarch of Constantinople. In effect, Rome had been expelled from the Byzantine Empire.

In this period the Lombard kingdom was living an age of revival under the strong Liutprand. In 730 he razed the countryside of Rome to punish the Pope who had supported the duke of Spoleto. Though still protected by his massive walls, the pope could do little against the Lombard king, who managed to ally himself with the Byzantines. Other protectors were now needed. Gregory III was the first Pope to ask for concrete help from the Frankish Kingdom, then under the command of Charles Martel (739).

Liutprand's successor Aistulf was even more aggressive. He conquered Ferrara and Ravenna, ending the Exarchate of Ravenna. Rome seemed his next victim. In 754, Pope Stephen II went to France to name Pippin the Younger, king of the Franks, as patricius romanorum, i.e. protector of Rome. In the August of that year the King and Pope together crossed back the Alps and defeated Aistulf at Susa. When Pippin went back to St. Denis however, Aistulf did not keep his promises, and in 756 besieged Rome for 56 days. The Lombards returned north when they heard news of Pippin again moving to Italy. This time he agreed to give the Pope the promised territories, and the Papal States were born.

In 771 the new King of the Lombards, Desiderius, devised a plot to conquer Rome and seize Pope Stephen III during a feigned pilgrimage within its walls. His main ally was one Paulus Afiarta, chief of the Lombard party within the city. However the plan failed, and Stephens' successor, Pope Hadrian I called Charlemagne against Desiderius, who was finally defeated in 773. The Lombard Kingdom was no more, and now Rome entered into the orbit of a new, greater political institution.

Holy Roman Empire
On April 25, 799 the new Pope, Leo III, led the traditional procession from the Lateran to the Church of San Lorenzo in Lucina along the Via Flaminia (now Via del Corso). Two nobles (followers of his predecessor Hadrian) who disliked the weakness of the Pope with regards to Charlemagne, attacked the processional train and delivered a life threatening wound to the Pope. Leo fled to the King of the Franks, and in November 800 the King entered in Rome with a strong army and a number of French bishops. He declared a judicial trial to decide if Leo was to remain Pope, or if the conjurers' claims had reasons to be upheld. This trial, however, was only a part of a well thought out chain of events which ultimately surprised the world. The Pope, naturally was declared legitimate and the attempters subsequently exiled. On December 25, 800, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Western Roman Emperor in St. Peter's Basilica.

This act forever severed the loyalty of Rome from its imperial progeny, Constantinople. It created instead a rival empire which, after a long series of conquests by Charlemagne, now encompassed most of the Christian Western territories.

Following the death of Charlemagne, the lack of a figure with equal prestige led the new institution into disagreement. At the same time the universal church of Rome had to face emergence of the lay interests of the City itself, spurred on by the conviction that the Roman people, though impoverished and abased, had again the right to elect the Western Emperor. The famous counterfeit document called the Donation of Constantine, prepared by the Papal notaries, guaranteed to the Pope a dominion stretching from Ravenna to Gaeta. This nominally included the suzerainty over Rome, but this was often highly disputed and as the centuries passed only the strongest Popes were to be able to assert it. The main element of weakness of the Papacy within the walls of the city was the continued necessity of the election of new popes, in which the emerging noble families soon managed to insert a leading role for themselves. The neighbouring powers, namely the Duchy of Spoleto and Toscana, and later the Emperors, learned how to take their own advantage of this internal weakness, playing the role of arbiters among the contestants.

Rome was indeed prey of anarchy in this age. The lowest point was touched in 897, when a raging crowd exhumed the corpse of a dead pope, Formosus, and put it on trial.

These crises were aggravated by the rise of another foreign power, the Arabs or, as the Middle Ages Italians called them, the Saracens: these newcomers, sailing from their bases in Northern Africa, had conquered Sicily and had began a steady penetration of Southern Italy. Infiltration of band of pirates brought terror in the territories around Rome. Under Pope Paschal I (817-824) all the spoils of the holy martyrs were transferred into the walls. But this move did not prevent a groups of Muslim to predate the St. Peter's Basilica itself, which was outside the ancient walls, sacking it in 846. In 852 Pope Leo IV commissioned therefore the construction of another 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.

From the Forum, the medieval and Renaissance Senate House stands directly upon the Tabularium, ancient Rome's repository of archives.
From the Forum, the medieval and Renaissance Senate House stands directly upon the Tabularium, ancient Rome's repository of archives.

Roman Commune
In this period the renovated Church was again attracting pilgrims and prelates from all the Christian world, and money with them: even with a population of only 30,000, Rome was again becoming a city of consumers dependent upon the presence of a governmental bureaucracy. In the meantime,Italian cities were acquiring increasing autonomy, mainly led by new families which were replacing the old aristocracy and a new class formed by entrepreneurs, traders and merchants. After the sack of Rome by the Normans in 1084, the rebuilding of the city was supported by powerful families such as the Frangipane family and the Pierleoni family, whose wealthy came indeed from commerce and banking rather than landholdings. Inspiring to neighbouring cities like Tivoli and Viterbo, also Rome's people began to think to a communal status and to a substantial freedom from papal authority.

Led by Giordano Pierleoni, Romans rebelled in 1143. The Senate and the Roman Republic were born again. Through the flaming words of preacher Arnaldo da Brescia, an idealistic, fierce opponent of ecclesiastical property and church interference in temporal affairs, the Commune of Rome continued until it was put down in 1155, though it left its mark on the civil rulership of the Eternal City for centuries. Twelfth -century Rome, however, had nothing to share with that which had ruled over the Mediterranean some 700 years before, and soon the new Senate had to work hard to survive, choosing an ambiguous policy of shifting its support from the Pope to the Holy Roman Empire and vice versa. At Monteporzio, in 1167, during one of these shifts, Roman troops were defeated by the imperial forces of Frederick Barbarossa. Luckily, the winning enemies were soon dispersed by a plague and Rome was saved.

Interior of the basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, one of the most beautiful Roman churches built or re-built in the Middle Ages
Interior of the basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, one of the most beautiful Roman churches built or re-built in the Middle Ages

In 1188 the new communal government was finally recognized by Pope Clement III. The pope had to make large cash payments to the communal officials, while the 56 senators became papal vassals. The Senate always had problems in the accomplishment of its function, and various changes were tried. Often a single senator was in charge. This sometimes led to tyrannies, which did not help the stability of the new-born organism.

In 1204 the streets of Rome were again in flames when the struggle between Pope Innocent III's family and its rivals, the powerful Orsini family, led to riots in the city. Many ancient buildings were then destroyed by machines used by the rival bands to besiege their enemies in the innumerable towers and strongholds which were a hallmark of the Middle Age Italian towns.

The Torre dei Conti was one of the many towers built by the noble families of Rome to mark their power and defend themselves in the several feuds that marked the city in the Middle Ages. Only the lower third part of Torre dei Conti can be seen today.
The Torre dei Conti was one of the many towers built by the noble families of Rome to mark their power and defend themselves in the several feuds that marked the city in the Middle Ages. Only the lower third part of Torre dei Conti can be seen today.

The struggle between the Popes and the emperor Frederick II, also king of Naples and Sicily, saw Rome support the Ghibellines. To repay his loyalty, Frederick sent to the commune the Carroccio he had won to the Lombards at the battle of Cortenuova in 1234, and which was exposed in the Campidoglio. In that year, during another revolt against the Pope, the Romans headed by senator Luca Savelli sacked the Lateran. Curiously, Savelli was the nephew of Pope Honorius III and father of Honorius IV, but in that age family ties often did not determine one's allegiance. Rome was never to evolve into an autonomous, stable reign, as happened to other communes like Florence, Siena or Milan. The endless struggles between noble families (Savelli, Orsini, Colonna, Annibaldi), the ambiguous position of the Popes, the haughtiness of a population which never abandoned the dreams of their splendid past but, at the same time, thought only of immediate advantage, and the weakness of the republican institutions always deprived the city of this possibility.

In an attempt to imitate more successful communes, in 1252 the people elected a foreign senator, the Bolognese Brancaleone degli Andalò. In order to bring peace in the city he suppressed the most powerful nobles (destroying some 140 towers), reorganized the working classes and issued a code of laws inspired by those of northern Italy. Brancaleone was a tough figure, but died in 1258 with almost nothing of his reforms turned into reality. Five years later Charles I of Anjou, then king of Naples, was elected senator. He entered the city only in 1265, but soon his presence was needed to face Conradin, the Hohenstaufen's heir who was coming to claim his family's rights over southern Italy, and left the city. After June 1265 Rome was again a democratic republic, electing Henry of Castille as senator. But Conradin and the Ghibelline party were crushed in the Battle of Tagliacozzo (1268), and therefore Rome fell again in the hands of Charles.

Nicholas III, a member of Orsini family was elected in 1277 and moved the seat of the Popes from the Lateran to the more defensible Vatican. He also ordered that no foreigner could become senator of Rome. Being a Roman himself, he had himself elected senator by the people. With this move, the city began again to side for the papal party. In 1285 Charles was again senator, but the Sicilian Vespers reduced his charisma, and the city was thenceforth free from his authority. The next senator was again a Roman, and again a pope, Honorius IV of the Savelli.

Boniface VIII and the Babylonian captivity
Successor to the meteoric Celestine V was an energic Roman of the Caetani family, Boniface VIII. Entangled in a local feud against the traditional rivals of his family, the Colonna, at the same time he struggled to reassure the universal supremacy of the Holy See. In 1300 he launched the first Jubilee and founded the first University of Rome. The Jubilee was an important move for Rome, as it increased further its international prestige increased and, most of all, the city's economy was boosted by the flow of pilgrims. Boniface died in 1303 after the humiliation of the Schiaffo di Anagni ("Slap of Anagni"), which signed instead the rule of the King of France over the Papacy and marked another period of decline for Rome.

Boniface's successor, Clement V, never entered in the city, starting the so-called "Babylonian Captivity", the absence of the Pope from their Roman seat in favour of Avignon, which will last for more than 70 years. This situation brought the independence of the local powers, but these revealed largely unstable; and the lack of the holy revenues caused a deep decay of Rome. For more than a century Rome had no new major buildings. Furthermore, many of the monuments of the city, including the main churches, began to ruin.


Cola di Rienzo and the Pope's return to Rome

Cola di Rienzo stormed the Campidoglio in 1347 to create a new Roman Republic. Though short-lived, his attempt is recorded by a statue near the ladder leading to the Michelangelo's square.

Cola di Rienzo stormed the Campidoglio in 1347 to create a new Roman Republic. Though short-lived, his attempt is recorded by a statue near the ladder leading to the Michelangelo's square.

In spite of its decline and the absence of the Pope, Rome had not lost its spiritual prestige: in 1341 the famous poet Petrarca came to the city to be crowned as poet in Campidoglio. Noblemen and poor people at one time demanded with one voice the return of the Pope. Among the many ambassadors that in this period took their way to Avignon, emerged the bizarre but eloquent figure of Cola di Rienzo. As his personal power among the people increased by time, on May 30, 1347 he conquered the Campidoglio at the head of an enthusiast crowd. The period of his power, though very short-lived, is anyway one of the most interesting in the life of Rome in Middle Ages, as Cola tried to assure himself a renovating, almost mystical aura of a paladin of Italian independence, within a confuse political dream inspired to the prestige of the Ancient Rome. Now in possess of dictatorial powers, he took the title of "tribune", referring to the pleb's magistracy of Roman Republic. Cola also considered himself at an equal status of that of the Holy Roman Emperor. On August 1, 1347 he conferred Roman citizenship on all the Italian cities, and even prepared for the election of a Roman emperor of Italy. It was too much: the Pope denounced him as heretic, criminal and pagan, the populace had started to disaffect, while the noble had always hated. On December 15 1347 he was forced to flee.

In August 1354, Cola was again a protagonist, when Cardinal Gil Alvarez De Albornoz entrusted him with the role of "senator of Rome" in his program of reassuring the Pope's rule in the Papal States. In October the tyrannical Cola, who had become again very unpopular for his delirious behaviour and heavy bills, was killed in a riot provoked by the powerful family of the Colonna. In April of 1355, Charles IV of Bohemia entered the city for the ritual coronation as Emperor. His visit was very disappointing for the citizens. He had little money, received the crown not from the Pope but from a Cardinal, and moved away after a few days.

With the emperor back in his lands, Albornoz could regain a certain control over the city, while remaining in his safe citadel in Montefiascone, in the Northern Lazio. The senators were chosen directly by the Pope from several cities of Italy, but the city was in fact independent. The Senate council included six judges, five notaries, six marshals, several familiars, twenty knights and twenty armed men. Albornoz had heavily suppressed the traditional aristocratic families, and the "democratic" party felt confident enough to start an aggressive policy. In 1362 Rome declared war to Velletri. This move, however, provoked a civil war. The countryside party hired a condottieri band called "Del Cappello" ("Hat"), while the Romans bought the services of German and Hungarian troops, plus a citizen levy of 600 knights and even 22,000 infantry. This was the period in which Italy was scourged by these ruthless condottieri bands. Many of the Savelli, Orsini and Annibaldi expelled from Rome became leaders of such military units. The war with Velletri languished, and Rome again gave itself to the new Pope, Urban V, provided the dreadful Albornoz did not enter the walls.

On October 16, 1367, in reply to the prayers of St. Brigid and Petrarca, Urban finally visited for the city. During his presence, Charles IV was again crowned in the city (October 1368). In addition, the Byzantine emperor John V Palaeologus came in Rome to beg for a crusade against the Ottoman Empire, but in vain. However, Urban did not like the unhealthy air of the city, and on September 5, 1370 he sailed again to Avignon. His successor, Gregory XI, officially set the date of his return to Rome at May 1372, but again the French cardinals and the King stopped him.

Only on January 17, 1377, Gregory XI could finally reinstate the Holy See in Rome.

The incoherent behaviour of his successor, the Italian Urban VI, provoked in 1378 the Western Schism, which impeded any true attempt of improving the conditions of the decaying Rome.

Modern Rome 
1420-1519 Rome becomes a centre of the Italian Renaissance. Founding of the new St. Peter's Basilica. Sistine Chapel. 
1527 The Landsknechts sack Rome. 
1555 Creation of the Ghetto. 
1585-1590 Urban reforms under Pope Sixtus V. 
1592-1606 Caravaggio working in Rome. 
1600 Giordano Bruno is burned. 
1626 The new St. Peter's Basilica is consecrated. 
1638-1667 Baroque era. Bernini and Borromini. Rome has 120,000 inhabitants. 
1703 Building of the Port of Ripetta. 
1732-1762 Building of the Fontana di Trevi. 
1798-1799 and 1800-1814 French occupation. 
1848-1849 Roman Republic with Mazzini and Garibaldi. 
1870 Rome conquered by Italian troops. 
1874-1885 Building of the Termini Station and founding of the Vittoriano. 
1922 March on Rome. 
1929 Lateran Pacts. 
1932-1939 Building of Cinecittà. 
1943 Bombing of Rome. 
1960 Rome is seat of the Summer Olympics. 
1975-1985 Years of terrorism. Death of Aldo Moro. Pope John Paul II is shot. 
1990 Rome is seat of the Football World Championship. 
2000 Rome is seat of the Jubilee. 

Renaissance Rome
With Nicholas V (reigned from March 19, 1447) the Renaissance entered in Rome, starting a period in which Rome was to become the centre of Humanism. He was the first pope to embellish the Roman court with scholars and artists, including Lorenzo Valla and Vespasiano da Bisticci.

On September 4, 1449 Nicholas proclaimed a Jubilee for the following year, which saw a great influx of pilgrims from all Europe. The crowd was so large that in December, on Ponte Sant'Angelo, some 200 people died crushed under their feet or drowned in the Tiber. But that year the plague reappeared in the city, and Nicholas fled dishonourably.

View of Rome in 1493
View of Rome in 1493

In any case, Nicholas asserted in a stable way the temporal power of the Papacy, a power in which the Emperor was to have no part at all. In this way, the coronation and the marriage of Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor on March 16, 1452, was more a civil ceremony. The Papacy now controlled Rome with a strong hand. A plot by Stefano Porcari, whose aim was the restoration of the Republic, was ruthlessly suppressed on January 1453. Porcari was hung together with the other plotters, Francesco Gabadeo, Pietro de Monterotondo, Battista Sciarra and Angiolo Ronconi, but the Pope gained a treacherous reputation, as when the execution was beginning he was too drunk to confirm the grace he had previously given to Sciarra and Ronconi.

He also designed urban renewal in collaboration with Leon Battista Alberti, including the construction of a new St Peter's Basilica.

Nicholas' successor Calixtus III neglected the new cultural policy of Nicholas, devoting himself instead to his greatest passion, the love for his nephews. The Tuscan Pius II, who took the reins after his death in 1458, was a great Humanist, but did little for Rome. During his reign Lorenzo Valla demonstrated that the Donation of Constantine was a forgery. Pius was the first pope to use guns, in campaign against the rebel barons Savelli in the neighbourhood of Rome, in 1461. One year later the moving to Rome of the head of the apostle St. Andrew produced a great number of pilgrims. The reign of Pope Paul II (1464-1471) was notable only for the reintroduction of the Carnival, which was to become a very popular feast in Rome in the following centuries. In the same year (1468) a plot was discovered against the pope, organized by the intellectuals of the Roman Academy founded by Pomponio Leto. The plotters were sent to Castel Sant'Angelo.

More important by far was the pontificate of Sixtus IV. In order to favour his relative Girolamo Riario, he promoted the unsuccessful Congiura dei Pazzi against the Medici of Florence (April 26, 1478) and in Rome fought the Colonna and the Orsini. The personal politics of intrigues and wars needed much money, but in spite of this Sixtus was a true patron of art in the wake of Nicholas V. He reopened the Academy and reorganized the Collegio degli Abbreviatori, and in 1471 started the construction of the Vatican Library, whose first curator was Platina. The Library was officially founded on June 15, 1475. He restored several churches, including Santa Maria del Popolo, the Aqua Virgo and the Hospital of the Holy Spirit, paved some streets and also built a famous bridge on the Tiber which still today carries his name. However, his main building project was the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Palace. Its decoration called on some of the most renowned artists of that age, including Mino da Fiesole, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Pietro Perugino, Luca Signorelli and Pinturicchio, and in the 16th century Michelangelo painted it with his famous masterpiece and made it one of the most outstanding monuments of the world. Sixtus died on August 12, 1484. He is considered the first Pope-king of Rome.

Chaos, corruption and nepotism appeared in Rome under the reign of his successors, Innocent VIII and Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503). During the vacation period between the death of the former and the election of the latter there were 220 murders in the city. Alexander had to face Charles VIII of France, who invaded Italy in 1494 and entered in Rome on December 31 of that year. The Pope could only barricade himself into Castel Sant'Angelo, which had been turned into a true fortress by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger. In the end, the skilful Alexander was able to gain the support of the king, assigning his son Cesare Borgia as military counsellor for the subsequent invasion of the Kingdom of Naples. Rome was safe and, as the King directed himself southwards, the Pope again changed his position, joining the anti-French League of the Italian States which finally compelled Charles to flee to France.

Via Giulia (named after Pope Julius II) was the first attempt to create a wide alley in the city since Ancient Roman times
Via Giulia (named after Pope Julius II) was the first attempt to create a wide alley in the city since Ancient Roman times

The most nepotist Pope of all, Alexander favoured his ruthless son Cesare, creating for him a personal duchy out of territories of the Papal States, and banning from Rome the Orsini family, Cesare's most relentless enemy. In 1500 the city hosted a new Jubilee, but its street grew even more unsafe as, especially at night, when they were controlled by bands of lawless "bravi". Cesare himself assassinated Alfonso of Bisceglie, his sister Lucrezia's, as well as, presumably, the Pope's son, Giovanni of Gandia.

The Renaissance had a great impact on Rome's face, with works like the Pietà by Michelangelo and the frescoes of the Borgia Apartment, all made during Innocent's reign. Rome reached the highest point of splendour under Pope Julius II (1503-1513) and his successors Leo X and Clement VII, both members of the Medici family. In this twenty-years period Rome became the greatest centre of art of the world. The old St. Peter's Basilica was demolished and a new one begun. The city hosted artists like Bramante, who built the temple of San Pietro in Montorio and planned a great project to renovate the Vatican. Raphael, who in Rome became the most famous painter of Italy creating frescos in the Cappella Niccolina, the Villa Farnesina, the Raphael's Rooms, plus many other famous paintings. Michelangelo, who started the decoration of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and executed the famous statue of the Moses for the tomb of Julius. Rome lost in part its religious character, becoming increasingly a true Renaissance city, with a great number of popular feasts, horse races, parties, intrigues and licentious episodes. Its economy was rich, with the presence of several Tuscan bankers, including Agostino Chigi, who was a friend of Raphael and a patron of arts. Before his early death, Raphael also promoted for the first time the preservation of the ancient ruins.

Sack of Rome and Counter-Reformation
In 1527 the ambiguous policy followed by the second Medici Pope, Pope Clement VII, resulted in the dramatic sack of the city by the unruly Imperial troops of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. The city was devastated for several days, many of the citizens were killed or took shelter outside the walls. The Pope himself was imprisoned for months in Castel Sant'Angelo. The sack marked the end of the most splendid era of the Modern Rome.

The 1525's Jubilee resulted in a farce, as Martin Luther's claims had spread criticism and even despise against the Pope's greed of money throughout Europe. The prestige of Rome was then challenged by the defections of the churches of Germany and England. Pope Paul III (1534-1549) tried to recover the situation by summoning the Council of Trento, although being, at the same time, the most nepotist Pope of all. He even separated Parma and Piacenza from the Papal States to create an independent duchy for his son Pier Luigi. He continued the patronage of art supporting the Michelangelo's Last Judgment, asking him to renovate the Campidoglio and the on-going construction of St. Peter's. After the shock of the sack, he also called the brilliant architect Giuliano da Sangallo the Younger to strengthen the walls of the Leonine City.

The need for renovation in the religious costumes became evident in the vacancy period after Paulus' death, when the streets of Rome became seat of masked carousels which satirized the Cardinals attending the conclave. His two immediate successors were feeble figures who did nothing to escape the actual Spanish suzerainty over Rome.

Paul IV, elected in 1555, was a member of the anti-Spanish party, but his policy resulted in the Neapolitan troops of the viceroy again besieging Rome in 1556. Paul sued for peace, but had to accept the supremacy of Philip II of Spain. He was one of the most hated Popes of all, and, after his death the raging populace burned the Holy Inquisition's palace and destroyed his marble statue on the Campidoglio. Paul's Counter-Reformation views are well shown by his order that a central area of Rome, around the Porticus Octaviae, was delimited creating of the famous Roman Ghetto, in which the city's Jews were forced to live.

The Counter-Reformation gained pace under his successors, the milder Pope Pius IV and the severe Saint Pius V. The former was a nepotist lover of court splendours, but more severe costumes arrived anyway through the ideas of his advisor, the prelate Charles Borromeo, who was to become one of the most popular figures among the Rome's people. Pius V and Borromeo gave Rome a true Counter-Reformation character. All pomp was removed from the court, the jokers were expelled, and cardinals and bishops were obliged to live in the city. Blasphemy and concubinage were severely punished. Prostitutes were expelled or confined in a reserved district. The Inquisition's power in the city was reasserted, and its palace rebuild with an increased space for prisons. During this period Michelangelo and opened the Porta Pia and turned the Baths of Diocletian into the spectacular basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, where Pius IV was buried.

The pontificate of his successor, Gregory XIII, was a failure. As he tried to use milder measures than those of St. Pius, the worst mob among of the Romans felt free to scourge again the streets. The French writer and philosopher Montaigne maintained that "life and goods were never as unsure as at the time of Gregorius XIII, perhaps", and that a confraternity even held homosexual marriage in the church of San Giovanni a Porta Latina. The courtesans repressed by Pius had now become whores who worked openly in the streets.

Sixtus V was of very different temper. Although short (1585-1590), his reign his however remembered as one of the most effective in the modern Rome's history. He was even tougher than Pius V, and was variously nicknamed castigamatti ("punisher of the mad"), papa di ferro ("Iron Pope"), dictator end even, ironically, demon, since no other Pope before him pursued with such a determination the reform of the church and the costumes. Sixtus profoundly reorganized the Papal States' administration, and swept the streets of Rome from all the bravoes, whores, procurers, duels and so on. Even the nobles and Cardinals could not consider themselves free from the arms of Sixtus' police. The money of the taxes, which now went not wasted into corruption, permitted an ambitious building program. Some ancient aqueducts were restored, and new one, the Acquedotto Felice (from Sixtus' name, Felice Peretti) was constructed. New houses were built in the desolate district of Esquilino, Viminale and Quirinale, while old houses in the centre of the city were destroyed to open new, larger streets. Sixtus's aim was in fact that of made Rome a better destination for pilgrimages, and the new streets were intended to permit a better access to the major Basilicas. Old obelisks were moved or erected to embellish St. John in Lateran, Santa Maria Maggiore and St. Peter, as well as Piazza del Popolo, in front of Santa Maria del Popolo.

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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.

Population of Rome

350 BC 30,000. 
270 BC 100,000. 
100 BC More than 500,000. 
44 BC 1,000,000. 
100 1,650,000. 
300 600,000. 
500 50,000. 
752 40,000. 
800 30,000. 
1000 30,000. 
1347 17,000. 
1519 50,000. 
1527 32,000. 
1590 90,000. 
1660 120,000. 
1798 150,000. 
1814 117,000. 
1832 138,000. 
1848 150,000. 
1871 244,000. 
1900 600,000. 
1921 692,000. 
1931 1,000,000. 
1944 1,600,000. 
1990 3,500,000. 

Italian unification
The rule of the Popes was interrupted by the short-lived Roman Republic (1798), which was built under the influence of the French Revolution.

Another Roman Republic arose in 1849, within the framework of revolutions of 1848. Two of the most influential figures of the Italian unification, Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi, fought for the short-lived republic.

The return of Pope Pius IX in Rome, with help of French troops, marked the exclusion of Rome from the unification process that was embodied in the second Italian independence war and the Mille expedition, after which all the Italian peninsula, except Rome and Venetia, where unified under the House of Savoy.

In 1870, the Franco-Prussian War started, and French Emperor Napoleon III could no longer protect the Papal States. Soon after, the Italian government declared war against the Papal States. The Italian army entered Rome on September 20, after a cannonade of three hours, through Porta Pia. Rome and Latium were annexed to the Kingdom of Italy.

Initially, the Italian government had offered to let Pope Pius IX keep the Leonine City, but the pope rejected the offer because acceptance would have been an implied endorsement of the legitimacy of the Italian kingdom's rule over his former domain. Pope Pius IX declared himself a prisoner in the Vatican, although he was not actually restrained from coming and going. Officially, the capital was moved from Florence to Rome in early 1871.

Current state
Today's Rome reflects the stratification of the epochs of its long history, but it also is a huge contemporary metropolis. Its vast historical centre contains many areas from Ancient Rome, areas from medieval times, many palaces and artistic treasures from the Renaissance era, many fountains, churches and palaces from baroque times, as well as many examples of the Art Nouveau, Neoclassic, Modernism, Rationalism and any other artistic styles of the XIX and XX centuries (the city is in fact considered a living encyclopedia and museum of the last 3000 years of western art). The historical centre 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 the Via dei Fori Imperiali, of theVia della Conciliazione in front of the Vatican (for the construction of which a large part of the old Borgo neighbourhood was destroyed) and the founding of new quartieri (among which EUR, San Basilio, Garbatella, Cinecittà, Trullo, Quarticciolo 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 house the huge increase of population caused by the centralisation of the Italian state.

During the Second World War Rome suffered few bombings (notably at San Lorenzo), and was declared an "open town" (film by Roberto Rossellini). 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 1931.

Rome hosted the 1960 Summer Olympics, using many ancient sites such as the Villa Borghese and the Thermae of Caracalla as venues. For the Olympic Games many new structures where created, notably the new large Olympic Stadium (which was also enlarged and renewed to host qualification and the final match of the 1990 FIFA football World Cup), the Villaggio Olimpico (Olympic Village, created to host the athletes and redeveloped after the games as a residential district), etc.

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 located in Rome, notably cultural and scientific ones - such as the American Institute, the British School, the French Academy, the Scandinavian Institutes, the German Archaeological Institute - for the honour of scholarship in the Eternal City, and humanitarian ones, such as the FAO.

Rome today is one of the most important tourist destinations of the world, due to the incalculable immensity of its archaeological and artistic treasures, as well as for the charm of its unique traditions, the beauty of its panoramic views, and the majesty of its magnificent "villas" (parks). Among the most significant resources: plenty of museums - (Musei Capitolini, the Vatican Museums, Galleria Borghese, and a great many others) — aqueducts, fountains, churches, palaces, historical buildings, the monuments and ruins of the Roman Forum, and 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).

References
Armando Ravaglioli, Breve storia di Roma 
Claudio Rendina, I papi. Storia e segreti 
Ferdinand Gregorovius, History of Rome in the Middle Ages 

transport

 

links

www.essential-architecture.com