Two brothers Romulus and Remus, according to legend, were the sons of the god of war, Mars and the vestal (priestess of the goddess Vesta), Rhea Silvia. The woman was the wife of the former king of the Etruscan town of Alba Longa, who was forced to serve in the temple. A new king named Amulius learned that the wife of the former king had given birth to twins, and ordered them to be thrown in a basket in the Tiber River.
Evil Amulius hoped that the brothers would perish, but they were nurtured by a wolf, and the chibis and a woodpecker helped her. These animals you will see on the symbolism of ancient Rome, and the wolf feeding her brothers is one of the symbols of the ancient Roman state. It is called "Capitol wolf", since a basket with babies was nailed to the shore just near the Capitol Hill.
The children were picked up by the shepherd Faustul, and together with the wife they brought up brothers. When Rem and Romulus grew up, they learned about their origins and killed Amulia, restoring the former king Numitor on the throne.
Four years later, the Romulus and Remus brothers left the city to establish a new settlement. They stopped near Palatine and Capitol Hill, but could not decide on the exact place of the new city. In the course of the debate on this issue, Romulus killed his brother. This legend is also often found in works of art.
Romulus founded the city and became his first king. The next 250 years, Rome was a very interesting phenomenon, the city governed the king, who appointed the Senate of the city. In total, in Rome there are seven kings, including Romulus.
With this first period in the history of the Roman state, there is another legend about Brutus and Lucrezia.
Lucius Junius Brutus was a Roman patrician, and Lucrezia was his wife. The son of the last king of Rome, Tarquinius the Proud, raped Lucrezia. She came to her husband and father, told about it, and committed suicide, stabbing her own knife in the heart, unable to withstand shame.
This was the reason for the uprising of the citizens of Rome and the overthrow of the king, henceforth the Roman Republic was proclaimed, where the power belonged to the senate, and he already appointed consuls, praetors and other officials. The term of office was limited, usually four years.
The legend is reflected in many statues and paintings. Above you see a picture of the Italian painter Sebastiano Ricci "Death of Lucretia". Also a statue of these heroes you can see in the Schönnbrunn Palace in Vienna, about which we wrote a detailed review .
From 500 to 250 BCE, Rome fought for domination in Italy. For 250 years, several dozen warriors with their neighbors, most of whom were successful for the young republic, and some ended in defeats. For example, in 290 AD the Gauls looted and burned Rome, the inhabitants took refuge in the Capitol on a hill and were saved.
In the south, the Romans collided with Greek colonies, with well-organized armies and the talented commander Pyrrhus (pictured left). Greek colonies were maintained from Greece itself, and Pyrrhus was a descendant of Alexander the Great himself.
The main battle in the war was the battle of Auskul, in which the Romans lost, but the army of Pyrrhus suffered too great losses. Hence the expression "Pyrrhic victory" went, so they say, when victory gets too expensive.
In the next battle the Greeks were completely defeated, and Rome became the ruler of all Italy.
Many subjugated peoples were given civil rights, equal to the rights of the Romans themselves. Some of the tribes of Italy were so far from Rome in culture that their assimilation into Roman society took several hundred years.
After mastering the Apennine peninsula, the Roman Republic turned its eyes beyond its limits, and in the western Mediterranean at that time the city of Carthage dominated. The collision was inevitable, the former ally of Rome in the war with Pyrrhus became his main opponent.
We talked about the three Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage in an article about the history of Tunisia , it was on the modern territory of this state that Carthage was located. During these three wars, Rome defeated and completely destroyed the Phoenician city-state.
From 250 to 50 BCE, Rome expanded its borders and became rich. Culture and art developed, the city expanded at the expense of the riches brought from all over the Mediterranean and slave power.
Do not think that the life of the Romans themselves was easy and fun. Being a Roman citizen was quite difficult. Each citizen could be drafted into the army, with weapons, armor and other equipment to be purchased at his own expense.
Well-off citizens often became victims of political intrigues and repressions. For example, in 83 BC, Lucius Cornelius Sulla became the dictator of Rome, he repressed many noble Romans, and the lands and money of the executed were distributed between him and his associates.
During this period, many people took captive the captive and all of them became slaves, and although most of the population of the country was still free citizens, the slaves made uprisings. Most readers will remember first of all about the rebellion of Spartacus, but there were many other smaller riots.
In the year 49, a big civil war broke out for the right of individual power in the already huge Roman Republic.
Gaius Julius Caesar and Gnaeus Pompey the Great fought for this right. Caesar won, and Pompey was killed in Egypt, we told about this in our article about the history of Egypt .
Sam Julius Caesar alone ruled only two years and in 1944 was killed by a group of conspirators led by Marcus Junius Brutus Cepion, who was his friend.
From here and went the famous phrase "And you are Brutus!". However, this phrase did not come from ancient Rome, but from the work of William Shakespeare. The tragedy of Caesar also found many reflections in art, the above you see a picture of the Italian painter Vincenzo Camuchini.
After the death of Caesar, another war broke out for the throne between Octavian Augustus and Mark Antony. Defeated Octavian, he became the first emperor of the Roman Empire.
Mark Antony and the Egyptian queen Cleopatra, the famous heroes-lovers of the ancient world, committed suicide, for fear of being taken prisoner. On the right, you see a painting by the Italian artist Guido Cagnazzi "The Death of Cleopatra", this plot is also very popular in art.
So in the year 30 BC a new era in the history of the country, associated with the emperors. Italy has already become the center of the civilized world in the west, and Rome has become the capital of the entire Western civilization.
About what happened next, we will tell in the second part of our article about the history of Italy .