Early History of Rome


- The Italian peninsula is a rocky, mountainous land.

- 600 miles long x 150 miles wide

- The Apennine Mountains are 850 miles long reaching from north to south

- The great harbors are located on the western and southern coasts

- Greece lies 50 miles to the east across the Adriatic Sea

- Africa is 100 miles from the west coast of Sicily

3 Plains

- There are 3 plains on the western coast which were main areas of settlement for the invaders from Europe

- The Tuscan Plain in the north central, drained by the Po River is a fertile farming region

- Latium in the middle of the west coast, drained by the Tiber River was a trading center for merchants from the north and south

- The Campanian Plain, southwestern coast (where Naples is now) had Italy's best harbor

The Latins

- It was in Latium that an Indo-European group, the Latins, (ancestors of the Romans) migrated

- Their first city Alba Longa, was built about 1000 BC.

- Their most important city, Rome, was founded in 753 BC by Romulus

The Legend of Romulus and Remus

According to legend, the Greeks had laid siege to the city of Troy (near the coast of modern Turkey) and killed almost everyone. One Trojan prince named Aeneas, escaped by sea and sailed to Italy. He landed at Laurentum on the west coast of Italy. He formed an alliance with Latinus the king of the Latins and married his daughter Lavinia. Aeneas' son Ascanius founded a city called Alba Longa. He was the first of a long line of kings who ruled for about 400 years. When the last king was overthrown, his twin grandsons Romulus and Remus were left to die by the River Tiber. A wolf found them and looked after them. When the twins grew up they decided to set up a new city on the spot where they had been left to die. They held a sacred ceremony and Remus mocked it so Romulus killed his brother and named the city after his own name and became its first ruler.

- The followers of Romulus were shepherds, hunters, farmers, and merchants who lived in small huts scattered on the seven hills on which the city was built.

- The Latins were strongly influenced by the Greeks and the Etruscans

- The Etruscans, a hard and warlike people, settled in Tuscany (first civilized people in Italy)

- In Tuscany they built cities, developed law codes, established trade and were into art

- In the 8th century BC they controlled north and central Italy through a chain of city-states

- They also had colonies on Corsica and traded with the Carthaginians living in Sardinia

- In southern Italy and eastern Sicily were Greek colonists (centers of culture and commerce)

- They wanted to civilize (rather than conquer) the Latin tribes and teach them skills and fine craftsmanship of the East, the Greek alphabet, and Greek religion.

- There were also the Carthaginians (Sicily and Sardinia) who were commercial rivals of Rome that exercised control over many city-states.

- The Romans fought them in the Punic Wars for commercial and political control of the western Med.

The Etruscans

- Little is known about where the Etruscans migrated from (Asia Minor or modern Turkey)

- The Etruscans were the first civilized people to settle in Italy and they greatly influenced the Romans.

- Extensive iron ore deposits near them in north central Italy they became very rich from trade.

- In the 6th cent. BC. they occupied and ruled Rome for 100 years.

- The Etruscan and Roman civilizations were put together from bits and pieces from Greece, Phoenicia, Israel, Egypt, and Persia. (They flourished from 800-400 BC.)

Etruscan Religion

- The Etruscans were fanatically religious with a primitive theology. They offered many libations to their gods, examining entrails, or studying storms for omens.

- They are the reason the Romans became such a highly superstitious people always seeking good or evil omens in everyday happenings.

- They spent a great deal of time preparing for death (if properly cared for a man's spirit would live on.

- They built elaborate tombs (supplied them with wealth and articles necessary for life) including weapons, pots, jewelry, etc., scenes of earthly pleasures painted on the walls (like a man and wife sitting on a couch).

Etruscan Weapons and Armor

- Etruria also expanded because its armies were well trained and very disciplined.

- Because of their skill at working with metals they had weapons far superior to their opponents.

- The Romans adopted all their fighting techniques, weapons and armor designs of the Etruscans and conquered them in the 4th Cent. BC.

Etruscan Elegance

- Etruscan Women were considered equal to their men. This was the same with Roman women.

- An Etruscan noblewoman, hair elegantly curled, rich clothing and much jewelry

- The Romans adopted their elegance and pleasure seeking qualities from the Etruscans.

- Reclining on couches at banquets (slaves serving fine food & drink), watching dancers, & entertainers