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Origins of ancient Rome

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Historic seven hills of ancient Rome
Historic seven hills of ancient Rome

Origins of ancient Rome were one of the most discussed historical problems of the second half of the 20th century. Recent years and efforts of scientists in the field of archeology and the interpretation of historical monuments of ancient Rome, brought a lot of new material and prompted a change of perception, especially when it comes to the chronology of the early history of Rome.

Virgil created Aeneid, the national epic of the Romans.
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One of the main problems with the chronology of Rome was that the Romans themselves based their ideas about the creation of Rome on literary versions of tradition, established in the days of Augustus. This resulted, inter alia, because they wanted to prove to themselves and their posterity their noble roots of the Romans so much that they mixed facts with reality, although they tried to precisely define the date of founding Rome, as well as the history related to this event, with the smallest details. Livy and Dionysius of Helicarnass played a special role in their investigations, as well as poetry in which the most important role was played by Aeneid of Virgil. The ancients also made various attempts to juxtapose the Roman chronology with the Greek one based on the Olympics. In particular, it was difficult to calculate the period between the legendary arrival of Aeneas after the fall of Troy (1180 BCE) and the founding of Rome.


According to Virgil Rome was founded in 848 BCE, set this date to 814 BCE considering that both Rome and Carthage were founded. Fabius Pictor; proposed the year 748, this chronology was adopted by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Cincius Alimentus believed that Rome was founded in 729/728 BCE. Proposed by M. Terentius Varro (1st century BCE) date of founding Rome – 754/3 BCE (third year of the VI Olympiad) it was adopted by most Roman historians of the imperial era. The chronology of Livy in Ab Urbe condita was based on it, and in this way, the years counted from the foundation of the city were later recalculated. It should be added here, however, that the Varro date is not based on any documentary basis, but only speculated. The starting point for these calculations was the adoption of a certain date for the beginnings of the Roman Republic. Roman annals assumed that the royal period was 244 or 245 years, which corresponds to 7 generations of 35 years each. Since Fabius Piktor adopted the year 504 as the date of the establishment of the republic, Romulus’ founding of Rome would fall on the year 748, Warro assuming that the Republic was founded in 509/508 took the year 754/753 as the date of the beginning of Rome. What image of the origins of Rome was captured by Roman journalism?

Romulus, Akson’s winner, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Romulus draws rich loot to the temple of Jupiter.
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She tried to to link the city’s prehistory to the Trojan War. The Trojan hero Aeneas was supposed to come to Italy after the fall of Troy, he set out with his father Anchizes, who died on the way. Aeneas settled in Lazio, where he married the daughter of the local ruler, King Latinus, Avalanche. He then founded his own city-state, which he named after his wife, Lavinium. The descendants of Aeneas were to rule in the newly founded city of Alba Longa in the Albanian Mountains: one of them, King Numitor, was removed from the throne by his brother Amulius. In order to avoid revenge on the part of Numitor’s children or grandchildren, Amulius had his son executed, and he entrusted his daughter Rea Sylwia to the goddess West, whose priestesses had to take chastity vows. Nevertheless, Rea Sylwia gave birth to twins, two boys: Romulus and Remus. She claimed their father was the god Mars. King Amulius, wanting to get rid of these children, ordered them to be thrown into the Tiber. The twins, however, were miraculously saved, the wave washed them ashore; and they were fed by a she-wolf in the Lupercal Cave on the slopes of Palatine Hill. He was raised by Romulus and Remus, a royal shepherd. As they grew up and found out about their origins, they punished Amulius severely and restored the throne in Alba Longa to their grandfather, Numitor. The young men themselves decided to found a new city in the place of their miraculous rescue, first seeking advice from the gods based on prophecies from the flight of birds. Remus had six vultures, but Romulus had twelve. Romulus delineated the new city of Rome (Roma) taking the Palatine Hill as the center, and then plowed Etrusco ritu – according to Livius’s description – border around the city. When Remus dared to cross the ploughed border furrow, Romulus killed him. From then on he reigned as the first king of Rome (753-715).

The legend then tells about the organization of the state by Romulus and the insidious kidnapping of the Sabine women, i.e. women from the neighboring tribe of Sabines, who became wives of the Romans. As a result of the peaceful settlement of the dispute with the Sabines, Romulus was to rule in Rome together with the Sabine King Titus Tatius. One version of the Roman tradition stated that Romulus was taken alive to heaven and then became a god. Romulus’s successor on the Roman throne was to be a Sabine Numa Pompilius (715 – 673), who pursued a peace policy. Roman tradition considered him a legislator in religious matters, the founder of priestly colleges, as well as craft colleges. The third Roman king was Tullus Hostilius (673 – 642), who was famous as a great warrior, conqueror of the former “capital” of Lazio – Alba Longa. Then Ancus Marcius (Ancus Marcius; 642 – 617) was to reign, tradition assigns him the construction of the first bridge over the Tiber and the establishment of the Ostia port at the mouth of the river. Of the seven Roman kings, the last three were associated with the Etruscan dynasty of Tarquinius; Etruscan rule was to be initiated by a stranger from Tarquinia, Tarquinius the Elder (Tarquinius Priscus; 616 – 579), the way to the throne in Rome was paved by his ambitious wife Tanaquil. As king (rex – the equivalent of the Etruscan lucumo) he carried out a series of construction works in Rome. He drained the forum by running a drainage channel (cloaca maxima), built a circus where he introduced Etruscan games and races, and initiated the construction of the temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill.

Tarquinius the Elder was succeeded by his son-in-law, Servius Tullius (578 – 535). The ancients had many doubts about his origin – according to one version, he was supposed to be the son of a slave. The Etruscan tradition, known to Emperor Claudius, identified Servius Tullius with the Etruscan Mastarna. This king was to carry out many fundamental reforms in the Roman state, as well as enclose the city with a wall (the so-called Servian wall). Servius Tullius was murdered by the husband of his daughter Tulli, who was the son of Tarquinius the Elder. This treacherous son-in-law was Tarquinius the Proud (Tarquinius Superbus; 534 – 510). Unlike his good Etruscan predecessors, he was considered a tyrant who aroused widespread hatred in Rome. Tarquinius’ atrocities, his son’s rape of a Roman woman, Lucrezia, and her suicidal death were to cause an uprising, led by Lucius Junius Brutus (L. Iunius Brutus).

This uprising ended with the expulsion of Tarquinius, the overthrow of royal power and the Etruscan rule in Rome. After the establishment of the republic (509 BCE), the Romans were to dedicate the magnificent temple of Jupiter on Capitoline Hill. Such a picture of the history of the monarchy in Rome is given by tradition. Before discussing the problem of the historicity of certain elements of this Roman vision of its own past, attention should be paid to when and how the various layers of legends grew up. Modern scholars for a long time believed that the legend of Aeneas penetrated Rome late – from the Greeks in the 3rd-2nd century BCE. Archaeological finds, however, force that this date to be postponed three centuries back and recognize the essential role of the Etruscans as intermediaries in the transfer of the Trojan myth to Rome. Among the excavations in Wejye, a terracotta statue was found depicting Aeneas carrying Father Anchizes on his back. Other Etruscan depictions of Aeneas were also discovered, all from the 6th century BCE. However, no reliable data so far would indicate the period of reception of the Aeneas cult in Rome itself. While the first part of the story of the prehistory of Rome(the story of Aeneas) is only legendary, the second part – the history of Rome from the foundation of the city to the end of the royal period – must be subjected to careful historical analysis.

Contemporary historians, although they are inclined in general to acknowledge the historicity of the six kings from Numa Pompilius, and especially the three Etruscan rulers, the figure of Rome’s founder, Romulus, is purely legendary. The story of twins raised by a she-wolf itself was written relatively late – in the 4th century BCE at the earliest. In 296 BCE, the Ogulnius were to erect a statue of a wolf with twins on the Lupercal in Rome. In this way, the legend was linked to Palatine Hill and its cult place, Luperkal, where the Luperci (wolf priests) annually celebrated the old pastoral religious rites known as Lupercalia, related to the protection of herds from wolves. The name Luperkal was explained as derived from the she-wolf (lupa), which at this point was to rescue twins doomed to sink in the Tiber. Historians, however, have tried to find some rational nucleus in the Romulus legend. It was assumed that the founding of Rome was historically probable by the colonists of Alba Longa. A number of archaeological data confirmed the version about the conflict, and then the alliance with the Sabines. In the earliest period, on the Roman hills there were two ways of burying the dead: burning and burying them in the ground, the latter being especially common in the vicinity of Esquiline. Cult relics testify to the role of the Quirinal (collis Quirinalis) as a Sabine center. There are two priestly colleges of Sali in Rome: Salii Palatini (mons Palatinus was considered the birthplace of the Romans) and Salii Coltini – from collis Quirinalis, related to the cult of the Latin god of war Mars and the Sabine god Quirinus. The old Luperking Society was also divided into two colleges whose names were derived from the names of the families; they were Luperci Quinctiales and Luperci Fabiani (the Fabius family was connected with the Sabine Quinctiales).

The Capitoline Wolf was a symbol of Rome.
Author: Jean-Pol GRANDMONT | Under the Creative Commons Attribution license - On the same terms 3.0.

According to all ancient authors, the heart of later Rome was the Palatine Hill. Even the most critical historians of the nineteenth century (eg Niebuhr) assumed the four stages of Rome’s territorial development, basically consistent with Livy’s message.

  1. First stage is the Roma quadrata on the Palatine.
  2. Second stage was Septimontium, a city on seven hills, which actually comprised only three hills, but with a few peaks, namely Palatine (mons Palatinus) with three vertices: Palatual, Germalus and Velia, Esquilinus (mons Esquillinus) with three vertices Fagutal, Oppius, Cispius, and mons Caelius. Outside the borders of Septimontium there were still hills known as colles (as opposed to Latin montes), i.e. collis Quirinalis, collis Viminalis in the north, and mons Capitolinus in the west and mons Aventinus in the south.
    • According to Mary Beard, the ancient Romans celebrated a holiday in December called Septimontium, the celebrations of which are unknown, and even the Romans themselves did not know the real reasons for the celebration. It is said that the pre-Roman centre was called Septimontium and consisted of eight hills: Palatium, Velia, Fagutal, Subura, Cermalus, Oppius, Caelius and Cispius. Two well-known hills are missing here: Quirinal and Viminal, which suggests that originally there were two linguistically distinct communities – perhaps the legendary Romans and Sabines. Proof of this may be the discrepancy in the definition of hills in the patches colles and montes. Mary Beard claims there is a hypothesis to link colles to the Sabines and montes to the Romans.
  3. Third phase of the traditional development of Rome was to be a city of four districts, including the regio Palatina in the Palatine, regio Sucusana on the hill of Caelius, regio Esquilina on Esquiline and regio Collina on Quirinal and Wiminal.
  4. Fourth stage – the city of Servius Tullius, surrounded by the oldest wall (actually an embankment: agger), which did not yet include the Aventine Hill.

Only the archaeological excavations of the 20th century complicated this picture of the territorial development of Rome quite significantly. Meticulous stratigraphic research (establishing historically separate layers, and their mutual arrangement), carried out, especially in the area of ​​the former city of Rome, excavation of the Forum Romanum and surrounding hills, allowed us to approximate the chronology of early Roman history, mainly on the basis of imports of Greek and Italian ceramics.

Breakthrough of Einar Gjerstad

The basis for the introduction of the new chronology was the monumental work of the Swedish archaeologist Einar Gjerstad, Early Rome, the 6 volumes of which were published by the Swedish Institute in Rome. This great work is intended as a complete body of archaeological material relating to the earliest history of the city of Rome. A large part of them has not yet been published, while the rest are scattered in various publications, often not published accurately enough. Complementing this fundamental work of Gjerstad is the work undertaken by his student, Goran Gierow, to develop the period of the iron culture in the remaining areas of Lazio; in the years 1964-1966 he published volume I and the first part of the second volume of The Iron Age Culture of Latium. Both representatives of the Swedish archaeological school adopted a similar system of chronology, classifying the material they published. Gjerstad remained true to his claims despite heated polemics sparked by the already first volumes of Early Rome.

A popular outline of his theory was given by the Swedish archaeologist in the treatise Legends and Facts of Early Roman History, published in Lund 1962, and then he consistently defended his theses in three subsequent articles entitled Discussions concerning Early Rome. Gjerstad once again spoke about the beginnings of the Roman Republic in a lecture entitled The Origins of the Roman Republic at a conference organized by the Fondation Hardt in 1966 This article, along with a discussion, was then published in the files of the conference Les origines de la reublique romaine, [in: ]Entretiens sur l’antiquite classique XIII, Vandoeuvres – Geneve 1967, pp. 3 – 34. Gjerstad theory – Suburban Rome (c. 800 – c. 575 BCE). In these works, Gjerstad gave the following picture of the earliest history of Rome. The area of ​​the later city was already inhabited in the Chalcolithic and Bronze Age, and human traces from the Stone Age can also be shown. Some traces of the literary tradition have been preserved from this pre-Roman period, eg the legend of the arrival of Evander and the Arcadians, and the establishment of Lupercalia by him; an analysis of the ritual of these ceremonies indicates their pre-Roman origin. Goats and a dog were sacrificed in the Lupercal grotto. Luperci, twisted with pieces of goatskins, ran outside and strapped with their straps the women they encountered, who thus ensured fertility. The choice of a goat as a sacrificial animal, a symbol of fertility, is non-Roman, it is rather related to the circle of Mediterranean beliefs. The beginning of the Iron Age falls in the area of ​​future Rome in about 800 BCE. The period 800 – 575 is called Gjerstad suburban (pre-urban Rome) and divided into 4 subperiods: I – 800 – 750 BCE, II – 750 – 700, III – 700 – 625, IV – 625 – 575. The chronological framework of this division was adopted from approximation to about 25 years. Its basis is the presence of various forms of ceramics, in the 1st and 2nd subperiods, late geometric Greek ceramics dominate, in the 3rd – Proto-Corinthian ceramics, in the 4th – early and medium Corinthian ceramics. Gjerstad’s chronology is therefore based solely on archaeological sites, the dating of which is a subject of scientific controversy and cannot be considered absolutely certain. In the suburbs of Rome, the hills were gradually settled, which later formed the historic city. The most important of Gjerstad’s statements is the rejection of the “privileged” role of the Palatine Hill, because at the same time as the Palatine settlements appeared, the hills of Esquiline and Quirinal, probably also Caelius, were inhabited. On the other hand, there was no settlement on the Capitol, which only began in the first half of the 6th century BCE, and the valleys between the hills were not inhabited, and their slopes were used, in part, as necropolises.

In the first and second suburban periods (800 – 700 BCE), these rural settlements were dispersed, on individual hills there were groups of huts separated by empty space. The particularism of these estates is also visible in the diversity of home crafts. Around 700 BCE a new pre-urban phase in Roman history begins. At the beginning of the third sub-period, the population begins to descend from the hills to the valleys, the slopes of the hills are no longer used as cemeteries. The people of previously isolated settlements are merging into one commune by synoikismos, which leads to a certain homogenization of culture and the development of professional craftsmanship. In the fourth period (825-575), the further integration process is progressing, with clear Etruscan influences (import of metal products and Bucchero-type ceramics from Veii and Caere). However, the inhabitants of “Rome” still live in primitive huts made of branches. The basis of their existence is agriculture and breeding. According to Gjerstad, many Roman religious rituals date from this era, such as the ritual known as Septimantium. These were sacra publica, celebrated on seven hills within the group of hills: Palatine, Caelius and Esquiline, bypassing the Quirinal and the Viminal. These celebrations were celebrated separately by the inhabitants of each of the seven hills. The most important Roman holidays were not associated with the names of the gods, but with some place, date, or act. In the suburban period, not only the beginnings of the Roman religion developed, but also the first forms of social organization, e.g. curias (curiae). These were units linking groups of families (gentes), Gjerstad accepts the possibility for the curias to elect a common chief at the end of suburban Rome, he would be the commander of the army of the settlement, probably already known then as and rex (king). Rome as a city-state (civitas).

Around 575 BCE, there were fundamental and rapid changes in the development of Rome; which quickly transforms from a village settlement into a real city. Urban buildings are replacing the old primitive huts. In the middle, in a valley between ancient Roman hilltop settlements, is the economic and political center – the Forum Romanum (market square). The forum is paved and drained by the construction of a canal – collector. Regular streets are built, the first temples are built. At the same time, the uninhabited Capitol is incorporated into Rome, becoming a fortress and religious center of the new civitas. Only from that moment – the transformation of loose rural buildings into a compact urban center – can we speak of the beginnings of the proper Roman statehood. Gjerstad formulates this thought as follows: “This transformation of paga into urbs is the real foundation of Rome, just as Urbs and Roma are synonyms”. This epochal event can be dated thanks to the imports of Attic and Laconian black-figure ceramics from 580-560 BCE. Gjerstad accepts the possibility of postponing the proposed date of founding the city (575) by + – 25 years. In the buildings of Rome, you can notice clear Etruscan influences, the demarcation of the east-west (decumanus) and north-south (cardo) axes and their intersection on the Forum was made Etrusco ritu. The construction of the Forum drainage canal is an achievement of technique adopted by the Etruscans. There are also transformations in the Roman religion under the influence of Etruscan. The Romans had not yet built statues and temples to their gods, their beliefs were impersonal and closely related to the life of nature.

In the 6th century BCE, however, the first temples were built in Rome. The culmination is the construction of the monumental temple of Jupiter (Juppiter Optimus Maximus) on the Capitol, which was the work of Etruscan architects and sculptors. The terracotta statue of Jupiter himself and other sculptures in the temple were made by the famous Etruscan artist, Vulka of Veii. The consecration of this temple took place in 608 BCE. It is the first certain date in the history of Rome. It was possible to accurately calculate it thanks to the Etruscan ritual of the annual hammering (clavus) in the sanctuary. Many scholars consider the urbanization of Rome to be the work of the Etruscan kings. According to Gjerstad, however, the first phase of urbanization (c. 575 c. 530) fell under the reign of three rulers of Sabine origin. They would be Numa Pompilius, as the first king of the united city, Tullus Hostilius and Ancussia Martius. Many archaeological traces, relics of the Roman religion, as well as the tradition of historiography testify to the participation of the Sabines in the founding of the city. Culturally distinct traces of the settlement of Quirinal in the suburbs of Rome indicate the Sabine origin of its inhabitants. The hill was the seat of the Saliy religious college, who celebrated the beginning of the war with the dance of war. This college, dedicated to Quirinus, was independent of the Halls of Mars in the Palatine. After the political unification of the Sabine Quirinal and the Latin Palatine, two colleges still existed: Salii Collini and Salii Palatini.

Following the example of these colleges, two Luperca corporations were probably organized. Luperkalia was a religious institution very old and related to the Palatine (Luperkal grotto), but after political reunification, Luperci Fabiani was probably established as a Sabine duplicate of the Palatine Luperci Quinctiales. Elements of the Roman tradition – talking about the kidnapping of the Sabine women, and then about the fight and reconciliation with the Sabines, as a result of which two kings of Rome were to rule in Rome: Romulus of Latin and Titus Tatius, however legendary, probably reflect some real events. According to Gjerstad, one should see in them a trace of the conquest of Rome by the Sabines. The Sabine kings, however, allowed the full development of Latin culture, as did the Etruscan kings later. Gjerstad defends the pre-Tetruska character of the origins of the archaic city, among others. on the basis of changes in the Roman religion between 575 and 530, which do not indicate dependence on the Etruscans. At that time, the temple of Vesta, a goddess exclusively in Lazio, was built, and the Regia building was erected, especially related to the cult of the Old Latin god Regia, especially related to the cult of the Old Latin god Janus. Sanctuaries of other gods had already been built on the Capitol itself before the Etruscans erected a temple to Jupiter. According to tradition, these places of worship – in addition to the sanctuary of the god of the borders of Terminus – were left during the construction of the temple of Jupiter. There was also another temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill, the Pre-Tetruskaya. But it was not the home of Jupiter the Greatest, the head of the Etruscan Capitoline Trinity (Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva), but Jupiter called Juppiter Feretrius or Juppiter Lapis, it was the god of thunder. This temple did not have any iconographic images, only a flint ax was the god’s symbol. This ancient Roman Jupiter headed another (pre-Etruscan) triad of Jupiter, Mars and Quirin, which symbolized the union of the gods Palatine and Quirinal under the leadership of Jupiter, ruler of the united city. These pre-Tetrus concepts of the Roman religion are also associated with the appointment of priestly posts, the so-called high priests (flamines maiores): Jupiter, Mars and Quirin, priest called rex sacrorum, who served Janus above all, and the high priest (pontifex maximus), the head of the Vestals, always closely associated with the cult of Vesta. According to Gjerstad, the Roman tradition, ascribing this development of religious forms primarily to Numa Pompilius, and then to Tullus Hostilius and Ankus Martius, is correct.

According to Gjerstad, the reign of the Etruscan kings (traditionally dated 616 – 510) began around 530 BCE and ended in the middle of the 5th century. Some Roman authors attributed the beginning of construction to the first regarding the construction of the temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill. Some Roman authors attributed the beginning of construction to the first Tarquinius, and its completion only to Tarquinius the Proud, and the consul of the year 509, Horatius Pulvillus, to consul the temple. To establish the chronology of these events, the text of Pliny the Elder 9 is particularly important, which, based on Varro, claimed that Tarquinius Priscus had brought Vulka from the Veins to make a terracotta statue of Jupiter, and probably also the terracotta quadrigas adorning the temple’s roof. The artistic activity of Wulka dates back to the end of the 6th century BCE. Gjerstad believes that the temple of Capitoline Jupiter could not be built at the turn of the 7th and 6th centuries (according to the tradition of Tarquinius the Elder), because then there was no city of Rome. Therefore, if the builder of the temple was the Etruscan king Tarquinius Priscus, his reign should be moved to the years between 530 and 500 BCE. This period was the period of the peak influx of imports of Greek ceramics, which would be in line with the remark of Cicero that in the time of the first Tarquinius there was an intensification of Greek influence. At the end of the construction – the Capitoline temple during the reign of Tarquinius the Elder, it indicates the interconnection of such sacred institutions as the temple of Jupiter, triumph, Circus Maximus and Ludi Romani, because the goal of the triumphal procession there was a temple on the Capitoline Hill, and after the triumph, games called Ludi Romani were organized on the grounds of Circus Maximus.

All ancient authors attribute the construction of the Circus, the establishment of triumph and Ludi Romani to Tarquinius the Elder. According to Livy, both the ascent of Circus and the organization of wonderful games were possible thanks to the spoils of Apiolae, captured by the first Tarquinius. Thus, Gjerstad believes that the completion of the temple’s construction and its consecration coincide with the reign of Tarquinius the Elder. According to this assumption, the reign of Servius Tullius and Tarquinius the Pysny would be shifted to the first half of the 5th century BCE, for which Gjerstad finds a number of archaeological and literary arguments confirming his hypothesis. For example, tradition says that Servius Tullius built a “wall” around Quirinal, Wiminal and Esquiline, and Tarquinius Superbus strengthened it. Traces of the earth embankment agger were discovered on Quirinal and Esquiline, a fragment of Attic red-figure pottery (520 – 470 BCE) was found in them. On this basis, Gjerstad believes that the embankment could have been erected at the beginning of the 5th century. The construction of the Mater Matuta and Fortuna temple at Forum Boarium can also be dated to this period, the construction of which is traditionally attributed to Servius Tullius. Additional arguments in favor of dating the reign of Servius Tullius to the beginning of the 5th century are found in Gjerstad in literary sources, e.g. the establishment of twenty-one tribus in 495, which should be linked together with the creation of a centurial system and the so-called the Servian constitution. The reign of Tarquinius the Delicious dates Gjerstad to the second quarter of the 5th century BCE on the basis of the news that the king built the Semo Sancus (Dius Fidius) temple, which was dedicated in 466 CE.

However, it is difficult to agree with the fact that more than 40 years have passed between the construction of the temple and its consecration. During the first half of the 5th century, a very strong influence of Etruscan culture in Rome is visible, in the middle of this century, according to Gjerstad, there is a sudden break with this culture. According to Gjerstad’s calculations, Greek imports in Rome in the urban period (approx. 575 to approx. 450) include a total of 451 vases, the largest number in the years 530 – 500 (202 vases) – according to this author, this falls during the reign of Tarquinius the Elder. In the years 500 – 450, there was a certain decrease in the import of ceramics (145 vases), and around 450, economic contacts with Greek city-states suddenly began; from the period 450 – 420 come only two red figured Attic vases. Although Gjerstad’s picture of the evolution of Rome’s economic and cultural ties with the Etruscan-Greek world is quite convincing, it does not have to be interpreted in terms of strictly parallel chronologically transformations of political life. Continuity of cultural phenomena does not always mean, as Gjerstad believes, the continuation of the same political system, i.e. the duration of the monarchy until the middle of the 5th century BCE. ?) Gjerstad believes that these lists signified eponymous officials under the authority of the king, possibly called praetors. Fasti from those years still show clear Etruscan influences. Although the vast majority of the names of eponymous officials are Roman, there are also Etruscan names: in the years 509-490 and 461-448. The first of these periods should also be associated with the activity of Tarquinius the Elder, and the second with the rule of Tarquinius the Pysny. The break in the occurrence of Etruscan names in fasti may coincide with the reign of Servius Tullius, who – according to tradition – was not an Etruscan by birth, but was only related to the Tarkvinus family. Political events in Etruria also explain the necessity to postpone the date of the fall of the monarchy in Rome to the 5th century. The defeat at Kymein 474 BCE After this battle, the Etruscans still held control of Campania, which they lost in 445 BCE as a result of the Samnite invasion. Gjerstad considers it unlikely that Rome and Lazio would liberate themselves earlier from Etruscan rule than Campania. According to tradition, in the middle of the 5th century BCE there were many important internal events in Rome: the establishment of the decemvir commission and the codification of the law, the obtaining of ius conubii by plebeians in 445 (entering into full legal marriages with patricians), the appointment of the office of censors in 443. All these events mark a socio-political “revolution” and set the date of the republic’s establishment, according to Gjerstad, much more likely than 509/508 BCE, when the Iovi Optimo Maximo temple was dedicated and the calendar was reformed. In this study, the main theses of Gjerstad’s monumental work are fairly accurately presented, which, despite a number of reservations, undoubtedly caused a revolution in research on the origins of Rome.

A polemic about the origins of Rome

Gjerstad’s work sparked an extremely lively discussion and divided scholars of the early republic into his supporters (R. Bloch, FE Brown, K. Hanell, A: I. Nemirovskij) and opponents (especially H. Muller-Karpe, M. Pallottino, R. Paribeni, A. Momigliano). However, even representatives of the latter group consider Gjerstad’s work to be epochal, forcing them to take a new look at the entirety of the early Roman history.

Among archaeologists, the position radically different from Gjerstad in terms of chronology is occupied by H. Muller – Karpe, author of Beitrage zur Chronologie der Urnenfelderzeit nórdlich und sudlich der Alpen, Berlin 1959. The first traces of the Iron Age settlement in Rome, dated by Gjerstad in the 8th century, Muller- He recognizes Karpe as a testimony from the 10th century BCE and by analogy shifts back the dating of all stages of Rome’s early history. R. Paribeni also reached similar conclusions in Civilta del ferro (Bologna 1960, pp. 463-499). These significant differences in the dating of the Villanova culture and the subsequent phases of the iron civilization in Italy result from the lack of relics that could be dated with complete certainty.

Historical conclusions, drawn by Gjerstad mainly on the basis of archaeological material, were sharply criticized especially by M. Pallottino, author of Le origini di Roma, [in:]Archeologia Classica 1960, pp. 1- 36 and Fatti e legende (moderne) nella piu antica storia di Roma, [in:]Studi Etruschi, 1963, pp. 3 – 77 and A. Momigliano, An Interim Report on the Origins of Rome, published in “Journal of Roman Studies” 1963, LIII, pp. 95 – 121. Both authors are defenders of the traditional version of Roman history and traditional chronology. Unable to challenge the archaeological arguments in favor of dating the beginnings of the urbanization of Rome to about 575 BCE, Pallottino concluded that it fell strictly during the reign of Servius Tullius, who, according to Varro’s chronology, began his reign in 578 BCE by P. Romanelli (“Gnomon” 1959, 31, p. 437) tries, however, to date the urbanization of Rome to a slightly earlier period, i.e. to the end of the 7th century BCE. R. Bloch and R. Werner. They both came to innovative conclusions by completely different methods.

R. Bloch, author of Les origines de Rome, published several times and translated into different languages, a series of articles on the early history of Rome and the work Tite Live et les premiers siecles de Rome, published in 1965 in Paris is inclined to shift the chronological period of Etruscan rule in Rome to around 550 – 475 BCE The starting point for the end date of Etruscan advantage in Lazio is research on the economic history of Rome – Bloch sees the continuity of economic development in the second half of the 6th century. and in the first quarter of the 5th century, Rome was experiencing an economic boom at that time, which is reflected in intensive construction, especially religious buildings, in the development of trade and large-scale Greek imports. In approximately CE 475, this economic prosperity collapsed and Rome began to become economically isolated. B1och also carefully examined the religious transformations of this period, which strengthened his belief that the Etruscan supremacy would last in Rome until about 475 BCE

The French scholar interprets the events of 509 BCE in a very original way. He believes that this is the beginning of the republic, but under Etruscan rule. According to Bloch, the facts of the fall of the monarchy and the Etruscan rule, linked by tradition, should be separated. The early Republic was still dependent on the Etruscans, during the battles between patricians and plebeians, they protected the interests of the commoners to some extent, as evidenced by the plebeian names appearing at the beginning of fasti consulares. It was only after the fall of Etruscan sovereignty in Rome that the patricians gained complete advantage.
R. Werner, author of Der Beginn der romischen Republik, Munchen 1963, dates the period of Etruscan rule in Rome in a manner similar to that of Bloch. However, he came mainly from an analysis of literary sources and the Roman calendar, and believes that many falsifications have crept into fasti consulares. The Roman Republic was established between 472 and 471, and the fasti between that date and 509 BCE was later completed. The introduction of, for example, a number of plebeian names to the list of consuls from the end of the 6th and the beginning of the 5th century BCE, was possible thanks to the admission of the plebeians in 300 BCE under lex Ogulnia to the college of pontiffs, probably then they “corrected” them fasti. Werner believes that the Romans could overthrow the Etruscan monarchy only after the decisive defeat of the Etruscans at the Battle of ‘Kyme (474 ​​BCE).

An outstanding researcher of Hungarian origin, Andreas Alfóldi, author of many articles on the origins of the Roman state and the main work entitled. Early Rome and the Latins; An Arbor 1965. This book is distinguished, on the one hand, by its great erudition and, on the other hand, by its total unorthodox approach to the early history of Rome. Alfoldi considers the history of Rome in connection with the history of the entire Lazio and Etruria, in principle he rejects almost completely the messages of Roman historiography. He believes that everything about early Rome in Livy and Dionysius of Halicarnassus is worthless, because it depends on the conscious lies of Fabius Piktor. All Roman journalism was fatally influenced by this “first forger” of Roman history. The history of royal Rome, according to Alfoldi, is a period of complete dependence on the Etruscans: Rome was successively a vassal of various Etruscan states: Volci, Veii, Tarquinia, Clusium.

There were more Etruscan rulers in Rome than they are recognized by tradition, various Etruscan “condottiers”, known from Etruscan sources and the tradition of Roman literature that had survived the falsification, ruled here in turn. Alfoldi introduces to the list of these rulers, among others. Mezentius of Caere, brothers Aulus and Caelius Vibenn of Volci and Mastarna (this group is known for 30 paintings in the tomb of Francois in Volci, as well as Etruscan inscriptions and fragments of speech by Emperor Claudius). Alfoldi also recognized Porsenna of Clusium as the Etruscan king in Rome, who, around 504 BCE, expelled Tarquinius the Delicious and established a republic in Rome, dependent on the Etruscans for the time being. Rome during the reign of Tarquinius was, according to Alfoldi, a small city, modest in size and underdeveloped economy. There was no “great Rome of the Tarquinias” (La grande Roma dei Tarquinii) that was created by annalistic studies and modern historiography. Romans of the royal period. they are a modest people of shepherds, towering over their neighbors. The most important part of Alfoldi’s book is devoted to the mutual relations between Rome and Lazio. The author believes that Rome did not have a dominant position in Lazio at all, he was just an ordinary member of the Latin Federation. Its center was the temple of Diana in Aricia – according to Alfoldi, earlier than the Roman temple of Diana on the Aventine Hill. Rome gained an advantage in the Latin League only in 338 BCE. So the original role of the Eternal City was more than modest.

Alfoldi’s theses caused a great stir among historians, they became the object of criticism from “left” and “right” – it is characteristic, for example, that the traditional image of the “great Rome of Tarquinius” is defended by the previous antagonists: A. Momigliano and E. Gjerstad. the image of Etruscan Rome, conveyed by historiography, is more likely than the reconstruction of the rule of Etruscan “condottiers” given by Alfóldi.

However, this thesis of Alfoldi was defended by an outstanding French etruscologist, J. Heurgon, who in a very positive review of Alfoldi’s work recognizes the importance of his arguments based on the interpretation of Etruscan sources. Also, the assignment of a much more modest role to Rome in the early history of Lazio deserves attention, according to Heurgon. J. Heurgon developed his own views on the origins of Rome in Rome et 1a Mediterranee occidentale jusqu’aux guerres puniques (“Nouvelle Clio” 7, Paris 1968) 19. This book, in accordance with the assumptions the entire series of “Nouvelle Clio” presents the state of the art, research on the period, mainly highlights controversial issues in science and the directions of scientific research. In expressing his own views – especially in terms of chronological findings – Heurgon showed extreme caution. Noteworthy is the consistent treatment of the history of Rome as part of Lazio – in connection with the fate of all Italy, especially the Etruscans. In presenting the image of royal Rome, Heurgon draws attention – following the outstanding religious scholar G. Dumozil, to the great influence of mythology that shaped the vision of the origins of Rome. The reign of the first four kings (not only Romulus) is depicted by annalistic science in a decidedly mythological way. The more certain historical ground does not enter until the Tarquinius dynasty, although the location of Servius Tullius between Tarquinius the Elder and Tarquinius the Delicious seems artificial; these two in turn represent perhaps one person – King Tarquinius. Regardless of these doubts, however, the reign of the Etruscans over Rome and the whole of Lazio is historically certain, confirmed by numerous archaeological and epigraphic traces.

New views on the origins of Rome have been briefly discussed in this paper, because information about them in Polish scientific or popular science literature is so far insufficient. Despite a number of weaknesses, Gjerstad’s theory seems to provide an explanation for many important phenomena in the history of early Rome. In any case, it seems that it is possible to take from it:

  • Division of the earliest period of Roman history into the suburban period (up to c. 575) and the history of the city – Urbs (from c. 575 BCE), regardless of the origins of rural settlements in this area.
  • Recognition of the urbanization work of Rome as its proper foundation.
  • A statement of strong Sabine influences in the early phase of Roman statehood, which is reflected especially in religious relics.
  • The probability of the independence of a certain date of dedication of the temple of Capitoline Jupiter and the introduction of the calendar (508 BCE) from such political events as the overthrow of the Etruscan rule and the establishment of the republic in its traditional form.
  • Credit. a longer period of political and cultural dependence of Rome on the Etruscans, i.e. the shifting of their reign or a more loose form of hegemony to a large part of the 5th century, if not halfway, as Gjerstad proposes, then at least until around 470, which is also based on convincing argument of Bloch and Werner.
Etruscan couple.
Creative Commons Attribution license - On the same terms 3.0.

Gjerstad is “revolutionary” mainly in terms of chronology, his picture of early Roman history takes the credibility of much of the ancient tradition, such as recognizing the historicity of six Roman kings (he only rejects Romulus and Titus Titus) and the activities attributed to them. However, the problem of the names of Roman kings and their numbers is more complicated, as Alfoldi and Heurgon rightly noted, only the reign of the Tarquinias is confirmed by the Etruscan tradition (in the Etruscan tomb of Volci, Cneve Tarchunies Rumach, or Cneus Tarquinius from Rome, appears as an opponent of Mastarna and the Vibenn brothers). However, it is not certain how many Tarquinius really were, some ancient authors consider Tarquinius the Elder and the Proud to be one character, others confuse the activities attributed to them. The supercritical German historian H. Bengtson rejects the entire tradition of the royal era, believing that Roman kings are not living people, but the embodiment of the main Roman virtues, figures invented for the purpose of explaining the uprising. certain political and religious institutions. This extreme view probably goes too far. However, it is not excluded that new sources, especially Etruscan, will make us revise the list of Roman kings in the spirit of, for example, the proposals currently put forward by Alfoldi.

All modern historians agree that an essential role in the early history of Rome was played by the Etruscans. It finds expression in the very name of Rome (etr. Ruma) and in the names of the three oldest Roman tribes: Ramnes, Tities and Luceres (etr. republican. Further research on the history of the Etruscans, especially the progress in understanding their written sources, may bring new findings for the history of Rome – prove or disprove what is only a hypothesis today.

  • Beard Mary, SPQR. Historia starożytnego Rzymu, Poznań 2016
  • Historia Powszechna t. 4. Konsolidacja hellenizmu. Początki Rzymu i przemiany świata klasycznego, kons. prof. dr hab. E. Papuci-Władyka, prof. dr hab. J. Ostrowski
  • Jaczynowska Maria, Historia Starożytnego Rzymu, Wyd.VI., PWN, Warszawa 1986
  • Ziółkowski Adam, Historia Rzymu, Poznań 2008

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