The history of Rome is based on myth, which Romans proudly celebrate April 21. Rome's beginnings start with the fall of Troy and Aeneas's escape from the burning city. Fleeing by ship, Aeneas landed on the Italian peninsula and establishes Albalunga, a community in Lazio. As myth recounts, Aeneas' descendant Rhea Silvia was forced to become a Vestal Virgin so as not to bear children. However, Rhea Silvia was loved by the god Mars and bore him twin sons, Romulus and Remus, who were placed in a basket in the Tiber River to be killed. But the twins washed ashore close to the Palatine hill and were nurtured by a she-wolf and eventually raised by a shepherd. Romulus and Remus grow up and take residence on the Palatine and Aventinte hills, respectively. According to the myth, the brothers argued over who would be the foretold founder of an empire so Romulus killed Remus and founded the city of Rome on April 21, 753 BC.
Rome's ancient history covers three distinct periods—the Age of the Kings, the Republican Age and the Imperial Age. From Romulus, the small hillside community was ruled by the "king of the hill" until 510 BC. Seven historic kings who change Rome from a small shepherding town into a cosmopolitan city with complex governing and trading programs and an impressive drainage system. With its constant exposure to far more democratic states, especially Greece, Rome's kings were ousted and in its place was an advanced republic, which is the blueprint for all future democracies. The republic was also characterized by internal struggles that eventually due to the rise of the plebeians (lower class Romans). The Republic was not just city, but a concept that expanded through Lazio, the Italic peninsula and eventually the Mediterranean. For almost four centuries, Rome built unparalleled and nearly infallible republic, accomplishing what Greece, Persia and Egypt could not-- the unification of the East and West.
Corruption was rampant, likewise egos and the Republic was shattered with the death of Julius Caesar on March 15, 44 BC. Chaos reigned but 31 BC marks the beginning of the Empire, under Augustus Caesar. The imperial age opened with a long period of peace, Pax Romanus, under the iron grip of Augustus. And by the beginning of the 2nd century under Trajan, the empire's expanse was in its full glory. However, instability and corruption were popular within the empire and likewise within the psyche of the Emperors. Centuries forward brought dilution of the boundaries and of the emperors. Christianity, legalized under Constantine in 312 AD, began to spread and create a strong presence that challenged imperial regime.
The official fall of Rome is marked at 476 AD, but its decline was seen much earlier. The causes are many: constant relocation of the capital, uncontrollable subjects, quixotic social and economic changes, and finally the arrival and strength of the barbarian tribes. Rome was left as a bandit town, a gangland and an abyss through the Middle Ages. The only ruling party was papal, but again, the city was anarchy. However, the Pope's power evolved from religious to military, and through out the centuries grew exponentially. In 1377, Rome was established as official papal headquarters and by the end of the 15th century, its cultural impact on the city was seen in the papal beautification programs—essentially urban planning. The face of the city changed, as palaces, villas, piazzas and churches were built. New streets were created and the basilica of Saint Peter was leveled and rebuilt, followed by two more centuries of expansion and beautification. Clashes continued between the papacy and Rome's people, and in the beginning of the 1800s, Napoleon changed the landscape as church's estates were confiscated and divided amongst French officials and Italian laymen. The 1800s were an era of unrest through out the Peninsula, with the rising campaign to overthrow the pope and install a monarchy. In 1870, the campaign succeeded and Italy was established as a country free of papal rule, led by both a king and parliament with Rome as its capital. In 1923, Mussolini was elected to Parliament and eventually becomes 20th century tyrant heralding Fascism. World War II caused tantamount strife in Italy as Italy was first part of the axis and then surrendered to the Allied forces in 1943, leading Germany to occupy Rome for over 9 months as the King fled. The city was bombed by the Allies and in April 1944 it was liberated. In 1946, Italy became once again a republic, exiling its monarchy, and ever since, Rome has been the hotbed of Italy's whimsical politics.