Third-century Roman writer Fabius Pictor gave the founding date as

748 BC, but other dates (728, 751, 753) were favoured by later Republican writers. It was the scholar M. Terentius Varro who set the official date of 753 in stone at the end of the Republican period.

Romulus gathered around him outcasts and exiles from the surrounding settlements, but almost all young men. Concerned that there were insufficient women to ensure the survival of the fledgling state, he arranged a feast for the neighbouring Sabines, settled on the Quirinal, the most northerly of the seven hills. After the Sabine men were thoroughly inebriated, Romulus and his supporters seized the women. Fortunately, they fell in love with their captors and ultimately brokered a peace between Romans and Sabines.

After reigning for 35 or 37 years, Romulus was swept to heaven in a great storm, although it’s more likely that he was was murdered by colleagues outraged at his growing delusions of grandeur. Romans later worshipped him as the god Quirinus.

This account approximates those given by different Roman historians, including Livy, although some feature other characters, leading to a rich weave of legend including linking the brothers’ descent to the family of Aeneas, the Trojan hero. Mythology loomed large for Romans, even in empire days – it was obvioulsy advantageous to link Rome’s founder with powerful gods.

The legend was circulated from the fourth century BC. Those propagating the story did not have access to the information we have now, that the area we know today as Rome was settled centuries before the era supposedly belonging to Romulus. The remains of prehistoric rectangular wattle and daub huts on the southwest of the Palatine hill are proof of it.

But perhaps the important factor is not who founded Rome but why. As Livy put it in his History of Rome: Not without good reason did gods and men select this place for founding a city: these most healthful hills; a commodious river, by means of which the produce of the soil may be conveyed from the inland countries, by which maritime supplies may be obtained; close enough to the sea for all purposes of convenience, and not exposed by too much proximity to the dangers of foreign fleets.

Once populated, there was little to distinguish Rome from a number of other settlements around Italy. Indeed, many boasted a culture and a history that far exceeded that of the infant Rome


Reconstruction of an early Roman settlement on the Palatine. The huts are plastered mud, with thatched roofs. In tha background people can be seen fording the Tiber long beforre the construction of the Sublican bridge.

  The Lapis Niger is a fragment of stone
  found under paving in the Forum. It is Rome's earliest known public document, c. early 6th century BC. The archaic Latin text cannot be fully understood, but is thought to be a ritual inscription fpr religious performance of the maintenance of a sanctuary.

Interior views of the so-called Romulan huts on the Palatine. Click either picture for large view.

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