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Early Rome

Updated on August 14, 2009

Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of the city of Rome, were supposedly raised by a she-wolf after they were abandoned at birth.

According to tradition, Rhea Silvia was the daughter of Numitor, the rightful ruler of the ancient kingdom of Alba Longa in Italy. When Romulus and Remus were born, Numitor's brother Amulius, who had usurped the throne, cast the children into the Tiber. However, they were washed ashore near the Palatine Hill and cared for by a she-wolf. In time, they were found by a shepherd in the royal household, who raised them to manhood. Romulus and Remus then overthrew Amulius and restored Numitor to the throne. Numitor was the last of the Alban kings, who were descended from the Trojan hero Aeneas. The Romans thus traced their ancestry back to Aeneas.

Their uncle Amulius ordered them to be drowned together with their mother; but they were miraculously saved by a she-wolf, finally receiving protection from the herdsman Faustulus and his wife.

On reaching manhood, they expelled the usurper, Amulius, and restored their grandfather Numitor to the throne of Alba. They then asked his permission to build a city on the Tiber, but quarrelled over its site and name.

They disagreed, on the best location for the city. When the omens favored Romulus' choice of the Palatine Hill, Remus became enraged. To show his contempt, he leaped over the fortifications that Romulus was building around the city, and Romulus killed him. In remorse, Romulus established the Lemuria, a festival for the dead, in honor of Remus. The legendary date of the founding of Rome, the city named for Romulus, is 753 B.C.

The first King of Rome, Romulus, ruled the city well for nearly forty years. He then disappeared, supposedly carried into the heavens by his father Mars. The Romans later worshiped Romulus as a god under the name of Quirinus.

Photography by Paola
Photography by Paola

Early History

The Latins were a branch of Indo-European peoples who came into Italy from across the Alps towards the end of the second millennium B.C.

Modern archaeologists believe that Rome was settled in about 1000 B.C. by the Latins, who were shepherds and farmers inhabiting the region known as Latium, south of the Tiber River. The Latins comprised many separate tribes that shared a common language, religion, and culture. Their capital city, Alba Longa, was a religious center and the seat of a popular assembly and court of justice. From the beginning of Rome's history its people seem to have spoken the Latin language, worshiped Latin gods, and given Latin titles to their public officials.

The numerous hill-top settlements of these people gradually coalesced into larger city states, the greatest of which was Rome. The dominant position of Rome was assured by its geographical situation within easy reach of the sea and the centre of the peninsula, by its command of the Tiber ford, and by its consequent control of an important salt route between the mount of the river and the Apennines.

The site of Rome appears to have been early settled by Villanovi and Sabines, two peoples bound by close ties of language and custom, living as agriculturists and shepherds, in villages linked by a loose tribal organization. Some villages grew into compact city-states, others decayed; amongst the strongest was Rome.

In the 8th century B.C. the Latins were one of the largest groups of tribal peoples in Italy. Neighboring tribes were the Samnites and the Sabines. who inhabited the ranges of the Apennines. Two advanced societies also occupied the Italian peninsula. The Etruscans, a cultivated people noted for their architecture, fine tomb paintings, and metalwork, were established on Italy's western coast, from the north bank of the Tiber River to the Po river valley. In the southern part of Italy the Greeks had established colonies that became outposts of eastern civilization. Latins, Greeks, and Etruscans met to trade on the Tiber River at the present day site of Rome, where a small settlement had been built.

Latin Kings

Livy and Plutarch wrote that Romulus was Rome's first king and that during his rule, Sabine tribes were established on Capitoline and Quirinal hills, which became part of Rome. The next king, Numa Pompilius, ruled from about 714 B.C. to 671 B.C. in a long period of unbroken peace. His successor, Tullus Hostilius, was reputed to have destroyed Alba Longa and moved its inhabitants to Caelian Hill. According to tradition, Rome's last Latin king, Ancus Martius, built the Sublician Bridge across the Tiber River late in the 7th century B.C. The wood bridge was the first in Rome, and it enabled Romans to extend their dominion westward to the Tyrrhenian Sea and to found the seaport of Ostia, at the mouth of the Tiber River.

Photography by Paola
Photography by Paola

Etruscan Kings

Three Etruscan kings ruled Rome, probably as absolute monarchs, from about 615 B.C. to 509 B.C. They were Tarquinius Priscus (Tarquin the Elder), Servius Tullius, and Tarquinius Superbus (Tarquin the Proud). Rome grew in importance as a city-state during Etruscan rule. The marshes between the hills in the center of Rome were drained, and a forum was established, where the city's political and commercial business was transacted. At that time, construction probably began on Capitoline Hill of a great temple to Jupiter. Part of the Servian Wall, reputedly built by Servius Tullius but probably dating from the 4th century B.C., is still standing in Rome.

In 509 B.C. the last Etruscan king, Tarquinius Superbus, was expelled, the monarchy abolished, and a decree that there would be no more kings in Rome.

Two annually elected magistrates called consuls were appointed, though in an emergency these might be superseded temporarily by the appointment of a dictator.

The ejection of the Etruscan kings brought about the establishment of a republican government in Rome.


  • The New International Illustrated Encyclopaedia, Volume 5, 1954. Page 381.
  • Merit Students Encyclopedia, Volume 16, P.F. Collier Inc, 1979. Page 127.
  • Merit Students Encyclopedia, Volume 16, P.F. Collier Inc, 1979. Page 140.
  • New Age Encyclopaedia, Seventh Edition edited by D. A. Girling, Bay Books, 1983. Volume 21, Page 119.
  • New Age Encyclopaedia, Seventh Edition edited by D. A. Girling, Bay Books, 1983. Volume 25, Page 16.


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    • darkside profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Australia

      Lina, there were a lot of tribes. But at one stage the Etruscans inhabited that area. Check out my hub on the Etruscans (

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      i'm doing homework but the question: is early in rome's history,what people occupied the po river valley in the north. but can't find the answer or the key


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