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If Paris is the city of love, Rome is definitely the city of food! From pasta to gelato, Rome is food heaven. For those of us who eat our way through Rome, we definitely need to be rolled down those cobblestone streets with our bellies filled of Italian wine and gnocchi. Guiltless, absolutely guiltless gluttony!
Rome is also known for more than just it’s pasta of course. It’s an ancient city filled with powerful warriors and rulers, not to mention gods and goddesses! From Caesar to Nero, and the Colosseum to the Pantheon, Rome is full of colorful characters and histories. Read on to learn all kinds of interesting facts about the eternal city of Rome!
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As the story goes, two twin brothers named Romulus and Remus were abandoned by their mother on the banks for the Tiber river. A she-wolf took them in as her own cubs and nursed them back to health. They then went on to found the city of Rome! When they argued about who would rule the city, Remus was killed and Romulus became king! Hence: Rome.
From the very beginning, all the way back to the time of Romulus, Rome had an organized military system. Historians believe that regiments of 3,000 infantry and 300 cavalry were organized and prepared for battle. Romulus had his legions!
Ancient Rome has had a polytheistic religion that centered on many Gods and Goddesses. The main gods and goddesses were named after the planets such as Jupiter, Mars, and Venus. These gods and goddesses were each in charge of a specific part of the world and life, from love to nature to war. Everybody had their own job to do!
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The Colosseum sure has been around the while as it was commissioned by Emperor Vespasian around 70-72 AD. It was in 80 AD that the Colosseum officially opened to the public! It had 100 days of games, which would indeed be gladiator fights and wild animal flights.
The Colosseum is the largest amphitheater in the world, 189m long and 156m wide. It is approximately the height of a 12 story building, measuring about 50m high. Amphitheater means “theatre in the round,” and interesting enough the building isn’t round. It’s oval!
The Colosseum’s main events had no entry fee, they were free and open to the public. Oftentimes, there was even free food as well! The Emperors of the time used the Colosseum’s events as a way to garner public support. Make it rain, Emperors!
The time of the gladiators had passed, and the Colosseum fell into ruin. It was only actually an active arena for just four centuries before the Romans ran out of ideas of how to use this giant oval. They decided to take the stones out of the structure to build other things, up until the 18th century it was a glorified stone-shop!
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Just a hop, skip, and a jump across the Mediterranean Sea as the city of Carthage in North Africa. The Ancient Romans fought the Punic Wars with Carthage from 264 BC to 146 BC. Rome and Carthage were both powerful cities with expanding empires so of course, battles must commence! There were three major wars until the Romans finally prevailed!
There was a big battle with a big name: The Battle of Cynoscephalae! This battle happened in 364 BC and officially marked the defeat of all the successors of the infamous Greek leader, Alexander the Great. Rome had officially prevailed as the main world power!
Oh Julius Caesar, the man with a salad named after him! His legions of warriors fought an intense civil war against the Senate. The war lasted a total of four brutal years, between 49BC – 45 BC, until Caesar won and became the Dictator of Rome. This victory signaled the end of the Roman Republic.
The ill-fated historic couple, Marc Antony and Cleopatra! Who hasn’t seen a few good Halloween costumes over the years, right? The Battle of Actium in 31BC was when Octavian’s forces, led by Marcus Agrippa, conquered the combined forces of Roman general Marc Antony and Egyptian Pharaoh Cleopatra VII. Marcus Agrippa decided to celebrate the victory with a name change and became Augustus the emperor.
Julius Caesar was born on July 13, 100 BC. It only took him 25 years of living and breathing until he was captured by pirates. He was sailing to Rhodes to study with a famous Greek teacher, but his ship was overtaken by pirates. The pirates set a low ransom price and Caesar was so offended he demanded that they increase his ransom price! Big ego, big time!
It is believed that Caesar had a son with Cleopatra! They became romantically involved around 48 BC and she gave birth to a boy a year later. Cleopatra named her son Ptolemy Caesar, and the Egyptians referred to him as Caesarian, which translates to “little Caesar.”
Before the time of Caesar, Romans used a calendar based on the lunar cycle and it was pretty confusing and inconsistent. Caesar realized that this was a bit of a problem, and after consulting with astronomers, he implemented a new system called the Julian calendar which was based on the solar cycle. It gave us 365 days in a year and an extra day every four years, called leap day. Thanks, Caesar!
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The Vatican is technically an independent city-state that is about 100 acres large. The Vatican is the smallest country in the world and is governed by the pope. It really is it’s own country! They even issue license plates!
So, the Vatican is pretty nice right? The popes all get a pretty nice room, pretty comfy living right? Well, for 60 years in between the 1800s and 1900s the popes absolutely refused to leave the Vatican. Well, they didn’t want to submit to the “Kingdom of Italy” when the secular government took control, so they might have been more like prisoners. But at least they were comfy!
The Vatican has approximately 600 citizens. That’s fewer people than were at my high school! Anyways, interestingly enough, the majority of these citizens live outside of the Vatican! There is 307 members of the clergy who have diplomatic positions and are stationed outside of the Vatican. The Vatican is a tiny city filled with less than half its residents.
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Rome dominated a majority of Europe and the Mediterranean for over a thousand years! But everything must come to an end. Around 200 AD, there Roman Empire began to decline and finally fell in 476 AD.
Rome didn’t fall in a single day, power gradually slipped from its grasp. There were a lot of good reasons too, why Rome just couldn’t stay on top. Reasons such as civil wars, corrupt politicians, and attacks from barbarian tribes.
Rome became too large to manage and the guys in charge realized it. Emperor Diocletian declined to split Rome into the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire. The Roman Empire ruled the West and Constantinople ruled the East. When Rome fell, we mean the Eastern Roman Empire because Constantinople had his act together and kept the Eastern Empire intact for nearly another thousand years!
Rome is home to the only Pasta Museum in the world! In the museum, you can enjoy works of art made from pasta and over eight centuries worth of Pasta history! There are also exhibits on how pasta is made, from how the grain is milled to how the pasta dough is named. Can you say Y-U-M?
The Capitoline Museums are often regarded as the first public museum in the whole wide world. Way to make magic happen, again Rome! Sitting on top of Rome’s Capitoline Hill, the collection of bronze and marble statues and art date back to 1471 when Pope Sixtus IV donated the statues to Rome. The museum opened to the public in 1734 when Pope Clement XII decided sharing is caring!
The Galleria Borghese is housed in a former Villa and is enclosed in gorgeous gardens. Inside the gallery is a large collection of art and antiquities that was first collected by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in 1613. There happens to be some big names and heavy hitters present at the Galleria Borghese like Caravaggio, Raphael, and Titian. Oh boys!
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The Pantheon was constructed almost 2000 years ago and apparently, when Michelangelo first laid eyes on this architectural beauty he said that it looked like the work of angels, not humans. In fact, the Pantheon was originally built as a temple to the ancient gods of Rome. The name the Pantheon translates in Greek to “honor all Gods.”
The Pantheon is an incredibly well preserved ancient Roman monument. For being such an old gall, she managed to avoid raids and destruction by turning into a church in 609 AD. Also, there may be a little magic in the mix as the exact composition of the materials used to make the Pantheon resembles the concrete we use today. The Pantheon has stood the test of time by being a little ahead of its time!
The Pantheon has a giant dome, which just happens to be the biggest in the world that is unsupported. No columns needed, folks! It’s perfectly proportioned in that the height of the done is precisely equal to its width!
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The ancient Roman Empire had a pretty sad mortality rate. Around half of its population would die by the age of 5. Then, half of the remaining population wouldn’t make it to 50. There were low marriage ages and high fertility within marriage, a tough mix for ancient times and low mortality rates.
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In the 2nd Century CE, during the reign of Emperor Augustus, Rome was the proud home to over one million people. There wasn’t any other city in the Western world that would clock in a population of that size until the 19th century.
Today, the population of Rome is approximately 2.87 million. That doesn’t include the surrounding urban areas nor metropolitan areas. But if we want to count those, it’s nearly 4.3 million. Rome is the fourth most populated city in the EU.
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Nero didn’t have a long life, but he sure got a lot of crazy stuff done. He lived from 37-68 AD and was crowned emperor of the Roman Empire in 54 AD. Unfortunately, he liked to murder and burn people, such as his mother and his first and second wives. He killed himself, too.
Nero is known most famously for his persecution of Christians. He is blamed for starting the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD. However, after this fire, he faulted the Christians and burned them at the stake and crucified them. Not good, Nero. Not Good.
Rome is often referred to as the eternal city, as it has an ancient history and isn’t going anywhere these days either. Rome has always had a firm grip on the wheel of power and has had eyes looking to the future.
The city known for warriors, art, and of course, pasta, Rome is more than worthy of a visit and definitely deserves a little background history brush-up. Just for reading this you’ve earned yourself a high-five! Go ahead and bestow one upon yourself!
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Lily Allen-Duenas is a wandering yoga instructor, massage therapist, and reiki healer. For the last two years she’s been journeying around the world, teaching yoga on island resorts in Cambodia, surf hostels in Sri Lanka, and wellness centers in the Phillipines. Lily loves building her life around her passions, health, wellness, and travel. You can follow her journey at wildyogatribe.com or get social with her @wildyogatribe