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Useful Notes / Rome

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The Colosseum has been there since a millennium before that car rolled off the production line. It will still be there a millennium after the last one has turned to red sand.note 

I found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble.

Also known as the Eternal City, Rome is Italy's capital.

The city was the heart, soul and body of The Roman Republic (The Roman Empire not so much — towards the end, the capital shifted to Milan and Ravenna, while the Eastern Empire, a.k.a. the Byzantine Empire, was administered from Constantinople). The historian Livy titled his book Ab Urbe Condita ("From the Founding of the City"). It was surrounded by seven hills: Aventine, Caelian, Capitoline, Esquiline, Palatine, Quirinal, Viminal. The words "capital" and "palace" derive from two of the hills and their importance to administration and expensive real estate. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, being continuously inhabited since at least 1,000 BC, and certainly the first major city of its kind, boasting a population of 1 million by First Century BCE and expanding greatly in size and scope during the height of the Empire. The river Tiber flows through the city, and owing to the Republic and later the Empire, it and other aspects of the city architecture and topography have entered Pop-Cultural Osmosis.

The ideas most people about Ancient Grome, i.e. the amazing architecture and large buildings, come from the era of The Roman Empire. The major monuments from the Etruscan era is the famous Cloaca Maxima sewage system (which the Romans were justifiably proud of even in the Ancient days), and from the Republican era, there is the Roman Forum or the ruins of it, which was largely leveled and rebuilt by Augustus and from him and the later Emperors comes such monumental buildings as the Colosseum/Flavian Amphitheater (commissioned by Vespasian and completed under Titus), the Pantheon (commissioned by Hadrian), Trajan's Market (completed by Trajan), the baths of Diocletian and Caracalla, and the Pyramid of Cestius.note  The Tomb of Emperor Hadrian was converted by later Popes into a castle and taken as a residence in Castel Sant'Angelo, which at one point was the tallest structure in Western Europe.

As a modern city, Rome is the largest city and urban area in Italy, as well as the third-most populous city proper in The European Union (after Berlin and Madrid, and just ahead of Paris). As the capital, it is the center for the Italian government and much economic activity, although Italy's industrial, financial, and design capital is in the northern city of Milan. Modern Rome, being built on, well, Ancient Rome and Medieval Rome, can be extremely difficult city to get around, and traffic is always terrible. It doesn't help that Roman drivers have a deserved reputation for insanity. This is often the first thing modern Romans mention to visitors, or complain about to each other. And don't think you can avoid this by taking public transit; the bus drivers are just as insane as the other drivers, and while Rome does have a Metro, it's surprisingly lacking because (again) Modern Rome is built on Ancient Rome and Medieval Rome means that building it goes very slowly and expensively due to the tendency of serious digging in Rome to reveal some valuable artifact or other. Vatican City is technically a separate country within the city of Rome, as it is the last remnant of the Papal States.

Towards the end of the Empire, Rome suffered decline, with various Emperors shifting the capital (and as such much of the administration and other anteceding activities) and the center largely became Constantinople. Rome would be sacked in 410 CE and 455 CE. The former was the first Sack in nearly a thousand years (396 BCE by the Gauls led by Brennus). When the Empire fell, the city was occupied by the Ostragoths who repelled a siege by the Byzantine Empire under Belisarius but the campaigns and fighting between the Byzantines and the Goths, devastated the city and much of Italy. Rome would later be sacked twice, once by the Normans in 1084 and then in 1527 by the Holy Roman Empire (right when Henry VIII was asking the besieged pope for a divorce from the Emperor's Aunt Catherine). Still The Renaissance and the Baroque Era was to prove to be its resurgence. It became the center of art during the Cinquecento (1500), where much of the decay and dereliction from neglect and looting was repaired. It was the heart of Catholic power and the Counter-Reformation (despite a brief attempt by the French King, Philip IV, to bring The Pope to Avignon). The fall of The Papal States completed the Risorgimento and the founding of Italy's constitutional monarchy, which overlapped with Fascist Italy until World War II. Rome once again became a major center of arts and nightlife during The '40s and The '50s, becoming the center of Italy's Economic Miracle (Il Boom) attracting celebrities from across the world, with Hollywood making many of its epics at Cinecitta Studios (founded by Mussolini himself incidentally). This era was typified by films like La Dolce Vita and LAvventura and Rome became a center of the global fashion industry (second to Milan, the same city that displaced it as the capital of the Roman Empire).

Modern depictions of Rome focus on its famous monuments from different eras of history, the spectacle of the Vatican, the Trevi Fountain, people travelling on Vespas and its general mix of luxury, grandeur, decay and corruption which is consistent to Rome across the ancient, medieval and modern eras.

Rome in Fiction

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Ancient Rome:


  • Bob Dylan's "When I Paint My Masterpiece", covered famously by The Band:
    "Oh, the streets of Rome are filled with rubble,
    Ancient footprints are everywhere.
    You can almost think that you're seein' double
    On a cold, dark night on the Spanish Stairs."

  • Cesare - Il Creatore che ha distrutto is set mostly in Pisa, where Cesare Borgia, 16, is in school, but a subplot involves his father and other cardinals in Rome. They meet in the Sistine Chapel, depicted as it looked before Michelangelo got to it (though the Borgias' enemy Giuliano della Rovere, who would later commission those frescoes, sees them in a vision (projected on stage) after he hears of the failure of the assassination attempt he ordered on Cesare. He gets an excellent sympathetic Villain Song about it.)
  • Coriolanus follows the titular Ancient Roman general.
  • Julius Caesar follows the assassins of the titular Ancient Roman general.
  • Nine (Musical) is about an Italian film director in the 1960s.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed: Rome is featured in the first two games of the "Ezio Auditore Trilogy", the Animus parts of which are set during The Renaissance.
    • Assassin's Creed II: The last memory of the game takes place in Rome, with Ezio Auditore making his way through the Passetto di Borgo from the Castle Sant'Angelo to the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican to confront the Final Boss, Pope Alexander VI.
    • Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood: The game takes place almost entirely in Rome immediately after the end of Assassin's Creed II, with Ezio rebuilding the city's Assassin brotherhood to its former glory to go up against the Borgias' supposed tyranny during the Italian Wars. In the modern-day storyline, Desmond Miles and his fellow Assassins search for the Apple of Eden Ezio left behind and get to explore the ruins of the Colosseum and the Santa Maria in Aracoeli basilica to find it.
    • Assassin's Creed Origins recreates the assassination of Julius Caesar in the city.

Alternative Title(s): The Eternal City