The Birthday of Rome: legends and facts on 21st April

“Rome wasn’t built in a day”: but when did they start building Rome? If the legend is correct, the first stone in Rome was set on April 21st, 753 BC.
The Birthday of Rome is still celebrated in a glorious way: take the once in a lifetime chance to celebrate the eternal city and enjoy this special atmosphere!

 The Legend about the Foundation of Rome

The legend regarding the birthday of Rome is an amazing one and allows us to understand a little bit more about the history of the city. According to the legend, Rome was founded by two twins, Romulus and Remus, who were orphans and survived being suckled by a she-wolf. To reinforce the relationship between Rome and the Gods, the two twins were said to be the children of the God of War, Mars, and Rhea Silvia, daughter of King Numitor of Alba Longa.

The legend of Romulus and Remus is quite a dramatic one. Rhea Silvia’s uncle, Amulius, wanted her daughter to remain a vestal virgin and forced her to give away her children, which were drowned in River Tiber. Maybe because they had Gods as ancestors, the two twins survived and were washed by the River Tiber to the foot of Palatine Hill. There, they were found by a she-wolf, who suckled them and let them survive.
This is why the symbol of Rome is still the image of a she-wolf with two children underneath and why one of the two football teams of Rome, AS Roma, has a wolf as its symbol.

One day the twins were rescued by a shepherd and grew up with a group of shepherd warriors, eventually becoming heads of the tribe. When they were told that they were the heirs to the throne of Alba Longa, they stroke an attack against the empire, managed to defeat Amulius and established their own city in the place where the shepherd found them years before.

Unfortunately, the legend has a dramatic epilogue: misunderstandings led the twins to quarrel and Romulus killed Remus. Being the only heir, Romulus became the king of the newly founded city and called it Rome.

Why is the birthday of Rome celebrated on 21st April?

It was a Roman scholar, Marcus Terentius Varro, who in 1 BC set an exact date for the founding of Rome: the chosen date was April 21st because it was the day of the festival sacred to Pales, goddess of shepherds; in her honour, Rome celebrated the Par ilia (or Palilia).

Romans had given several dates as an option for the founding of the city during the years. The dates which varied between 753 BC and 728 BC, but at the end Varro decided to set the date to 753 BC.

This date is also supported by what more than one archaeologist found in their excavations. Recent discoveries on Palatine Hill in Rome supported the date of Rome’s founding as chosen by Varro. A series of fortification walls was found on the north slope of Palatine Hill, walls which can be dated to the middle of the 8th century BC, exactly when legend says that Romulus plowed a furrow (sulcus) around the Palatine Hill to mark the boundary of the new city he was founding.

The Celebrations Birthday of Rome on 21st April

Visiting the city on the birthday of Rome will give you the unmissable chance of seeing the city at its best. Rome’s birthday celebrations involve lots of activities like concerts, reenactments of historic events, parades and other cultural celebrations at Circus Maximus. Take some time to admire the Colosseum lights up with gladiator displays and fireworks.

Many archaeological sites of Rome will be involved in the celebrations, for example Circus Maximum, Campidoglio Square (on the Capitol Hill) and the Roman Forum, between 21st and 24th April 2016.

Below are some of the main events you may want to see:

Thursday 21st April

  • 3 pm at Circus Maximum: historical reenactment of the “plowing of the furrow” (“Tracciato del Solco”), the moment when Romulus started the founding of Rome 2769 years ago.
  • 4 pm at Circus Maximum: an amazing show to reenact the “Festa della Palilia”, the religious ceremony held in Ancient Rome on 21st April, when sheep and shepherds, so important to Rome’s economy and culture, were purified.
  • 5 pm at Circus Maximum: equestrian event “Horses in Rome”, telling the story of the deep relationship between Rome and horses, with a spectacular event organized by the cultural association “Roman Carnival: Equestrian Theatre Academy” together with the “Museum of Vintage Carriages”.

Friday 22nd April and Saturday 23rd April

  • 2-4 pm at Circus Maximum: Gladiators Games with the children of Rome at the “castrum”.

Sunday 24th April

  • 10-11 am at the Circus Maximum: “Commissio Feriarium”, a suggestive reenactment of the ritual ceremony of fire ignition.
  • 11am – 1 pm a massive group, consisting of 2000 people from all over Italy and Europe,  will parade from the Circus Maximum, passing through the Theatre of Marcellus, Capitoline Hill, Venezia Square, Roman Forum and Colosseum, coming back to Circus Maximum.
  • 2-5 pm at Circus Maximum: shows and historical reenactments made by the groups which joined the parade.
  • 5 pm at Circus Maximum: Grand finale, with an amazing reenactment of the battle between Rome and Britannia, which took place in 44 AD.

Don’t forget to visit the photographic exhibition of the “Birthday of Rome”, organized by the association “Fotografiamo”. It will be open to visitors from 21st April to 23rd April 2016.

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