Happy 2,770th birthday to Rome!
Today Rome celebrates its 2,770th birthday
by Damien Martin
It began as a small farming community on a hilltop and worked its way up from to regional power to caput mundi, “the head of the world.”
Over the centuries, it’s been saved by sacred geese, the last man standing in a battle between two sets of triplets and a Brutus or two.
Today, Rome celebrates its 2,770th birthday, and in a lot of ways, it looks better than ever. Thanks in large part to private sponsorship, landmarks such as the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps have been refurbished in recent years, beautifying a city that welcomes between 7-10 million guests annually.
La Città Eterna, “the eternal city,” has been many things to many people over time. It was the world’s first metropolis, surpassing 1 million residents in the 2nd century AD, and saw its population drop to around 30,000 at its low point a few hundred years. The Forum, power center of an empire that ruled a quarter of the world’s population at its height, served as a grazing area for cattle for a period during the middle ages.
Through it all, Rome has endured in the imaginations of Westerners, coloring everything from our calendar to the design of our capital cities to the languages we speak.
As with most things having to do with Rome, the celebration of its birthday has its roots in legend. April 21 was originally the Parilia, a festival dedicated to Pales, an ancient pastoral deity. The coming of spring brought new sheep to the flocks, immensely important to a society built on herding and farming. As Rome grew and became more urbanized, the festival evolved into the Romaia, a celebration of the city itself, traditionally said to have been founded by Romulus in 753 BC.
As Rome evolves and changes, so do we all. So I won’t ask you to jump through fire with your sheep to celebrate today, but you might take a minute to think about the contributions of the city that invented modern Western society and what St. Jerome described as “the brightest light of the whole world.”