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Rome Spectacularly Celebrates its 2,776th Birthday

Rome Birthday
The ancient city of Rome’s birthday was marked with parades by re-enactors on April 21. Credit: Flickr / Roberto Ventre CC BY 2.0

On Saturday April 21, the city of Rome celebrated what is believed to be its 2,776th birthday during a traditional celebration called Natale di Roma.

The founding of the Eternal City was marked on Saturday with parades of re-enactors dressed as ancient Roman soldiers and gladiators, as well as re-enactments of ancient Roman rituals.

The ancient Romans themselves marked the day of their city’s foundation with the festival of the Parilia. During this festival, the Romans honored Pales, the enigmatic deity of shepherds, flocks, and livestock.


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♬ original sound – Live Virtual Guide | Rome


Rome’s birthday celebrations

Modern-day celebrations of Rome’s foundation take place between April 20 and April 23. At the heart of the celebrations this year was a re-enactment group called the Gruppo Storico Romano who have been bringing ancient Roman history to life for more than two decades.

The landmark cultural event kicked off last Thursday with a ceremony called the “Renewal of the Sacred Fire” at Campo Marzio. This was followed by the “Benedictio Vrbi” ceremony in the Piazza della Rotonda.

The event culminated with a historical procession on Sunday, which included about 2,500 costumed re-enactors dressed convincingly as ancient Romans.

According to the Gruppo Storico Romano website, visitors to the event marking Rome’s birthday were able to “relive the glories of the Empire, immerse themselves in the political struggle of the republican times, savor the military cult, among gladiators, legionaries, praetorians and lictors. But also nymphs, vestals, matrons and all the apparatus of the pagan religion.”

The re-enactment group explain that the authenticity of the event “is based on historical research, using clothes, weapons, tools and objects that reproduce the Roman era, trying to reconstruct the daily life, battles, ceremonies and commercial and agricultural activities of that company.”

Dies Natalis

Rome’s birthday celebrations were not the only notable events in the city this month. On April 21, the mythical foundation date of the city, the dies Natalis phenomenon occurs in the Pantheon, one of the Eternal City’s most famous landmarks.

Every year on this particular day, the sun at noon moves into the circular opening of the Pantheon in Rome and generates a circular beam of light that aligns precisely with the entrance.

According to the Italian Ministry of Culture, the Roman emperor would then enter the temple and his body would be bathed in light.

As noted in an academic paper by Marina De Franceschini for the Astronomic Observatory of Genoa, the Pantheon would be illuminated by sunlight at various important astronomical, religious, or symbolic equations throughout the year.

The foundation of Rome

According to Roman mythology, the city of Rome was founded by the twin brothers, Romulus and Remus, in 753 BC. The mythological tale describes how the two brothers were abandoned as infants and left to die by the Tiber River. However, they were discovered and rescued by a she-wolf, who nursed and raised them until they were found by a shepherd named Faustulus.

The brothers grew up to become skilled warriors and decided to establish a city on the spot where they had been rescued by the she-wolf. However, a quarrel arose between them over where the city should be located, and Romulus killed Remus in the dispute. Romulus then went on to found the city of Rome and became its first king.

The exact date for the city’s founding is attributed to a number of ancient sources. Plutarch, a Greek philosopher and historian of the first century AD, recorded that Rome’s foundation on April 21 coincided with the festival of the Parilia, held in honor of the deity Pales.

Marcus Terentius Varro, a Roman polymath and author, also recorded the date as April 21 in his work De Lingua Latina (“On the Latin Language”). Although other ancient historians have given different dates for Rome’s birthday and there is considerable modern debate, this particular date has stuck throughout the centuries.

Of course, there is considerable modern historical debate as to the true date of the foundation of Rome, but April 21, 753 BC is generally accepted.

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