The Roman Empire and Republic, which dominated Europe, the Mediterranean, Asia Minor and North Africa for over seven centuries from the 1st century BCE until the 7th century CE, is credited with much of what gave birth to the western civilisation, although it stole a lot of its ideas from Greece.


Although the area shows archaeological evidence of human occupation for over 10000 years, Rome claimed to have been founded by Romulus who murdered his brother, but more likely by refugees fleeing the fallen Troy, was the capital city throughout that time. By a quirk of fate, and the foolish Emperor Constantine, Rome also became the seat of the Christian Papacy, which had been a minor cult up to that time.


By the 3rd century BCE, Rome had defeated the Etruscans and Sabines, many Greek colonies and was involved in the long drawn out wars with Carthage. With their ongoing civil wars, Greece became an easy target for Rome and following the Battle of Corinth in 146 BCE Greece came under the total control of Rome.


The city was originally surrounded by the Servian Wall which had been built in the 4th century BCE after a Gaulish attack. But over the centuries as the population spread outside the Aurelian Wall was built to encompass them seven centuries later. Rome grew to be the largest city in the world with over a million people.


Although much of ancient Rome was destroyed to build the papal palaces and churches there still are many monuments to be seen including the Colosseum, Pantheon, Baths of Caracalla, Castel St Angelo, the Arch of Constantine and the Pyramid of Cestius which is incorporated into the Aurelian Wall.


Overstretched, the Empire started to decline, its capital moved from Rome, and the Empire divided with the eastern half ruled from Constantinople, continuing following the fall of Rome to the Visigoths in 476 CE. Turbulent times followed, with Byzantines, then Lombards seizing power.


Although the Franks brought some order in the 8th century, and Charlemagne being crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 800, providing protection for the Vatican States, Rome was looted by Muslims in 846.


Towards the end of the 15th century, the pope, jealous of Florence becoming the centre of the Italian Renaissance, built extravagantly in the Vatican and Rome, stealing much of the marble, carved stonework and statues from the Pagan temples and buildings. The "new" St Peter's Basilica and Sistine Chapel was built to replace the original one built by Constantine, and the Piazza Navona layed out.


During the Renaissance much of present day Rome was laid out, with Piazzas containing Baroque fountains built in various styles and adorned with the sculptures of mythological Pagan figures that typified the city. Another major feature is the number of obelisks around the city, mainly originating from ancient Egypt and pre Christian Rome, with the addition of some built later. The art does vary in quality though, the Piazza di Spagna has a horrible fountain and a set of steps leading up to the Spanish embassy, and the most expensive tea rooms in Rome frequented by the nouveau riche, whilst the wonderfully carved Trevi Fountain, which gets its name from the three street junction (Tre Via) where it is situated, is very appealing to the eye.


Another major feature of Rome is obviously the River Tiber, which meanders its way through the town. This has led to the building of several superb bridges across it, the best of which is probably the Ponte St Angelo, built in 135 CE and embellished with the statues of ten angels by Bernini in 1688.


During this period the papacy was corrupt, immoral and extravagant, with bribery and debauchery rife, with popes such as Alexander VI having wild parties and fathering children, and the Borgias committing incest. Strangely this led to Rome becoming a leading centre for art, literature and learning. This golden age of the Renaissance however came to an abrupt end in 1527 when Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, 1st King of Spain and the guy who was responsible for wiping out the Inca and Aztec Empires, sacked Rome once more.




Italian Tour



The Colosseum


The Pantheon


Arch of Constantine


Pyramid of Cestius


Porta St Paolo

Aurelian Gatehouse


Ponte St Angelo


The Trevi Fountain


Fountain of Neptune

Piazza Navona


The Fountain of the Four Rivers

With Egyptian Obelisk &

Church of St Agnes in Agone

Piazza Navona


Horned Moses

by Michaelangelo

St Peter in Chains


Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II Completed 1911

With St Peter's Beyond