Much of what we know today about the historical foundations of Rome comes to us from ancient writers such as Livy and Herodotus, along with the findings of archeology. The early history of Rome, so deeply rooted in legend and mythology, is a mix of fact, fiction, educated guesses and established notions on the conditions of the ancient Mediterranean world.
The earliest evidence of human habitation in the Latium region which included the city of Rome, dates from the Bronze Age (c.1500 BC), but the earliest established, and permanent, settlements began to form in the 8th century BC. At that time archeology indicates two closely related peoples in the area, the Latins and Sabines. These agrarian Italic peoples were tribal in origin, with a social hierarchy that dominated Rome's early form of government and throughout its claim to power in the region.
The date of the founding as a village or series of tribal territories is uncertain, but the traditional and legendary founding of the city dates to 753 BC. Although this date is heavily laden in myth, it is at least roughly supported through archeological evidence. It was in the 8th century BC that two existing settlements, one on the Palatine Hill, the other on the Quirinal, combined to form a single village, corresponding to the same dates as the legend.
According to legend, Romans trace their origins to Aeneas, a Trojan who escaped the sack of Troy by fleeing to Italy. The son Aeneas, Iulius (commonly Julius) founded the city of Alba Longa establishing a monarchy. Two descendents of the Alba Longa Kings, the twin brothers Romulus and Remus, would go on to become the founders of Rome. Eventually the two brothers quarreled resulting in the murder of Remus, leaving Romulus as the first King of Rome. The traditional date of Romulus' sole reign and the subsequent founding of the city, April 21, 753 BC, is still celebrated with festivals and parades today.
Continuing development of the city was largely influenced by Rome's northern neighbors, the Etruscans. The Etruscans, threatened by the growing power and influence of the Latin city to their south, would soon supplant Romulus, and subsequent Latin Kings, with Kings of their own.
Did you know...?
The Emperor Claudius, before his rise to the purple, wrote a comprehensive history of the Etruscan culture which was, unfortunately, lost to history.