Many legends and mysteries surround the history of the Eternal City, which continues to maintain an unparalleled charm.
According to tradition, April 21st, 753 Before Christ is the official date of the birth of the Rome and the day on which Rome’s Christmas is celebrated.
Legend has it that the god Mars and Rhea Silvia fell madly in love by procreating the twins Romulus and Remus. The king of the city of Albalonga, uncle of the unborn, had Rea Silvia imprisoned and ordered that the twins be placed in a basket and thrown into the Tiber river, so that the current would take them away forever.
Although it is a more legendary than historical date, Rome still celebrates its foundation on April 21 on the Palatine hill. Rome’s birthplace was remembered in ancient times by its inhabitants with a party called ‘Palilia’.
The legend behind this evocative celebration was popularized by Marco Terenzio Varrone, writer and soldier of ancient Rome, who told how Romolo founded the city on April 21st, 753 BC, a date which his friend Lucio Taruzio reached through complicated astrological calculations.
For a long time, the Roman chronology depended precisely on the foundation date, which marked the years through the Latin phrase “Ab Urbe Condita”, or “since the foundation of the city”. Then the great emperors created clamour and curiosity around this date, starting to celebrate it as a sort of imperial propaganda. The first to celebrate Christmas in Rome was Emperor Claudius, in 47, eight hundred years after the alleged foundation of the city: after him, many followed his example, and coins were even printed for Rome’s thousandth birthday celebrative.
During the imperial age, the feast of San Cesareo deacon and martyr (whose name Kaisarios) must have predestined him to become patron of the Caesars, and was established for April 21st, the date of the foundation of Rome: this date acquired a value full of meaning, above all for the function of imperial propaganda with which it fulfilled; and moreover, it was an excuse to celebrate the figure of the emperor and his tutelary saint.
It is impossible not to be fascinated by the historical myth of the foundation which occurred at the hands of Romulus, who in turn descended from the son of Aeneas, the Trojan hero who arrived in Lazio after the fall of Troy.
A great mystery then surrounds the very name of the city: Plutarch initially claimed that it derived from the people who founded the city, the Pelasgians, who wanted to give it a name that remembered their prowess in arms (Rhome), and then proposed another reconstruction according to which Trojan refugees led by Aeneas arrived on the coast of Lazio and founded a city on the Palatine hill, giving it the name of one of their women, precisely Rhome; still others argue that it derives from the Etruscan term Ruma, as the Indo-European etymology is absent and Etruscan was the only non-Indo-European language in the area.
With the spread first, the adoption then, of Christianity as a state religion, to which was added the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the subsequent falls, migrations and conquests of Barbarian populations, Rome, like everything that was his empire, saw many of its uses, customs and traditions disappear, including many of its festivities.
Rome’s Christmas still represents a symbol date for the Romans, as well as for history buffs, fascinated by its legendary origins.
In the past 20 years, the celebrations of Christmas in Rome have resumed thanks to the work of the Gruppo Storico Romano, an association of historical re-enactment that, with costumed representations and historical reconstructions, celebrates the city anniversary by welcoming thousands of enthusiasts and scholars every year.
This year the Capitol, thanks to the free collaboration of a group of professionals, has created and produced a show-tribute to the Eternal City and to the Italians, played by the actor Max Giusti and which will be broadcast on Rai (the first channel on Italian TV).
The event, set in the splendid setting of the Capitol, Capitoline Museums and with the background of the Imperial Forums, will be broadcast on Rai2 for the first time during the Patriae broadcast.
The following day, 22nd April, it will be available in full version on the Roma Capitale website and social networks.