Rome is getting old. Yesterday, in fact, it held a big party to celebrate its 2,768th birthday. Which makes your complaints about turning 30 look a little silly, to be honest.
Though celebrations were held this weekend, the city’s official founding date is 21 April. Allegedly, on this date back in 753 BC, Romulus, fresh from killing his brother Remus in a dispute over the placing of their new city, chose a spot on the Palatine Hill, not far from the cave where the pair were brought up by a she-wolf. Obviously pleased with himself (and, apparently, his recent fraticide), he named the new city after himself.
Archaeologists estimate that the area had actually been populated since about 1000 BC, but 753 BC symbolically and officially marks the beginning of the Rome we still see ruins of today. Since then, the city’s had a fairly volatile trajectory: first a small Latin village, then capital of a giant Mediterranean empire, then a bit of a ghost town dominated by the Pope, before finally becoming capital once again of a reunited Italy in the 19th century. As this population graph shows, the city’s size shifted dramatically with each change in political status:
This year’s celebrations included a great deal of dressing up (see the image above). Despite its current status as Italian capital and seat of the Vatican, Rome still seems pretty obsessed with its gladiator sandaled, laurel-crowned ancient legacy. There’s a very good reason for this approach, albeit a cynical one: every year, over 4m tourists visit the Colosseum alone.