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Discovery of ancient ruins reveals Rome is older than previously believed

Archaeologists have found the remains of an ancient wall during excavations inside the Roman Forum, which has been dated to 900 BC – suggesting that the ancient city is two centuries older than previously thought.

According to Rome’s foundation myth, the ancient city was founded by twin brothers Romulus and Remus in 753 BC.  Their mother was Rhea Silvia, daughter to Numitor, king of Alba Longa. Before their conception, Numitor's brother Amulius seized power and killed all Numitor's male heirs and forced Rhea Silvia to become a Vestal Virgin, sworn to chastity. However, Rhea Silvia conceived the twins by the god Mars, or by the demi-god Hercules; once the twins were born, Amulius had them abandoned to die in the river Tiber. They were saved by a series of miraculous interventions: the river carried them to safety, a she-wolf found and suckled them, and a woodpecker fed them. A shepherd and his wife discovered the twins and raised them to manhood, as simple shepherds. The twins, still ignorant of their true origins, proved to be natural leaders. Each acquired many followers. When they discovered the truth of their birth, they killed Amulius and restored Numitor to his throne. Rather than wait to inherit Alba Longa, they chose to found a new city. Romulus founded the new city, named it Rome, after himself, and created its first legions and senate.

Although possible historical bases for the mythological narrative remain unclear and disputed, the myth was fully developed into something like an "official", chronological version in the Late Republican and early Imperial era; and the founding of the city was established at 753 BC. However, this date has been challenged by the latest discovery in the Roman Forum.

Faustulus (to the right of picture) discovers Romulus and Remus

Faustulus (to the right of picture) discovers Romulus and Remus with the she-wolf and woodpecker. Their mother Rhea Silvia and the river-god Tiberinus witness the moment. Painting by Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1616 (Capitoline Museums). Image source: Wikipedia

Experts have been working on the dig since 2009, using historic photos, images and other research left by archaeologists including Giacomo Boni, who led the excavation of the Roman Forum from 1899, to locate the buried wall.

The Roman Forum is the heart of ancient Rome and the most celebrated meeting place in the world. Known by the citizens of the ancient city as the Forum Magnum, the rectangular plaza was once the, the centre of public life, the site of triumphal processions, elections, and public speeches, and the nucleus of commercial affairs.

An artistic representation of the Roman forum

An artistic representation of the Roman forum in the ancient Roman capital. Photo source .

The ancient wall was founder in the Lapis Niger, a black stone shrine that preceded the Roman Empire by several centuries, and sits next to the Arch of Severo Septimius, a marble monument built in the heart of the Forum centuries later in 203AD. Researchers uncovered pieces of the wall made from tufa – a type of limestone – along with fragments of ceramics and grains.

"Examination of the recovered ceramic material has enabled us to chronologically date the wall structure to between the 9th century BC and the beginning of the 8th century BC," said Dr Patrizia Fortuni, an archaeologist from Rome's cultural superintendency, who heads the research team. "So it precedes what is traditionally considered the foundation of Rome."

Featured image: The Roman Forum, where the ancient wall was discovered. Photo source .

By April Holloway

Comments

My question: Was the wall built by Romans or an earlier civilization?

A quick check showed that the world was in a drier and warmer climate at the estimated time for the wall's construction. So an earlier civilization could have built the wall when it was dry.
That is important because at the time Romulus founded Rome, the area of the Forum was a marsh and breeding ground for mosquitoes. Draining that marsh by building the Cloaca Magnus was their first major architectural achievement.

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