The myth of Aeneas, Greek in origin, had to be reconciled with the Italian myth of Romulus and Remus, who taken as historical figures would have been born around 771 BC. They were purported to be sons of Rhea Silvia and Mars, the god of war. Because of a prophecy that they would overthrow their great-uncle Amulius, who had overthrown Silvia’s father Numitor, they were, in the manner of many mythological heroes, abandoned at birth; in this case, on the Tiber River by servants who took pity on the infants, despite their orders. The twins were nurtured by a she-wolf until a shepherd named Faustulus found and took Romulus and Remus as his sons. Faustulus and his wife, Acca Larentia, raised the children. When Remus and Romulus became adults, they killed Amulius and restored Numitor. They decided to establish a city; however, they quarreled, and Romulus killed his brother. Thus Rome began with a fratricide, a story that was later taken to represent the city’s history of internecine political strife and bloodshed. Romulus was Rome’s first king and the city’s founder. In 753 BC, Romulus began building the city upon the Palatine Hill. After founding and naming (as the story goes) Rome, he permitted men of all classes to come to Rome as citizens, including slaves and freemen without distinction. After his death at the age of 54, Romulus was deified as the war god Quirinus and served not only as one of the three major gods of Rome but also as the deified likeness of the city of Rome. He reigned for 36 years.
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterized by a government headed by an Emperor, and large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, Africa, and Asia. The 500 year old republic which preceded it was severely destabilized in a series of civil wars and political conflict, during which Julius Caesar was appointed as perpetual dictator and then assassinated in 44 BC. Conflict and civil unrest continued, eventually culminating in the victory of Octavian, Caesar’s adopted son, over Mark Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC. Octavian’s power was now unassailable and in 27 BC the Roman Senate formally granted him overarching power and the new title Augustus, effectively marking the end of the Roman Republic. The imperial successor to the Republic endured for some 500 years. The first two centuries of the Empire’s existence were a period of unprecedented political stability and prosperity known as the Pax Romana, or “Roman Peace”. Following Octavian’s victory, the size of the Empire was dramatically increased. [x] [x] [x]