July 12, 2024

How Did Rome Become Known as The Eternal City?

Rome is often referred to by the epithet “the Eternal City.” But how did this ancient metropolis earn such a lofty nickname? The history behind Rome’s designation as the Eternal City spans many centuries.

Rome’s Mythic Founding in 753 BCE

According to legend, Rome was founded in 753 BCE by its first king, Romulus. The myth tells of Romulus and his twin brother Remus, sons of the war god Mars, being left to die in the Tiber River. They survived, going on to found the city. Romulus later killed Remus in a power struggle, naming the new city after himself – Rome.

This mythic tale establishes Rome’s divine origin, with the gods having destined it for greatness from its very inception. Even in these earliest eras, the idea of Rome’s eternity was present.

The Roman Republic and Ambitions of Empire (509-27 BCE)

In 509 BCE, the last Etruscan king was overthrown, and Rome became a republic governed by elected magistrates. Over the following centuries, as the Roman Republic expanded, it conquered the Italian peninsula and lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.

Prominent figures like Gaius Marius, Sulla, Pompey, and Julius Caesar conquered territories far and wide, defeated formidable enemies such as Carthage’s Hannibal, and made Rome the preeminent power in Europe and the Mediterranean. By this point, Rome seemed destined to last forever as tales of its God-ordained origin merged with its rapidly growing empire.

Augustus and the Dawn of Imperial Rome (27 BCE- 180 CE)

In 27 BCE, Caesar’s heir, Octavian, defeated rivals Antony and Cleopatra and took the title “Augustus,” becoming Rome’s first emperor. Augustus oversaw an unprecedented era of peace, prosperity and expansion known as the Pax Romana (Roman Peace). For more than two centuries, Rome was peaceful and stable under subsequent emperors ruling as godlike monarchs.

By this time Rome’s founding myth, vast empire, architectural marvels, cultural influence, and long series of seemingly divine rulers had firmly established an aura of eternity about the city.

Rome as the ‘Eternal City’ Capital (330 CE – present)

In 330 CE, Emperor Constantine shifted the capital from Rome to Byzantium, renaming it “Constantinople” (Istanbul today). Despite losing political centrality, Rome’s spiritual gravitas only grew in the ensuring centuries as the seat of papal authority. As waves of invasions battered the former Empire, the city of Rome persevered.

And when Charlemagne revived the title of “Roman Emperor” in 800 CE the papal sanction reflected Rome’s continued central importance, even with its secular power a memory.

Later Holy Roman Emperors often styled themselves future Roman Emperors, acknowledging they would not become true successors of Augustus and Constantine until they reclaimed and ruled the city of Rome.

Rome once ruled a vast empire, then served as spiritual capital to the Catholic church and drew appeal as an enduring symbol of European unity, with many rulers claiming succession to some aspect of Roman authority.

Through it all for 2000+ years Rome endured invasions, turmoil, diminishment and rebirths from medieval commune to Mussolini to modern democracy, always carrying its aura as an eternal city destined to last forever more, established on seven hills with the blessing Roman gods millennia ago according to legend.

The eternal city seamlessly blends myth and history across over two dozen centuries as an epic story of conscience enduring ambition symbolizing the inexhaustible spirit of humanity – past, present and future.

Reasons Why “The Eternal City” Still Endures

Why does modern Rome retain its nickname “The Eternal City” centuries after the Roman Empire collapsed? What has allowed this city to endure through dramatic rises and falls for over 2700 years?

Several key reasons emerge:

Mythic Origin Story: As a city supposedly founded by gods and made great by destiny, Rome acquired an air of sacredness and inevitability from its very start that persists through eras.

Site of Major Religions: Rome has endured as a religious center from its ancient pagan cults to Catholic Christianity and the Vatican state within the city today. Millions of pilgrims have looked to Rome through the ages as a holy city.

Cultural Legacy: Roman art, literature, engineering, and language have deeply informed global culture over centuries, establishing Rome as an eternal wellspring of creativity that transcends epochs.

Symbol of European Civilization: To Europeans, Rome formed a central model whether they styled themselves as Romans, Holy Romans, or looked back to the classical era for rebirths like the Renaissance. Rome continually reclaimed relevance.

Architectural Heritage: The columns, amphitheaters, plazas and architectural marvels of Rome stand as enduring monuments to the city’s rich history, captivating visitors for centuries.

Historic Duration Across Empires: Once marking the peak of its empire which collapsed, Rome held sway as a spiritual capital, endured invasions, served as a medieval city-state for a time, and remains vibrant in the modern age – incredibly – after over 27 centuries of transformations.

For these reasons and more, Rome fully lives up to its epithet as “the Eternal City,” built on divine destiny, cultural genius, and the long cycles of history that have allowed the city on seven hills to be reinvented endlessly without losing its essential character. Over 27 centuries long, Rome’s epic story continues even today.

Conclusion: The Myth and Magic of Rome

In long cycles of rise, fall and rebirth across eras, the city of Rome confirms its mythical early destiny as a special place marked for greatness and longevity from the gods. Rome embedded itself as a cultural cornerstone over centuries until its name became synonymous with civilization itself for generations of Europeans. The rich architectural and archaeological heritage of Rome almost tangibly links current inhabitants with figures from antiquity like Virgil, Augustus, and Marcus Aurelius as generations live out impermanence while Rome itself persists eternally.

Through its enduring museums and monuments, Rome almost engraves onto visitors a sense of participating in this grander myth and purpose before they return to mortal concerns. The saying “Roma caput mundi” (Rome capital of the world) captures this phenomenon of how Rome becomes both intimate yet elevated in cultural consciousness – seemingly eternal across eras.

For the billions of visitors received through the ages, Rome confirms its ancient epithet as the Eternal City. More than artifacts left visible, the invisible aura of destiny still permeates the seven hills and Tiber River, where legend says Rome was once founded by twin gods, one murdered by the other in myth echoing the epic rises and sudden falls of eras past. Yet Rome always finds rebirth in endurance.

So in witnessing Rome with all its rich antiquity before them yet pulsing vibrantly modern as ever, visitors inhale mythic purpose from stones sanctified by time. Joining continuity with transformation past and future, Rome’s eternal magic brings history alive through a medieval church, ancient ruin, or passerby on a Vespa flashing forward the next 27 centuries.

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