Rome, early history
About 1000 BC a fresh wave of people reached Italy through the Alpine passes. They came from Asia and occupied various parts of central and southern Italy. They were the Umbrians, Sabines, Samnites, and Latins.
Two centuries later, the Etruscans, be lived to have come from Asia Minor, landed in Italy and settled in what is today Tuscany.
Latin settlementThe Latins established themselves in that part of central Italy now called the Lazio, but known in ancient Roman times as Latium.
They were shepherds and farmers and lived in huts. Each of their villages formed a little community governed by a king, and by 800 BC there were about forty such villages united in a religious federation.
At the head of this federation was the city of Albalunga on the Alban Hills. Every year the Latins went there to celebrate a great religious festival which lasted four days. Ceremonies were performed in the temple of the chief Latin god – Jupiter Latiaris.
The area which the ancient Latins called Latium consisted of a plain beside the River Tiber and along the coast, mostly malaria-ridden swamp; and hills of rich vegetation and easily cultivated soil.
At first the Latins settled in the hills. But they did not neglect the plain. Although they would be more open to attack here, they realized how important it could be for agriculture and trade, with its great river and nearness to the sea. So they began to reclaim the marshes and to control the waters of the Tiber, which overflowed at several points and flooded great areas.
But although they made the plain fertile, they went on building their villages in the hills above, for they feared the raids of Ligurians and Phoenicians, whose pirate ships continually raided the coasts and estuaries.
From the hills too they could protect themselves from their neighbors who coveted the growing wealth of Latium, its wool and its wood.
How Rome was founded on the Palatine Hill
What would be the most suitable position? The Palatine Hill, astride the very route the Etruscans used, seemed the very place from which to obstruct the enemy's advance. Moreover, the Latins saw that this hill not only controlled the route into Etruria, but also the route across the Tiber to the sea.
So it was also a site convenient to trade; in that age the Tiber was the only important commercial route in the area. Boatloads of salt arrived by sea, eagerly awaited by the people of the interior, and loads of wool were taken down to the sea so that the Latins could trade it for the produce of other peoples. All the circumstances favored that hill above the river and only 11 miles from the sea as the site of the new village.
By tradition it was on April 21, 753 BC, that the Latins added the new village on the Palatine Hill to the many scattered villages of Latium. It was given the name of Rome, perhaps because in bygone days the Tiber had been called Rumon.
How the Latins founded their cities
The religion of the Latins
The Latins had no temples, so they made their sacrifices to the gods outdoors in the woods.
Life and work of the Latins
The Latins had no coins or money and did their trade by barter. Peasants offered milk, cheese, vegetables, fruit, and wool in exchange for tools of metal or leather goods.
The Latins lived in rough clay huts with straw roofs. In the beginning Rome too was a little village of such huts. Its inhabitants were shepherds and peasants. Some became bakers, cobblers, or tailors in order to make the essentials of life.
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