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History of Rome, Beauties of Rome, Wonderful Rome, Rome's History
HISTORY OF ROME
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Spartacist revolt and Mediterranean pirates: from
Soon after the Social War another violent uprising within Italy shakes Roman confidence. This time the rebels are slaves.
In 73 BC certain slaves, being trained as gladiators at Capua, break free and take refuge on the slopes of Vesuvius. As word of their rebellion spreads, other runaway slaves join them. Under the brilliant leadership of one of their number, Spartacus, the slaves maraud through southern Italy and defeat a succession of Roman armies. They are not finally overcome until 71 BC. The end is grisly, like so much in Roman history of this period. Crosses are erected along the Appian Way, the main road south from Rome, and 6000 slaves are crucified.
Rome suffers from disorder at sea as well as on land. Piracy is endemic in the Mediterranean, with its rich merchant traffic and broken coastline, but until recently the sea has been well policed by a leading maritime power, the island of Rhodes - whose wealth, from its network of trade, is symbolized by the giant statue, or colossus, which dominates the harbour.
Rome has taken deliberate steps to reduce the prosperity of Rhodes, but the result has been increasingly dangerous seas. Like other Roman problems, this seems to require a ruthless solution. And Rome is now not short of ruthless men. The task is given to Pompey.
Pompey and Caesar: 81-44 BC
The public life of Rome, in the middle years of the 1st century BC, is dominated by two men. Both are outstanding examples of a relatively new trend in Roman history - that of the individual career pursued with unflinching single-mindedness. The faces of these new men can be seen in the equally new and hard-headed tradition of Roman sculpture.
The tradition goes back to Marius and Sulla. Their natural successors are Pompey and Caesar.
Pompey, six years older than Caesar, is the first to make his mark. In his twenties he conducts successful military campaigns in Sicily and Africa. In his thirties he is given a large fleet and army to rid the Mediterranean of piracy within three years (he achieves it in three months). He then goes on to a triumphant four-year campaign (66-62) in the Middle East.
For Caesar the equivalently important campaign abroad is his eight years (58-50) in Gaul. For much of this time he and Pompey are allies, manipulating the political life of Rome for the benefit of themselves and a third member of their 'triumvirate', Crassus. But by the end of the period they are bitter enemies.
The senate in Rome supports Pompey, relying on him to defend the state against Caesar - whose move south with his army, in 49 BC, triggers another civil war. It ends with the death of Pompey in the following year and the appointment of Caesar as dictator in 47. In February 44 the dictatorship is extended to Caesar's lifetime. The situation in Rome seems more stable than it has been for many years.
A month later the dictator is assassinated. Another considerably longer civil war begins. It will last fourteen years and will bring to an end, after nearly five centuries, the Roman republic.
Mark Antony and Octavian: 44-27 BC
This time there are again two main contenders for power, both closely linked with Caesar. One is Mark Antony, who calms Rome with his funeral oration for Caesar. The other is Octavian, a great-nephew who is named in Caesar's will as his heir.
For some years the two men are in alliance (forming in 43, with Lepidus, a second 'triumvirate'), but from about 35 BC they are open adversarsies. Victory in the Battle of Actium, in 31, makes Octavian the undisputed ruler of the Roman world. In 27 BC the senate gives Octavian a title for life, Augustus Caesar. It is the moment at which, historians subsequently agree, he becomes the first Roman emperor. A new chapter begins in the story of Rome.
The empire: 27 BC - AD 14
By a coincidence of history the Roman empire, at its start, has recently achieved a new geographical completeness. The campaigns of Pompey have led to the annexation of Syria in 64 BC and the capture of Jerusalem in 63. With Octavian's defeat of Cleopatra at Actium in 31 BC, Egypt too becomes a province. Just in time for the start of the empire, the eastern pieces of the jigsaw are in place.
The Mediterranean, centre of the known world (as its name states), has become what it will remain for the next four centuries - a Roman sea. And during the same period, until Constantine gives the city a new Christian role, the story of Rome itself becomes submerged in that of the wider Roman empire.
Battle of the Milvian Bridge: AD 312
A mysterious decision by Constantine in October 312 can be seen now as one of the great turning points of history. He is camped just north of Rome, about to do battle with his rival for control of the western empire. He decides that his men shall wear on their shields a Christian symbol - the monogram known as the Chi-Rho, formed from the first two Greek letters of the word Christ.
Constantine wins the battle of the Milvian Bridge. His rival dies fleeing back over the Tiber when a bridge of boats collapses. In Constantine's mind he has won this crucial engagement in alliance with the god of the Christians. The results are dramatic.
Formally acknowledged by the senate as the Augustus of the west, Constantine immediately takes steps to favour the persecuted Christians. He restores confiscated church property and offers public funds to churches in need. In AD 313 he arranges a meeting in Milan with Licinius, one of two claimants to the title of Augustus in the east. He persuades him to follow the same policy.
Later in that year Licinius defeats his rival in the east. He too now proclaims a policy of religious toleration, offering compensation to the Christians for the wrongs done to them.
The first churches: AD 312-337
Concrete evidence of the new status of Christianity is seen in the emergence of the first church buildings. The change is most visible in Rome, the strongest Christian community. Until now, in spite of the size of the congregation of Christians in Rome, worship has been conducted discreetly in private houses. Suddenly churches become public buildings, city landmarks as prominent as the temples of the pagan cult.
Some of the churches evolve from the private houses already in use for worship; one such example is SS. Giovanni e Paolo in Rome. Others in the capital city are new and more striking foundations.
Constantine establishes three important churches in Rome. One, intended to be the city's cathedral, is sited immediately beside his own Lateran palace - already presented to the Christians as a residence for the pope. This church is St John Lateran.
The other two churches of Constantine in Rome are built in honour of the city's two martyrs, Peter and Paul, on the supposed sites of their graves. One is outside the old city and is called S. Paolo fuori le Mura (St Paul Outside the Walls). The other, in the Vatican, is St Peter's. Both have since been rebuilt.
A new Rome: AD 330
Constantine, now in firm command of the entire Roman empire (the first man for a long while to be in that position), is planning another initiative as significant as his adoption of Christianity. Immediately after the defeat of Licinius he sets about rebuilding Byzantium as a Christian capital city - one in which pagan sacrifice, the central rite of imperial Rome until this time, is specifically forbidden.
The city is ready by AD 330 for a ceremony of inauguration. Byzantium acquires two new names - New Rome and Constantinople, the city of Constantine. The Roman empire, within eighteen years of Constantine's first victory, has a new religion, a new centre of gravity and a significant change of culture.
Greece has always been the main cultural influence on Rome, and Greek is the language of the inhabitants of Byzantium. With the founding of Constantinople, the older culture effectively absorbs its vigorous younger challenger. Even the name Constantinopolis is Greek (polis meaning city).
Yet Constantinople is also the new Rome, capital of the Roman empire. The Greeks of this city will long continue to describe themselves as Romans. For several centuries Constantinople represents both the end of the Roman empire and the beginning of the Byzantine empire. Meanwhile Rome gradually establishes a new identity - as the seat of the Christian pope.
The sack of Rome: AD 410
In the gravest crisis to confront Rome for many centuries, both the emperor (Honorius) and the pope (Innocent I) are safely elsewhere. They are sheltering on the coast, at Ravenna, when Alaric and his Visigoths enter Rome in AD 410 and spend three days gathering plunder.
On this occasion the papacy can claim no credit for the departure of the barbarians ( who do little damage to the buildings of the city). But when Rome is under similar threat later in the century, from Attila the Hun and Gaiseric the Vandal, the city's new leadership - in the form now of Leo I - is perceived as being much more effective.
Leo the Great: AD 440-461
The first pope to indicate the real potential of the papacy is Leo I, who has an unusual span of twenty-one years in office. He uses his time well, not only in the papal duty of restraining heretics but also in rehearsing other roles to be played by Rome.
These include defining Catholic orthodoxy (his epistle called Tome is widely accepted by his contemporaries in this context), and the assertion of the pope's authority over other bishops by the power of the keys, granted by Jesus to Peter and supposedly passed on to his successors: 'I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven. What you forbid on earth shall be forbidden in heaven, and what you allow on earth shall be allowed in heaven.'
With the collapse of imperial authority in the western empire, as Visigoths, Vandals and Huns move around almost at will, the papacy finds itself well placed to take a lead in temporal affairs. Ambrose in Milan has already demonstrated how a bishop can exert spiritual authority over an emperor. Leo confronts two dangerous men on a more purely diplomatic basis.
During Leo's pontificate Rome is threatened by Attila the Hun (in 452) and Gaiseric the Vandal (455). He negotiates with both, and is traditionally credited with persuading Attila to turn back short of Rome and with convincing Gaiseric that the city should not be utterly destroyed. Whatever the exact truth of his achievement, his actions predict a broader role for the papacy.
Gregory the Great: AD 590-604
Gregory I, in the late 6th century, reveals in a similar way the future direction of Rome and of the papacy. It can be seen in two significant events. In 592, two years after his election as pope, the Lombards are at the gates of Rome; Gregory accepts papal responsibility for the city, negotiates with the barbarians and persuades them to withdraw (admittedly at the price of an annual tribute). Four years later, in 596, he despatches a mission of forty men to England. Like Gregory himself, until his election as pope, these missionaries are monks.
A temporal ruler of Rome, using monastic establishments to spread spiritual rule throughout Europe - the pattern for the medieval papacy is in place.
Popes and Franks: AD 753-772
In 753 the pope, Stephen II, makes an unusual journey north of the Alps. He visits the Frankish king, Pepin III, to seek his help against the Lombards who have recently taken the city of Ravenna and who now pose a similar threat to Rome. The pope anoints Pepin at the abbey of St Denis, near Paris, together with his two young sons Charles and Carloman. Pepin duly invades northern Italy in 754, and again in 756.
He is able to drive the Lombards from the territory belonging to Ravenna. But he does not restore it to its rightful owner, the Byzantine emperor. Instead, perhaps believing the fiction revealed in the forged Donation of Constantine, he hands over large areas of central Italy to the pope and his successors.
The land given to pope Stephen in 756, in the so-called Donation of Pepin, makes the papacy a temporal power. This territory is the origin of the Papal States, over which the popes continue to rule until their incorporation in the new kingdom of Italy in 1870. The story of Rome, for the next eleven centuries, becomes almost entirely the story of the papacy.
In the short term the temporal rule of the popes is shaky. Within a few years the Lombards again invade their territory. In 772 a new pope appeals for help to a new Frankish king. Adrian I enlists the support of Charlemagne. This time the Lombards have conclusively met their match. In 774 Charlemagne adds their kingdom to his own.
Secular Rome: 12th - 15th century AD
The popes and the papal curia are the main power in Rome, but the city does also have a secular identity. In the late Middle Ages, when other European towns are finding a measure of self-government as communes, a similar movement develops in Rome.
An uprising for civic independence takes place in 1143, specifically invoking the senate of Rome's great secular past. It is called renovatio senatus ('renewal of the senate'). The councillors elected in this year call themselves senators - a title later reserved for the head of the council.
This movement is soon appropriated by the papacy. Popes win the right to appoint the senator, and even select themselves for the post. Economic power in this city resides with the papacy, as well as political and spiritual power, for a large slice of Rome's income comes from pilgrims.
Boniface VIII displays commercial genius when he endorses the first Jubilee or Holy Year in 1300. The round number of the date, reinforced by the pope's promise of plenary indulgences, brings visitors and profit to the city on an unprecedented scale. (The idea proves so excellent that Jubilees are held in Rome every 50 years until the late 15th century, when the interval is reduced to 25 years).
The Rome of Boniface VIII, in the late 13th century, is dominated by a few extremely powerful families. Prominent among them are the Colonna and the Orsini. After Boniface's pontificate his own clan, the Caetani, becomes their equal. Papal wealth is the origin of nearly all these great dynasties.
Nepotism (from the Latin nepos, 'nephew') is a word later coined to describe a specifically papal vice, the granting of favours to nephews. This is the only way for a pope to enrich his family, since in principle he should have no sons (a nicety which does not inhibit some of the Renaissance pontiffs).
The great families of Rome provide many of the cardinals at the top of the church's hierarchy, and among these cardinals each family has from time to time a pope. In this way the papacy is intertwined with the secular life of Rome. It is therefore all the more damaging to the city's prospects, a few years after the death of Boniface VIII, when the pope and the curia move in 1309 to Avignon.
It will be more than a century before Rome has an undisputed pope in residence again. But the family name of Martin V, the pope who returns to the city in 1420, is reassuringly familiar to the Romans. He is a Colonna.
Ruins and a republic: 14th century AD
Rome without the popes is a sorry place. The great families live in their fortified strongholds while decay and anarchy set in around them. Goats graze the grass which sprouts from the steps of St Peter's.
A contemporary author points out the contrast between the present day and the ancient ruins of Rome. But the ruins, so evocative of past grandeur, are also the seeds of something new. Decaying Rome implies on one level the collapse of the Middle Ages. It is also the inspiration of the Renaissance.
In 1341, in a ceremony on the Capitol, Petrarch is crowned poet laureate in an echo of the Roman empire. Six years later, at another gathering on the Capitol, Rome acquires a tribune - in the tradition of the Roman republic.
The tribune is Cola da Rienzo. A friend of Petrarch, and much impressed by the laureate ceremony, he dreams of restoring Rome to her ancient greatness. To this end he wins leadership of the popular party in the city and eventually has himself declared tribune with virtually dicatorial powers. He announces grandly that all Italians are now Roman citizens, as in the days of ancient Rome.
Italians in other parts of the peninsula fail to notice the honour conferred upon them, and by the end of 1347 even the Romans are tired of their tribune. He flees from Rome, but returns for a few months in 1354 when the pope in Avignon - rather strangely - appoints him senator of the city. Before the end of the year he is hacked to death by a Roman mob.
The story of Cola di Rienzo teeters on the verge of tragicomedy, but his view of ancient Rome as the blueprint of civilization is a foretaste of the Renaissance. And the popes, returning in the following century, will make Rome the greatest of Renaissance cities.
Rome and the Renaissance: 15th century AD
Martin V takes three years on the journey south to Rome, moving cautiously between warring principalities and armies of condottieri. This is an Italy in which unscrupulous men are beginning to establish courts of glittering brilliance.
The pope newly crowned at Constance looks a tentative figure among such dangers, but over the following decades the papacy adjusts to the realities of Renaissance Italy. By the beginning of the next century unscrupulous popes have made Rome the most brilliant court of all.
The pope who begins the transformation of Rome, in the mid-15th century, has none of the scurrilous characteristics associated with the pontiffs of half a century later. He is Nicholas V, a scholarly man who founds the Vatican library, employing hundreds of scholars and copyists to provide the basis of a great collection of manuscripts.
The familiar image of a Renaissance pope begins a little later, with the election of Sixtus IV in 1471. His patronage of the arts is evident in the Sistine chapel and the Sistine choir, both named after him. But his lavish patronage goes hand in hand with a very worldly conduct of the Vatican's affairs.
Sixtus, a Franciscan friar from a poor family in the region of Genoa, brings the papal practice of nepotism to new heights. While greatly enriching his nephews (seven of whom he makes cardinals), he also uses them as his agents in the power politics of rival Italian states. The scheming of one nephew even results in the murder of one of the Medici in the cathedral at Florence during High Mass.
Another nephew learns his trade so well with Sixtus that he easily outdoes his uncle, both in politics and patronage, when he is elected to the papacy as Julius II.
Between the pontificate of Sixtus IV and of Julius II comes the most notorious of the Renaissance popes, Alexander VI. He manipulates Italian politics not with the help of nephews but through his son, Cesare Borgia.
Alexander's successor Julius II is even more a man of his time. He is a pope who rides out in person to direct military campaigns, but he also commissions work from Raphael and Michelangelo. The frescoes of the Vatican and the Sistine chapel are created among the abuses which prompt the Reformation.
Julius II: AD 1503-1513
Pope Julius II, reigning from 1503 to 1513, represents the best and the worst of the newly self-confident Rome of the Renaissance. His energetic sense of purpose on behalf of the holy see emerges as naked aggression in territorial matters; yet the same boldness and ambition makes him the greatest patron of the arts in the history of the papacy.
In 1503, his first year in office, Julius launches the great scheme to rebuild St Peter's. In 1509 the pope invites Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and persuades Raphael to decorate three rooms in the Vatican. Christian Rome's greatest glories have been conceived within a space of six years.
St Peter's: AD 1506-1590
In April 1506 Julius II and his architect, Bramante, are ready to lay the foundation stone of the new St Peter's. A commemorative medal is struck with the classical inscription Templi Petri Instauracio (Renewal of the Temple of Peter), showing a view of a great domed basilica with a classical portico.
In spirit - though not in detail - this design is similar to the church which is eventually completed in 1590, by which time Raphael and Michelangelo and several others have succeeded Bramante as official architect for the scheme.
The final appearance of the exterior, particularly in its upper half, owes more to Michelangelo than anyone else. The church's magnificent profile, visible from miles around as an imposing architectural statement, inspires the age of the dome in western architecture - a natural choice for religious and public buildings during the next three centuries.
The completion date of the exterior of St Peter's, in 1590, aligns it perfectly for a role in another new architectural style. The large space in front of St Peter's, and the central features of its interior, are entrusted to Bernini. They become seminal examples of the baroque.
Bernini and baroque Rome: 17th century AD
In the transformation of Rome into a baroque city, no one plays a part comparable to that of the sculptor and architect Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini. In 1629 he is appointed architect to St Peter's, the creation of which has given a new excitement and dignity to the ancient city. Over the next forty years he provides magnificent features to impress the arriving pilgrims.
The first, completed in 1633, is the vast bronze canopy held up by four twisting columns (profusely decorated with the Barberini bees, for the pope at the time is Urban VIII). This structure, known as the Baldacchino, is at the very heart of the church - above the tomb of St Peter and below the dome.
The Baldacchino rises above an altar at which only the pope conducts mass. Visible between the columns, from the point of view of the congregation, is Bernini's other dramatic contribution to the interior of St Peter's. This is a golden tableau, a piece of pure theatre, above the altar at the far end of the church. Its central feature is the papal throne of St Peter, held aloft among the clouds.
Sculpted golden rays stream up from St Peter's throne towards heaven. In an extra dimension to the illusion they are joined by real rays of golden light, shining from the afternoon sun through an amber window in which the holy dove spreads his wings. This glorious blend of sculpture and architecture is achieved between 1657 and 1666.
During these same years Bernini's great contribution to the exterior of St Peter's is also under construction. The open space in front of the church, where pilgrims gather to hear the pope's Easter address, needs to be enclosed in some way to form a welcoming piazza.
Bernini achieves a perfect solution in the form of an open curving colonnade. The four concentric rows of columns provide covered walkways and a shape for the piazza, but they do so without closing it in - for there is no back wall. Meanwhile the balustrade above the columns is an ideal pedestal for the gesticulating stone saints who are an indispensable part of monumental baroque.
Baroque Rome perfectly reflects the mood of the Catholic Reformation. The city of the popes (whose temporal rule in central Italy and whose spiritual authority over the greater part of Christendom are now alike restored) is also the headquarters of the popes' energetic new missionaries, the Jesuits.
The sumptuous central church of the Jesuits - the Gesù, completed in 1575 - is an early and influential example of the baroque style. Its sculptural altars and painted ceilings, in which saints destroy heresy or fly heavenwards with flamboyant certainty, leave the visitor in no doubt that Rome and its brand of Christianity have recovered their confidence.
Classical Rome: 18th century AD
In the more leisurely mood of the 18th century, baroque Rome acquires a stream of wealthy and influential visitors who come here mainly for the city's pre-Christian past. It is the destination of young noblemen arriving from northern Europe, and particularly from Britain, on the Grand Tour. They pose here for their portraits against a backdrop of vases, columns and distant vistas. The very rich take home excavated fragments of classical sculptures, described as 'marbles'. Others make do with paintings, prints, or even cork replicas of famous ruins.
This period of settled calm, unusually long in Rome's history, is brought to an abrupt end by Napoleon.
The French and Rome: AD 1793-1814
The papacy is ill-equipped to cope with either French revolutionary zeal or Napoleonic empire building. The years of French ascendancy are a long tale of disaster for Rome.
An incident of 1793 sets the tone. A French diplomat in Rome, Nicolas de Basseville, indulges in a provocative display of the tricolour, symbol of French anti-clerical republicanism. A Roman crowd attacks him and he dies the next day. Four years later, when Napoleon reaches as far south as Ancona in an advance on Rome, this incident remains a specific grievance for which France holds the pope responsible - demanding and receiving 300,000 livres as compensation for Basseville's family.
The pope who has to negotiate with Napoleon in 1797 is Pius VI. The price of persuading the French intruder to head north again, agreed in the peace of Tolentino, is a massive indemnity, the removal of many works of art from the Vatican collections and the surrender to France of Bologna, Ferrara and the Romagna.
This reduction of the papal states is only the beginning of Pius's troubles. In the last few days of 1797 a disturbance outside the French embassy in Rome results in the death of a French general. This is made the pretext for a French army to occupy Rome and to seize the pope, who is taken off to captivity in France - where he dies in 1799.
The new pope, Pius VII, is at first conciliatory towards Napoleon. He agrees the concordat of 1801. He travels to Paris in 1804 to officiate at Napoleon's imperial coronation. But by 1808 relations have deteriorated. The pope annoys Napoleon by refusing to sanction the annulment of his brother Jerome's marriage and, perhaps more significantly, by not bringing the ports of the papal states into the Continental System.
The result is that a French army occupies Rome in February 1808. In the following month another section of the papal states (the Marches) is annexed to the Napoleonic kingdom of Italy.
Napoleon follows up these affronts by annexing in 1809 all that remains of the papal states, including the city of Rome, and by announcing that the pope no longer has any form of temporal authority. Pius VII responds by an immediate use of his spiritual authority, excommunicating Napoleon himself and everyone else connected with this outrage. He is immediately arrested and removed to imprisonment in France.
These are the events which bring the entire Italian peninsula under French control by 1809. The situation remains unchanged until after Napoleon's defeat at Leipzig in 1813 - an event followed by Austrian recovery of much of Italy and a subsequent seal of approval at the congress of Vienna.
From republic to royal capital: AD 1848-1871
After the return of Pius VII to Rome in 1814, the city resumes for the next three decades its dual role as the religious centre of Roman Catholicism and the political centre of the papal states. Both are rudely interrupted by the events of 1848.
Pope Pius IX attempts to make liberal concessions in the administration of Rome in response to the revolutionary turmoil sweeping Europe in 1848. But at the end of the year, following the assassination of his chief minister, he flees to safety in the coastal fortress of Gaeta. After his departure, the radicals have the city to themselves.
A Roman republic is proclaimed in February 1849. This promising event is followed by the arrival of the veteran revolutionaries Mazzini and Garibaldi. Mazzini plays a major part in running the republic during its brief existence and Garibaldi fights magnificently in its defence (against an army sent by the new French republic on behalf of the pope, a measure of how much Italian affairs are intertwined with the broader issues of European politics).
The Roman republic falls to the French forces in early July 1849. Pius IX is restored to his papal throne - turning the clock safely back, in a pattern which becomes common almost everywhere during 1849.
On his return to Rome, Pius IX is just three years into a pontificate of thirty-two years - the longest in history.
His experiences during 1848-9 leave him disinclined to take a positive role in the developments now leading towards a united Italy. Instead his cautious and reactionary policy reduces Rome to the status of a backwater during the next two decades. He survives untroubled in his shrinking papal states (Cavour annexes the Romagna in 1860), because the French leave a garrison to safeguard his rule. But events in 1870 leave him suddenly exposed.
The outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war means that the French garrison is hurriedly withdrawn from Rome, in August 1870. The French defeat at Sedan in September is immediately followed by the deposing of the emperor Napoleon III. Nothing now remains to deter the Italian state from seizing the holy city. Troops break in through the Porta Pia on September 20.
In October a plebiscite in Rome and the surrounding Campagna results in a vote for union with the kingdom of Italy. Pius IX refuses to accept this act of force majeure. He remains in his palace, describing himself as a prisoner in the Vatican.
The provisional capital of Italy since 1865 has been Florence, in an attempt to appease those nationalists who resent the usurping of their cause by the northern kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont. Now, in 1871, the Italian government moves to the banks of the Tiber. Victor Emmanuel instals himself in the Quirinale Palace. Rome becomes once again, for the first time in thirteen centuries (since the dying gasp of the western empire in the reign of Odoacer), the capital city of a united Italy.
It is unusual among capital cities only in that it contains a powerful figure and a small parcel of land (the pope in the Vatican) beyond national control. This anomaly is not formally resolved until the concordat of 1929.
Today's Rome reflects the stratification of the epochs of its long history, but it also is a huge contemporary metropolis. Its vast historical centre contains many areas from Ancient Rome, areas from medieval times, many palaces and artistic treasures from the Renaissance era, many fountains, churches and palaces from baroque times, as well as many examples of the Art Nouveau, Neoclassic, Modernism, Rationalism and any other artistic styles of the XIX and XX centuries (the city is in fact considered a living encyclopedia and museum of the last 3000 years of western art). The historical centre is identified as within the limits of the ancient imperial walls. Some central areas were reorganised after the unification (1880–1910 - Roma Umbertina), and some important additions and adaptations made during the Fascist period, with the discussed creation of the Via dei Fori Imperiali, of theVia della Conciliazione in front of the Vatican (for the construction of which a large part of the old Borgo neighbourhood was destroyed) and the founding of new quartieri (among which EUR, San Basilio, Garbatella, Cinecittà, Trullo, Quarticciolo and, on the coast, the restructuring of Ostia) and the inclusion of bordering villages (Labaro, Osteria del Curato, Quarto Miglio, Capannelle, Pisana, Torrevecchia, Ottavia, Casalotti). These expansions were needed to house the huge increase of population caused by the centralisation of the Italian state.
During the Second World War Rome suffered few bombings (notably at San Lorenzo), and was declared an "open town" (film by Roberto Rossellini). Rome fell to the Allies on June 4, 1944. It was the first capital of an Axis nation to fall.
After the war, Rome continued to expand due to Italy's growing state administration and industry, with the creation of new quartieri and suburbs. The current official population stands at 2.5 million; during the business day workers increase this figure to over 3.5 million. This is a dramatic increase from previous figures, which were 138,000 in 1825, 244,000 in 1871, 692,000 in 1921, 1,600,000 in 1931.
Rome hosted the 1960 Summer Olympics, using many ancient sites such as the Villa Borghese and the Thermae of Caracalla as venues. For the Olympic Games many new structures where created, notably the new large Olympic Stadium (which was also enlarged and renewed to host qualification and the final match of the 1990 FIFA football World Cup), the Villaggio Olimpico (Olympic Village, created to host the athletes and redeveloped after the games as a residential district), etc.
Many of the monuments of Rome were restored by the Italian state and by the Vatican for the 2000 Jubilee.
Being the capital city of Italy, Rome hosts all the principal institutions of the nation, like the Presidency of the Republic, the government (and its single Ministeri), the Parliament, the main judicial Courts, and the diplomatic representatives of all the countries for the states of Italy and the Vatican City (curiously, Rome also hosts, in the Italian part of its territory, the Embassy of Italy for the Vatican City, a unique case of an Embassy within the boundaries of its own country). Many international institutions are located in Rome, notably cultural and scientific ones - such as the American Institute, the British School, the French Academy, the Scandinavian Institutes, the German Archaeological Institute - for the honour of scholarship in the Eternal City, and humanitarian ones, such as the FAO.
Rome today is one of the most important tourist destinations of the world, due to the incalculable immensity of its archaeological and artistic treasures, as well as for the charm of its unique traditions, the beauty of its panoramic views, and the majesty of its magnificent "villas" (parks). Among the most significant resources: plenty of museums - (Musei Capitolini, the Vatican Museums, Galleria Borghese, and a great many others) — aqueducts, fountains, churches, palaces, historical buildings, the monuments and ruins of the Roman Forum, and the Catacombs.
Among its hundreds of churches, Rome contains the five Major Basilicas of the Catholic church: Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano (St. John Lateran, Rome's cathedral), Basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano (St. Peter's Basilica), Basilica di San Paolo fuori le Mura (St. Paul Outside the Walls), Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore (St. Mary Major), and Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura (St. Lawrence Outside the Walls). The Bishop of Rome is the Pope; in his pastoral activity strictly applicable to the city, he is assisted by a vicar (usually a cardinal).
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