Rome may be called The Eternal City, but each year on April 21 Romans celebrate the birthday of their spectacular city. Il Natale di Roma, or the Birth of Rome, is a special time of year to travel to Rome and join in the celebrations honouring the city’s glorious history. Rome is a city where the ancient and the modern coexist harmoniously, but on April 21 the city’s rich ancient past bursts to life with historical parades and re-enactments of key scenes from Roman history and celebrations taking place all over the city.
Few cities can boast a story as fabled and lively as the foundation of Rome on April 21, 753 BC. The date comes down to us in history from ancient Roman historian Marcus Terentius Varro who wrote in the first-century BC about the birth of Rome. But the real story begins well before 753 when a beautiful Vestal Virgin (a priestess of Vesta, the goddess of the hearth) named Rhea Silvia caught the eye of the pagan god of war Mars. After sneaking into her temple and seducing her, Rhea soon gave birth to two handsome twin sons named Romulus and Remus. Rejected by the king, Rhea’s two disgraceful sons were abandoned in a basket on the banks of the Tiber River.
Yet the story of two sons of Mars could never end there. The basket with the two babies floated down the Tiber where it eventually came ashore near the current day Palantine hill in Rome. There the two babies were rescued by a she-wolf that suckled the two babies until they were found and raised by a shepherd named Faustulus. When they grew up, the two brothers wanted to found a city on the banks of the Tiber River near where they landed in that basket as infants. A city ruled by two brothers was not to be, and after a intense rivalry, Romulus killed Remus and founded the city of Rome under his rule on April 21, 753 BC.
Well past being shy of her age, Rome turns 2,763 years old this year, and the city is ready to celebrate in grand style! This is a great time to visit Rome’s ancient sites such as the Roman Forum and the Circus Maximus where you’ll find gladiator shows, parades, historical re-enactments, gastronomic events highlighting traditional Italian foods and concerts taking place in the days leading up to Rome’s birthday. If you’re lucky enough to catch the historical parade, you can catch a glimpse of all levels of Roman life from goddesses and Vestal Virgins to gladiators and prisoners of war. As an added bonus many of Rome’s museums and archaeological sites are open to the public free of charge on April 21. And, of course, the birthday events wouldn’t be complete without fireworks.
Please join in with very Happy Birthday wishes to Rome!
Note: More information available on the Official Tourist Website for Rome regarding Il Natale di Roma but it has not been translated into English. Here are my efforts to translate it:
On April 21st, Rome will celebrate its birthday. The capital will turn 2763 years which is calculated from when it was legendary founded in 753 BC. A series of guided visits are available for visitors and residents alike to art exhibitions and museums in the Eternal City.
The programme is rich and varied: bands, runs, sounding of the trumpets, historical re-enactments, conferences, simulations of archaeological excavations, a vast series of guided visits to most of the monumental sites and State museums, extended opening hours, Roman poems and songs.
All these celebrations culminate with the event ‘Romagnificat – Sounds and lights recounting the history of Rome’ at 10pm and 11pm which is then followed by fireworks on the terrace of Pincio which will have the shape of the Olympic rings to honor Rome’s candidature for the 2020 Olympic Games.