Earliest history

There is archaeological evidence of human occupation of the Rome area from at least 14,000 years, but the dense layer of much younger debris obscures Palaeolithic and Neolithic sites. Evidence of stone tools, pottery and stone weapons attest to at least 10,000 years of human presence. The power of the well known tale of Rome's legendary foundation tends also to deflect attention from its actual, and much more ancient, origins. The founding of Rome can be investigated through archaeology, but traditional stories handed down by the ancient Romans themselves explain the earliest history of their city in terms of legend and myth. The most familiar of these myths, and perhaps the most famous of all Roman myths, is the story of Romulus and Remus, the twins who were suckled by a she-wolf. This story had to be reconciled with a dual tradition, set earlier in time, that had the Trojan refugee Aeneas escaped to Italy and founded the line of Romans through his son Iulus, the namesake of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Aeneas Aeneas flees burning Troy, Federico Barocci, 1598. Galleria Borghese, Rome. The national epic of Rome, the Aeneid of Vergil, tells the story of how the Trojan prince Aeneas came to Italy. The Aeneid was written under Augustus, who claimed ancestry through Julius Caesar from the hero and his mother Venus. According to the eneid, the survivors from the fallen city of Troy banded together under Aeneas, underwent a series of adventures around the Mediterranean Sea, including a stop at newly founded Carthage under the rule of Queen Dido, and eventually reached the Italian coast. The Trojans were thought to have landed in an area between modern Anzio and Fiumicino, southwest of Rome: probably at Laurentum, or in other versions, at Lavinium, a place named for Lavinia, the daughter of King Latinus, whom Aeneas married. Through a series of armed conflicts, the Trojans won the right to stay and to assimilate with the local peoples. The young son of Aeneas, Ascanius, also known as Iulus, went on to found Alba Longa and the line of Alban kings who filled the chronological gap between the Trojan saga and the traditional founding of Rome in the 8th century BC. Toward the end of this line, King Procas was the father of Numitor and Amulius. At Procas' death, Numitor became king of Alba Longa, but Amulius captured him and sent him to prison; he also forced the daughter of Numitor, Rhea Silvia, to become a virgin priestess among the Vestals. For many years Amulius was then the king. The tortuous nature of the chronology is indicated by Rhea Silvia's ordination among the Vestals, whose order was traditionally said to have been founded by the successor of Romulus, Numa Pompilius.