FOR THE STUDY OF
THE PRE-HISTORY OF THE ROMAN FORUM
Geology of Rome: Ancient marine fossils are found on Monte Mario. At 700,000 years ago,
Rome was “steppe,” with a hot, dry climate inhabited by elephant and rhino. Neanderthal man
roamed this area from 100,000 to 30,000 years ago. In fact, a Neanderthal skull with elephant
and hippopotamus bones were discovered at the confluence of the Tiber and the Aniene, north
north-west of the city of Rome which date to 80,000 years ago. Neanderthal man still hunted
deer and elephant when Rome was a forest 40,000 years ago. At 30,000 years ago the ice age of
WUrm began. Elsewhere at Lesceaux in France and Altiniira in Spain, CrO-Magnon man was
painting caves between 25,000 and 15,000 years ago. Four species of elephant lived in Rome up
to about 10,000 years ago, when the last ice age (Wrum from the old name of Starnberg Lake)
ended. At 6,000 years ago the Neolithic or New Stone Age began and the first flints
manufactured in Rome were found in the old Milanetti Cave, near the Ponte Milvio. All of Italy is
geologically young. The Appenines are still being created by pressure from the south west.
Rome has two types of earthquakes, tectonic from the Appenine Mountains and volcanic from the
Alban Hills. Richter Scale 8 earthquakes with Rome as epicenter occurred in BC 361, 193, 192,
119, 84, 15 and in AD 191 and 896. Richter Scale 7 earthquakes with Rome as epicenter took
place in AD 1448, 1811, 1812, 1895 and with Ardea, south of Rome, as epicenter in 1995. The
Alban Hills were one massive volcano, with Lake Albano and Lake Nenii smaller carters.
Volcano danger is hard to predict says Bruno Martuiis. Nevertheless, Richter Scale 6 or higher
earthquakes occurred in the Alban Hills in 1256, 1773, 1806, 1861, 1883, 1899, 1911, and 1927.
You can see Monte Cavo, center of the old Latin League, in the Alban Hills, from the
Auguraculum. Also, just note the effect of rain for 2000 years on the hills of Rome: Capitoline,
Palatine, Aventine, Celian, (Colosseum), Esquiline, Viminal, and Quirinal. A river still runs
through the Forum in the Great Drain (cloaca Maxima).
Archaeology: Archaeology reveals particular aspects of civilization. Modem studies of Roman
Italy are oriented toward descriptive analogies of cultural phenomena. The 900 BC Proto-
Villanovan culture (named after excavation near Bologna) of huts, cinerary urns from the Forum
Necropolis, and bronze weapons is on display at the Museum of the Villa Julia, room 2. Sabines
of the Esquiline (inhumation) and Latins of the Palatine (cremation) moved into the Forum with
two cultures. Numa was Sabine second king of Rome. The Capitoline Museum has terra cotta
from the archaic temple at S. Omobono. The 6’ century BC has enriched collections in the Villa
Julia Museum and the Vatican Gregorian Etruscan Museum. The rostrum incorporated the Lapis
Niger (a city-founder fiineral monument) from the 4’ to the 3’ century BC, since the rostrum
was used for fi.meral rites of ancestors with masks of the dead worn by living descendants.
Sculpture and rnscriDtions: There was a map of Rome in the Templum Pacis dating to 203 AD.
Ward Catalogues exist from 354 and 357 AD. Drawings from the 16’ and 17’ century AD also
give pictures of temples and buildings prior to destruction. Lists of Consuls and Triumphs exist.
Numismatics: The whole of Roman coinage is at the Palazzo Massimo, room 4, with bronze,
silver, and gold coins from the 7k” century BC to the late 1~ century AD in chronological order.
The book by Roberto Bartolim, entitled Monete di Roma Imperiale (Milan: Mondadori, 1996),
gives the history of Roman emperors by their coinage.
Documents: Early history of Rome was transmitted in Oral Culture. Even in Imperial times
inscriptions are magic (consider the “daninatio memoriae” of Christian chief vestal whose name
was removed). Michael Grant writes in Roman Myths that some types of myths are historicizing
myths, that tend to give to history the values and prestige of myth. In this process, history
becomes mythicized and myth becomes historicized. Legends and sagas are narrative genres
giving expression to these tendencies. The foundation myths of the Roman forum are narrated by
Plutarch in Life of Romulus 18, 1-9. The Romano-Sabine war has Romulus
challenged, a Sabine
knight went into Lacus Curtius, Romulus struck by stone, Romans fled, Romulus prayed to
Jupiter Stator (Stayer), Romans return, Sabine daughters intercede, peace accord at Comitium.
Legal Sources: We know some of the “Royal Laws,” the Law of the Twelve Tables (450 BC),
numerous other “Leges” and Edicts, the deliberations of the Senate and the mandates of the
Emperors. We also know how the law used the Forum from the
oaths at the Regia, to the pretors
and basilica private judges, to the basilica government judges.
Ostraca: These are broken pieces of pottery. The tax payer had to furnish his own material for a
receipt. Also, ostraca were used for voting. Papyrus is not found in the Forum, but about it.
Classical Writers: Sources of knowledge of pre-Roman Italy are scarce and often unreliable.
Many works are lost: among the Sicilian Greeks, Antiochus,
Philistus of Syracuse, and Timaeus
of Tauromenicum, and among the lost Latin works about the Etruscans Valerius Flaccus and the
Emperor Hadrian. What remains is late, partial, random, and indirect. Roman literature begins
about 240 BC. Systematic history only begins about 200 BC. The first Roman historian, Quintus
Fabius Pictor (c. 200 BC) wrote his Annals of Rome in the Greek language. With the notable
exception of Cato, all the historians of that
period continued to write in Greek. Sources of history
were: the Annals of the (pagan) Pontifex Maximus, legends, family records of noble houses,
treaties and laws, and the archives of the priestly colleges. Problems of writers of this period
were limitations in the annual record of magistrates, which only go back to 320 BC, and the fact
that the Galls destroyed most of the early records of Rome in the attack of 390 BC.
Social Archaeology: Once excavation has revealed a construction, Colin Renfew says some
questions should be asked. Were the builders beyond the survival stage? How big a population is
needed to provide farm workers and surplus workers for this project? What political power was
needed to coordinate building? What does location and size of the building indicate about travel,
trade and economics? Why was the building erected in terms of belief and religion? What was
needed to erect the building in terms of science or knowledge? What does the refinement of the
building and any pictorial representations say about local costume, art and culture? What does
the ambient say about tribal or level of urbanization? Are there any indications of social tensions
in the building or in its destruction? The Roman area had a linguistic continuity from 1800 BC,
but not necessarily an ethnic continuity (the opposite of Switzerland today with 4 languages and
one national sentiment). Latin, or what would become Latin, was spoken by hunter-gatherers,
and later by farmers. The fig, olive and vine always had a central place in the Forum, said Pliny
the Elder, as they do today. Then, up to the 10~ century BC, south Etruria and central Latium
had villages of some 100 people, separated from 2 to 5 miles apart, with supporting farms
between them. About 900 BC in south Etruria, these villages began to be abandoned and future
cities began to form, the Villanovan proto cities of Veii, Tarquinia, Cere, and Vulci. With this
change, there was a new urban social structure, in which the Etruscans began to compete with the
Latins in language, life, and society. Rome began to change about 850 BC from village to
urban.. .it was not yet a city! The beginning of Latial Culture and the use of cremation by the
Latins took place in the 10w” century BC, at the end of the Bronze Age, according to Pallottino.
In the mid~8th century BC, the Latins began serious importation of Greek goods
and ideas. This
time, 750 BC, is the traditional time of the founding of Rome. From Athens and often via Etruria,
Rome began to drink at the wellsprings of Greek writing, art, eloquence, law, liberty for some,
and government. Rome then expanded from a city to a city-state, opposing the Latin League in
499 BC and at the Battle of Lake Regillus in 496 BC. Rome conquered Etruscan Veii in 396 BC.
Rome was burned by the Galls in 390 BC. The Appian Way was built in 312 BC. Volsinium
(Orvieto) was captured in 264 BC. The Via Flaininia was built in 220 BC. Roman armies and
roads were slowly building an empire. There were problems with wealth and slaves. The
concentration of wealth grew, so that the sumptuary legislation (Oppian Law of 215 BC after
Cannae) was repealed in 195 BC despite the opposition of the conservatives led by Cato. With
the increase of slave labor, commercial farming with absentee landlords were the foundation
the latifhndia system between 200 and 150 BC. Results were: First, many peasants were
economically displaced. Second, the proletariat in Rome on the dole increased. Third, there was
a military crisis due to army property qualifications. Fourth, commodity prices dropped due to
increase production. Fifth, there was a dependence of urban Italy on provincial cereals. Sixth,
protective legislation had to be passed for olives and grapes (but Tenney Frank denies).
Demographics: Roman population varied between two million in 250 AD, fifty in 500 AD after
the plunder of the Goths in 410 AD and the sack of the Vandals in 455 AD, thirty two thousand
in 1527 after the sack of Rome by the army of Emperor Charles V, two hundred thousand in
1870, two million in 1970, and almost four million today.
Cultural Archaeology: After the Middle Bronze A e 1600 BC, there flourished a unified culture
in Italy. This Appending culture had a unitary character in the whole of Italy. Then, there was
expanded influence from the Aegean between the 13111 and the 1 1w” centuries BC that touched
Etruria and Latium especially. Also, 900 BC in north Italy the Proto-Villanovans appear with
biconical pots, burial by cinerary urns, and grave gifts, and the whole cultural situation of Italy
profoundly changed. The Venetic Culture appeared in the north east; Ligurian Culture
north west; Piceno Culture all along the Adriatic. Thus, pre-Roman Italy had people of diverse
origin, language, traditions, stage of development, and territorial extension. All of these cultures
were influenced by the Greeks with well defined national character, expansive vigor, intellectual
and aesthetic good taste. Rome’s expanding empire then unified the Mediterranean.
Datin2: In 1900, prehistoric dating could only be done by classifying
rude stone tools as Old
Stone Age or Paleolithic, fine stone tools as New Stone Age or Neolithic, an age of Bronze, and
later an age of Iron. The Carbon-14 Method of dating was discovered by Prof W. F. Libby at the
University of Chicago. All living matter absorbs radioactive carbon during life. That radioactive
carbon begins to decay with death. Half ofthe radioactivity is gone in 5700 years. Libby
measured the radioactivity, and checked his results against samples whose dates were known. For
prehistoric objects the method is priceless. Even for classical objects, whose dates
approximately known, the method is an excellent double check.
Late Bronze Age
Final Bronze Age
End Proto-Villanovan VeŘ, Alban Hills
Vilianovan Forum Cremations
Punic War 264-4 1
II Punk 214-01
Ill Punic 149-46
Caesar died 44BC
Empire began 27BC
Augustus d. 14AD
Nero fire 64AD
Constantine d. 337
Empire end 476AD
Odoacer died 493
Theodoric d. 552
Trojan War, Aeneas
Aeneadae in Alba Longa
Rome 21 April 753
Romulus died 715
Ancus Martius 616
T. Priscius 578
Servius Tullius 534
T. Superbus 509