- Ancient tradition has it that Rome was founded by the twins Romulus and Remus in the mid-eighth century BCE, a dating supported by archaeological evidence of early settlements found on the Palatine Hill. Romulus became Rome's first king, establishing a monarchic form of government that lasted until 509 BCE when the Senate abolished monarchic rule and established a republic. In 44 BCE, Julius Caesar, who had declared himself Rome's dictator, was murdered and in 27 BCE his great-nephew and adopted son, Octavian, became Rome's first emperor, taking on the name Caesar Augustus. The Roman Empire eventually grew to become one of the largest and most powerful of the ancient era, and in fact so huge that in the third century CE Diocletian was forced to set up a tetradic ruling system to ensure its proper administration.Constantine the Great, who ascended the imperial throne in 324, did away with Diocletian's tetradic form of government, declared himself sole ruler, and moved the capital from Rome to Constantinople (now Istanbul), splitting the empire into two. With the Edict of Milan (313) he granted Christians the freedom to worship openly and soon after he built Old St. Peter's to mark the saint's tomb, with this establishing Rome as the center of Christendom. In 321, he gave the Church the right to own and sell property, and donated to Pope Sylvester I the Lateran Palace in Rome. Soon landowners began granting their properties to the papacy, most in the vicinity of Rome, though some of the lands were as far south as Sicily. In 754-756, the Frankish King Pepin reaffirmed the Church's ownership of the Roman duchy and made further land donations to the papacy in the Umbrian, Emilia-Romagna, Marche, and Campania regions of Italy. In 781, and again in 787, Pepin's son, Charlemagne, reconfirmed the papacy's ownership of the territories his father had endowed to the papacy, and gave the Church added lands in Umbria, Emilia-Romagna, Marche, Campania, Tuscany, Lazio, and Calabria. The Papal States were extended further when in 1115 Countess Matilda of Tuscany be-queathed to the pope her domain in the Marche region. With these donations, the papacy became the largest landowner on the Italian peninsula, dominating most of the Tyrrhenian coast to the west, and a large portion of the Adriatic coast to the east.For most of the medieval era, Rome was plagued with strife among the great feudal families, especially the Colonna and Orsini, and the power struggle between the papacy and the Holy Roman emperors. Though Giotto, Pietro Cavallini, and Jacopo Torriti had been active in the region, it was not until the papacy could be ensured a permanent seat in Rome that the city became a major player in the development of the Renaissance. Martin V, who returned the papacy to Rome in 1420 after the Great Schism, initiated the restoration of pilgrimage sites, such as the Church of St. John Lateran, to lure pilgrims to the area and encourage economic growth. He commissioned Masolino, Gentile da Fabriano, and Antonio Pisanello to provide works to embellish these sites. Other popes followed suit, but it was not until the reign of Nicholas V that Rome was systematically improved under the direction of Leon Battista Alberti. By the 16th century, Rome had become a major center of art, thanks to the presence of Michelangelo, Raphael, and Bramante and, by the 17th century it was the capital of the art world, a position it held until the dawn of the 18th century, when France took the lead.See also Sack of Rome.
Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. Lilian H. Zirpolo. 2008.
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