Rome: 20 key history dates

Roman history can be divided into four periods:

  1. Ancient Rome from its founding almost 3,000 years ago until its collapse in the fifth century AD;
  2. the medieval period when the organising power of the Roman Church combined with the rise of the merchant city states and feudal dynasties slowly returned prosperity to fill the barbarian vacuum left by the fall of Ancient Rome;
  3. the Renaissance which marked the arrival of humanist ideas and science, from Florence and elsewhere, when the pure lines of renaissance architecture were followed by the more ornate baroque;
  4. and modern Italy which traces its origins to Napoleon’s destructive invasions and resulting poverty, disarray and foreign occupation and in reaction to which the famous Italian patriots forged the kingdom of Italy, the first time since Roman times that the country had been united.

Ancient Rome

753 BC Romulus founds Rome, according to legend;

509 BC The Etruscan Tarquinius Superbus, last king of Rome, is run out of the city and the Republic is established;

264-146 BC Punic Wars fought by Rome against the Carthaginian general Hannibal. Rome gains control of Sicily, parts of Spain and north Africa;

44 BC Julius Caesar murdered on the Ides of March and cremated in the Forum;

31 BC Octavian (later Augustus), Caesar’s adopted son, ends the struggle for power when he triumphs over the forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra;

65 AD St Peter martyred under Nero, and buried on the site of the present St Peter’s Basilica;

96-180 the ‘Five Good Emperors’, including Marcus Aurelius whose equestrian statue stands on the Capitoline Hill,maintain the Pax Romana (era of peace) that began under Augustus;

125 Pantheon constructed by Hadrian as a temple to all the gods, later to become the first Roman temple to be Christianised, in 609 AD;

312 Constantine defeats the rival emperor Maxentius and converts to Christianity, starts to build Christian basilicas in Rome;

410 Rome sacked by the Goths under Alaric;

476 The last Emperor of the West, Romulus Augustulus, abdicates and Rome is taken over by the Goths;

Medieval Rome

800 Charlemagne, King of the Franks, is crowned Holy Roman Emperor giving him, along with the pope, supreme rule over the Empire;

1309 Pope moves to Avignon under pressure from the French king. As the Catholic church splits, the competing line of papal pretenders in Rome are known as ‘antipopes’. In 1377 The official pope and the Holy See return to Rome;

Renaissance and Baroque

1503-13 Julius II founds the Swiss Guard, and commissions Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling;

1655-67 The reign of Alexander VII sees the completion of St Peter’s by his chief architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini;


1797 Napoleon Bonaparte leads the French armies into Rome;

1849 Republic of Italy established by Mazzini and Garibaldi in Rome, only for French troops to regain control of the city later that same year;

1871 Rome is proclaimed capital of the new Kingdom of Italy. Pope Pius IX no longer wields temporal power and is confined to the Vatican;

1922 Mussolini marches on Rome and seizes power;

1957 Italy one of the six founder nations signing the Treaty of Rome establishing the European Economic Community (later EU)  at the Palazzo dei Conservatori on the Capitoline Hill;

1960 Rome hosts the XVII Olympic Games;

2005 Death of the Polish Pope John Paul II after a ponitificate of 27 years, succeeded by the German Benedict XVI.  John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope since 1523.

More Roman history:
Pilgrim’s Rome
Rome: A dictator and handful of emperors
Rome: 10 top popes
Rome: Complete list of popes