Ancient Rome comes to life for city’s 2,775th birthday

Natale di Roma is marked with re-enactments of ancient Roman customs from 21-24 April.

Rome celebrates its 2,775th birthday on 21 April 2022. The annual event, known as Natale di Roma, is based on the legendary founding of Rome by Romulus in 753 BC.

For more than two decades an historical dramatic society called the Gruppo Storico Romano has brought history to life by re-enacting battles, events and displays of ancient theatre and dance in Rome.

For the last two years the group’s vivid celebration of Natale di Roma has been held online, due to Italy’s covid restrictions, however the 2022 edition will see the public return to witness the historical re-enactments in person.

Most of the action will take place at the Circus Maximus, from 21-24 April, where visitors of all ages can enjoy the spectacles for free.

The four-day programme of celebrations begins at midday on Thursday, with events that afternoon including a re-enactment of an ancient trench-digging ritual, known as the tracciato del solco.

This custom recalls the founding of ancient Roman towns when a trench or mundus was dug and offerings thrown into it to encourage the gods to watch over the inhabitants.

Photo credit: victimewalker / Shutterstock.com.

There is also the chance to witness the agricultural Palilia ceremony, held in honour of the goddess Pales, protector of flocks and herds.

This tradition involved Vestal Virgins distributing straw and the ashes and blood of sacrificed animals before jumping over a bonfire three times.

Friday is devoted to a day-long programme of workshops focusing on ancient Roman life, examining various aspects including school, clothes, medicine and religion.

Gladiators will be on hand to display their weapons and combat techniques, and the day ends with a concert of ancient Roman music.

Saturday morning will see more workshops while in the afternoon the Circus Maximus will host a match of Harpastum, an ancient ball game imported to Rome from Greece, described by organisers as the «ancestor of rugby».

Photo credit: Corina Daniela Obertas / Shutterstock.com.

This is followed by the crowing of the Dea Roma, or Goddess of Rome, and then the ever-popular gladiator show in the late afternoon.

The highlight of the Natale di Roma celebrations, the grand parade, takes place on Sunday at 10.30.

This impressive spectacle has in the past seen around 1,500 costumed participants march from and to the Circus Maximus, via the Colosseum.

The festivities come to a close in the afternoon with an extravaganza of dance, ceremonies and fights, concluding with a re-enactment of the Battle of Bedriacum.

For the 2022 programme of events, which will be presented officially by the city on 19 April, see the Gruppo Storico Romano website.

Cover photo: Corina Daniela Obertas / Shutterstock.com.




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