On April 21 of each year people celebrate ‘Natale di Roma’, the Birthday of Rome. Formerly known as Dies Romana, this celebration commemorates the founding of the city. Indeed, according to legend, Romulus founded it on April 21, 753 BC. This date was so important for the Romans that they used to count the passing of the years from it. And according to their calendar, 2022 is actually 2775!
However, with the spread of Christianity, the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the barbarian hordes, citizens lost the habit of celebrating the Birthday of Rome, which was resumed only during the Risorgimento (1815 – 1871).
For Natale di Roma, the city hosts exhibitions and events linked to the ancient Romans. Among these, a historical parade that, this year, will start from the Circus Maximus to reach Piazza Venezia, passing through the Imperial Forums and the Colosseum.
The Circus Maximus also hosts the show area, the didactic area and the reconstruction of an ancient Castrum, the fortified camp that the Roman army used to set up at the end of each day’s march.
All the re-enactments attract thousands of participants and public from all over the word.
For those who don’t know what it is, the Circus Maximus is the remains of an ancient chariot-racing stadium which could accommodate more than 150,000 spectators.
But the most evocative event of the Birthday of Rome occurs in the Pantheon.
The Pantheon is a temple to all past, present and future deities, founded in 27 BC. The emperor Hadrian presumably rebuilt it between 112 and 124 AD. about.
Its interior is round in shape, surmounted by a huge dome that has a hole in the center. This hole has a diameter of 9 meters and is the only source of external light.
Well, every 21st of April, at precisely noon, the sun’s rays pass through the hole and hit the bronze entrance door of the Pantheon. This is the door through which thousands of visitors enter everyday but which, in ancient time, the emperor himself entered.
The effect is not accidental. The emperor Augustus asked the constructor to build the Pantheon in this way. The reasons are two.
First, to mark the seasons. Then, to ensure that, on the occasion of the celebrations of the Dies Romana, the sun would illuminate the emperor from head to toe, giving him a sort of luminous aura. In other words, it was a scenographic effect to glorify the greatest figure of the Roman Empire and impress the viewers.
In 2022, the celebrations for the Birthday of Rome start on April 21 and end on April 24.
The theme is Titus Flavius Vespasianus. He was the emperor who reigned after Nero’s death in 68 and pacified the empire. He also began the construction of the Flavian Amphitheater (the Colosseum).