Rome celebrates 2,769th birthday on 21 April

Historical groups evoke ancient Roman tradtions with Natale di Roma.

The capital celebrates its 2,769th birthday on Thursday 21 April, with events lasting until Sunday 24 April. Known as Natale di Roma, the annual birthday celebration is based on the legendary foundation of Rome by Romulus in 753 BC.

The traditional birthday celebrations are centred in the Circus Maximus and include the trench-digging ritual, known as the tracciato del solco, at 15.00 on 21 April. This tradition 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 town’s inhabitants.

This is followed at 16.00 by a re-enactment of the agricultural Palilia ceremony. Dating back to before the founding of Rome, the ceremony was held in honour of the goddess Pales, protector of flocks and herds, and involved vestal virgins distributing straw and the ashes and blood of sacrificed animals before jumping over a bonfire three times.

The Circus Maximus will host more historical re-enactments including gladiator fights, aimed at children, on 22 and 23 April from 14.00-16.00.

The main event is a costumed parade, featuring more than 2,000 gladiators, senators, vestal virgins and priestesses, which begins and ends at the Circus Maximus, departing at 11.00 on Sunday 24 April. The pageant is organised by the Gruppo Storico Romano, an historical dramatic society which, for more than 20 years, has brought history to life by re-enacting battles, historic events, and displays of ancient theatre and dance in the city centre.

City museums will be free on 21 April, with numerous Natale di Roma events taking place between 20 and 24 April. For details see Musei in Comune website.

Also taking place on Natale di Roma this year are celebrations to inaugurate William Kentridge's Triumphs and Laments frieze on the embankment walls between Ponte Sisto and Ponte Mazzini. The theatrical performances of dance, shadow play and music composed by Philip Miller feature two dance groups as well as more than 40 musicians and vocalists, with four replications of the event on 21 and 22 April, at 20.30 and 22.30.

For full Natale di Roma events programme see the Gruppo Storico Romano website.