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Rome celebrates 2,777th birthday on 21 April

Rome blows out 2,777 candles in 2024.

The Eternal City celebrates its 2,777th birthday on 21 April with historical re-enactments including costumed parades past the Colosseum and gladiator fights in the Circus Maximus.

Known as Natale di Roma, the annual birthday celebration is based on the legendary founding of Rome by Romulus in 753 BC, and this year takes place from 19-21 April.

Rome's birthday has been marked for the past three decades by the Gruppo Storico Romano, a historical dramatic society that re-enacts battles, Roman rituals and displays of ancient theatre and dance. The group also re-enacts the assassination of Julius Caesar on 15 March every year.

The theme of this year's Natale di Roma festival is Regina Viarum, a reference to the Appian Way - the "queen of roads" - for which Italy is currently seeking UNESCO World Heritage Status.

The annual event goes from strength to strength and has come a long way since Sergio Iacomoni, the founder and president of the Gruppo Storico Romano, first marked Natale di Roma with a few friends at the Colosseum 30 years ago.

Today the festival enjoys institutional support from the highest levels, including the European parliament, Italy's culture ministry, the Italian Olympic committee, the Lazio region, the city of Rome and several foreign embassies.

This year there will be more than 1,700 costumed participants, hundreds of whom travel to Rome from across Europe every April at their own expense.

Natale di Roma 2023. Photo Wanted in Rome.

 

On the evening of Friday 19 April a ceremony to renew the sacred fire will be held at Piazza Campo Marzio, in the historic centre, followed by the Bendictio Urbi re-enactment and concert outside the Pantheon.

Most of the Natale di Roma events will be centred in the Circus Maximus, including a gladiator school and a gladiator tournament as well as live music by the Italian army band and the Orchestra Filarmonica Città di Roma.

There is also the trench-digging ritual, known as the tracciato del solco, which 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.

Other re-enactments include the agricultural Palilia ceremony. Dating 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.

Natale di Roma celebrations at the Circus Maximus. Photo credit: Corina Daniela Obertas / Shutterstock.com

 

On Saturday 20 April at 15.00 the Circus Maximus will host a match of Harpastum, an ancient ball game imported to Rome from Greece and described by organisers as the "ancestor of rugby". Rome side Legio XI Roma - featuring a special appearance by Italy rugby legend Martin Castrogiovanni - will take on a team from Lugo in Spain.

The highlight of the Natale di Roma festivities, the grand parade, takes place at 11.00 on Sunday 21 April, to and from the Circus Maximus via the Colosseum.

For the full 2024 programme of events see the Gruppo Storico Romano website.

Cover image: Natale di Roma 2023. Photo Wanted in Rome.

General Info

Address Via del Circo Massimo, 00186 Roma RM, Italy

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Rome celebrates 2,777th birthday on 21 April

Via del Circo Massimo, 00186 Roma RM, Italy

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