Aventine Hill

History

Its etymology is traced either from Aventinus or a son of Hercules and a Latin priestess Rhea, also called Aventinus. Servius's commentary on Aeneid vii.656 states:

"The Aventine is a hill in the city of Rome. It is accepted that it derives its name from birds (aves) which, rising from the Tiber, nested there (as we read in the eighth book of a suitable home for the nests of ill-omened birds). This is because of a king of the Aboriginal Italians, Aventinus by name, who was both killed and buried there - just as the Alban king Aventinus was, he who was succeeded by Procas. Varro, however, states that amongst the Roman people, the Sabines accepted this mountain when it was offered them by Romulus, and called it the Aventine after the Aventus river in its area. It is therefore accepted that these different opinions came later, for in the beginning it was called Aventinus after either the birds or the Aboriginal King: from which it is accepted that the son of Hercules mentioned here took his name from that of the hill, not vice versa."

Virgil wrote that Cacus, whom Hercules killed, lived in a cave on Aventine Hill. Hercules killed him because Cacus had stolen the Cattle of Geryon that Hercules had to deliver.

According to Livy, Remus chose the Aventine for his station of observation after the founding of the Rome, while Romulus chose the Palatine (book 6 of Livy's Ab urbe condita).

In modern times, the Aventine Hill actually consists of two hills: the northwestern hill and the southeastern hill. During Romulus' and Remus' time, the Aventine Hill only consisted of the northwestern hill. Remus stood on the southeastern hill. Eventually, the northwestern hill, where Romulus stood, and the southeastern hill, upon which Remus stood, both came together under the name of the Aventine Hill. As a result, mythologically, Romulus and Remus would have stood on the same hill. In order to preserve the image of the twins standing on different hills looking for omens, Romulus’ position was changed to Palatine Hill, where Romulus founded the city, and Remus remained on the Aventine Hill.

The Aventine Hill did not become a part of Rome proper until long after the city’s founding. Strabo’s Geography has the Aventine Hill being incorporated into Rome by Ancus Marcius, who ruled from 640-616 BC as the fourth king of Rome, in order to further fortify the city and protect it from invaders.

Common Roman mythology believes the Aventine Hill was incorporated into the city of Rome with the building of the Servian Wall during the reign of Servius Tullius, the sixth king of Rome, in the mid-sixth century, BC. The wall itself, however, probably could not have been built before 393 BC when the Romans conquered Veii, which controlled a quarry that produced the specific type of stone of which the Servian Wall is made. Most scholars believe that the wall was built after an invasion and occupation by the Gauls in 387 BC.

The Aventine Hill was a suburb of Rome during the monarchy and early Republic until about 456 BC when a law was passed allowing plebeians to own property on the hill. Thus, the city began to outgrow its walls as it extended onto Aventine Hill and the Campus Martius. This expansion made it much easier for the Gauls to capture Rome. This invasion prompted a new wall to be built incorporating the new areas of the city, including the Aventine Hill.

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