Roma is the center of the civilized world, the greatest metropolis known to mankind, the seat of the eminent Republic that is spreading law and order throughout the land. Its teeming streets, diverse multitudes, inspiring architecture, and stunning public artworks make it not only the Republic’s capital but also quite possibly its most impressive achievement.
It being such a big city, we will be covering the city of Roma in Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising™ (G&H) in three installments. This week, we’re focusing on the legendary founders of Roma, its many bustling marketplaces, and the various villages that have cropped up around the gates that allow entrance to the city.
Legends tell of the twins Romulus and Remus, the founders of Roma who were born of Mars, the mighty god of war, and Rhea Silva, a priestess of Vesta and daughter of King Numitor of Alba Longa. When King Numitor was deposed by his brother, Rhea and her sons were to be put to death. But the servant charged with disposing of the boys did not have the heart for such a grisly task and instead set them adrift on the Tiber River, entrusting their lives to fate.
Fate, however, had nothing to do with it: The river god Tiberinus took pity on the twins and plucked them from the river’s swift current. The god took the infants to the Palatine Hill, where they were suckled by a she-wolf and fed by a woodpecker (both animals that are sacred to Mars).
They were subsequently raised by a shepherd and his wife, and Romulus and Remus grew to be strong and noble young men. Eventually they avenged their grandfather, Numitor, and were themselves offered the crown of Alba Longa. The two declined, however, preferring to return to the Palatine Hill to establish their own city. They gave this new city the name of Roma – and thus it is said that all Romans are descendants of Mars himself, which is why the fearsome war god has blessed the Roman Republic with such overwhelming military prowess.
Naturally, there are several gates allowing entry into the sprawling urban complex that Roma has grown into since its founding. Each of these gates has a small settlement of merchants, gamblers, and other Romans who have set up their operations outside the gates in order to take advantage of the large amount of traffic passing through. Some of these are small villages, while others are more like camps that consist mostly of temporary structures.
Approaching Roma’s south gate from the Alban Hills region, you must pass through a small village known as Porta Appia, which is home to many vendors and other hard-working Romans. Just east of Porta Appia is a trail that ascends to the Rutilus Overlook, a remote hilltop that is the site of a temple overlooking the southeast quadrant of Roma. The Rutilus Overlook provides a truly breathtaking view of the city.
Entering Roma via the south gate will put you right in the middle of the Forum Plebeium, a large marketplace that sells a variety of goods and gear to Roman heroes who are still relatively new to their adventuring ways. There are weapons and armor vendors, food and drink vendors, potions and scrolls vendors – pretty much everything you might need to get your hands on so that you can get back to smiting the Republic’s enemies. Many of the vendor stalls in the Forum Plebeium are housed within a two-story building, but the marketplace sprawls across a large section of Roma’s southwestern corner.
The taberna located in the Forum Plebeium is the headquarters of the Collegium Plebeium. Some call the Collegia “gangs,” but Nolus, captain of the Collegium Plebeium, prefers to describe the Collegia as “consortiums of merchants, tradesmen, and mercenaries who watch each other’s backs.” A local merchant named Prosco, who regularly pays his dues to the Collegium Plebeium, was recently accosted by members of a rival gang, the Collegium Caelium. These two Collegia are now on the brink of open warfare. The good news is that this means you, the player, will get to engage in combat within the city! The bad news is that violence on the streets of Roma itself is a severe reminder of the chaos and lawlessness that are afflicting the Roman Republic.
If you are approaching Roma from Panaria, you will pass by Ripa Etrusca, a series of river docks on the Tiber river just north of Roma. Tesserarius Numanus Croccus is stationed on one of the docks and is actively recruiting Roman Heroes to embark on a mission to storm the Isle of Archimedes, where the Greek inventor is creating nefarious weaponry to use against the Republic. You have to be a pretty experienced combatant for him to accept your services, however: the battle on the Isle of Archimedes is raging and is no place for an unseasoned warrior.
Just inside Roma’s north gate is the Lower Aventine, a marketplace that sells goods and equipment of middling quality that are well-suited to Roman heroes who have already made quite a name for themselves but still have a way to go before they will be remembered alongside heroes such as Hercules and Theseus. There is a large warehouse in the Lower Aventine where goods are stored before being sent out to the vendors in their stalls, which are located along a bustling boulevard that runs the length of the Lower Aventine. The central rotunda and ornate colonnades that line the boulevard have seen better days, as they are dingy and covered in filth.
The taberna in the Lower Aventine is the personal headquarters of Vorastes, the controlling captain of all of the Collegia in Roma. Macro Sejanus, who can generally be found working behind the counter in the Lower Aventine taberna, is unfailingly loyal to Vorastes, with whom he served in the military. But Macro grows weary of civilian life, and would like to return to adventuring and battling the enemies of Rome.
Porta Praenestina is a small settlement just outside Roma’s east gate, and is what you will pass through as you travel to Roma from Armentalius. Porta Praenestina consists of several small canopies that have been set up on either side of the road for use by the Romans who work there.
Entering the city through the east gate immediately places you in the Forum Patricium, which is the marketplace that caters only to those heroes who have completed many truly epic adventures and thus become legends in their own times. The equipment and provisions sold in the Forum Patricium are of the highest quality. An impressive forum building is under construction here, featuring rows of towering marble columns and several magnificent sculptures. It’s not uncommon to see senators and their families strolling around the Forum Patricium, as well as many other wealthy and prominent citizens of Roma.
Travelers headed to Roma from Vinetum will have to pass through Porta Ostiensis, a settlement just outside of Roma’s west gate. Like Porta Praenestina, Porta Ostiensis is a small series of temporary shelters erected on both sides of the road for use by whomever wants to set up shop there.
Once they have entered through Roma’s western gate, visitors to the city will immediately behold the Circus Maximus in all its glory. The Circus Maximus is a long, oval-shaped arena in which the famous chariot races are held – but this awe-inspiring structure will be discussed in more detail in a future installment. Check back next time to find out all about the character class quarters and Olympian temples of the mighty capital city of the glorious Roman Republic.