This Latin sentence, which means “for the city (Rome) and for the world”, is applied today in a literal sense exclusively to the blessings that the bishop of Rome, that is, the Pope, imparts to all the faithful Catholics of the World by granting them plenary indulgence and remission of sins. In a broader sense it is used to refer to any type of message addressed in a general way to all the inhabitants of the earth.

It is its specific and predominant liturgical use that has moved to consider the origin of expression in the blessings of Pope Gregory X in the years 1272 to 1276.

Well, the expression and its genesis has a long history behind it, because in order to make sense we need a city that is different from the rest and a world or an empire that spoke Latin, and that existed many centuries before Pope Gregory X .

First, from the point of view of content, of substance,  the expression "urbi et orbi" refers to a special city, Rome, the "city" par excellence because  it is the head or capital of a huge empire, the orb of the Romans. The famous Vitruvius (ca. 80-70 BC-15 BC) perfectly expressed this idea, shared by the Romans since ancient times:

Vitruvius, De architectura, VI,1,10-11

Hence, it was the divine intelligence that set the city of the Roman people in a peerless and temperate country, in order that it might acquire the right to command the whole world. (Translation by Morris Hicky Morgan, 1914)

ita divina mens civitatem populi Romani egregia temperataque regione conlocavit, uti orbis terrarum imperii potiretur.

From the point of view of linguistic form, the similarity between "urbi" and "orbi" immediately leaps into the ear, they differ only in a phoneme, in this case also in a letter. This is a play on words, a pun. This literary figure is called "paronomasia".

That Rome is "the city par excellence" is a very old concept, proudly shared by the Romans, as I said above. Let us recall how the general story that Livy (59 BC-17 AD) wrote about Rome is precisely called "Ab urbe condita", "Since the founding of the city", and everyone understands that city  can only be Rome.

We will then go into this fact and try to explain briefly how a small village with an origin in the 8th or 7th century BC, beside the Tiber, eventually became the capital of the oldest and most important ancient empire of ancient times by its consequences, and how the "orb" of the known land becomes the "Roman orb." The city also ended up being divinized, like its rulers, and receiving cult directed by priests specialized in it.

Secondly, I will also go a little deeper into the pun, or the literary figure quoted, the paronomasia "urbi et orbi", a figure that we define as "using two or more words, similarly phonetically because only some phoneme is differentiated, but with different meaning ". This paronomasia is also a well-attested literary resource in Roman literature. I will explain some texts later.

I will deal first with the ascension of the little Rome to "urbs" of the Roman "orb",  which is the same as to say "of the world orb".

According to historiography and mythology, Rome was founded in the 8th century BC; With more precision in the year 753, and adjusting more on April 21, the day in which the various foundational legends agree.

Well, with the passage of time it became the capital of a huge empire, to where they led all roads, as the capital city of the world. As a strong and powerful city it is respected and even deified in a long process in which its rulers, the emperors, were also deified.

In the Persian and Egyptian, and then in the Greek, the divinization of kings, of the powerful, was already a tradition. Greece was conquered by the Romans and declared Roman province in the year 197 b.C., and the victorious Rome became  to be considered a powerful and strong city.

This divinization, which was elaborated in the East, was consecrated by the Emperor Hadrian in the first half of the second century AD. Moreover, Rome is identified with the Empire itself, which as a powerful god is articulated in different coordinated members.

On the etymology of the word Rome and Romulus, related to it, not only there is no agreement but diverse proposals, several of them related to the Etruscan world. But for a Greek man, inevitably the word Rome would remind them of their word ῤώμη (rhòme), which means “force”. It would help to deify it as a strong city and inhabited by strong men; strength, force is a property of the gods and assimilated beings; so Rome, which is already strong even in the name, must have something in common with the gods.

Let us see in a few texts how this idea of Rome and its empire is elaborated as a powerful divinity, benefactor of the human race, from its humble origin.

Plutarch refers to the name of Rome at the beginning of the biography of Romulus. I use now to reproduce the detailed account of Plutarch to link with the best known legend about Romulus and Remus:

Plutarch, Parallel Lives, Beginning of the Life of Romulus:

From whom, and for what reason the great name of Rome, so famous among mankind, was given to that city, writers are not agreed. Some say that the Pelasgians, after wandering over most of the habitable earth and subduing most of mankind, settled down on that site, and that from their strength in war they called their city Rome.  Others say that at the taking of Troy some of its people escaped, found sailing vessels, were driven by storms upon the coast of Tuscany, and came to anchor in the river Tiber; that here, while their women were perplexed and distressed at thought of the sea, one of them, who was held to be of superior birth and the greatest understanding, and whose name was Roma, proposed that they should burn the ships;  that when this was done, the men were angry at first, but afterwards, when they had settled of necessity on the Palatine, seeing themselves in a little while more prosperous than they had hoped, since they found the country good and the neighbours made them welcome, they paid high honours to Roma, and actually named the city after her, since she had been the occasion of their founding it.  And from that time on, they say, it has been customary for the women to salute their kinsmen and husbands with a kiss; for those women, after they had burned the ships, made use of such tender salutations as they supplicated their husbands and sought to appease their wrath.

Others again say that the Roma who gave her name to the city was a daughter of Italus and Leucaria, or, in another account, of Telephus the son of Heracles; and that she was married to Aeneas, or, in another version, to Ascanius the son of Aeneas. Some tell us that it was Romanus, a son of Odysseus and Circe, who colonized the city; others that it was Romus, who was sent from Troy by Diomedes the son of Emathion; and others still that it was Romis, tyrant of the Latins, after he had driven out the Tuscans, who passed from Thessaly into Lydia, and from Lydia into Italy. Moreover, even those writers who declare, in accordance with the most authentic tradition, that it was Romulus who gave his name to the city, do not agree about his lineage.  For some say that he was a son of Aeneas and Dexithea the daughter of Phorbas, and was brought to Italy in his infancy, along with his brother Romus; that the rest of the vessels were destroyed in the swollen river, but the one in which the boys were was gently directed to a grassy bank, where they were unexpectedly saved, and the place was called Roma from them.  Others say it was Roma, a daughter of the Trojan woman I have mentioned, who was wedded to Latinus the son of Telemachus and bore him Romulus; others that Aemilia, the daughter of Aeneas and Lavinia, bore him to Mars; and others still rehearse what is altogether fabulous concerning his origin. For instance, they say that Tarchetius, king of the Albans, who was most lawless and cruel, was visited with a strange phantom in his house, namely, a phallus rising out of the hearth and remaining there many days.  Now there was an oracle of Tethys in Tuscany, from which there was brought to Tarchetius a response that a virgin must have intercourse with this phantom, and she should bear a son most illustrious for his valour, and of surpassing good fortune and strength. Tarchetius, accordingly, told the prophecy to one of his daughters, and bade her consort with the phantom; but she disdained to do so, and sent a handmaid in to it.  When Tarchetius learned of this, he was wroth, and seized both the maidens, purposing to put them to death. But the goddess Hestia appeared to him in his sleep and forbade him the murder. He therefore imposed upon the maidens the weaving of a certain web in their imprisonment, assuring them that when they had finished the weaving of it, they should then be given in marriage. By day, then, these maidens wove, but by night other maidens, at the command of Tarchetius, unravelled their web. And when the handmaid became the mother of twin children by the phantom, Tarchetius gave them to a certain Teratius with orders to destroy them.  This man, however, carried them to the river-side and laid them down there. Then a she-wolf visited the babes and gave them suck, while all sorts of birds brought morsels of food and put them into their mouths, until a cow-herd spied them, conquered his amazement, ventured to come to them, and took the children home with him. Thus they were saved, and when they were grown up, they set upon Tarchetius and overcame him. At any rate, this is what a certain Promathion says, who compiled a history of Italy.

But the story which has the widest credence and the greatest number of vouchers was first published among the Greeks, in its principal details, by Diodes of Peparethus, and Fabius Pictor follows him in most points. Here again there are variations in the story, but its general outline is as follows.  The descendants of Aeneas reigned as kings in Alba, and the succession devolved at length upon two brothers, Numitor and Amulius. Amulius divided the whole inheritance into two parts, setting the treasures and the gold which had been brought from Troy over against the kingdom, and Numitor chose the kingdom. Amulius, then, in possession of the treasure, and made more powerful by it than Numitor, easily took the kingdom away from his brother, and fearing lest that brother's daughter should have children, made her a priestess of Vesta, bound to live unwedded and a virgin all her days.  Her name is variously given as Ilia, or Rhea, or Silvia. Not long after this, she was discovered to be with child, contrary to the established law for the Vestals. She did not, however, suffer the capital punishment which was her due, because the king's daughter, Antho, interceded successfully in her behalf, but she was kept in solitary confinement, that she might not be delivered without the knowledge of Amulius. Delivered she was of two boys, and their size and beauty were more than human.  Wherefore Amulius was all the more afraid, and ordered a servant to take the boys and cast them away. This servant's name was Faustulus, according to some, but others give this name to the man who took the boys up. Obeying the king's orders, the servant put the babes into a trough and went down towards the river, purposing to cast them in; but when he saw that the stream was much swollen and violent, he was afraid to go close up to it, and setting his burden down near the bank, went his way.  Then the overflow of the swollen river took and bore up the trough, floating it gently along, and carried it down to a fairly smooth spot which is now called Kermalus, but formerly Germanus, perhaps because brothers are called ‘germani.’ (English Translation by. Bernadotte Perrin. Cambridge, MA. Harvard University Press. London. William Heinemann Ltd. 1914.)

I stop here the story of Plutarch, which goes on beyond.

The power, that this small city reached centuries later, generated in the Greek cities a religious answer, granting cult to Rome and considering it divine in itself or in some specific aspect, because they had not known another city with such power. Generally the cult is to the dea Roma, Godess Rome,but also it can be accompanied of the cult to the town, the demos, to the Roman "benefactors", "evergetes", and of course, to the emperor.

"Evergetes", εὐεργέτης, is a Greek word, from εὐεργετέω, formed by  εύ, eu, ev, meaning "good" and εργετέω, which means "to do" and therefore "to do good" or "to do good works" . It is the title that accompanied some Greek leaders.

At least once the Dionysiac artists of the Isthmus offer sacrifices to the Romans as common benefactors. It is attested in an inscription of Delphi, the one in Sylloge Inscriptionum Graecarum, number 705

SIG3 705B.45f  

They shattered the jurisdiction of he guild of Artists; they gave some of the sacred offices which they held as pledges, they absconded with money, offerings, and sacred crowns, which they have not as yet returned, as they prevented the performance of sacrifices and libations in accordance with the ancient customs of our guild to Dionysos and to the other gods and to the Romans, our common patrons. (The translation is adapted from A.Johnson, P.Coleman-Norton & F.Bourne, "Ancient Roman Statutes", no.49 )

In the archaeological excavations at Delphi it also appeared an interesting inscription in which a historian named Aristotheos of Troizen (all the scholars locate him  in the middle of the second century BC) publicly read in Delphi part of his History and added his praise of the Romans as benefactors .

Praise, eulogy, panegyric, funeral speech (oratio funebris), lauds are kinds  of speeches in which the virtues of exceptional people are extolled and, when it corresponds, the greatness of cities and lands. In the schools of Rhetoric,it is logically taught its creation.

The commemorative inscription of the honors granted to Aristoteos of Troizen says:

Fouilles De Delphes III 3 no. 124 (Syll.3 702)  FGrH 835 T 1
Sylloge Inscriptionum Graecarum: 702

With good fortune, it was resolved by the city of Delphi in full assembly with votes as prescribed by law; since Aristotheos son of Nikotheos of Troizen, the historiographer, when he stayed in the city conducted himself in a way worthy of the temple and of his fatherland, and made public readings {akroaseis} of his writings over several days, and also read in public {paranegnō} acclamations for the Romans, the common benefactors of the Greeks; therefore he and his descendants shall be granted by the city proxeny, priority in access to the oracle, priority in receiving justice, inviolability, freedom from all taxes, privileged seating at all the games that the city holds, and the other privileges that are given to the other proxenoi and benefactors of the city.  (The translation is adapted from R.Zelnick-Abramovitz, in "Between Orality and Literacy: Communication and Adaptation in Antiquity", page 180) Jacoby, Felix (Berlin)

Note: proxenos (πρόξενος), plural proxenoi or proxeni (πρόξενοι), "instead of or in favor of a foreigner") or proxeinos (πρόξεινος) is the title and function that a state grants to a citizen of another to care for the Citizens of that state; he is a kind of honorary consul.

We also have Plutarch's account of the wars of Titus Quinctius Flamininus in Greece and the honors paid to him, considering him little less than a god since he is associated with Herakles or with the  Apollo Delfinius himself. Julius Caesar and Augustus would also be worshiped, as we shall see later. Titus Quinctius Flamininus was a politician and military of the Roman Republic. In spite of the opposition of the veterans to whom he had given lands, he was elected consul in 198 b. C. and sent to rule the Macedonian wars against Philippus  V of Macedonia.

Plutarch: Flamininus, , 16

But the hardest toils and struggles fell to Titus when he interceded with Manius in behalf of the Chalcidians. They had incurred the consul's wrath because of the marriage which Antiochus had made in their city after the war had already begun, a marriage which was not only unseasonable, but unsuitable for the king's years, since he was an elderly man and had fallen in love with a girl (the girl was a daughter of Cleoptolemus, and is said to have been most beautiful among maidens). This marriage induced the Chalcidians to take the king's side most zealously and allow their city to be his base of operations for the war. Antiochus, therefore, fleeing with all speed after the battle at Thermopylae, came to Chalcis, and taking with him his girl-wife, his treasure, and his friends, sailed back to Asia; but Manius immediately marched against Chalcis in a rage. He was accompanied, however, by Titus, who tried to mollify and intercede with him and at last won him over and calmed him down by entreaties addressed both to him and the other Romans in authority.

Having been thus saved by Titus, the Chalcidians dedicated to him the largest and most beautiful of the votive offerings in their city, and on them such inscriptions as these are still to be seen: "This gymnasium is dedicated by the people to Titus and Heracles," and again in another place, "This Delphinium is dedicated by the people to Titus and Apollo." Moreover, even down to our own day a priest of Titus is duly elected and appointed, and after sacrifice and libations in his honour, a set hymn of praise to him is sung: it is too long to be quoted entire, and so I will give only the closing words of the song:

"And the Roman faith we revere
, which we have solemnly vowed to cherish;
sing, then, ye maidens, to great Zeus, to Rome, to Titus,
and to the Roman faith:
hail, Paean Apollo!
hail, Titus our saviour!"

(Translation by. Bernadotte Perrin)

So, between the deifying tradition of the East and the immense power of the Romans, one arrives at the deification of Rome, the victorious city and its rulers.

We have numerous epigraphic documents, but few literary ones and for that reason the so-called “himn od Melimnos”  to Rome is very valuable; it  surely must be framed in the celebration of an act of cult to the powerful city of Rome.

Melimnos is a poetess of Lesbos, whose poem is generally dated at the beginning of the second century a. C. Stobaeus transmits to us this hymn of Melimnos, in which Rome is presented as a warrior  goddess whose destiny is both eternal and unique, in Stobaeus 3.7.12. (or in Diehl, Anthology Lyrica Graeca, II: 315-316):

Hail, Roma, daughter of Ares,
Golden-crowned warrior queen
You who live on earth on holy Olympus,
For ever indestructible.

To you alone, most revered one, has Fate
Granted royal glory of unbreakable dominion,
So that, with your sovereign power,
You might lead the way.

Under your yoke of strong leather straps,
The chests of earth and grey sea
Are tightly bound together; with firm hand you govern
The cities of your peoples

The longest eternity, which overthrows everything
And shapes the course of life first in this way, then in that,
For you alone does not change the wind
Which fills the sails of empire.

Indeed, out of all, you alone give birth to
Strong men, wielders of spears,
Sending forth a well-aiming crop of men
Like the fruits of Demeter.

(Translated by Matthew Dillon and Lynda Garland)

Note: Ioannes Stobaeus (V – 6th century a. C.), neo-Platonic doxographer of the 5th-6th century, made an anthology of literary texts of about five hundred authors, called Anthology of Extracts, Sayings and Precepts.

Soon after, and especially in the Empire, it is frequent the creation of temples dedicated to Rome and to the emperor, such as those of Ancyra (present-day Ankara), Pergamon or Lugdunum in the West, dedicated to Rome and Augustus with their corresponding priests.

Suetonius informs us about  the attitude of Augustus with  the erection of temples and statues in his name:

Suetonius:  Augustus, 52

Although he knew that it had been customary to decree temples in honour of the proconsuls, yet he would not permit them to be erected in any of the provinces, unless in the joint names of himself and Rome. Within the limits of the city, he positively refused any honour of that kind. He melted down all the silver statues which had been erected to him, and converted the whole into tripods, which he consecrated to the Palatine Apollo. And when the people importuned him to accept the dictatorship, he bent down on one knee, with his toga thrown over his shoulders, and his breast exposed to view, begging to be excused. ( English Translation, Publishing Editor. J. Eugene Reed. Alexander Thomson. Philadelphia. Gebbie & Co. 1889.)

Templa, quamuis sciret etiam proconsulibus decerni solere, in nulla tamen prouincia nisi communi suo Romaeque nomine recepit. nam in urbe quidem pertinacissime abstinuit hoc honore; atque etiam argenteas statuas olim sibi positas conflauit omnis exque iis aureas cortinas Apollini Palatino dedicauit. Dictaturam magna ui offerente populo genu nixus deiecta ab umeris toga nudo pectore deprecatus est.


Temple of Rome and Augustus. Pergamon      Altar of Rome and Augustus – Lugdudum

Tacitus introduces Tiberius rejecting such honors, unlike Augustus:

Tacitus, Annales,4,37-38 ;

About the same time Further Spain sent a deputation to the Senate, with a request to be allowed, after the example of Asia, to erect a temple to Tiberius and his mother. On this occasion, the emperor, who had generally a strong contempt for honours, and now thought it right to reply to the rumour which reproached him with having yielded to vanity, delivered the following speech:
"I am aware, Senators, that many deplore my want of firmness in not having opposed a similar recent petition from the cities of Asia. I will therefore both explain the grounds of my previous silence and my intentions for the future. Inasmuch as the Divine Augustus did not forbid the founding of a temple at Pergamos to himself and to the city of Rome, I who respect as law all his actions and sayings, have the more readily followed a precedent once approved, seeing that with the worship of myself was linked an expression of reverence towards the Senate. But though it may be par- donable to have allowed this once, it would be a vain and arrogant thing to receive the sacred honour of images representing the divine throughout all the provinces, and the homage paid to Augustus will disappear if it is vulgarised by indiscriminate flattery.

"For myself, Senators, I am mortal and limited to the functions of humanity, content if I can adequately fill the highest place; of this I solemnly assure you, and would have posterity remember it. They will more than sufficiently honour my memory by believing me to have been worthy of my ancestry, watchful over your interests, courageous in danger, fearless of enmity, when the State required it. These sentiments of your hearts are my temples, these my most glorious and abiding monuments. Those built of stone are despised as mere tombs, if the judgment of posterity passes into hatred. And therefore this is my prayer to our allies, our citizens, and to heaven itself; to the last, that, to my life's close, it grant me a tranquil mind, which can discern alike human and divine claims; to the first, that, when I die, they honour my career and the reputation of my name with praise and kindly remembrance."
Henceforth Tiberius even in private conversations persisted in showing contempt for such homage to himself. Some attributed this to modesty; many to self-distrust; a few to a mean spirit. "The noblest men," it was said, "have the loftiest aspirations, and so Hercules and Bacchus among the Greeks and Quirinus among us were enrolled in the number of the gods. Augustus, did better, seeing that he had aspired. All other things princes have as a matter of course; one thing they ought insatiably to pursue, that their memory may be glorious. For to despise fame is to despise merit.
"Translation by Alfred John Church, William Jackson Brodribb)

Per idem tempus Hispania ulterior missis ad senatum legatis oravit ut exemplo Asiae delubrum Tiberio matrique eius extrueret. qua occasione Caesar, validus alioqui spernendis honoribus et respondendum ratus iis quorum rumore arguebatur in ambitionem flexisse, huiusce modi orationem coepit: 'scio, patres conscripti, constantiam meam a plerisque desideratam quod Asiae civitatibus nuper idem istud petentibus non sim adversatus. ergo et prioris silentii defensionem et quid in futurum statuerim simul aperiam. cum divus Augustus sibi atque urbi Romae templum apud Pergamum sisti non prohibuisset, qui omnia facta dictaque eius vice legis observem, placitum iam exemplum promptius secutus sum quia cultui meo veneratio senatus adiungebatur. ceterum ut semel recepisse veniam habuerit, ita per omnis provincias effigie numinum sacrari ambitiosum, superbum; et vanescet Augusti honor si promiscis adulationibus vulgatur.

Ego me, patres conscripti, mortalem esse et hominum officia fungi satisque habere si locum principem impleam et vos testor et meminisse posteros volo; qui satis superque memoriae meae tribuent, ut maioribus meis dignum, rerum vestrarum providum, constantem in periculis, offensionum pro utilitate publica non pavidum credant. haec mihi in animis vestris templa, hae pulcherrimae effigies et mansurae. nam quae saxo struuntur, si iudicium posterorum in odium vertit, pro sepulchris spernuntur. proinde socios civis et deos ipsos precor, hos ut mihi ad finem usque vitae quietam et intellegentem humani divinique iuris mentem duint, illos ut, quandoque concessero, cum laude et bonis recordationibus facta atque famam nominis mei prosequantur.' perstititque posthac secretis etiam sermonibus aspernari talem sui cultum. quod alii modestiam, multi, quia diffideret, quidam ut degeneris animi interpretabantur. optumos quippe mortalium altissima cupere: sic Herculem et Liberum apud Graecos, Quirinum apud nos deum numero additos: melius Augustum, qui speraverit. cetera principibus statim adesse: unum insatiabiliter parandum, prosperam sui memoriam; nam contemptu famae contemni virtutes.

They are significant the speeches  made by some Greek historians and speakers to Rome. Thus Aelius Aristides (Αίλιος Αριστείδης, in Latin, Aelius Aristides, 118-180) was an eminent sophist of the Second Sophist and Greek orator of the second century. His most famous orations was  “Regarding Rome," which he gave in front of the imperial palace in Rome and in which Aristides glorifies "the Empire and the theory behind it, particularly the Pax Romana," and paints an impressive picture of the Roman achievements, which stand out when it is compared to any other empire or city in history. I transcribe only a small part of this important work, which otherwise has been unequally valued by the critics who have dedicated works to it.

Aelius Aristides: Regarding Rome, 8 and ff.

It is from this that she gets her name, and strength rome) is the mark of all that is hers. Therefore, if one chose to unfold, as it wvere, and lay flat on the ground the cities which now she carries high in air, and place them side by side, all that part of Italy which intervenes would, I think, be filled and become one continuous city stretching to the Strait of Otranto.
Though she is so vast as perhaps even now I have not sufficiently shown, but as the eye attests more clearly, it is not possible to say of her as of other cities, There she stands. Again it has been said of the capital cities of the Athenians and the Lacedaemonians -and may no ill omen attend the comparison- that the first would in size appear twice as great as in its intrinsic power, the second far inferior in size to its intrinsic power. But of this city, great in every respect, no one could say that she has not created power in keeping with her magnitude. No, if one looks at the whole empire and reflects how small a fraction rules the whole world, he may be amazed at the city, but when he has beheld the city herself and the boundaries of the city, he can no longer be amazed that the entire civilized world is ruled by one so great.

Some chronicler, speaking of Asia, asserted that one man ruled as much land as the sun passed, and his  statement was not true because he placed all Africa and Europe outside the limits where the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. It has now however turned out to be true. Your possession is equal to what the sun can pass, and the sun passes over your land. Neither the Chelidonean nor the Cyanean promontories limit your empire, nor does the distance from which a horseman can reach the sea in one day, nor do you reign within fixed boundaries, nor does another dictate to what point your control reaches; but the sea like a girdle lies extended, at once in the middle of the civilized world and your hegemony.

Around it lie the great continents greatly sloping, ever offering to you in full measure something of their own. Whatever the seasons make grow and whatever countries and rivers and lakes and arts of Hellenes and non-Hellenes produce are brought from every land and sea, so that if one would look at all these things, he must needs behold them either by visiting the entire civilized world or by coming to this city. For whatever is grown and made among each people cannot fail to be here at all times and in abundance. And here the merchant vessels come carrying these many products from all regions in every season and even at every equinox, so that the city appears a kind of common emporium of the world. (Translation by James H. Oliver)

Note 1: He plays with the already mentioned meaning of the Greek word “rhome”, strength. 2. Again the city and the world orb put in relation.

This relationship established between "orbis" and "urbis" (the City) is indicating the cultural and political union of a world controlled and appropriate by Rome. Even more,  the greatness of Rome is the greatness of the Empire. Rome is the city and the world; Eeen the world is conceived as a city; both concepts are interchangeable .

The Latin poets of the time of Augustus are well aware of this role that has been played by them and their city by the design of the gods. Thus, Tibulus, Ovid, Virgil, Horace, etc.

P.Ovidius Naso:  Amores 2,9

So many men and maidens without love,
Hence with great laude thou maiest a triumph move.
Rome if her strength the huge world had not fild,
With strawie cabins now her courts should build.
The weary souldiour hath the conquerd fields,
His sword layed by, safe, though rude places yeelds.
The Docke in harbours ships drawne from the flouds,
Horse freed from service range abroad the woods.
And time it was for me to live in quiet,
That have so oft serv'd pretty wenches dyet.
Yet should I curse a God, if he but said,
Live without love, so sweete ill is a maide.

(Translate by Christopher Marlowe, Ed.)

Tot sine amore viri, tot sunt sine amore puellae! 
     Hinc tibi cum magna laude triumphus eat.
Roma, nisi inmensum vires promosset in orbem,
     Stramineis esset nunc quoque tecta casis.
Fessus in acceptos miles deducitur agros;
     Mittitur in saltus carcere liber equus;
Longaque subductam celant navalia pinum,
     Tutaque deposito poscitur ense rudis.
Me quoque, qui totiens merui sub amore puellae,
     Defunctum placide vivere tempus erat.
'Vive' deus 'posito' siquis mihi dicat 'amore!'
     Deprecer — usque adeo dulce puella malum est.

Tibullus relates directly the future of Rome with his prophetic name: "Fatal, oh Rome, your name will be to the world"

Tibullus 2.5.39 et seq.

  The Sibyl:

  "High-souled Aeneas, brother of light-winged Love,
  Thy pilgrim ships Troy's fallen worship bear.
  To thee the Latin lands are given of Jove,
  And thy far-wandering gods are welcome there.
  Thou thyself shalt have a shrine
  By Numicus' holy wave;
  Be thou its genius strong to bless and save,
  By power divine!

  O'er thy ship's storm-beaten prow
  Victory her wings will spread,
  And, glorious, rest at last above a Trojan head.
  I see Rutulia flaming round me now.
  O barbarous Turnus, I behold thee dead!
  Laurentum rushes on my sight,
  And proud Lavinium's castled height,
  And Alba Longa for thy royal heir.
  Now I see a priestess fair
  Close in Mars' divine embrace.
  Daughter of Ilium, she fled away
  From Vesta's fires, and from her virgin face
  The fillet dropped, and quite unheeded lay;
  Nor shield nor corslet then her hero wore,
  Keeping their stolen tryst by Tiber's sacred shore!
  Browse, ye bulls, along the seven green hills!
  For yet a little while ye may,
  E'er the vast city shall confront the day!
  O Rome! thy destined glory fills
  A wide world subject to thy sway,–
  Wide as all the regions given
  To fruitful Ceres, as she looks from heaven
  O'er her fields of golden corn,
  From the opening gates of morn
  To where the Sun in Ocean's billowy stream
  Cools at eve his spent and panting team.
  Troy herself at last shall praise
  Thee and thy far-wandering ways.
  My song is truth. Thus only I endure
  The bitter laurel-leaf divine,
  And keep me at Apollo's shrine
  A virgin ever pure."
So, Phoebus, in thy name the Sibyl sung,
  As o'er her frenzied brow her loosened locks she flung.

(Done in English verse by Theodore C. Williams. 1908)

‘Impiger Aenea, uolitantis frater Amoris,
Troica qui profugis sacra uehis ratibus,
iam tibi Laurentes adsignat Iuppiter agros,
iam uocat errantes hospita terra Lares.
illic sanctus eris cum te ueneranda Numici
unda deum caelo miserit indigetem.
ecce super fessas uolitat Victoria puppes;
tandem ad Troianos diua superba uenit.
ecce mihi lucent Rutulis incendia castris:
iam tibi praedico, barbare Turne, necem.
ante oculos Laurens castrum murusque Lauini est
Albaque ab Ascanio condita Longa duce.
te quoque iam uideo, Marti placitura sacerdos
Ilia, Vestales deseruisse focos,
concubitusque tuos furtim uittasque iacentes
et cupidi ad ripas arma relicta dei.
carpite nunc, tauri, de septem montibus herbas
dum licet: hic magnae iam locus urbis erit.
Roma, tuum nomen terris fatale regendis,
qua sua de caelo prospicit arua Ceres,
quaque patent ortus et qua fluitantibus undis
Solis anhelantes abluit amnis equos.
Troia quidem tunc se mirabitur et sibi dicet
uos bene tam longa consuluisse uia.
uera cano: sic usque sacras innoxia laurus
uescar, et aeternum sit mihi uirginitas.’
haec cecinit uates et te sibi, Phoebe, uocauit,

Virgil expresses in three verses the Roman consciousness of his extraordinary mission in this world. Virgil puts in the mouth of Anchises, the father whom the hero Eneas has gone to look in the Underworld, the hell, the spaces of down,  the extraordinary responsibility of the Romans:

He tells us in Aeneid, 6, verses 847 et seq.

Others, I doubt not, shall with softer mould beast out the breathing bronze, coax from the marble features to life, plead cases with greater eloquence and with a pointer trace heaven’s motions and predict the risings of the stars: you, Roman, be sure to rule the world (be these your arts), to crown peace with justice, to spare the vanquished and to crush the proud.” (Translation by H. R. Fairclough)

Excudent alii spirantia mollius aera,
credo equidem, vivos ducent de marmore voltus,
orabunt causas melius, caelique meatus
describent radio, et surgentia sidera dicent:                            
tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento;
hae tibi erunt artes; pacisque imponere morem,
parcere subiectis, et debellare superbos.”

Propertius also puts  urbs with orbi in relation (septem urbs alta iugis, toto quae praesidet orbi) and sings proud of the power of Rome in an elegy in which he presents the confrontation between Augustus and Cleopatra, that is the same as saying the confrontation between Cultures:

Elegies, 3, 11, 55 and seq.:

“Rome, with such a Citizen, thou hadst no cause to fear me”. So said even that sot’s tongue, swamped in endless debauch. The tall city on the Seven Hills, who thrones paramont over the whole world, felt the alarms of war and trembled at a woman’s menace. Gods preserve these walls or ours even as gods founded them! While Caesar lives Rome shall scarcely tremble at Jove” (Translated by J.S. Phillimore, M.A.)

'Non hoc, Roma, fui tanto tibi cive verenda!'
dixit et assiduo lingua sepulta mero.
septem urbs alta iugis, toto quae praesidet orbi,
femineas timuit territa Marte Minas
(non humana deicienda manu).
haec di condiderunt, haec di quoque moenia servant:
vix timeat salvo Caesare Roma Iovem.

Horace sees in the own fortress of Rome the reason of its own ruin by the continuous civil wars, of which it is horrified. Only Augustus will rescue it from the self destruction implanting the Roman pax. In Epodi 16: 1-14:

Another age worn out in civil wars,
   And Rome sinks weighed down by her own sheer forces,
Whom nor the bordering Marsians could destroy;
   Nor Porsena, threatening with Etruscan armies;
Nor rival Capua. Nor fierce Spartacus,
   Nor Allobroge in all revolts a traitor;
Nor fierce Germania’s blue-eyed giant sons;
   Nor Hannibal, abhorred by Romans mothers,
That is the Rome which we, this race, destroy;
   We, impious victims by ourselves devoted,
And to the wild beast and the wilderness
   Restoring soil which Romans called their country.
Woe! on the ashes of Imperial Rome
   Shall the barbarian halt his march, a  victor;
And the wild horseman with a changing hoof
   Trample the site which was the world’s great city,
And –horrid sight- in scorn to winds and sun
   Scatter the shrouded bones of Rome’s first founder.

(Translated by Lord Lytton. 1869)

Altera iam teritur bellis civilibus aetas,
suis et ipsa Roma viribus ruit.
quam neque finitimi valuerunt perdere Marsi
minacis aut Etrusca Porsenae manus,
aemula nec virtus Capuae nec Spartacus acer
novisque rebus infidelis Allobrox
nec fera caerulea domuit Germania pube
parentibusque abominatus Hannibal:
inpia perdemus devoti sanguinis aetas
ferisque rursus occupabitur solum:
barbarus heu cineres insistet victor et Vrbem
eques sonante verberabit ungula,
quaeque carent ventis et solibus ossa Quirini,
(nefas videre) dissipabit insolens.

For Cicero it is evident that Rome is the most powerful city and owner of the world.

Cicero Catiline Orations, 1.4.9.

O ye immortal gods, where on earth are we? in what city are we living? what constitution is ours? There are here,—here in our body, O conscript fathers, in this the most holy and dignified assembly of the whole world, men who meditate my death, and the death of all of us, and the destruction of this city, and of the whole world. I, the consul see them; I ask them their opinion about the republic, and I do not yet attack, even by words, those who ought to be put to death by the sword. (Translated by C. D. Yonge, B. A)

O di inmortales! ubinam gentium sumus? in qua urbe vivimus? quam rem publicam habemus? Hic, hic sunt in nostro numero, patres conscripti, in hoc orbis terrae sanctissimo gravissimoque consilio, qui de nostro omnium interitu, qui de huius urbis atque adeo de orbis terrarum exitio cogitent! Hos ego video consul et de re publica sententiam rogo et, quos ferro trucidari oportebat, eos nondum voce volnero!

Pro Murena 9-10 (21-22)

But to say no more of this, and to return to the contest of studies and pursuits; how can it be doubted that the glory of military exploits contributes more dignity to aid in the acquisition of the consulship, than renown for skill in civil law? Do you wake before the night is over in order to give answers to those who consult you? He has done so in order to arrive betimes with his army at the place to which he is marching. The cook-crow wakens you, but the sound of the trumpet rouses him: you conduct an action; he is marshaling an army: you take care lest your clients should be convicted; he lest his cities or camp be taken. He occupies posts, and exercises skill to repel the troops of the enemy, you to keep out the rain; he is practised in extending the boundaries of the empire, you in governing the present territories; and in short, for I must say what I think, preeminence in military skill excels all other virtues.

It is this which has procured its name for the Roman people; it is this which has procured eternal glory for this city; it is this which has compelled the whole world to submit to our dominion; all domestic affairs, all these illustrious pursuits of ours, and our forensic renown, and our industry, are safe under the guardianship and protection of military valour. As soon as the first suspicion of disturbance is heard of, in a moment our arts have not a word to say for themselves. (Translated by C. D. Yonge, B. A.)

Sed ut hoc omisso ad studiorum atque artium contentionem revertamur, qui potest dubitari quin ad consulatum adipiscendum multo plus adferat dignitatis rei militaris quam iuris civilis gloria? Vigilas tu de nocte ut tuis consultoribus respondeas, ille ut eo quo intendit mature cum exercitu perveniat; te gallorum, illum bucinarum cantus exsuscitat; tu actionem instituis, ille aciem instruit; tu caves ne tui consultores, ille ne urbes aut castra capiantur; ille tenet et scit ut hostium copiae, tu ut aquae pluviae arceantur; ille exercitatus est in propagandis finibus, tuque in regendis. Ac nimirum–dicendum est enim quod sentio–rei militaris virtus praestat ceteris omnibus. Haec nomen populo Romano, haec huic urbi aeternam gloriam peperit, haec orbem terrarum parere huic imperio coegit; omnes urbanae res, omnia haec nostra praeclara studia et haec forensis laus et industria latet in tutela ac praesidio bellicae virtutis. Simul atque increpuit suspicio tumultus, artes ilico nostrae conticiscunt. 

Ad Familiares. 4.1.2. / 150 (IV 1)

You see how the matter stands: the whole world is parcelled out among men in military command, and is ablaze with war: the city, without laws, law courts, justice, or credit, has been abandoned to plunder and fire. Accordingly, nothing occurs to me, I don't say to hope, but scarcely even to venture to wish.
(Translated by Evelyn S. Shuckburgh)

Res vides quomodo se habeat: orbem terrarum imperiis distributis ardere bello; urbem sine legibus, sine iudiciis, sine iure, sine fide relictam direptioni et incendiis: itaque mihi venire in mentem nihil potest non modo, quod sperem, sed vix, iam quod audeam optare;

Paradoxa Stoicorum. 2.18

Do you threaten me with death, to make me depart from all men, or with exile to make me depart from the wicked? Death is terrible for those  whom everything ends with life; but not to those whose praise cannot perish: exile is terrible to those who have their place of habitation  as circumscribed and limited; not to those who believe the whole world  is one city.

Mortemne mihi minitaris, ut omnino ab hominibus, an exilium, ut ab inprobis demigrandum sit? Mors terribilis iis, quorum cum vita omnia extinguuntur, non iis, quorum laus emori non potest, exilium autem illis, quibus quasi circumscriptus est habitandi locus, non iis, qui omnem orbem terrarum unam urbem esse ducunt.

And also for Cornelius Nepos. In  Atticus, 3.3:

He also conducted himself in such a way, that he appeared familiar with the lowest, though on a level with the highest. Hence it happened that they publicly bestowed upon him all the honours that they could, and offered to make him a citizen of Athens; an offer which he would not accept, because some are of opinion that the citizenship of Rome is forfeited by taking that of another city. As long as he was among them, he prevented any statue from being erected to him; but when absent, he could not hinder it; and they accordingly raised several statues both to him and Phidias,254 in the most sacred places, for, in their whole management of the state, they took him for their agent and adviser. It was the gift of fortune, then, in the first place, that he was born in that city, above all others, in which was the seat of the empire of the world, and had it not only for his native place but for his home; and, in the next, it was a proof of his wisdom, that when he betook himself to a city which excelled all others in antiquity, politeness, and learning, he became individually dear to it beyond other men. (Translated by Rev. John Selby Watson, M)

Hic autem sic se gerebat, ut communis infimis, par principibus videretur. quo factum est ut huic omnes honores, quos possent, publice haberent civemque facere studerent: quo beneficio ille uti noluit quod nonnulli ita interpretantur, amitti civitatem Romanam alia ascita. quamdiu affuit, ne qua sibi statua poneretur, restitit, absens prohibere non potuit. itaque aliquot ipsi et Phidiae locis sanctissimis posuerunt: hunc enim in omni procuratione rei publicae actorem auctoremque habebant potissimum.  igitur primum illud munus fortunae, quod in ea urbe natus est, in qua domicilium orbis terrarum esset imperii, ut eandem et patriam haberet et domum; hoc specimen prudentiae, quod, cum in eam se civitatem contulisset, quae antiquitate, humanitate doctrinaque praestaret omnes, unus ei fuit carissimus. 

And also  Livy, who wrote a general history of Rome from its origins, which he entitled "Ab urbe condita" (From the foundation of the city), explains why he dares to take  a work of such magnitude: no doubt the most powerful people have ever been and their emperor, at the time Augustus, deserve it. He tells us in the Preface of his work:

Whether I am likely to accomplish anything worthy of the labour, if I record the achievements of the Roman people from the foundation of the city, I do not really know, nor if I knew would I dare to avouch it;  perceiving as I do that the theme is not only old but hackneyed, through the constant succession of new historians, who believe either that in their facts they can produce more authentic information, or that in their style they will prove better than the rude attempts of the ancients.  Yet, however this shall be, it will be a satisfaction to have done myself as much as lies in me to commemorate the deeds of the foremost people of the world; and if in so vast a company of writers my own reputation should be obscure, my consolation would be the fame and greatness of those whose renown will throw mine into the shade.  Moreover, my subject involves infinite labour, seeing that it must be traced back above seven hundred years, and that proceeding from slender beginnings it has so increased as now to be burdened by its own magnitude; and at the same time I doubt not that to most readers the earliest origins and the period immediately succeeding them will give little pleasure, for they will be in haste to reach these modern times, in which the might of a people which has long been very powerful is working its own undoing.  I myself, on the contrary, shall seek in this an additional reward for my toil, that I may avert my gaze from the troubles which our age has been witnessing for so many years, so long at least as I am absorbed in the recollection of the brave days of old, free from every care which, even if it could not divert the historian's mind from the truth, might nevertheless cause it anxiety. (English  by Benjamin Oliver Foster, Ph.D., 1919)

facturusne operae pretium sim, si a primordio urbis res populi Romani perscripserim, nec satis scio nec,  si sciam, dicere ausim, quippe qui cum veterem tum vulgatam esse rem videam, dum novi semper scriptores aut in rebus certius aliquid allaturos se aut scribendi arte rudem vetustatem superaturos credunt. utcumque erit,  iuvabit tamen rerum gestarum memoriae principis terrarum populi pro virili parte et ipsum consuluisse; et si in tanta scriptorum turba mea fama in obscuro sit, nobilitate ac magnitudine eorum me, qui nomini officient meo, consoler.  res est praeterea et inmensi operis, ut quae supra septingentesimum annum repetatur et quae ab exiguis profecta initiis eo creverit, ut iam magnitudine laboret sua; et legentium plerisque haud dubito quin primae origines proximaque originibus minus praebitura voluptatis sint festinantibus ad haec nova, quibus iam pridem praevalentis populi vires se ipsae conficiunt;  ego contra hoc quoque laboris praemium petam, ut me a conspectu malorum, quae nostra tot per annos vidit aetas, tantisper certe, dum prisca illa tota mente repeto, avertam,  omnis expers curae, quae scribentis animum etsi non flectere a vero, sollicitum tamen efficere posset.

And shortly afterwards he informs us that this was predicted, , when he tells us about the disappearance and predictable rise to the heavens of Romulus, and tells us:

Livy, 1,16,6-7

This was Proculus Julius, who, when the people were distracted with the loss of their king and in no friendly mood towards the senate, being, as tradition tells, weighty in council, were the matter never so important, addressed the assembly as follows: “Quirites, the Father of this City, Romulus, descended suddenly from the sky at dawn this morning and appeared to me. Covered with confusion, I stood reverently before him, praying that it might be vouchsafed me to look upon his face without sin. 'Go,' said he, 'and declare to the Romans the will of Heaven that my Rome shall be the capital of the world; so let them cherish the art of war, and let them know and teach their children that no human strength can resist Roman arms.'  So saying,” he concluded, “Romulus departed on high.” It is wonderful what credence the people placed in that man's tale, and how the grief for the loss of Romulus, which the plebeians and the army felt, was quieted by the assurance of his immortality. (Translated by Benjamin Oliver Foster)

manavit enim haec quoque sed perobscura fama; illam alteram admiratio viri et pavor praesens nobilitavit.  et consilio etiam unius hominis addita rei dicitur fides. namque Proculus Iulius, sollicita civitate desiderio regis et infensa patribus, gravis, ut traditur, quamvis magnae rei auctor, in contionem prodit.  “Romulus” inquit, “Quirites, parens urbis huius, prima hodierna luce caelo repente delapsus se mihi obvium dedit. cum perfusus horrore venerabundus adstitissem, petens precibus ut contra intueri fas esset,  'Abi, nuntia,' inquit 'Romanis caelestes ita velle ut mea Roma caput orbis terrarum sit; proinde rem militarem colant, sciantque et ita posteris tradant nullas opes humanas armis Romanis resistere posse.' haec,” inquit, “locutus sublimis abiit.”  mirum quantum illi viro nuntianti haec fides fuerit, quamque desiderium Romuli  apud plebem exercitumque facta fide inmortalitatis lenitum sit.

Lucanus, in his Pharsalia, introduces  Caesar speaking to Rome deified, crowned with the crown of towers:

Lucanus, Pharsalia 1, 183 et seq.

Caesar has crossed the Alps, his mighty soul
Great tumults pondering and the coming shock.
Now on the marge of Rubicon, he saw,
In face most sorrowful and ghostly guise,
His trembling country's image; huge it seemed
Through mists of night obscure; and hoary hair
Streamed from the lofty front with turrets crowned:
Torn were her locks and naked were her arms.
Then thus, with broken sighs the Vision spake:
What seek ye, men of Rome? and whither hence
Bear ye my standards? If by right ye come,
My citizens, stay here; these are the bounds;
No further dare.' But Caesar's hair was stiff
With horror as he gazed, and ghastly dread
Restrained his footsteps on the further bank.
Then spake he, ' Thunderer, who from the rock
Tarpeian seest the wall of mighty Rome;
Gods of my race who watched o'er Troy of old;
Thou Jove of Alba's height, and Vestal fires,
And rites of Romulus erst rapt to heaven,
And God-like Rome; be friendly to my quest.
Not with offence or hostile arms I come,
Thy Caesar, conqueror by land and sea,
Thy soldier here and wheresoe'er thou wilt:
No other's; his, his only be the guilt
Whose acts make me thy foe.' 

(Translated by Sir Edward Ridley)

iam gelidas Caesar cursu superauerat Alpes
ingentisque animo motus bellumque futurum
ceperat. ut uentum est parui Rubiconis ad undas,                 
ingens uisa duci patriae trepidantis imago
clara per obscuram uoltu maestissima noctem
turrigero canos effundens uertice crines
caesarie lacera nudisque adstare lacertis
et gemitu permixta loqui: 'quo tenditis ultra?                 
quo fertis mea signa, uiri? si iure uenitis,
si ciues, huc usque licet.' tum perculit horror
membra ducis, riguere comae gressumque coercens
languor in extrema tenuit uestigia ripa.
mox ait 'o magnae qui moenia prospicis urbis                 
Tarpeia de rupe Tonans Phrygiique penates
gentis Iuleae et rapti secreta Quirini
et residens celsa Latiaris Iuppiter Alba
Vestalesque foci summique o numinis instar
Roma, faue coeptis. non te furialibus armis                 
persequor: en, adsum uictor terraque marique
Caesar, ubique tuus (liceat modo, nunc quoque) miles.
ille erit ille nocens, qui me tibi fecerit hostem.

And so I could continue to give innumerable examples.
(To be continued…)

Urbi et orbi: the city ruling an Empire (I)

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