The origins of rome
The earliest settlements of Old Latium arose on the low hills or spurs that extend from the central Apennines into the coastal plain. Rome itself, which occupies a group of hills overlooking the Tiber, possesses many natural advantages as a place of settlement (Map 3). In a defensible position with a good supply of fresh water and easy access to the sea, it controlled the main natural lines of communication in central Italy. These were the Via Salaria (the 'Salt Road'), as it was known in Roman times, which ran along the Tiber valley and connected the interior with the salt beds at the mouth of the river, and the coastal route from Etruria to Campania, which crossed the Tiber at the lowest available point; this was a natural ford, slightly downstream from the Tiber island, at a bend in the river beneath the Capitoline, Palatine and Aventine hills. Tradition maintained that this area, where there was a cattle market (the Forum Boarium) and a river harbour (the Portus Tiberinus), was frequented from the very earliest times.