I always heard this phrase from school, but never understood the actual meaning of it or how this phrase originated.
What does this actually mean, and why was it Rome and not any other city?
What is so special about Rome in this phrase?
It is a proverb meaning a complex task is bound to take a long time (and should not be rushed).
It is a French proverb from the 1100s (more precisely 1190 A.D.) and didn't come into English until 1500s. A cleric in the Medieval court of Phillippe of Alsace — the Count of Flanders — dreamt up (or perhaps stole) the phrase in French: Rome ne s’est pas faite en un jour. In 1538 that the saying ebbed into the English language when playwright-author John Heywood included it in his work A Dialogue Containing the Number in Effect of all the Proverbs in the English Tongue.
Why Rome? Idioms are effective because of imagery. What better city than Rome? Built by hand, stone by stone, conquest by conquest, it was a great empire as well as a great city. Perhaps because the idiom was used in the Western world, and Rome is one of the oldest and most important continuously occupied cities in Europe. Rome's history spans more than two and a half thousand years, since its legendary founding in 753 BC.
According to tradition the ancient city was founded by Romulus (after whom it is named) in 753 bc on the Palatine Hill; as it grew it spread to the other six hills of Rome (Aventine, Caelian, Capitoline, Esquiline, Quirinal, and Viminal). By the mid 2nd century bc Rome had subdued the whole of Italy and had come to dominate the western Mediterranean and the Hellenistic world in the east, acquiring the first of the overseas possessions that became the Roman Empire. Rome "fell" on September 4, 476, when Romulus Augustus, the last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire, was deposed by Odoacer, a Germanic chieftain.
The proverb just wouldn't be the same if one said Athens... or Paris....
It is an ancient Latin saying (hence the reference to Rome – the great, imperial Rome of that age).
I am Italian and the first time I saw it written in English I was surprised. The English meaning is the same as that of the Latin original, and also there is an Italian version:
– it means that in life great goals can be reached only being constant and most of all patient.
That is the Rome was not constructed in a single day that was a huge process. Like this "Every thing in life is not easily achievable have to work hard" is the reason behind the phrase