• This article argues that Ferdinand Gregorovius (1821–91) in his popular but much critiqued Geschichte der Stadt Rom im Mittelalter challenged the ideals of an objective, dispassionate historiography advocated by the leading German historians of his generation. To do so it focuses on Gregorovius’s treatment of the city of Rome and its urban legends, comparing Gregorovius’s approach with that taken by his famous contemporary Theodor Mommsen (1817–1903) in his unfinished Römische Geschichte. This reveals how, unlike Mommsen, Gregorovius allowed his experiences in Rome to influence his historical presentation. As a result, the city of Rome and its legends emerge as actors in the drama of history and Gregorovius embeds in his work a narrative of the destruction of Rome that rests uneasily with the pattern of progress that Gregorovius, like his contemporaries, was convinced underpinned hist