Founding of Rome

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The she-wolf feeding the twins Romulus and Remus, the most famous image associated with the founding of Rome

The founding of Rome can be investigated through archaeology, but traditional stories handed down by the ancient Romans themselves explain the earliest history of their city in terms of legend and myth. The most familiar of these myths, and perhaps the most famous of all Roman myths, is the story of Romulus and Remus, the twins who were suckled by a she-wolf.[1] This story had to be reconciled with a dual tradition, set earlier in time, the one that had the Trojan refugee Aeneas escape to Italy and found the line of Romans through his son Iulus, the namesake of the Julio-Claudian dynasty.[2]

Founding myths[edit]

Aeneas[edit]

Aeneas flees burning Troy, Federico Barocci, 1598. Galleria Borghese, Rome.

The national epic of mythical Rome, the Aeneid of Virgil, tells the story of how Trojan prince Aeneas came to Italy. The Aeneid was written under Augustus, who claimed ancestry through Julius Caesar from the hero and his mother Venus. According to the Aeneid, the survivors from the fallen city of Troy banded together under Aeneas and underwent a series of adventures around the Mediterranean Sea, including a stop at newly founded Carthage under the rule of Queen Dido, eventually reaching the Italian coast. The Trojans were thought to have landed in an area between modern Anzio and Fiumicino, southwest of Rome, probably at Laurentum or, in other versions, at Lavinium, a place named for Lavinia, the daughter of King Latinus whom Aeneas married. This started a series of armed conflicts with Turnus over the marriage of Lavinia.[3] Before the arrival of Aeneas, Turnus was engaged to Lavinia, who then married Aeneas, starting the war.[3] Aeneas won the war and killed Turnus.[3] The Trojans won the right to stay and to assimilate with the local peoples. The young son of Aeneas Ascanius, also known as Iulus, went on to found Alba Longa and the line of Alban kings who filled the chronological gap between the Trojan saga and the traditional founding of Rome in the 8th century BC.

Toward the end of this line, King Procas was the father of Numitor and Amulius. At Procas' death, Numitor became king of Alba Longa, but Amulius captured him and sent him to prison; he also forced Numitor's daughter Rhea Silvia to become a virgin priestess among the Vestals. For many years, Amulius was the king. The tortuous nature of the chronology is indicated by Rhea Silvia's ordination among the Vestals, whose order was traditionally said to have been founded by Romulus's successor Numa Pompilius.

Romulus and Remus[edit]

Main article: Romulus and Remus

The myth of Aeneas was of Greek origin and had to be reconciled with the Italian myth of Romulus and Remus, who would have been born around 771 BC if taken as historical figures. They were purported to be sons of Rhea Silvia and Mars, the god of war. They were abandoned at birth, in the manner of many mythological heroes, because of a prophecy that they would overthrow their great-uncle Amulius, who had overthrown Silvia's father Numitor. They were abandoned on the Tiber River by servants who took pity on the infants, despite their orders. The twins were nurtured by a she-wolf until a shepherd named Faustulus found the boys and took them as his sons. Faustulus and his wife Acca Larentia raised the children. When Remus and Romulus became adults, they killed Amulius and restored Numitor. They decided to establish a city; however, they quarreled, and Romulus killed his brother. Thus, Rome began with a fratricide, a story that was later taken to represent the city's history of internecine political strife and bloodshed.

Date[edit]

The ancient Romans were certain of the day Rome was founded, April 21, the day of the festival sacred to Pales, goddess of shepherds, on which date they celebrated the Par ilia (or Palilia). However, they did not know the exact year the city had been founded; this is one reason they preferred to date their years to the presiding consuls over using the formula A.U.C. or Ab Urbe Condita. Several had been proposed by ancient authorities, and Dionysius of Halicarnassus records these: the Greek historian Timaeus, the first to write a history of the Romans, stated that Rome was founded in the 38th year prior to the first Olympiad, or 814 BC; Quintus Fabius Pictor, the first Roman to write the history of his people, stated Rome was founded in the first year of the eighth Olympiad, or 748/7 BC; Cincius Alimentus claimed Rome was founded in the fourth year of the twelfth Olympiad, or 719/8 BC; and Cato the Elder calculated that Rome was founded 432 years after the Trojan War, which Dionysius stated was the first year of the seventh Olympiad, or 752/3 BC.[4] Dionysius himself provided calculations showing that Rome was founded in 751 BC, starting with the Battle of the Allia, which he dated to the first year of the ninth Olympiad, or 390 BC, then added 119 years to reach the date of the first consuls, Junius Brutus and Tarquinius Collatinus, then added the combined total of the reigns of the Kings of Rome (244 years) to arrive at his own date, 751 BC.[5] Even the official Fasti Capitolini offers its own date, 752 BC.

The most familiar date given for the foundation of Rome, 753 BC, was derived by the Roman antiquarian Titus Pomponius Atticus, and adopted by Varro, having become part of what has come to be known as the Varronian chronology.[6] An anecdote in Plutarch where the astrologer Lucius Tarrutius of Firmum provides an argument based on a non-existent eclipse and other erroneous astronomical details that Rome was founded in 753 BC suggests this had become the most commonly accepted date.[7] Through its use by the third-century writer Censorinus, whose De Die Natali was the ultimate influence of Joseph Justus Scaliger's work to establish a scientific basis of ancient chronology, it became familiar.[7]

Recent discoveries on Palatine Hill in Rome have offered the date of Rome's founding. Chief among these is a series of fortification walls on the north slope of Palatine Hill that can be dated to the middle of the 8th century BC, when legend says that Romulus plowed a furrow (sulcus) around the Palatine Hill in order to mark the boundary of his new city. The remains of the wall and other evidence like it have been discovered by the Excavations of Andrea Carandini.

The name of Rome[edit]

Further information: History of Rome

The name of the city is generally considered to refer to Romulus, but there are other hypotheses. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) suggested Greek "ῥώμη" (rhōmē), meaning "strength, vigor".[8] A modern theory of etymology holds that the name of the city is of Etruscan origin (and perhaps the city itself, though this cannot be proven), derived from rumon, "river".[9]:106

The name "Romulus" is probably a back-formation;[10] that is, the name "Romulus" was derived from the word "Rome". The suffix "-ulus" is masculine and a diminutive, so "Romulus" means "the little boy from Rome."

Archaeology[edit]

The historical Latins were originally an Italic tribe who inhabited the Alban Hills.[when?] They later moved down into the valleys, which provided better land for agriculture. The area around the Tiber river was particularly advantageous and offered notable strategic resources; the river was a natural border on one side, and the hills could provide a safe defensive position on the other side. This position would also have enabled the Latins to control the river and the commercial and military traffic on it from the natural observation point at Isola Tiberina. Moreover, road traffic could be controlled, since Rome was at the intersection of the principal roads to the sea coming from Sabinum (in the northeast) and Etruria (to the northwest).

The development of the town is presumed to have started from the development of separate small villages located at the tops of hills that eventually accreted to form Rome. In any case, the location that became the city of Rome was inhabited by Latin settlers from various regions, farmers and pastoralists, as evidenced by differences in pottery and burial techniques.[9]:107

Recent studies suggest that the Quirinal hill was very important in ancient times, although the first hill to be inhabited seems to have been the Palatine (therefore confirming the legend), which is also at the center of ancient Rome. Its three peaks, the minor hills (Cermalus or Germalus, Palatium, and Velia), were united with the three peaks of the Esquiline (Cispius, Fagutal, and Oppius), and then villages on the Caelian Hill and Suburra.

These hills had expressive names. The Caelian Hill was also called Querquetulanus (from "quercus"", oak) and "Fagutal" (pointing to beech-woods, from "fagus" meaning "beech"). Recent discoveries revealed that the Germalus on the northern part of the Palatine was the site of a village (dated to the 9th century BC) with circular or elliptical dwellings. It was protected by a clay wall (perhaps reinforced with wood), and it is likely that this is where Rome was really founded.

The territory of this federation was surrounded by a sacred border called the pomerium, which enclosed the so-called e Servian expansion of Rome.

Festivals for the Septimontium (literally "of the seven hills") on December 11 were previously considered to be related to the foundation of Rome. However, April 21 is the only date for Rome's foundation upon which all the legends agree, and it has recently been argued that Septimontium celebrated the first federations among Roman hills. A similar federation was, in fact, celebrated by the Latins at Cave, Italy or at Monte Cavo (in Castelli).

Later commemoration[edit]

During the Italian Renaissance, a group of humanists affiliated with the Roman Academy formed a sodality to pursue antiquarian interests, celebrating the "birthday of Rome" annually on April 20. In 1468, the Academy was suppressed by Pope Paul II for fomenting "republicanism, paganism, and conspiracy", but the sodality was reinstated about ten years later under Sixtus IV as the Societas Literatorum S. Victoris in Esquiliis ("Literary Society of Saint Victor on the Esquiline"). The reformed group placed itself under the new patronage of saints Victor, Fortunatus, and Genesius, "whose feast day was conveniently proven to coincide with the Palilia". Their "Palilia" was organized by Pomponio Leto and featured speeches, a communal meal, and a poetry competition.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Livy (1797). The history of Rome. George Baker (trans.). Printed for A. Strahan. 
  2. ^ Livy (2005-05-26). The Early History of Rome. Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 978-0-14-196307-5. 
  3. ^ a b c "Turnus". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 2013-09-13. 
  4. ^ Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, 1.74
  5. ^ Dionysius of Halicarnassus, 1.75
  6. ^ Gary Forsythe, A Critical History of Early Rome (Berkeley: University of California, 2005), p. 94
  7. ^ a b Anthony Grafton and Noel Swerdlow, "Technical Chronology and Astrological History in Varro, Censorinus, and Others", Classical Quarterly, N.S. 35 (1985), p. 454-65
  8. ^ Cf. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, Book IV, Chapter IV, written in 1762, where he writes in a footnote that the word for Rome is Greek in origin and means force. "There are writers who say that the name 'Rome' is derived from 'Romulus'. It is in fact Greek and means force."
  9. ^ a b Baldi, Philip (2002). The Foundations of Latin. Walter de Gruyter. 
  10. ^ McGeough, Kevin M. (2004-01-01). The Romans: New Perspectives. ABC-CLIO. p. 49. ISBN 978-1-85109-583-4. 
  11. ^ Angela Fritsen, "Ludovico Lazzarelli's Fasti Christianae religionis: Recipient and Context of an Ovidian Poem," in Myricae: Essays on Neo-Latin Literature in Memory of Jozef Ijsewijn (Leuven University Press, 2000), pp. 121–122.

Further reading[edit]

  • Carandini, Andrea (2011). Rome: Day One. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-13922-7. 
  • Forsythe, Gary (2005). A Critical History of Early Rome: From Prehistory to the First Punic War. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-22651-7. 
  • Raaflaub, Kurt A. (2005). Social struggles in archaic Rome: new perspectives on the conflict of the orders. Malden, Mass: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4051-0060-1. 

External links[edit]