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Rameses the Great

Remus And Romulus

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Well, sorry to burst ya bubble, but Romulus and Remus were also myths. Rome was likely founded around 1000 BCE, but before that you had the Latins and the Etruscans in the immediate area, as well as the Oscans, Umbrians, Campanians, etc...

 

Hi,

 

I

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Aren't there many stories about the early leaders/kings of Rome, such that it's not a question of whether they existed, just in what capacity and whether or not the stories attributed to these men are true?

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A good place to start is by reading 'The Beginnings of Rome, 753-264 B.C.' (Routledge History of the Ancient World) by Tim Cornell. If I remember correctly - which is hard, as university was such a long time ago! - Rome started as a series of settlements on the hills. They either coalesced by themselves or were united by an Etruscan ruler, as the Etruscans dominated the area at the time. It is interesting to note that the early Kings tended to have Etruscan names, and that the last of them, Tarquinius Superbus, asked the Etruscan king Lars Porsenna for aid. It is now generally accepted that Lars beat the Romans, and that 'Horatius at the Bridge' was a later invention to hide the defeat. Unfortunately for him, Lars was beaten by the Latins shortly afterwards.

 

As for whether Romulus and Remus actually existed, we will never know, although it is possible that some of the stories surrounding them began with real-life individuals. A similar thing happened to Alfred the Great in England, where we now have to accept that he never tried his hand at cooking!

 

The 'Founding' of Rome in 753 BC is a later story, and, as most historians now accept, neither Varro or Livy are the most accurate of storytellers. Don't forget that it was many centuries after the events that he wrote his histories.

 

However, those historians who point to the earlier villages on the hills and state that Rome was not founded in 753, but in the tenth century are missing one salient point. They were distinct, separate settlements. Therefore, I would propose that the story indicates that the villages became a political unity at some time in the eighth century BC., probably under Etruscan influence.

 

If anybody out there has a different viewpoint, get typing!!

Edited by sonic

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"Romulus" means Little Rome, which is rather too convenient to be a real person. As for "Remus" J.P. Mallory has this to say in his In Search of the Indo_Europeans:

 

The significance of twins in Indo-European mythology can be readily seen in the creation or foundation myths of of the Indo-Europeans. The Proto-Indo-European *yem

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Thanks. That was very informative, Ursus.

 

Was Rome founded on 21 Apr 753 BCE? In my view, not bloody likely. How did Varro arrive at this date?

 

The starting point of the calculations is 510 BCE, which was when the tyrant Hippias was driven from Athens (shortly before Cleisthenes founded the Athenian democracy) and Tarquinius Superbus was driven from Rome (shortly before Brutus et al founded the Roman republic). The dating of Hippias' expulsion need not concern us, but the dating of the expulsion of Tarquinius Superbus should. This date was determined in 304 BC, when it was determined that there were 204 annual nails hammered in the cella wall of the Capitoline temple to Jupiter, which showed that the temple itself must have been dedicated in 509 or 508. So far, so good.

 

The next step, however, was pure guesswork. That is, they simply estimated the reigns of the seven kings whose names had been recorded and added this to the date. This had the effect of putting the foundation of Rome between 813 and 728. Varro's well-deserved authority as a scholar was placed behind 753, and thus 753 was the convention date of the founding.

 

As far archaeological evidence goes, let's assume that by "founding of the city" we really take "city" seriously--i.e., not a bunch of scattered settlements that go back to the 10th century, but real public buildings, places of assembly, paved roads, bridges, sewers, etc. Remains of these urban structures can be dated to the late 7th and early 6th centuries.

 

The bottom line is that the monumentalization of public functions had their beginnings on the Forum Romanum and Forum Boarium in the late 7th/early 6th centuries, thus the founding of the city in a political sense is more like 625 bc, a little more than 100 years after Varro's date and more in line with the conventional reigns of kings.

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This thread has its counterparts in a number of academic debates. There's two schools - the hyper-criticals, who are exemplified by Wiseman (cf Clio's cosmetics) who believe that nothing of Rome can be known until the 240s BC, as the rest is a hopeless collection of myths.

 

Then there's the Fidentists, (myself among them) who agree with Carandini that the foundation legend, though heavily embroidered and with mythopaedic elements added, is essentially correct.

 

The fidentist argument is

 

In the ancient world, cities were always autocthonous (i.e. they were always there) or they were foundations. Italy was not empty at the time of Rome's foundation (Veii was less than 20 miles away) so anything growing organically would get squashed as soon as it became a potential threat. That's why the first act of the founders was to build a wall. (Especially as the new city sat across an ancient trade route - the Via Salaria)

 

Organic cities grow from houses to hamlets to villages to towns within nation-states. There is no record of this type of growth in a world of city-states such as archaic Italy. The rite of the ver sacra shows that foundations were happening at this period.

 

Archeology has not managed to disprove the foundation legend. If anything, it shows the dating to be accurate. Illiterate societies such as early Rome tend to have strong, and essentially reliable oral traditions, which would have retained core facts about the foundation. (Note that even in the historical period the Romans were practicing rites which they themselves admitted were frankly incomprehensible - a sign of a people who didn't change things much. A comet corresponding approximately with the death of Romulus (the sidus Romulus) was reported by the Chinese, who are considered more reliable than the 'Romans' at this time.

 

On a different topic, The Tarquins of Rome are meant to have come from Corinth via Tarquinia in Etruria. There is nothing particularly incredible about that either.

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Illiterate societies such as early Rome tend to have strong, and essentially reliable oral traditions, which would have retained core facts about the foundation.
I don't know if I buy that argument anymore...

 

In the beginning of M.I.Finley's The World of Odysseus (perhaps in the intro by Bernard Knox) an example is given where an illiterate Cretan epic poetry singer was asked in the 50's to tell about a famous WWII incident of a German General's kidnapping by British agents with the help of Cretan guerillas. Other than the fact that he indeed told about the kidnapping, the key players were totally wrong in that the British were regaled to a secondary role and a Cretan love story was inserted into the mix. This was only 9 years after the well documented event happened.

 

Taking this into consideration, in my view, the only 'core fact' preserved in the R&R myth from oral tradition is that Rome as a city was founded and ceased to be a collection of seperate villages on the hill.

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In the beginning of M.I.Finley's The World of Odysseus (perhaps in the intro by Bernard Knox) an example is given where an illiterate Cretan epic poetry singer was asked in the 50's to tell about a famous WWII incident of a German General's kidnapping by British agents with the help of Cretan guerillas. Other than the fact that he indeed told about the kidnapping, the key players were totally wrong in that the British were regaled to a secondary role and a Cretan love story was inserted into the mix. This was only 9 years after the well documented event happened.

 

Hence the weasel word 'tend' in my posting. :rolleyes:

 

I've heard the Finley example brought up before in a seminar on oral tradition, and the response was (something like) 'extrapolating from the particular to the general is a dangerous exercise - even if we mean a particular [German] general!'

 

A good book on the topic of ancient 'oral memory' is Rosalind Thomas's Oral Tradition and Written Record in Classical Athens (CUP)

Edited by Maty

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I've heard the Finley example brought up before in a seminar on oral tradition, and the response was (something like) 'extrapolating from the particular to the general is a dangerous exercise - even if we mean a particular [German] general!'

Ha! That is definitely a prudent reply. However, it just seems to me that it's equally dangerous to replace an average with a median because one doesn't like the way the curve is going.

 

When considering & defending the 'general' did the lecturer offer other alternatives where oral tradition was pitted against well documented accounts with a different, more reliable result?

 

I'll have to check that book out Maty.

 

Accuracy of historical accounts regarding the Archaic Period is of great interest to me lately and oral tradition is a big factor in that.

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The fidentist argument on the development of city-states strikes me as much stronger than its appeal to the (general) reliability of oral traditions.

 

Archeology has not managed to disprove the foundation legend. If anything, it shows the dating to be accurate.

But no date is implied by the legend, is there? Without dates provided by conscious recordings (e.g., written histories, annual nails, etc), how could one date the foundation?

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A short article from IHT.

 

"The story of Romulus and Remus is almost as old as Rome. The orphan twins were suckled by a she-wolf in a cave on the banks of the Tiber, and Romulus grew up to found Rome in 753 B.C.

Historians have long since dismissed the story as a charming legend. The 19th-century historian Theodor Mommsen said: "The founding of the city in the strict sense, such as the legend assumes, is of course to be reckoned out of the question: Rome was not built in a day."

Yet the legend is as imperishable as Mommsen's skeptical verdict, and it has been invigorated by recent archaeological finds."

 

http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/06/13/arts/snlegend.php

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A short article from IHT.

"other archaeologists, while praising his excavations, were skeptical of his interpretations."

 

That about sums it up for me. Evidence of a wall in the right place, dated to the right time is not proof of the twins existence. Maybe if a stone was found with an archaic latin inscription saying "I was built by Romulus"...

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"The names of the twins have caused difficulty: whereas the Romans called them Romulus and Remus, Greek writers gave Romulus and Romus. One line of argument is to believe that the Greeks invented Romus as the eponymous founder of Rome and that when the Romans, who called their founder Romulus, heard of Romus, they combined the two as twins, changing the name Romus to Remus. A more complicated explanation suggests that Romulus was only the Latin form of the Greek Romus and that the later Greeks, not realizing this, thought that they had to deal with two men and so invented the twins; when this version reached Rome, the Romans accepted it, only changing Romus to Remus. Other theories, such as that Remus was a later invention designed to account for the collegiate magistracy, need not be pursued here. On the contrary, it is not unreasonable to accept an old Roman origin, since both words are authentic Roman names: in historical times both a gens Romilia and a gens Remmia existed. And since the archaeological evidence suggests the merging of two communities at an early stage in Rome's development (p. 45), the tradition might well have derived from the existence of two early village chiefs. This would then be developed by later writers in the light of numerous folk legends about twins and their miraculous upbringings.

 

"Aeneas was regarded as the founder of Rome only by some Greek authors, and by no Roman writers except Sallust. The Romans, therefore, may have based the idea of their Trojan descent on Aeneas as the ancestor of the Latins rather than as the founder of their city. His story may have reached Rome from southern Etruria and Veii where he was popular at least in the fourth if not the sixth century, as shown by the statuettes, but this need not have involved the belief that he was the founder of Rome. He was, in fact, more closely linked with Lavinium which he had founded. Here the historian Timaeus learned from the inhabitants that among holy objects kept in the city was a Trojan earthenware jar which presumably contained the Penates which Aeneas had brought from Troy; these were the gods of the store cupboard (penes), which later were identified with Castor and Pollux. The tradition that the Trojan Penates came to Rome from Lavinium is strengthened by the discovery there of the inscription to the Dioscuri (p. 40). Further, there is said to have been a cult of Aeneas Indiges, i.e. Aeneas the divine ancestor, near Lavinium. If LARE AINEIA D(ONUM) is the correct reading of a fourth-century inscription found nearby, this would be additional confirmation, but unfortunately both AINEIA and therefore a connexion (sic) with Aeneas are uncertain. But in contrast to Lavinium there was no public cult of Aeneas at Rome itself. Further, Dionysius of Halicarnassus says that the Latins erected a hero-shrine (Heroon) to Aeneas. Again a recent archaeological discovery may or may not provide direct confirmation. A small fourth-century shrine at Lavinium had been built within the circle of an earlier seventh-century tomb, suggesting that a famous person was venerated there, but slight caution is required since it does not correspond completely with Dionysius' description of Aeneas' shrine. However that may be, close links existed between Rome and Lavinium from very early days and continued into historical times; after 338 BC all Rome's major magistrates had to go to Lavinium each year to sacrifice to the Penates and Vesta at the beginning and end of their periods of office (8).

 

"Varied views were also held about the precise date of the foundation of the city. The poet Ennius appears to have gone back beyond Timaeus' date of 814 BC to about 900, while at the end of the third century the annalists Fabius Pictor and Cincius Alimentus advance it respectively to 748 and 728. Cato and Polybius followed Fabius, but a century later 753 BC, proposed by the scholar Varro, became the official date. Soon afterwards under Augustus the legends received their greatest literary enshrinement in Livy's History and Virgil's Aeneid. Although Timaeus and Naevius mentioned Aeneas' visit to Carthage en route for Italy, the story of Aeneas and Dido was Virgil's great contribution."

 

Pirated outright from: "A History of the Roman World; 753-146 BC"; 4th Ed., pp. 48-9; H.H. Scullard.

------------------------------------

 

I hope that this adds some spice, if not light to the subject.

Edited by Gaius Octavius

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For everyone's information, the July/August 2007 issue of Archaeology magazine (on sale now in Borders Books & Music stores) has a feature article presenting both sides of the debate on whether Romulus and Remus actually existed. You can read an abstract of the article by clicking on the link below:

 

Origins of Rome: Is the Legend of Romulus True?

 

-- Nephele

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"The names of the twins have caused difficulty: whereas the Romans .......

Pirated outright from: "A History of the Roman World; 753-146 BC"; 4th Ed., pp. 48-9; H.H. Scullard.

------------------------------------

 

I hope that this adds some spice, if not light to the subject.

 

That was very informative, for those of us that read the posts and usually don't respond, let me say thanks.

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