The Founding Myth of Rome

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The founding myth of the City of Rome centers on the twin brothers, Romulus and Remus. This myth encompasses the circumstances of their birth, their coming of age, and the death of Remus by his brother. What makes this myth remarkable, for me, is that this is essentially the creation myth for ancient Romans. The myths of Romans usually focused on civic ethics or piety toward the Gods. (Any myth that detailed the creation of the world was usually adapted from the Greeks.) This founding myth presents the belief of the Romans that they were called to a greater destiny in the world. However, they were unsparing in highlighting that Romulus murdered his brother or that the original Romans were criminals.

The elements of this myth are twins with a divine parentage: in their case, Mars, the God of War. Numitor, their royal grandfather is overthrown by his younger brother, Amulius. After killing the male heirs, he forces Numitor’s daughter, Rhea Silva, to become a Vestal Virgin. During her service as a Vestal, Rhea Silva is visited by Mars. She later gives birth to his twins.

Romulus and Remus, the twins, are sent out to be killed by their great uncle, but are saved through magical intervention. The River God, Tiberius guides the basket to a river bank. A wolf rescues them and nurses them until they are found. Meanwhile, a woodpecker sent by Mars ensures the safety of the twins.

A childless couple, Faustulus and his wife Acca Larentia adopts the twins and raise them as shepherds. When the brothers are grown, they get into trouble with King Amulius’s men. When they were taken before their great uncle, who happens to be the king, Romulus kills him. Later, the brothers reinstate their grandfather and free their mother. Afterwards, Romulus and Remus leave to find their own fortune. Along the way, they argue over where to establish their new city. Goaded into fury by Remus, Romulus kills his brother. Filled with remorse, he buries Remus with great pomp, and then founds The City of Rome.

Read the full myth here: Romulus and Remus

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One thought on “The Founding Myth of Rome

  1. Pingback: Retelling of the Myth of Romulus and Remus for Modern People | Neptune's Dolphins

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