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The Stricking Legends Behind The Origins Of Rome

Updated: Mar 12

panoramic view of rome, italy
Panoramic View of Rome | Italy

Being the origins of Rome shrouded in obscurity, myths grew up around the foundation of the Eternal City. According to a calculation by Marcus Terentius Varro, Rome was founded on April 21, 753 BC. But two are actually the legends intertwined with the foundation of Rome.

Romulus and Remus suckling a wolf
Romulus and Remus

The first one is that of the twins Romulus and Remus, sons of Rhea Silvia, the daughter of the king of Alba Longa, Numitor. Rhea Silvia, according to the legend, was impregnated by Mars, the god of war, nothing less. The two little boys were then kidnapped by their uncle Amulius, who claim the throne of Alba Longa for himself.

Sneaky Amulius abandoned the two poor boys on the Tiber where they were subsequently saved by a she-wolf who suckled the brothers until they were rescued by a shepherd. As the two young men, as strong and handsome as princes, they avenged their grandfather, Numitor, and founded a city on the Palatine Hill, one of the seven hills of Rome. But one day Remus dared to cross the so-called pomerium drawn around the city by his brother Romulus. The pomerium was the sacred boundary of the city of Rome. In legal and sacred terms, Rome existed only within it and everything beyond this line was simply territory that belonged to the city. Annoyed by the careless act of his brother that could have easily pissed off the gods, Romulus killed Remus. And the gods were happy.

The second legend behind the birth of Rome has an international flavor because it goes back to the legend of Troy and the war against the Greeks. As retold by the poet Virgil in his famous epic poem, The Aeneid, after the Greeks successfully took the city with the wooden tricky Horse, sacked it, and burn it to the ground, the Trojan Aeneas fled with his father and his son. He eventually made it to the shores of Latium where he married some king’s daughter, Lavinia. One of their descendants was precisely that king Numitor whose grandsons will be the founders of the city, but then had a fight about some line that should or should not be crossed. This is the legend. Or better these are the intertwined legends.

History might be slightly different, but after all, not so much. It is certainly true that Rome has now a history of almost 3,000 years and originates from encounter of civilizations as different as those of the Etruscans, the Greeks, the Sannites, the Italics and more. This combination gave origin to one of the most greatest Empire of all time, whose traces are still visible and tangible as you walk around the city. As Johann Winckelmann said in 1756 “there is almost nothing beautiful in the world other than Rome”.


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