Updated: Jun 22
Just like I did with my Ancient Egypt posts, I’m going to go back to the beginning. This is purely because I realised, I’ve not been using the right resources to do the right research, into these ancient civilisations. That’s why, we’re going back. You’ve also probably noticed I’ve taken down my posts on Ancient Greece, that’s because I don’t yet have the proper books that’ll help ease me into studying about that great civilisation. So, it’s going to be on a back burner, until I can get back to it.
Anyway, that’s enough explanations now, let’s get started with learning about Ancient Rome! Today, we’re going to look into how Rome was founded, and why historians, especially those Ancient Roman ones, use myths to cover its founding, and who told us these myths. So, let’s get started!
The Blur: Legends And Facts
Before we go in depth, the first thing you need to know is that the reason we know the founding of Rome is based on legends is because of an Ancient Roman historian called Titus Livius, or Livy for short. His works outline the entire history of Rome, from its founding in 753BC, to the time of Emperor Augustus (27BC – 14AD), and even in his writings, he’s claimed that many of his sources, especially on the founding of Rome, came from legends and myths. He even wrote it in the preface of his works.
Now, we know this is true, because many modern historians, who study Ancient Rome, claim that the first four kings, who ruled Rome, before it became an Empire, were nothing more than myth, establishing the pillars of Roman society, as it began to develop. These four kings were Romulus, Numa Pompilius, Tullus Hostilius and Ancus Marcius.
Romulus was the founding father of Rome. After being raised by a wolf, defeating his grandfather’s usurper and killing his twin brother, he established Rome as a kingdom, on the banks of the River Tiber.
Numa Pompilius succeeded Romulus, after he disappeared, died or became a god, according to the legends, and established the religion of the kingdom, and its culture.
Tullus Hostilius, the third king of Rome, established the military reputation of Rome. While Numa Pompilius had a pacifistic heart, and Romulus was a force to be reckoned with, Tullus was probably the more strategic of the legendary kings.
Finally, Ancus Marcius was the last of these legends, who established the law of Rome. He balanced military prowess with law and order. Considering Rome was built on a society of outcasts, criminals and refugees, they probably needed a justice system, so that the kingdom didn’t descend into chaos.
Even Livy Had His Doubts
While we know that these kings probably didn’t exsist, who’s to say they didn’t? Even Livy allowed their myths to remain fact, for the Roman people. The reason he did this was because he believed that the history of great cities, or any history altogether, should have a somewhat dubious but impressive history. That’s why he kept the idea that the god of war, Mars, was Romulus’ father, and that divine intervention was what determined the founding of Rome.
However, he did continuously remind his readers about his own doubts about certain “facts” that he’d found in his search for the truth. After all, he did use many different sources, not the least influential was Fabius Pictor, a fellow Roman historian, who drew up a complete history of Rome, at the end of the 3rdCentury BC. Of course, there was an even more limited supply of Roman writings, considering they weren’t very keen on scholarly pursuits, in Pictor’s time. In fact, he was the first to document Rome’s history, and…get this…it was all in Greek!
That’s right! The first ever documented history of Rome was in Greek! That’s probably because Pictor was an ambassador to Greece and he wanted to show the Grecians about life in Rome, especially its politics and judicial systems. So, there are a lot of holes in his writings, and both Livy and modern-day archaeologists have found them and more.
Can’t You Use Other Sources?
Before I answer that question, let me first say Livy was a psychologist. Well…actually, he technically is, because he didn’t tackle the challenge of outlining Roman history, for the sake of it, or for national pride, or for what he’d been mostly influenced by, Stoicism (a philosophy claiming that virtue is based on knowledge. It’s an Ancient Greek philosophy). He did it because he was very interested in human behaviour and its influence on the world he knew. So, his account seems to be the more credible one, because it not only looks at Roman history, like a dry textbook, but it has his views on why Romans are so proud of their culture and why they believe their city is the best.
We could try to use others, but Livy will always be the one everyone falls back to, because it’s the most detailed by far. Of course, we could use accounts from people like Dionysius or Herodotus, but these guys came from Halicarnassus, which is an island in Greece. So, you can bet that their accounts could be a little more biased or drier than Livy’s. For example, in Dionysius’ writings, he suggests that the Romans were Greek descendants. You can see why this wouldn’t sit too well with national Romans.
Well, anyway, I’ll leave you guys with that wealth of knowledge for now, since that is quite a bit to remember. In the meantime, why don’t you guys think back to your primary school days, or elementary/middle school days (if you’re not from the UK), and try to remember what you’d learned in those history classes? Not much right? Well, here’s a little activity for you to try:
List out as many Ancient Roman gods as you can.
Now, search up on the internet for the full list, and compare the two. How many names of gods don’t come up on that list? How many have you missed out? Chances are, some of those gods you’ve written down are actually Greek. That’s your next task, check out a list of all those Ancient Greek gods, and see which ones were from that list!
It’s difficult right? Well, that’s homework for you! I’ll see you guys in the next post! Until then, check out the other wellsprings of knowledge, like The Crafty Corner or The School Of Life, surely there’s something there for you guys to enjoy! See you later!