Today we’ll be talking about why we still use the Foundation Myth as a basis. Remember it’s a myth, so nothing should be taken seriously. The only reason why we’re looking at it is because it helps in discussing the culture and religion of Rome, at its peak. So, we’re looking at why the Foundation Myth was so important in the religion, culture and society of the Romans who lived during the time of the Kings (just before the Republic took over), and during the time of the Empire.
It should be no surprise that it was huge during the Empire, even emperors, like Julius Caesar, would have heard the myth and believed it to be true. It even boosted the morale of the people, not least during times of war, because they could say that they were protected by the gods, especially the god Mars, who was the god war and who fathered their founder.
So let’s take a look at why the Foundation Myth is so important, and how it’ll help us understand why the Ancient Romans believed it to be true!
Is There Any Truth To The Myth?
There is none whatsoever. Historians and archaeologists can safely say that neither Romulus nor Remus ever existed. In fact, remember what we said about Alba Longa? Yeah, because we can’t find any evidence of that city’s existence, that’s one of the markers that indicates neither founder, nor their family ever existed. In fact, even the year that was said to be Rome’s founding is not true.
Instead of being founded in 753BC, according to archaeological evidence and research, Rome is actually much older, and is said to have been founded in the 13th or 12th Century BC. So, with that evidence, the Foundation Myth has lost a lot of its credibility, and with this new data, by the time 753BC came about, Rome was already a large town that was undergoing an urban change (“urban” meaning it was becoming more of a city than a town).
So, It’s All Just A Story
Essentially yes, because everything about it is wrong. First of all, the chronology is wrong. It's why we can say it’s just a story, but for whatever reason, Ancient Roman historians decided to use 753BC as its founding date. Many archaeologists and modern historians believe that this was chosen, not because it is a historical fact, but for religious purposes.
The next reason is because the myth claims that between 753 BC and 617 BC (which is about 60 years), only 4 kings reigned. Consider how long ago these kings lived. Things like modern medicine, health and safety policies, or lifestyle awareness didn’t exist. So, it’s highly unlikely their kings would have lasted that long. After all, there were always constant wars, in-fighting, even violent battles were showcased for sport!
Finally, according to Ancient Roman historians, like Fabius Pictor, Rome’s governing systems were added to over time. So, the systems Romulus put into place were simply swapped over, once the Republic began. Of course, in reality, one person can’t think of all those complex systems, like having an interrex or having a senate, or using the patron-client system, it’s rather impossible to think that Romulus ever thought of these systems himself. It’s much more likely that these systems were built over time, and considering the fact that Rome was founded around the 13th Century BC, that’s plenty of time for these systems to evolve, rather than be completely created in one go.
But Why Do We Use It?
Like I said before, the reason we use the Foundation Myth, to study Ancient Rome, is mostly so we can understand their culture, or better yet the “Spirit of Rome”. You have to understand, they were the ones who built an empire, in Europe. From Britain, in the north, to as far south as Egypt, they conquered and ruled through violence. So, you can bet these people were proud. That’s why, when we look at the Foundation Myth, we try to see what the Ancient Roman people saw.
Also, despite the fact that there are several, very different accounts, they still revolve around the same subject. Look, at Livy’s account, for example. He writes about Rome’s founding, in a very no-nonsense way. It’s basic and methodical, whereas Dionysius, who is a Greek historian (notice he is Greek), speaks about Rome with so many advanced political systems, which is quite impossible to believe, and seems to be based on Greek traditions, which were in place already, since it is a much older civilisation.
Regardless of all this, we still use the Foundation Myth, to see what life was like at Ancient Rome’s peak, when the Empire and the Senate were in power, and Europe was being conquered. It gives us a peek into what a standard Roman would have done, during the day, or during a major festival, because when an archaeologist finds a certain piece of evidence that doesn’t quite make sense, they can always refer back to the Foundation Myth, to see if there are any parallels there.
Let’s Do A Little More Research
Ok, so I’m going to leave it there for now, because I’m starting to get repetitive, and if I start to talk more about the Foundation Myth, this is going to end up being an essay rather than a short post. So, what I want you to do for now, is to continue reading Livy’s account, do some research about what evidence archaeologists have found that relate back to the Foundation Myth, and see if you can understand a little bit about the Ancient Roman culture. Don’t just look at the mythology of the gods but look at what the Romans did in terms of their rituals and customs. I bet you’ll find some interesting (and some rather weird) stuff!
Well, that’s it from me today! I’ll see you guys next time, when I start talking about what the Ancient Romans believed Romulus created, when he founded Rome.