Rome: Discovering it’s origins

Tradition versus the historical origins of one of the Roman Empire’s most famous city.

For over two thousand years the questions behind the true origins of the famous city of Rome, seat of emperors and the world’s most famous empire, has fuelled the imaginations of both its resident’s and peoples worldwide. However, to truly get close to the truth, it is imperative to analyze the traditional tales (Roman and Greek) and known facts. It is a journey that has been repeated for as long as Rome has existed.

Local legends abound, but the most interesting and widely cherished surrounds the 4th century BC story of its so-called founder, Romulus, after which the city was named. Romulus was both the subject of mortal and mythological traditions, though the story itself may have had some minimal basis in reality.

Romulus was said to have been an unwanted illegitimate child, who as a baby had been thrown into the River Tiber (near present day Rome) to die. However, according to ancient Roman beliefs, the gods had other plans for him, and he was plucked from the roaring torrent by Providence, who had used godly-style abilities to get the river to wash him up onto the shore.

Providence then got the assistance of a female wolf to feed the child until a local shepherd, Faustulus, adopted him as his own. Romulus is then said to have been brought up in a very strict manner by the shepherd, on the very site where Rome sits today.

As Romulus reached adulthood, he founded a village on Mons Palatinus (Palatine Hill), one of the seven hills of the future Rome. Meanwhile, his adopted brother, Remus, made a failed attempt to settle Mons Aventinus (Aventine Hill), to the south and raided a Sabine settlement on the hill just north of the Palatinus.

This tale became quite well known amongst the ancient Romans. In fact, in the early 3rd century BC, a bronze statue was erected in the Forum to depict the legend of Romulus and the wolf. However, as magical as legends are, this common Roman tale had its rivals, surprisingly amongst the Greeks.

According to one ancient Greek legend, which still lacks the realistic luster of the Roman version, Evander the Arcadian, a chief, had come across Mons Palatinus (Palatine Hill) and with no real reason, maybe having had nothing better to do, he named the hill after his beloved home of Pallanteum. Of course the story would not be very Greek if it had not included such famous mythological characters as Odysseus, who just happened to have a son called Romus (the Greek founder of Rome). Need one say anymore? However, the inclusion of a line about Aeneas, a Trojan warrior, was soon adopted into the original Roman legend after evidence was found, by the ancient Romans, of Trojan landings in Latium. The findings were displayed in Lavinium, in the Temple of Venus in about 300 BC.