Daily Archives: October 24, 2015

The Rome of Romulus

The story of Romulus is history and myth, myth and legend. Romulus and other people named in his story may, or may not, have existed. The events written about in his story may, or may not, have happened.

Two elements of the story of Romulus are important.

The Geography of Italy and Geography of Rome matter. The Tiber and its tributary the Anio served as transport and barriers. The seven hills provided protection and danger. The plains became assembly areas and centers of commerce. Some of the surrounding cities were allies; some became enemies, and some of those then became the first Roman colonies. Some of these cities still exist in some form today or are at least known through archaeological work.

Politics of Romulus is also a clear element in this story. The founding and beginning of Rome involved more than just an abduction and some wars. Romulus had to learn, and display, the politics of attempted alliances, seeking justice for grievances, tolerating a ruling partner, setting forth laws, waging war or organizing peace.

Geography and Politics should be familiar. They are two elements of our 21st-century world that bind us close to the Land of Romulus. Future posts will share some research and some ideas on these subjects as they relate to the Founding of Rome.

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The Politics of Romulus.

Politics of Romulus’ time began with his grandfather and great-uncle.

Amulius deposed his brother Numitor, and became king of Alba. After Numitor’s daughter bore Romulus and Remus, Amulius attempted to have them killed. He failed. When the brothers grew up, they discovered who they were, and with Numitor’s help, led a coup in which Amulius was killed and Numitor restored to his throne.

Romulus and Remus decided not to remain in Alba as princely heirs, but instead to form their own city. Numitor gave his approval. The brothers had always associated not only with shepherds and farmers but with drifters and those less welcome in the towns, so perhaps Numitor was ensuring that none of this unsettling group would be near his own city. In any case, the brothers intended that their city become a sanctuary-a refuge for anyone who wanted a fresh start.

Once Rome was established, Romulus realized there were not enough women to maintain the population. He sent out emissaries in good will to the neighboring cities, to arrange marriages for his men. He was turned down. The histories are unclear how many attempts he made, or for how long. But it was recorded that he did try. When his diplomacy failed, he resorted to trickery.

The success of the abduction led eventually to war. Romulus first defeated the nearby Latin towns of Caenina, Antemnae. Livy reported that he then pardoned the parents of the women of those towns, and allowed them to migrate to Rome-good political move. Romulus then defeated Crustumium and invited parents and relatives to again move to Rome. At some point in all of this, Romulus organized the Roman people and provided a list of laws for his new city. Apparently he had consulted with wise leaders of the area, he claimed.

Romulus went to war with the Sabines from Cures, who had finally marched on Rome because of the abduction of their women. Betrayal of the Romans allowed the Sabine force to capture the Capitoline. As the Romans and Sabines met on the battlefield, the women who had been captured, now wives and mothers in Rome, come to the field, interrupt the bloodshed and beg that there be peace. Romulus and the Sabine king Tatius, make peace. Regardless of what had occurred between these two peoples, the two leaders become co-rulers of Rome.

Years later, after an apparently harmonious rule between Romulus and Tatius, the latter is killed. His murder was provoked by the ill-treatment some of his relatives gave to envoys from another city-a violation of the accepted custom, or law, regarding ambassadors. The entire situation demanded a level of diplomacy, and practical decision-making by Romulus.

Eventually he again went to war this time with Fidenae and then Veii. He was again successful. He released, without ransom, all the prisoners taken from Veii, and allowed any who so wished, to become citizens of Rome-a kind and wise move, one might say.

But being a successful general and a king loved by the common people was not apparently enough to keep Romulus on his throne. Politics often involves some group being unhappy in its perception of how much power it is allowed. So it was in Rome. Apparently the patrician class perceived that Romulus was ignoring them. One example cited as proof was the claim that Romulus had not consulted the senate, made up of patricians, before releasing the prisoners from Veii. Whether or not that was true was apparently irrelevant. The patricians were displeased. Rumors spread through Rome that certain people were plotting against Romulus’ life.

Livy, Plutarch, and Dionysius Halikarnassus, write about what they say finally happened to Romulus. Novelists may or may not agree.

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