Happy birthday Rome! April 21, 2014 was the 2767th birthday of Rome. If you asked the average Roman, he or she would have said that Rome was founded on April 21, 1, because the Roman calendar used the founding date of Rome as its starting point. In Latin, dates in Rome are followed by the letters, A, U, and C, short for ‘Ab Urbe Condita’, which means “from the founding of the city”. In our calendar, the founding date would be April 21, 753 BC.
The ‘official’ story of the founding of Rome starts with the twins, Romulus and Remus. Their mother, Rhea Silvia was the daughter of the King of Alba Longa, Numitor. Unfortunately, Numitor had a brother by the name of Amulius. Amulius, jealous of his brother, plotted to slay him and take over the kingdom. When he seized power, he killed all the male heirs of Numitor. He also forced Rhea Silvia to become a Vestal Virgin sworn to chastity.
Our story might have ended there, but Rhea Silvia conceived twins who were the children of the god, Mars. Amulius abandoned the children to die in the River Tiber. Among the miraculous interventions that saved the lives of the twins, was a she-Wolf who suckled them and a woodpecker who fed them.
Eventually, Romulus and Remus are found by a kindly old couple. They sheltered Romulus and Remus and taught them to be shepherds. As time went on, both Romulus and Remus attracted a number of followers due to their inherent leadership qualities.
Finally, the twins learn their true identities! They kill Amulius and restore Numitor to his throne. They decide, however, to found their own city, rather than wait to inherit Alba Longa from Numitor.
In founding the city of Rome, the twins disagreed as to which hill was better: Palatine Hill or Aventine Hill. They resorted to augury to settle the matter, but, not surprisingly, they argued over the results. In the quarrel, Romulus killed Remus. Romulus then founded the city of Rome, established the Senate, and raised the first legions. Unfortunately, Rome was a city of males. To solve this problem, Romulus arranged the abduction of women from the neighboring Sabines through treachery.
The foundation story of Rome is a story of intrigue, murder, miraculous events, quarrels between brothers, and abduction and rape of women. It tells you a great deal about the Roman people and their national psyche. There are many variations of this story including the one that Julius Caesar favored, where Numitor is the ancestor of Caesar, as well as being the descendent of Aeneas who in turn is the descendent of Venus. Thus Caesar is divine!
In this blog, I will bring you tales of Rome, news of the latest archaeological digs, relevant scholarship about Rome, and interesting facts about early Christianity, as well as to answer questions which you the reader, might pose. I hope you will join me in Ancient Rome, the home of Casting Lots.