Happy birthday Rome! April 21, 2016 is the 2769th birthday of Rome. It is also the 2nd anniversary of this blog!
The founding date of Rome is traditionally April 21, 753 BC.
Two years ago, I discussed the ‘official’ story of the founding of Rome starts with the twins, Romulus and Remus. I refer you to that blog if you want to refresh your memory as to their story.
There is another story, however, and this story was the one which Gaius Julius Caesar favored, because it placed his clan in the spotlight.
Virgil wrote The Aeneid during the reign of Augustus. Virgil wanted to glorify Augustus, who claimed ancestry through Gaius Julius Caesar, because Gaius Julius Caesar had adopted Octavian as his son in his will. In The Aeneid, the survivors from the fallen city of Troy banded together under Aeneas, the warrior-hero who brought both his elderly father, Anchises, carrying him through the flames of the burning city on his back, and his young son, leading him by the hand. Aeneas and his band underwent a series of adventures throughout the Mediterranean Sea. Among these adventures was a dalliance with Queen Dido, the Queen of Carthage, Rome’s future greatest enemy. (So Rome created its greatest enemy?) Aeneas, at every step of his voyage from Troy to Rome, makes the right choice, the pious choice. He is the model of Roman piety and honor. He cares for his father. He places the family above self. He leads his band to safety. He resists temptation.
The Trojans, soon to be Romans, were believed to have landed southwest of Rome: probably at Laurentum or maybe at Lavinium, a place named for Lavinia, the daughter of King Latinus, whom Aeneas married. Unfortunately, Lavinia was betrothed to a man named Turnus, who then went to war with Aeneas to win back Lavinia. Of course, Aenenas wins the war and slays Turnus, thus securing bloth the right to Lavinia and the right to stay in the area.
Why did Gaius Julius Caesar favor this story? First, Aeneas was descended from the Goddess Venus, thus any descendant of Aeneas was of divine origin. Second, the son of Aeneas was named Ascanius, but was also known Julius. This son went on to found a line of kings in Alba Longa. Thus, Gaius Julius Caesar could claim to be descended from both Venus (and thus be divine) and a line of kings. Heady stuff for an ambitious man!
As I pledged two years ago, in this blog, I will continue to bring you tales of Rome, news of the latest archaeological digs, relevant scholarship about Rome, reviews of current literature, 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.