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Brutus and Rome’s Founding Myths Explained


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Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor were its stories simple historical footnotes. Right at the center of it all, we’ve got “Brutus and Rome’s origin stories,” weaving through ancient triumphs while also diving into what makes us tick as humans. From Romulus’s ambition to Aeneas’s perseverance, each tale carries weight beyond mere legend. Brutus and the Founding Myths of Rome.

Don’t brush these stories off as mere folklore; they’re the very foundations that an empire’s culture and values are built upon. But why do we still discuss Lucius Junius Brutus, centuries later? Maybe we’re just suckers for a good beginning, or it could be our deep-down yearning to see heroes stand up to the bad guys.

Table of Contents:

The Legend of Romulus and Remus: How Rome Began

Brutus and the founding myths of Rome

The story of Romulus and Remus is the ultimate founding myth of Rome. Twin brothers, born of a mortal mother and the god Mars, abandoned to die but saved by a she-wolf.

They grew up to be strong leaders, but their fate was sealed by a brutal act of fratricide. Romulus killed Remus in a dispute over the naming and rule of their new city – Rome.

Legend has it that Romulus and Remus were the sons of Rhea Silvia, a vestal virgin and the daughter of the rightful king of Alba Longa, Numitor.

But the god Mars had other plans. He seduced Rhea Silvia, and she gave birth to the twins Romulus and Remus.

The Rape of the Sabine Women: Brutus and the Founding Myths of Rome

As Rome grew under Romulus’ rule, a new problem emerged – a shortage of women. To solve this, Romulus hatched a plan. He invited the neighboring Sabines to a festival, where the Romans proceeded to abduct their unmarried women.

This event, known as the “Rape of the Sabine Women,” led to a war between the Romans and the Sabines. Eventually, the Sabine women intervened, pleading for peace between their Roman husbands and Sabine kin.

The Death of Remus: Brutus and the Founding Myths of Rome

The founding of Rome was not without bloodshed. According to the founding myth, Romulus and Remus quarreled over where to build their city. They agreed to let the gods decide, each taking a hill and waiting for a divine sign.

Remus saw six vultures first, but Romulus later saw twelve. They argued over whose sign was more meaningful. In the heat of the argument, Romulus killed Remus, cementing his claim to leadership and the right to name the city after himself – Rome.

This fratricide in Rome’s earliest days foreshadows the violence and civil strife that would mark much of the city’s history, even as it grew into a mighty empire. The story of Romulus and Remus remains a powerful symbol of Rome’s mythic origins, a tale of tragedy, ambition, and the birth of a civilization.

Aeneas: The Trojan Hero and Mythical Founder of Rome

While Romulus and Remus are the most well-known founders of Rome, another legendary figure is said to have laid the groundwork for Roman civilization: Aeneas, the Trojan hero.

Aeneas’ story is most famously told in Virgil’s epic poem, the Aeneid, which was written during the reign of Rome’s first emperor, Augustus. The poem tells of Aeneas’ journey from the ruins of Troy to the shores of Italy, where he is destined to find a new city that will one day become the center of a great empire.

Virgil’s Epic Poem: Brutus and the Founding Myths of Rome

Virgil’s Aeneid is a masterpiece of Latin literature and a cornerstone of Rome’s cultural identity. Written between 29 and 19 BC, the epic poem traces the story of Aeneas, a Trojan hero who escapes the fall of Troy and embarks on a journey to fulfill his destiny: to find a new city in Italy that will eventually become Rome.

The poem is not just a tale of adventure but also a powerful political and cultural statement, tying Rome’s origins to the great civilizations of Greece and Troy and legitimizing the rule of Augustus and the Roman Empire.

Aeneas’ journey begins with the fall of Troy. As the city burns, Aeneas escapes with his father, Anchises, his son Ascanius, and the Lares and Penates, the household gods of Troy. After a series of adventures and misadventures across the Mediterranean, Aeneas and his followers finally reach the shores of Italy.

But their trials are not over. Aeneas must wage war against the local tribes, including the Latins and the Rutulians, to establish his new city.

The Prophecy of Rome’s Greatness

Throughout his journey, Aeneas is driven by a prophecy: that he will find a city that will rule the world. This prophecy is most clearly stated in Book VI of the Aeneid, where Aeneas visits the underworld and meets the shade of his father, Anchises.

Anchises shows Aeneas a parade of future Roman heroes, from Romulus to Augustus, and predicts the glory of Rome:

“Others will cast more tenderly in bronze
Their breathing figures, I can well believe,
And bring more lifelike portraits out of marble;
Argue more eloquently, use the pointer
To trace the paths of heaven accurately
And accurately foretell the rising stars.
Roman, remember by your strength to rule
Earth’s peoples—for your arts are to be these:
To pacify, to impose the rule of law,
To spare the conquered, battle down the proud.”

This passage encapsulates the idea of Rome’s manifest destiny, the belief that Rome was fated to rule the world. It is a powerful statement of Roman exceptionalism, and it helped to shape Roman identity for centuries to come.

The Rise and Fall of the Roman Monarchy: Brutus and the Founding Myths of Rome

Brutus and the founding myths of Rome

Before the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, there was the Roman Kingdom. According to tradition, Rome was ruled by a succession of seven kings, beginning with the city’s founder, Romulus, and ending with overthrowing Tarquinius Superbus, the seventh and final king.

The story of Rome’s early monarchy is a mix of myth and history, with many of the details lost to time. But the legends of these early kings and the events that led to the monarchy’s downfall played a crucial role in shaping Roman identity and political thought.

The seven kings of Rome, as recorded by ancient historians like Livy and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, were:

1. Romulus (753-716 BC)
2. Numa Pompilius (715-673 BC)
3. Tullus Hostilius (673-642 BC)
4. Ancus Marcius (642-617 BC)
5. Tarquinius Priscus (616-579 BC)
6. Servius Tullius (578-535 BC)
7. Tarquinius Superbus (534-510 BC)

Each of these kings is said to have made important contributions to the development of Rome, from the establishment of religious institutions under Numa Pompilius to the expansion of Roman territory under Tullus Hostilius and Ancus Marcius.

The Tyranny of Tarquinius Superbus: Brutus and the Founding Myths of Rome


The final straw came when Tarquinius’ son, Sextus Tarquinius, raped Lucretia, the wife of a prominent nobleman. Lucretia’s suicide and the subsequent uprising led by Lucius Junius Brutus marked the end of the Roman monarchy and the beginning of the Roman Republic.

The rape of Lucretia is one of the most famous stories from early Roman history. According to Livy, Lucretia was the beautiful and virtuous wife of Collatinus, a nobleman. Sextus Tarquinius, the king’s son, became obsessed with her and, one night, forced his way into her bedroom and raped her.

Lucretia, overwhelmed with shame, called her husband and father to her and made them swear to avenge her. Then, she took her own life. Her death sparked a rebellion against the monarchy, led by Lucius Junius Brutus and Collatinus.

The Overthrow of the Monarchy: Brutus and the Founding Myths of Rome

Brutus and Collatinus, along with a group of noble conspirators, rallied the people of Rome against Tarquinius Superbus.

In its place, the conspirators established the Roman Republic, with Brutus and Collatinus serving as the first consuls. This event, which traditionally dates to 509 BC, marked a turning point in Roman history and set the stage for Rome’s rise as a republican power.

The story of Lucretia and the overthrow of the monarchy became a powerful symbol in Roman culture, representing the values of honor, virtue, and resistance to tyranny.

Archaeological Evidence and the Historical Foundation of Rome: Brutus and the Founding Myths of Rome

While the legends of Romulus and Remus, Aeneas, and the early Roman kings are fascinating, they are just that – legends. The true history of Rome’s founding is more complex, and relies on a combination of archaeological evidence and historical sources.

Archaeologists have been studying the site of ancient Rome for centuries, piecing together the city’s early history through excavations and analysis of material remains. While much remains unknown, these investigations have shed light on the reality behind the myths.

The Palatine Hill, one of the famous seven hills of Rome, has long been associated with the city’s earliest history.

Excavations on the Palatine have revealed evidence of human occupation dating back to the 10th century BC. The remains of early Iron Age huts, as well as later Roman structures, have been found on the hill, suggesting a long history of settlement.

Early Settlements and Cemeteries

Other archaeological sites in Rome have provided further evidence of the city’s early history. The Forum Boarium, the ancient cattle market, has yielded remains of early Iron Age settlements, including hut foundations and pottery.

Cemeteries from the 8th and 7th centuries BC have also been found, providing insight into the burial practices and material culture of Rome’s early inhabitants. The famous Esquiline Cemetery, for example, contained a wealth of grave goods, including pottery, jewelry, and weapons.

The Importance of the Tiber River: Brutus and the Founding Myths of Rome

One of the key factors in Rome’s early development was its location on the Tiber River. The Tiber provided a natural highway for trade and communication, connecting Rome to the rest of Italy and the Mediterranean world.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the Tiber was a major focus of early settlement in the area.

The Tiber also played a role in Rome’s mythology. The river was personified as the god Tiberinus, and was the site of important religious festivals and rituals.

While the archaeological record cannot confirm the legends of Rome’s founding, it does provide a fascinating glimpse into the reality of life in early Rome. The evidence of early settlements, cemeteries, and the importance of the Tiber River all help to paint a picture of a vibrant and growing community, one that would eventually become one of the most powerful cities in the ancient world.

The Legacy of Rome’s Founding Myths: Brutus and the Founding Myths of Rome

The myths surrounding the founding of Rome – the story of Romulus and Remus, the legend of Aeneas, the tales of the early kings – have had an enduring impact on Roman culture and identity. These stories, passed down through generations, became a fundamental part of how the Romans saw themselves and their place in the world.

For the Romans, mythology was not just a collection of entertaining stories. It was a way of understanding their history, their values, and their destiny. The founding myths, in particular, served to establish Rome’s origins as divinely ordained and to legitimize the city’s power and authority.

The twins’ divine parentage and miraculous survival marked them as chosen by the gods, while their conflict and the fratricide that followed foreshadowed the struggles and triumphs to come.

Similarly, the legend of Aeneas tied Rome’s origins to the epic tradition of Greece and Troy, giving the city a sense of ancient nobility and cultural prestige. The prophecy of Rome’s future greatness, as recounted in Virgil’s Aeneid, became a powerful symbol of Roman exceptionalism and manifest destiny.

The Influence on Art and Literature: Brutus and the Founding Myths of Rome

The founding myths of Rome have inspired countless works of art and literature throughout history. From the frescoes of Pompeii to the paintings of the Renaissance, artists have drawn on these stories for inspiration and symbolism.

In literature, the myths have been retold and reinterpreted by authors from Virgil and Ovid to Shakespeare and James Joyce. The Aeneid, in particular, has had a profound influence on Western literature, serving as a model for epic poetry and a source of inspiration for countless writers.

The Enduring Fascination with Rome’s Origins: Brutus and the Founding Myths of Rome

The fascination with Rome’s founding myths has endured to the present day.

In many ways, the founding myths of Rome are as relevant today as they were in ancient times. They speak to universal themes of power, destiny, and the human condition, and they continue to shape our understanding of one of the most influential civilizations in history.

Whether viewed as historical fact, symbolic narrative, or entertaining legend, the founding myths of Rome remain a vital part of our cultural heritage.

Brutus of Troy, and the Quest for the Ancestry of the British, reviewed on Ancient Origins by author and historical researcher Petros Koutoupis, explores the legendary founder of Britain, said to be descended from Aeneas. This shows how Rome’s founding myths have influenced not just Roman culture, but the mythologies of other nations as well.

Key Takeaway: Brutus and the founding myths of Rome

Rome’s founding myths, from Romulus and Remus to Aeneas, aren’t just old tales but have deeply influenced Roman identity, culture, and even the world. These stories gave Rome a divine origin, inspired countless artworks and literature over millennia, and continue to fascinate us with themes of power and destiny.

Conclusion: Brutus and the founding myths of Rome

In retracing “Brutus and the founding myths of Rome,” we’re reminded that history is more than dates; it’s about people striving for ideals larger than life itself. These legends tell us less about historical accuracy and more about values like courage, sacrifice, and justice that helped build one of history’s greatest empires.

So here you stand at crossroads between myth and reality—armed with knowledge on how foundational fables continue to shape modern perspectives on leadership, democracy, and morality. The essence of these age-old tales echoes through time not as whispers but as clarion calls reminding us what it means to strive for greatness amidst adversity.


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Jon Giunta Editor in Chief

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