Salvador Da Bahia: A "Modern" Imperial Rome

Article excerpt

The city of Rome is situated on seven hills along the Tiber River. It developed from a series of small villages into numerous city-states, then to a Republic, and finally into an Empire, which covered several million miles. Thousands of miles away from Rome on another continent is Brazil, which measures 3,268,470 square miles in area. It was first a Portuguese colony that developed into an independent Empire and later into a Federal Republic according to its written history. Both Rome and Brazil had their periods of grandeur, peace and prosperity, that historians refer to as "Imperial"--the former beginning with the reign of Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus or Augustus Caesar (27 B.C.-14 A.D.) and the latter beginning with the reign of Portuguese Prince Dom Pedro in 1822. He ruled for nine years and abdicated in favor of his son Dom Pedro, II, who ruled until 1889, when he was deposed. Then Brazil became a Federal Republic. Both Rome and Brazil were Republics and Empires, though not in the same order. Rome is called the "Eternal City," and there is something in the title for scholars from all schools of thought, the Church Fathers, historians, archaeologists, sociologists, artists and architects, to name a few. But quite probably the reason that Rome is called the "Eternal City" is because of the lasting influence that it has had on the western humanistic tradition for thousands of years. To walk the cobblestone streets of Salvador da Bahia, the first Brazilian capital, is to be transported back in time. There is a strong resemblance in the attitude of the people regarding religion, namely Roman Catholicism and Candomble as they co-exist and co-mingle, to that of the Romans during an earlier period when Roman Mythology, Stoicism, Epicureanism, Isis, Mithras, Judaism and early Christianity existed side by side in Rome.

A popular legend of the founding of Rome has its origin in Homer's Iliad and the war between the Greeks and the Trojans over Helen of Troy and its conclusion in events in Virgil's Aeneid. The Greeks were victorious due to Odysseus' cunning, the Trojan Horse, and Aeneas, Venus' son, led the vanished Trojans to a "promised land" in the West. After experiencing many personal tragedies, self sacrifices and political challenges, Aeneas reached Italy and joined forces with the Latins. After marrying Latin Princess Lavinia, he founded the city of Lavinium. But it is through his Trojan son Iulus (Ascanius) that the Alban kings began their dynasty. Iulus (Ascanius) moved inland and founded another city, Alba Longa. And whether viewed as a second legend of the founding of Rome or a continuation with pauses, the Romulus/Remus legend is clearly tied to the first.

According to the Romulus/Remus legend, King Numitor of Alba Longa had an only child, Rhea Silvia. Numitor was deposed and exiled by his younger brother Amulius. The new king made Rhea Silvia a Vestal Virgin so that she would never produce heirs to threaten his throne. The god Mars ravished her and she gave birth to twins, Romulus and Remus. When the twins came to Amulius' attention, he imprisoned Rhea Silvia and ordered that the twins be drowned. A she-wolf found the twins by the banks of the Tiber River and suckled them before Faustulus, the king's herdsman, took them home and raised them. The twins became bandits and shared their spoils with the shepherds. Remus was captured during the Feast of Lupercal and delivered to his grandfather, the deposed king, for judgment. Upon discovering their grandfather, the twins killed their uncle, King Amulius, and restored their grandfather Numitor, the rightful King of Alba Longa. Together Romulus and Remus founded a new settlement. Soon they became jealous of each other, and Romulus slew Remus and named the settlement after himself--Rome. This lawless man established a sanctuary for fugitives, administered "Roman" law and created the hundred Patricians. Since no females resided in the settlement, Romulus invited his neighbors, the Sabines, to celebrate the Consualia in honor of Conus, a forerunner of Neptune. …