The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology

By Robin Hard | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

AENEAS, ROMULUS AND THE ORIGINS OF ROME

Many of the legends of early Rome were modelled more or less directly on older stories from Greece, and the same is also true of the relatively few original myths that came to be developed about the Roman gods (mainly by Ovid in the surviving literature); but even if the associated bodies of legend were partly of a hybrid nature as a consequence, they belong to the Roman tradition rather than the Greek and must be interpreted in relation to Roman concerns, and therefore lie beyond the scope of a survey of Greek myth. Of rather greater relevance to our concerns, perhaps, are Roman aetiological tales that added a Roman extension to Greek myth by bringing Greek heroes in person to Rome or Latium. We have had occasion to refer to the remarkable appendix to the legend of Hippolytos, son of Theseus, in which he was said to have been transferred to Latium after his death and revival to become a cultic associate of Diana, the local equivalent of his patron goddess Artemis, at her sacred grove at Aricia (see p. 359). To explain another feature of the grove, it was also suggested that Orestes deposited the statue of Taurian Artemis there after stealing it from its original home with help of his sister Iphigeneia (see p. 514). Herakles, who was honoured in Roman cult as Hercules, might be very naturally imagined as having visited the site of Rome as he was travelling through Italy with the cattle of Geryon. Roman authors took advantage of this possibility to propose not only that his most ancient cult had come to be founded there as a consequence, but also that he had modified certain native rites involving human sacrifice (so providing an explanation, for instance, for a ritual practice in which straw puppets were cast into the Tiber from a Roman bridge). As we saw in connection with the former story, the site of the future city was said to have been ruled at this time by a Greek, Evander (see p. 266), who had left his native city of Pallantion in Arcadia to settle on the Palatine hill. By far the most important legend of this kind, however, and one that cannot possibly be passed over without a proper examination, is that in which AINEIAS, a Trojan hero from Greek myth, was said to have travelled to Latium after the fall of Troy and to have come to be connected, however distantly, with the origins of Rome itself.

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