Friday, September 9, 2016

Founding of Rome: An Interpretation

In Livy's writing, the founding story of Rome is a mixture of fragmented history, mythology, adopted Greek traditions and compounded imaginations. While confirming unreliable nature of his research/study resources , Livy constructs vividly his own narrative version addressing  religious, philosophical and psychological aspects, which not only brings out the lively characteristics of Romulus with his various virtues and faults, but of the entire Romans as well.   Through this narrative, he illustrates how and why Romulus becomes  the greatest founder and leader of  Rome as a new settlement, which echo with traditional Roman values, including prize of valor, thirst of power, condemnation of disloyalty and obsessions of honor of ancestry.  Further analysis of  these Roman values, therefore, not only helps us understand how Rome was able to become the greatest "world capital", but will shine light on the history and philosophy of the entire Roman influenced western world as well. 
I interpret Romulus' success story in three ways.  First of all,  his background involving mystical Royal birth, expatriation, unusual upbringing, as symbols of a dignified, or divine identity suggests his legitimacy as a ruler. Supported by god,  Romulus fought valiantly against his rough situation with the help of bonded brotherhood, and eventually redeemed his and his grandfather’s honor by defeating the traitor king Amulius. Notably, there are some recognizable narrative motifs  in the life story of Romulus,  that are often seen in other Greek and Roman tales of heroic figures or gods as well. For example, Romulus had a connection with Hercules and  Jupiter. Other examples of the narrative patterns are the prize of valor, the harsh condemnation of the traitor, and the belief in bonding with blood. These motifs tell us about many aspects of  the deep-rooted Roman values- worship of gods, bravery, hard-work, brotherhood and loyalty.  In this sense, Romulus, as the founder and leader of the city, both meets and fails the standards of a good Roman citizen.On the one hand, he is, beyond match, valiant, powerful and hardworking , which qualifies him to be a role-model for the entire city. On the other hand, he is by no means perfect: after all he betrayed his own brother. Romulus‘ paradox  drops us the world today a hint that as long as the power struggle exists, there will never be eternal loyalty and fidelity. The Romans, however are not so concerned about the morals, but about the victory as the ultimate pride. If Remus had killed Romulus instead, the story might not even change that much; all the greatness, pride and honor of Romulus could have be easily transplanted onto Remus. 
Secondly, not only does Romulus’ glorious godlike image win him the trust of Rome, but his series of leadership actions/decision making as well. For instance, he constantly contributes to building an elaborately organized society with laws, steady population, shelter for fugitives, social ranks and so on, which well address concerns on Roman's own well being. Simultaneously ,  he constructs an effective belief system based on Roman and greek mythologies with himself represented as the connector.  Romulus is not alone. Similar stories can be found in Constantine's ruling with the help of Christianity and the Emperors’ ruling of  Chinese Tang Dynasty’s with Buddhism. 
In addition, the constant war conflict between Rome and its neighboring states also in a way feed into Rome's development. The battle with the Sabine, for example, brought in population, as well as new resources. The incorporation/adoption of new culture by conquering or by warfare found in the later Roman world can be traced all the way back in this very battle of Rome and Sabine. 
  As a conclusion, Livy’s text tells us about Romulus’ story of founding rome, full of symbols of Roman values and ideologies. These symbols further explains Rome’s rising prosperity and power on its own terms foreshadowing  the entire Roman and Roman influenced history to follow. 

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