The Adaptation of Foundation Legend in Ancient Rome
University of Utah — Member ΦΑθ-AP
Published in Utah Historical Review, Vol IV.
Foundation legends are paramount to understanding the worldview of a culture, whether that culture is alive or dead. These legends speak of virtues valued and boundaries feared, and help both anthropologists and historians view a more fully painted picture of a society. Many foundation legends have survived their cultures, including that of Rome and the tale of brothers Romulus and Remus, descended from Aeneas, twin founders of the great civilization. New scholarship on this famous story has brought to light changes that occurred around the third century BC, including the important and unusual addition and death of the twin Remus. This discovery allows us the rare opportunity to examine how a foundation legend remains fluid throughout the history of its civilization, mutating and adjusting as needed to accommodate for societal changes and worldview adjustments. Using the anthropological insight of Elizabeth Wayland Barber and Paul T. Barber regarding mythology, the sociological view of Emile Durkheim regarding religion, and the groundbreaking scholarship of T.P. Wiseman on the legend itself, this paper will identify changes to the story of Remus and Romulus, and offer an argument that said changes occurred thanks to contemporaneous Roman society’s need for a second founder to be legitimized in its foundation legend and, by extension, its civil religion.