Rome has been a subject of mystical stories relating to its origination and legendary Gods. These have been represented in the works of visual arts and literature. Ovid has been the master of giving the Latin myths and legends a physical form. Romans have always believed in supernatural elements which are reflected in their beliefs. Heroism is considered to be the most common and important theme in these stories. The legends deal with the power of morality and politics. From founding myths to the legends of divine law, Rome has them all. Here is a list of some famous mythological and legendary stories which you must have a look upon.
1.The story of Romulus and Remus
According to Roman Mythology, the story of these twin brothers tells about the origination of Rome. They were the children of Mars and Rhea Silvia and their adventures according to Virgil, and many authors were fated in a way that Rome was founded.
Born in Alba Longa, they were seen as a threat to King Amulius therefore, to save himself he ordered for their burial and abandonment on the bank of Tiber River. The newborns were left to die but Tiberius, the Father of the River saved them, and they survived under his care. A female wolf suckled them in Lupercal which was the cave where the episode took place. Later on, they were adopted by a shepherd, Faustulus. Unaware of their original identities, they grew up doing the farming and shepherd work. No matter how away they were from their birth parents and home, their roots did not leave them. Their inbuilt leadership skills helped them gather many supporters from the communities.
As they grew up into full-fledged adults, they got involved in a tiff between the supporters of Amulius and Numitor. As a consequence, Remus was imprisoned in Alba Longa, the very place where he was born. The king and Remus’ grandfather suspected his real identity. On the other hand, Romulus was busy in finding out ways through which he could free his brother. While these things were taking place, they both got to know about real heir identity, and they joined hands with the forces of their grandfather to restore the throne. Finally, they won, and Amulius was killed.
As they arrived back to the seven hills, they were caught up in an argument about where to build the city. Where Romulus preferred the Palatine Hill, Remus wanted it to be the Aventine Hill. As they could not reach any conclusion, they asked gods for help through a competition of augury. Romulus saw 12 auspicious birds and claimed his winning as Remus only saw 6. This gave birth to new disputed, and by the end of it, Remus was killed. Romulus then went forward to find the city of Rome.
2. History of Aeneas
Aeneas is the mythological hero of both Rome and Troy. Homer mentions of him in the Illiad as the first cousin of King Priam and Troy. As a Roman hero, Virgil in his Aeneid calls him the ancestor of Romulus and Remus. Virgil’s Aeneid tells that Aeneas was one among the few Trojans that were neither killed nor enslaved after the Troy was defeated. After gathering a group and being commanded by Gods to flee, he travelled to Italy to become the progenitor of Romans. The team was called the Aeneads. He carried with him the statues of Trojan Gods and planted them in Italy. They wandered for six years and finally made a landfall at Carthage. Here Aeneas and the queen of Carthage had a year-long love affair after which Carthage proposed to him to marry her so that they both can together reign the Trojans and the Carthaginians. Aphrodite (Roman version of Venus), the mother of Aeneas with the help of Jupiter made Aeneas realise his true motifs which made him leave the place secretly. The pain of his leaving made Dido utter a curse of enmity over Rome. Afterwards, she stabbed herself with the sword that she had given to Aeneas during their first meeting.
The Aeneads then came back to Sicily. Aeneas, to honour his father who had expired a year ago, arranged funeral games. Later he descended to the underworld. Here he met his father and Dido and learnt about the future of his successor, in other words, the Roman history. He made his final settlement in Latium. This story about the ancestry of Romans through Trojans via Aeneas and the lands that he founded was received with high respect by the historians.
3. Myth of Jupiter and the Bee
Roman legends have always been successful in teaching life lessons. One such myth of sweetness and vengeance is the myth of Jupiter and Bee. The story delivers a moral of Revengefulness bearing dear results.
One fine day after being irritated with the mortals taking away the honey, the queen of Hive decides to visit Jupiter. After reaching the Olympus, she offers fresh honey to Jupiter. Delighted by the taste of it Jupiter promises her to fulfil one of her wishes. She, therefore, implored him by saying, “Give me, I pray thee, a sting, which if any mortal approaches to take my honey, I may kill him.” (Source) Displeased by her act because of his love for human race he did grant her wish but at the peril of her own life. He said, ” For if you use your sting, it shall remain in the wound you make, and then you will die from the loss of it.” (Source)
The story ends with the lesson of being happy with what you have. Wishing good for oneself at the cost of others has always lead to a downfall. Even today if a bee uses its sting, it calls for her own death.
4. Story of Apollo and Cassandra
Apollo is the most prominent deities of the Greek and Roman Gods. He is the only God prevalent in both Greek and Roman Mythology. The myth of Apollo and Cassandra became the biggest reasons for the fall of Troy. Cassandra was the most beautiful daughter of King Priam. Apollo was in love with her and to make his love reach fruition he promised Cassandra the power of prophecy on her agreement to comply with his wishes. She said a yes to his conditions and hence received the gift of prophecy. After getting what she wanted she refused to form a union with him making Apollo burn into flames. He then cursed her that no one would believe her prophecies no matter what. As a result, people started considering her as a liar and a mad woman. She was imprisoned in a citadel by her own father. Despite several warnings to Trojans against Greeks, no one believed her words and hence Troy was destroyed.
5. Legend of Lucretia
Lucretia was the legendary heroine of Rome. She was an ancient woman whose suicide changed the Roman government from monarchy to republic. Her rape by an Etruscan king’s son was an immediate rebellion against Roman Monarchy. This incident kindled a storm of dissatisfaction with the tyrannical rule of last Roman King, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus. The consequence was that all the prominent and influential families formed a republic against Latin and Etruscan intervention. As a result, rape became the top-tier theme of European literature and art.
The first Consul of Roman Republic was Lucretia’s husband. Historians did not take her story as a myth but a related incident that left an imprint on the old pages forever.
6. The Myth of Jupiter and Io
Io was one among the mortal lovers of Jupiter. She was a priestess. Known for his Casanova behaviour, Jupiter fell in love with Io and changed himself into a black cloud so that he could live closer to her while hiding himself from his wife, Juno. Juno was not a woman to be fooled. She noticed the black cloud and easily spotted it to be her husband. The very moment Juno arrived on earth, Jupiter changed Lo into a white cow so as to protect her from his wife’s wrath. Despite his several attempts Juno reached the white cow and tied it under the surveillance of Argus who had a hundred eyes which hardly ever got close.
Jupiter, in order to free Io, sent his son Mercury to tell long stories to Argus so that he sleeps. Mercury got successful in his task of making Argus sleep. He killed him and freed Io. Knowing all this Juno was agitated to the extent that she sent a venomous gadfly to sting Io or the white cow for the lifetime. It was only when Jupiter vowed never to chase Io that Juno was set free from inhuman imprisonment. Afterwards, she went to Egypt, settled there and became the first Egyptian Queen.
7. Legendary woman Cloelia
Belonging to the early history of Rome, Cloelia is considered as the bravest women. After the war between Clusium and Rome came to an end because of a peace treaty in 508 BC, Lars Porsena took away Roman hostages with them. One of them was young Cloelia who fled the hostage camps leading a Roman virgins’ group. She ran away on a horse and swam across the river Tiber. Lars Porsena then kept a condition of her return. As she was back, Persona was so impressed by her courage that he granted her a wish to take half of the hostages. She chose the young Roman men so that the war could be continued. Her wit and bravery provided Romans with great help. In her honour, an equestrian statue has been built which is located at Via Sacra.
8. Pluto and the river Styx
The planet Pluto was named after the Roman god of Death. Both the planet and the God signified coldness. According to an old Roman myth, anyone who dies had to travel down to the underworld. At first, the dead has to cross the river Styx known as the River of the Dead. The person who dies is buried with a coin to pay the ferrymen Charon for the ride across the dead river. The coin has to be kept in the mouth of the dead only then Charon was supposed to carry the soul. Moreover, planet Pluto’s moon gets its name from the boatman Charon. The water of this River was considered a bad omen as even the Gods could not escape its repercussion. If being in contact with it, they would lose their voice for nine years.
9. Myths around Hercules
Famous for his incredible strength, Hercules was adapted by Romans as a piece of art from Greek Mythology. He was half man and half god. Hercules has several myths attached to him, the most popular being the 12 Labors of Hercules. These are as follows-
- Hercules and the Nemean lion
- Hercules and Hydra
- Hercules and Ceryneian Hind
- Hercules and the Erymanthian Boar
- Hercules and the Augean stables
- Hercules and the Stymphalian Birds
- Hercules and the Cretan Bull
- Hercules and Mares of Diomedes
- Hercules and the Belt of Hippolyta
- Hercules and the Cattle of Geryon
- Hercules and the Apples of the Hesperides
- Hercules and Cerberus
The myths related to Hercules are a symbol infinite power which the demi-god possessed. He has been a prominent figure in later Western Art and Literature.
10. The Myth of Janus
Janus, the Roman God of beginning had two faces, one reflecting the past while other the future. Even the month of January owes its name to Janus. Moreover, it is he who is responsible for the motions and changes that occur in time. He played an essential role in an ancient Roman Myth. It was when Romulus kidnapped a Sabine woman that Janus came into the picture as the saviour. He saved the woman by flooding the way to her with a volcanic hot spring which buried all the kidnappers under the ash and boiling water.
Final Conclusion: There are innumerable myths and stories when it comes to Roman civilisation. Some even are the adaptions from Greek mythology. But no matter what Romans have been a cradle of culture which with blind faith follow what their ancestors had left behind for them, i.e. their beliefs and myths.