Tuesday, June 12, 2007

ROMULUS & REMUS -- LEGEND OR FACT?

The New York Times (by John Noble Wilford) ran a story on June 12 about Romulus and Remus. Those are the orphan twins who, in legend, were suckled by a she-wolf in a cave on the banks of the Tiber. Romulus grew up to found Rome in 753 B. C.

Historians have long since dismissed the story as a charming legend.Yet the legend has been invigorated by recent archaeological finds.

This year, Italian archaeologists reported discovering the long-lost cave under the Palatine Hill that ancient Romans held sacred as the place where the twins were nursed. The grown brothers fought over leadership of the new city, the story goes, and Romulus killed Remus and became the first king. The cave was no surprise to Andrea Carandini, a historian and an archaeologist at the University of Rome, who has said, “The tale of the birth of Rome is part myth and part historical truth.” He had already found remains of an ancient wall and ditch and also ruins of a palace that he said was built in the eighth century B.C.

Dr. Carandini has a long interview in the July-August issue of the magazine Archaeology. Based on his work, Dr. Carandini said of Rome’s founding, “everything was born” after 750 B.C. “There was no gradual expansion of an old core, but the sudden evolution of a city that was great and remains great.”

The magazine noted that Dr. Carandini’s support of the legend “has earned him the admiration of the Roman public but the disapproval of many of his colleagues.”A lecture that Dr. Carandini gave last fall in Rome attracted 5,000 people, an Italian newspaper reported. But other archaeologists, while praising his excavations, were skeptical of his interpretations.

For a novel approach, check out Stephen Saylor's new book Roma, in which he brings to life Romulus and Remus and other famous characters of Rome's history. It's a great way to learn and understand the underpinnings of Rome.

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