A princess gave birth to twin boys. Their uncle, the king, wanting to protect his throne ordered his servants to get rid of the boys. They were set in a basket and put next to the river. Since it was flood season the basket was carried away. Rather than drowning the boys, the basket was carried off and ended up back on the river bank. A wolf found the basket and suckled the boys until they were taken in by a shepherd and his wife. They were raised by the couple and the twins would eventually establish the Roman Empire. Their names were Romulus and Remus.
It was an empire that stretched from the Sahara, the moors of Britain, the Nile River, and the Rhine River. It shaped the European map.
Mary Beard takes us through the history of the Roman Empire through her series Ultimate Rome: Empire Without Limits. She begins this series with that story and leads us through the story of the Roman Empire. She ends this series with Rome’s collapse. In this first episode, she covers the myths that surrounded the establishment of the empire.
She goes into the tombs of the early Romans and notes the graffiti that covers the walls. The graffiti and the tombs demonstrate what real Romans thought of themselves. The Tomb of Scipio talks about how he was wise, he was a handsome man, and he conquered South Italy. This epitaph is the first narrative from a Roman. It showed that they were keen on conquest and glory.
The wolf who rescued the twins was a fierce predator. Would this demonstrate that the Romans themselves were the fierce predators of the Roman world? Perhaps? This is also demonstrated by the fact that Romulus killed Remus over the location of the city. Brother killing brother also became part of the founding narrative. After this, Romulus established his city and turned it into a refuge for criminals and runaway slaves. It was a city that welcomed outsiders. Was this the basis of the desire to spread Roman citizenship around the world?
It was a city of men, and they needed women to build a future. Romulus invited a group of women to come to a religious festival. During the party, the Sabine women were kidnapped and taken as wives. The Sabines were not happy with this and fought the Romans. This was one of the first wars the Romans fought. They won against the Sabines and built monuments to the victory. The Ancient Romans were reminded of their mythical origins through these monuments.
Rome was eventually ruled by six kings after Romulus. However, the people got tired of the tyranny and changed their government from a monarchy to a democracy. This did not stop them from conquering their world. Originally, war was considered glorified raiding. Raiding meant that you just took slaves and cattle from the people. Rome took this a step further and incorporated its former enemies. The former enemies were to provide soldiers for the Roman Empire. Building relationships with their former enemies was the way that Rome was different.
Rome eventually would come into conflict with Carthage. An allied city had appealed to Rome for help against a Carthaginian city. Rome intervened with the city and came into conflict with the seafaring Carthaginians. They seized a Carthaginian ship and copied it to be able to battle on the sea. This was the start of the conflict between Carthage and Rome.
To learn more about the Roman Empire, continue to watch Empire Without Limits.
Mary Beard enthusiastically tells the story of Rome. She takes you to the places in the Roman Empire to fully flesh out Rome’s story.
You can access the YouTube video here.
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