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Roman mythology

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Written by   33
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The conquest of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea (which is a historical event of the greatest importance, almost completely completed before the birth of Christ) created from imperial Rome the metropolis of the ancient world, and at the same time the heir to several mythological traditions. And while no one could oppose the advance of the Roman legions, the conquered peoples, to their great surprise, realized that the citizens of Rome were completely helpless before foreign religions. This was especially true of the relationship between Greece and Rome. The process of assimilation began in the second half of the 4th century AD, when Rome, as the largest power in Italy, came into contact with the city-states of the Greek world. Skorojevic's Rome was eaten up due to the lack of tradition, the non-existence of a glorious past filled with gods and heroes, and his historians were tasked with creating a chronology worthy of Roman greatness. They fulfilled that duty, and Rome finally got a national tradition that dates back to the Trojan War, a tradition that is complete and harmonious, mostly because Roman historians tried to make it so. The imaginative legend of the origin of the Romans received state recognition in 239 AD, when the Senate decided to protect the Akarnans, who were constantly attacked by the Aetolians, because of all the Greeks, only the Akarnans were not hostile to the Trojans, the alleged ancestors of the Roman people. We have a classic treatment of that myth in Virgil's Aeneid, sung in honor of Augustus' establishment of the Kingdom of the 27th century AD.

There were other influences on the early Romans. In the neighborhood were their main rivals, the Etruscans and the Carthaginians. "The power of the Etruscans, before the rise of the Romans," wrote the Libyan historian, a contemporary of Virgil's, "spread across the land and sea" from the Alps to the Strait of Sicily. " Rome itself was once ruled by Etruscan kings, and the Romans were aware of the role of Etruria in spreading Greek and West Asian culture among the Italian peoples. Due to our current ignorance of the Etruscan language, we cannot make any final judgments. We do not know exactly where the ancestral home of the Etruscans was, although it was probably Asia Minor. We know the Etruscan skill of divination from the wombs of sacrificial animals and the names of Etruscan gods, but that is mostly all. More is known about Carthage, a colony founded by the Phoenicians in 814 AD, but its influence on Rome was completely negative and can be summed up in a single word: Hannibal. The torments that the Romans suffered because of his campaign - fifteen years of defeat and devastation (218-203 AD) - instilled in them the fear of great powers in the dangerous vicinity of the Apennine Peninsula. Rome sought to control the Mediterranean, attacking any state that would show signs of independence. He even destroyed the already weakened cities of Carthage and Corinth in 146 BC. The consequence of such a policy was the collapse of the Roman Republic and the founding of the Roman Empire.

Most Roman mythology has long since fallen into oblivion. What is preserved from it in literary sources, especially among the poets and historians of the Augustus age, is to such an extent clothed in the spirit of Greek myth that it acts as an artificial creation, as a pseudo-mythology. That is why science has long been convinced that the Romans did not realize a kind of mythology or that, overshadowed by the beauty of Greek myth, they very early neglected and forgot their legends about gods and heroes. Only in the last decades of the 20th century were all literary and archaeological sources thoroughly re-examined in order to find elements for a complete reconstruction of Roman myth. These efforts were not without results, but they sometimes led to exaggerations, especially when efforts were made to prove at all costs that Roman mythology originated very early.

All those who study Roman myths are faced with the fact that the original material is insignificant in volume and that it is of a late date. What forms the core of Roman mythology - the legend of Aeneas' arrival in Lazio and the founding of Rome - was first mentioned in Greek literary sources. Homer already knew that Aeneas would prolong the Trojan royal line, Stesihor (c. 550 AD) also mentioned his departure from devastated Troy, and Hellenic from Lesbos (c. 500 AD) was also familiar with the story of Odysseus' and Aeneas's arrival. in Lazio. It was only, however, that Timaeus of Tauromenius in Sicily (c. 356–260 AD) showed a real interest in Roman antiquities. In his History, he was the first to write enthusiastically about Aeneas, who, from the ruined Troy, instead of treasure, carries the gods on his back to his old father and ancestors. It seems that the Romans established their faith in their Trojan origin only thanks to Hellenic's work. In the song of Alexander (around 295 AD), the Greek poet Lycophron not only connects Aeneas with Lazio, but also anticipates the idea of ​​the future rise and glory of Rome. It is unlikely that the Romans accepted these Greek stories before the 3rd century AD, because the assumption that Appius Claudius, a pioneer of Roman literature, formulated the mythology of Rome as early as the end of the 4th century AD is not based on any reliable data. What is known on the basis of preserved fragments about the works of the oldest Roman poets - Livy Andronicus, Nevius and Aeneas - only shows that the Romans became more familiar with Greek mythology at the end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 2nd century AD. Livy Andronicus (c. 280-204 AD), who translated Homer's Odyssey and wrote a number of tragedies with themes from the Trojan cycle and the myth of Perseus, often replaced Greek deities with Italian ones. Some Italian and Roman legends are included in the works of Nevi and Eni. It is known that Nevius (around 270–2011 AD) wrote plays with themes from Roman history and that in the past Romulus replaced the Greek myth with a Roman legend.

As it is not possible to prove on the basis of preserved literary sources that Roman mythology is original and that it originated before the 3rd century AD, experts today are trying to reconstruct its original contents and its development with the help of archeological data and religious facts. However, it should be immediately pointed out that these researches go into the sphere of more or less acceptable assumptions. Archaeological material provides certain information about the formation of Italian tribes and peoples, but it does not contain numerous or reliable evidence of Italian mythology.

If it is not speculation but facts that can be established, only three factors that establish Roman mythology can be reliably established: the history of Rome itself, Greek civilization that flourished in southern Italy and Sicily from the eighth to the third century AD, and the dominance of the Etruscans in Lazio during the 6th century AD. These factors almost completely explain all the main features of Roman mythology: its distinct dependence on political history, its strong connection with religious rites, and its overemphasized morality.

Roman mythology is so focused on history that there are almost no myths about gods in it; the deities only foretold a bright future for Rome, a bright historical perspective, in which the main role will be played by heroes "without blemish and fear", flawless sons of the fatherland and founders of cities or important institutions. This is not a feature of Greek, Celtic or Germanic, but only Roman mythology. This means that this mythology is not constituted by the Indo-European heritage and the old Italian Mediterranean tradition, but primarily by the circumstances under which the Roman state developed. Three basic developmental phases in the long history of Rome, namely Rome-village, Rome-city, Rome-metropolis of the world, are clearly seen in the Roman religion, and also in mythology, which was connected to it by countless threads.

Religion and mythology

Early Roman religion was ruled by forces that ruled the sown fields, which filled the granaries or protected the estates (mani, penati, lari). The entire system of the oldest Roman religious representations is related to the activities of farmers and shepherds or to the places with which they come into contact in everyday life. These are in the first place sown fields (lari), then sowing (Saturn), harvest (Konsus, Opa), all plants and fruits (Pomona), forests (Faun), rivers (Volturno) and, finally, the house itself (Vesta, Janus). If we add to this a large number of divine forces encompassed by the term "indigeti" (deities of limited functions, which are invoked at certain events or affairs; their names usually denote specific actions), then it can be concluded that there was no significant phenomenon or activity that would not was under the protection of a particular god or goddess. However, this large number of gods does not imply complex religiosity and developed mythology. All these gods are deprived of individual traits, and no genealogical connection has been established between them. This means that no special myths or cosmogonic or theogonic systems could be attached to them.

Numerous facts from the Roman religion clearly show that the Romans in the time of the last kings and in the first decades of the Republic were ready to accept certain gods from foreigners, but not mythology. At the beginning of the 5th century AD, at the time of the shortage of grain, a temple was built on the Aventine to Ceres, Libera and Libera, in fact the Greek divine triad - Demeter, Dionysus and Cory. In that Aventine triad, as in the corresponding Greek tribe, Ceres and Libera (Demeter and Cora) are not interconnected, but Liber and Libera (Dionysus and Cora). At the same time, the cult of the Greek Hermes was introduced, which in Rome, under the name of Mercury, was revered exclusively as the god of trade. From Dioscurus, only Castor was respected, and a temple was built to Apollo in 431 AD, but not as a god who leads muses and who prophesies, but only as a god - a doctor. All this shows that the Greek deities were gladly accepted in Rome, but not the stories that were told about them in the Greek world.

The origin of Roman mythology

It has always been pointed out in science, and it seems even today, that Roman mythology, unlike Greek mythology, is closely connected with religion and cult. If this opinion is accepted as true, then even on the basis of the history of the Roman religion, it can be concluded that the Romans did not spin any stories about their gods until the end of the 3rd or the beginning of the 2nd century AD. Only myths that explain the origin of certain holidays and rituals could have arisen much earlier, in the chronological order that can be determined on the basis of studying the history of the Roman religion. These etiological myths are mostly original. However, the problem of the origin of the myths about the founding of Rome, as well as about the heroes from the legendary past, remains unsolved. The Roman statesman and writer Cato the Elder, who tried his best to oppose the Roman tradition to Greek influences, mentions poems in which the ancient Latins celebrated the deeds and virtues of important people. If those songs did exist, however, it remains uncertain whether the people who sang in them were respectable people or mythical heroes. On the other hand, the assumption that the Roman nobility preserved the ancient Italian tradition in their family chronicles, even if it proved to be true, would only prove the existence of an individual myth. Living, generally accepted mythology, however, was not witnessed in Rome before the Punic wars began. This fact does not devalue the Roman myth, but, on the contrary, determines its peculiarity and high value. The Punic wars were a great temptation for a young people, a matter of life or death. They had the same significance for the Romans as the great Aegean and Doric migrations had for the Greeks. In both cases, one nation developed all the abilities of its spirit, including myth-making, in order to oppose the historical event that threatened national catastrophe. Both the Greeks and the Romans were looking for everything around them and behind them that could help them, but as their present and their past were not the same, they also realized different mythologies. In the period from the 12th to the 8th century AD, the Greeks found themselves in cultural and historical isolation, and they had their own glorious history behind them, which could only provide them with material for creating mythology. However, during the first two Punic wars, the Romans were surrounded by the ripe fruits of Greek and Etruscan culture, and behind them stood only a short and unclear history. These differences had to establish two, in many respects contradictory mythologies: while the Greeks formed a myth from the elements of their real history, the Romans built their own history from the elements of foreign myths. The Mycenaean king Agamemnon has as much to do with Agamemnon from the Iliad as Aeneas from the Greek myth with the hero of the same name from Virgil's Aeneid. Almost the whole of Roman mythology consists of transformations of that kind.

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Comments

I didn't know much information, I'm glad you gave it to us

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There is no mythology in the earliest Roman religion, and religion, as far as is known, consisted of respecting spiritual forces with limited or special functions. Some testimonies date from the late period because scholars of antiquity revived the memory of cult worship, but they relate to a much earlier religious practice.

Some early Roman porous gods seemed to be of the same origin: Ceres (creare - creation), was the force that drives the growth of grain, Flora is a flower deity, Saturn is associated with splendor, Neptune probably with irrigation. These divine beings are originally asexual. The pastoral deity Pales, or Pares, is mentioned in either the masculine or the feminine gender. Venus was the garden deity before she identified with Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of beauty. All these spiritual forces with their limited functions have no personality or character, nor do they have interpersonal relationships, not even mythology. It is characteristic of Roman myths, unlike those taken from Greece, that they refer to historical events, including the origin of the city and the Roman people.

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1 year ago

Long write-up, keep up the good work.

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The ancient Romans were inclined to "borrow" other people's gods, that is, to believe in the deities of conquered peoples when necessary. So it was not foreign to them to pray or ask questions to Egyptian gods, such as, say, the goddess Isis, or Mithras, the Persian goddess of the sun.

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Roman mythology is a collection of traditional stories relating to the legendary origins of ancient Rome and the religious system as presented in Roman literature and visual art. Roman mythology can also refer to the contemporary study of these depictions and to the content represented in any period by the literature and art of other cultures.

The Romans usually regarded their traditional narratives as historical, even if they had miraculous or supernatural elements. Stories often deal with politics and morality and how an individual’s personal integrity relates to his or her responsibility to the community or the Roman state. Heroism was an important topic. When stories illuminate Roman religious practices, they are more concerned with rite, priests, and institutions than with theology or cosmogony.

The study of Roman religion and myth is complicated by the early influence of Greek religion on the Apennine Peninsula during Roman protohistory and later artistic imitations of Greek literary models by Roman authors. With regard to theology, the Romans were curious to identify their own gods with the Greek ones (interpretatio graeca) and to reinterpret the stories of the Greek deities under the names of their Roman counterparts [2]. Roman early myths and legends also have a dynamic relationship with the Etruscan religion, less documented than by the Greeks.

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