The Romans


The Romans Essay, Research Paper

The Roman people were a overly proud and highly

religious people, whose sense of identity as

romans came primarily from their accomplishments

in war and their respect of their ancestors. By

examining Livy?s The Early History of Rome, we can

identify these traits through roman patterns of

behavior and the foundation myths that their

nation is built upon.

The romans repeatedly display not only an

overdeveloped personal sense of pride, but an

exceptional pride in their nation – taking

precedence over even family loyalty. The first

example of this Roman pride is seen in the very

first foundation myth of Rome, the tale of Romulus

and Remus. The second of the two versions of this

story tells how after the auspices have indicated

Romulus as the rightful leader of this new nation,

?Remus, by way of jeering at his brother, jumped

over the half-built walls of the new settlement,

whereupon Romulus killed him in a fit of rage,

adding the threat, ?So perish whoever else shall

overleap my battlements( P.40 Livy) .?? Not only

do we see a foreshadowing of Rome?s violent nature

in this tale, but it seems to indicate a strong

belief in the superiority of this ( barely

existant ) nation, one that necessitates a

national pride of greater magnitude than the even

the strength of the loyalty between brothers.

This kind of loyalty to country, as displayed by

the Rome?s founder, certainly sets a precendent

for later roman citizens. Not surprisingly then,

we see this same kind of pride with similar

consequences later on following a battle between

Rome and the Albans. The victory had been

decided, not by a full scale war, but by a contest

between three men from each country ( two sets of

three brothers ). This contest left Rome

victorious and five people dead – only one roman

brother stood living. The victor returned to rome

carrying the ?triple spoils? and,?slung across [

his ] shoulders was a cloak, and [ his sister ]

recognized it as the cloak she had made with her

own hand for her lover. The sight overcame her :

she loosened her hair and, in a voice choked with

tears, called her dead lovers name. That his

sister should dare to grieve at the very moment of

his own triumph and in the midst of national

rejoicing filled horatius with such uncontrollable

rage that he drew his sword and stabbed her to the

heart( Livy 62).? Again we see the word ?rage?

used to describe this similarly extreme exhibition

of extreme national pride.

Back in the foundation myth of Romulus and Remus,

we see another aspect of Roman pride. There is

some indication that, In Livy?s time, there was

some suspicion that Greek infulence in Rome was

detrimental to Roman society. Livy seems to

emphasize the absence of any kind of formal

schooling ( which would have been greek ) in the

adolescence of both Romulus and Remus ( P.38 Livy

) The idea that Romulus in particular, was a

self-made man, shows that Rome owes nothing to

previous and other nations like Greece and so the

pride of such a great nation is all theirs.

There is plenty of evidence that Rome was always

a highly religious nation. From even as early as

the founding of the nation we see their dependance

on auguries of the gods to make important

decisions – namely the choice between Romulus and

Remus as their leader. ? As the brothers were

twins and all question of seniority was thereby

precluded, they determined to ask the tutelary

gods of the countryside to declare by augury which

of them should govern the new town once it was

founded, and give his name to it ( p.40 Livy ).?

More than any one other aspect of Roman behavior,

I feel that recognition and respect of the ways of

their ancestors as the ways of ?True? Romans was

the most primary source from which Romans defined

there identity. This respect stemmed from oral

tradition and early historians works that have not

survived to us, but which Livy owes his knowledge.

From the respect of great deeds that made their

cultural history so worth of pride, came their

habits of dedicating particular places and

edifices in the name of honorable contemporaries

and ancestors. Take for instance the story of

Caius Mucius Scaevola, a man who was willing to

risk anything to save rome from a Etruscan attack.

It cost him his hand, hence the name Scaevola-

translating as the Left-Handed Man, but his

efforts brought peace to the struggle. Livy

tells of the recognition of this Roman hero:

?Cauis Muscius was rewarded by the Senate with a

grant of land west of the river; it was known

subsequently as the Muscian Meadows ( P.120 Livy

).? Not only was this naming of places

indicative of the honor, but the name they chose

showed something – the congnomen Musius was

chosen, not his prinomen or Scaevola, the name he

won for himself. It was recognized that the honor

was for the family and for the family, though

Caius would be remembered, the gaine family pride

of the Mucius family only contributed to their own

pride in their country.

Roman society encouraged being proud and

respectful of the honors of the city and its

citizens. Roman tradition and respect for the mos

maiorum ( ways of the ancestors ) was not only a

trait that de

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