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    Pleiades_icon Roma urban, settlement, temple Geocontext: Roma/Rome
    Description: The capital of the Roman Republic and Empire.


Text #8977

Cicero. De Re Publica. Series: Cicero. Vol. 16
[Bk. 2 Ch. 10 Verse 17 pp. 123--125]

And after Romulus had reigned thirty-seven years, and established those two excellent foundations of our commonwealth, the auspices and the senate, his great achievements led to the belief that when he disappeared during a sudden darkening of the sun, he had been added to the number of the gods; indeed such an opinion could never have gotten abroad about any human being save a man preeminently renowned for virtue. And the case of Romulus is all the more remarkable because all other men who are said to have become gods lived in ruder ages when there was a great inclination to the invention of fabulous tales, and ignorant men were easily induced to believe them; but we know that Romulus lived less than six hundred years ago at a period when writing and education had long been in existence, and all those mistaken primitive ideas which grew up under uncivilized conditions had been done away with.

Text #8978

Halicarnassus. Roman Antiquities. Series: Roman Antiquities. Vol. 1
[Bk. 2 Ch. 56 pp. 473--475]

These are the memorable wars which Romulus waged. His failure to subdue any more of the neighbouring nations seems to have been due to his sudden death, which happened while he was still in the vigour of his age for warlike achievements. There are many different stories concerning it. Those who give a rather fabulous account of his life say that while he was haranguing his men in the camp, sudden darkness rushed down out of a clear sky and a violent storm burst, after which he was nowhere to be seen; and these writers believe that he was caught up into heaven by his father, Mars. But those who write the more plausible accounts say that he was killed by his own people; and the reason they allege for his murder is that he released without the common consent, contrary to custom, the hostages he had taken from the Veientes, and that he no longer comported himself in the same manner toward the original citizens and toward those who were enrolled later, but showed greater honour to the former and slighted the latter, and also because of his great cruelty in the punishment of delinquents (for instance, he had ordered a group of Romans who were accused of brigandage against the neighbouring peoples to be hurled down the precipice after he had sat alone in judgment upon them, although they were neither of mean birth nor few in number), but chiefly because he now seemed to be harsh and arbitrary and to be exercising his power more like a tyrant than a king. For these reasons, they say, the patricians formed a conspiracy against him and resolved to slay him; and having carried out the deed in the senate-house, they divided his body into several pieces, that it might not be seen, and then came out, each one hiding his part of the body under his robes, and afterwards burying it in secret. Others say that while haranguing the people he was slain by the new citizens of Rome, and that they undertook the murder at the time when the rain and the darkness occurred, the assembly of the people being then dispersed and their chief left without his guard. And for this reason, they say, the day on which this event happened got its name from the flight of the people and is called Populifugia down to our times. Be that as it may, the incidents that occurred by the direction of Heaven in connexion with this man’s conception and death would seem to give no small authority to the view of those who make gods of mortal men and place the souls of illustrious persons in heaven. For they say that **at the time when his mother was violated, whether by some man or by a god, there was a total eclipse of the sun and a general darkness as in the night covered the earth, and that at his death the same thing happened. **

Text #8969

Livy. History of Rome
[Liv. 1.16. Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts. J. M. Dent and Sons Ltd.. 1905 pp. 34--35]


After these immortal achievements, Romulus held a review of his army at the “Caprae Palus” in the Campus Martius. A violent thunderstorm suddenly arose and enveloped the king in so dense a cloud that he was quite invisible to the assembly. From that hour Romulus was no longer seen on earth. When the fears of the Roman youth were allayed by the return of bright, calm sunshine after such fearful weather, they saw that the royal seat was vacant. Whilst they fully believed the assertion of the senators, who had been standing close to him, that he had been snatched away to heaven by a whirlwind, still, like men suddenly bereaved, fear and grief kept them for some time speechless.

Then a few voices began to proclaim Romulus’s divinity; the cry was taken up, and at last every man present hailed him as a god and son of a god, and prayed to him to be forever gracious and to protect his children. However, even on this great occasion there were, I believe, a few dissenters who secretly maintained that the king had been torn to pieces by the senators. At all events the story got about, though in veiled terms; but it was not important, as awe, and admiration for Romulus’s greatness, set the seal upon the other version of his end, which was, moreover, given further credit by the timely action of a certain Julius Proculus, a man, we are told, honored for his wise counsel on weighty matters. The loss of the king had left the people in an uneasy mood and suspicious of the senators, and Proculus, aware of the prevalent temper, conceived the shrewd idea of addressing the Assembly. ‘Romulus’, he declared, ‘the father of our city descended from heaven at dawn this morning and appeared to me. In awe and reverence I stood before him, praying for permission to look upon his face without sin. Go, he said, and tell the Romans that by heaven’s will my Rome shall be capital of the world. Let them learn to be soldiers. Let them know, and teach their children, that no power on earth can stand against Roman arms. Having spoken these words, he was taken up again into the sky.

Text #8976

Livy. History of Rome. Vol. 1
[Bk. 1 pp. 57--59]

Such were the principal achievements of the reign of Romulus, at home and in the field, nor is any of them incompatible with the belief in his divine origin and the divinity which was ascribed to the king after his death, whether one considers his spirit in recovering the kingdom of his ancestors, or his wisdom in founding the City and in strengthening it by warlike and peaceful measures. For it was to him, assuredly, that Rome owed the vigour which enabled her to enjoy an untroubled peace for the next forty years. Nevertheless, he was more liked by the commons than by the senate, and was preeminently dear to the hearts of his soldiers. Of these he had three hundred for a bodyguard, to whom he gave the name of Celeres1, and kept them by him, not only in war, but also in time of peace.

When these deathless deeds had been done, as the king was holding a muster in the Campus Martius, near the swamp of Capra, for the purpose of reviewing the army, suddenly a storm came up, with loud claps of thunder, and enveloped him in a cloud so thick as to hide him from the sight of the assembly; and from that moment Romulus was no more on earth. The Roman soldiers at length recovered from their panic, when this hour of wild confusion had been succeeded by a sunny calm; but when they saw that the royal seat was empty, although they readily believed the assertion of the senators, who had been standing next to Romulus, that he had been caught up on high in the blast, they nevertheless remained for some time sorrowful and silent, as if filled with the fear of orphanhood. Then, when a few men had taken the initiative, they all with one accord hailed Romulus as a god and a god’s son, the King and Father of the Roman City, and with prayers besought his favour that he would graciously be pleased forever to protect his children. There were some, I believe, even then who secretly asserted that the king had been rent in pieces by the hands of the senators, for this rumour, too, got abroad, but in very obscure terms; the other version obtained currency, owing to men’s admiration for the hero and the intensity of their panic.

  1. Literally, “the Swift.” [OF]

Text #8967

Plutarch. Lives. Vol. 1
[Plut. Rom. 12.27--12.29. Translated by John Dryden. The Modern Library. 2001. (2 Vols.)]

27 He disappeared on the Nones of July, as they now call the month which was then Quintilis, leaving nothing of certainty to be related of his death; only the time, as just mentioned, for on that day many ceremonies are still performed in representation of what happened. Neither is this uncertainty to be thought strange, seeing the manner of the death of Scipio Africanus, who died at his own home after supper, has been found capable neither of proof or disproof; for some say he died a natural death, being of a sickly habit; others that he poisoned himself; others again, that his enemies, breaking in upon him in the night stifled him. Yet Scipio’s dead body lay open to be seen of all, and any one, from his own observation, might form his suspicions and conjectures, whereas Romulus, when he vanished, left neither the least part of his body, nor any remnant of his clothes to be seen. So that some fancied the senators, having fallen upon him in the temple of Vulcan, cut his body into pieces, and took each a part away in his bosom; others think his disappearance was neither in the temple of Vulcan, nor with the senators only by, but that it came to pass that, as he was haranguing the people without the city, near a place called the Goat’s Marsh, on a sudden strange and unaccountable disorders and alterations took place in the air; the face of the sun was darkened, and the day turned into night, and that, too, no quiet, peaceable night, but with terrible thunderings, and boisterous winds from all quarters; during which the common people dispersed and fled, but the senators kept close together. The tempest being over and the light breaking out, when the people gathered again, they missed and inquired for their king; the senators suffered them not to search, or busy themselves about the matter, but commanded them to honour and worship Romulus as one taken up to the gods, and about to be to them, in the place of a good prince, now a propitious god. The multitude, hearing this, went away believing and rejoicing in hopes of good things from him; but there were some, who, canvassing the matter in a hostile temper, accused and aspersed the patricians, as men that persuaded the people to believe ridiculous tales, when they themselves were the murderers of the king.

29 It was in the fifty-fourth year of his age and the thirty-eighth of his reign that Romulus, they tell us, left the world.

Text #8965

Plutarch. Lives. Vol. 1
[Plut. Num. 2. Translated by Bernadotte Perrin. Harvard University Press. 1914. (11 Vols.) pp. 309--311]


For thirty-seven years, now, Rome had been built and Romulus had been its king; and on the fifth of the month of July, which day they now call the Capratine Nones, Romulus was offering a public sacrifice outside the city at the so-called Goat’s Marsh, in the presence of the senate and most of the people. Suddenly there was a great commotion in the air, and a cloud descended upon the earth bringing with it blasts of wind and rain. The throng of common folk were terrified and fled in all directions, but Romulus disappeared, and was never found again either alive or dead. Upon this a grievous suspicion attached itself to the patricians, and an accusing story was current among the people…. This suspicion the patricians sought to remove by ascribing divine honours to Romulus… that he was not dead, but blessed with a better lot. And Proculus, a man of eminence, took oath that he had seen Romulus ascending to heaven in full armour, and had heard his voice commanding that he be called Quirinus.

Text #8968

Dio Cassius. Roman History. Vol. 1
[DioCass. 1. Translated by Earnest Cary. Harvard University Press. 1914. (9 Vols.) p. 23]


Romulus, after assuming the royal power over the Romans, distinguished himself uniformly in warfare, but was ever haughty toward the citizens and particularly toward the leaders of the senate. Toward the soldiers who shared in his expeditions he was kindly disposed, assigning them lands and also giving them a part of the spoils; but toward the senate his attitude was very different. As a result the latter hated him, and surrounding him as he was delivering a speech in the senate-house they rent him limb from limb and so slew him. They were favoured in their desire for concealment by a violent wind storm and an eclipse of the sun, — the same sort of phenomenon that had attended his birth.b Such was the end of Romulus, after he had held absolute sway for thirty-seven years. Now when he had thus disappeared, the multitude and the soldiery made diligent search for him; but his slayers were in a dilemma, unable either to declare their deed or to appoint another king. While the people were thus excited and were planning to take some action, a certain Julius Proclus, a knight, having arrayed himself as if he were just returning from somewhere, rushed into their midst and cried: “Grieve not, Quirites! I have myself beheld Romulus ascending to the sky. He bade me tell you that he has become a god and is called Quirinus and also bade me admonish you by all means to choose someone as king without delay, and to continue to live under this form of government.” At this announcement all believed and were relieved of their disquietude. They straightway built a temple to Quirinus, and unanimously decided to continue to be ruled by a king; but here their accord ended. The original Roman element and the Sabines who had settled among them each demanded that the king be chosen from their own ranks, with the result that the state was left without a ruler. For a whole year, accordingly, the senate exercised the supreme power, assigning the command for five days at a time to the most distinguished senators in rotation; these were called interreges.

Text #8979

"Founding of Rome by Romulus", in Wikipedia.

During the Roman Republic, several dates were given for the founding of the city between 753 BC and 728 BC. Finally, under the Roman Empire, the date suggested by Marcus Terentius Varro, 753 BC, was agreed upon, but in the Fasti Capitolini the year given was 752. Although the proposed years varied, all versions agreed that the city was founded on April 21, the day of the festival sacred to Pales, goddess of shepherds; in her honour, Rome celebrated the Par ilia (or Palilia). (The Roman a.u.c. calendar, however, begins with Varro’s dating of 753 BC.)

According to legend, the foundation of Rome took place 438 years after the capture of Troy (1182 BC), according to Velleius Paterculus (VIII, 5). It took place “shortly” before an eclipse of the sun; some have identified this eclipse as the one observed at Rome on June 25, 745 BC, which had a magnitude of 50.3%. Varro may have used the consular list with its mistakes, calling the year of the First consuls “245 a.u.c.”.

According to Lucius Tarrutius of Firmum, Romulus was conceived on the 23rd day of the Egyptian month Choiac, during a total eclipse of the sun. This eclipse occurred on June 15, 763 BC, with a magnitude of 62.5% at Rome. He was born on the 21st day of the month of Thoth. The first day of Thoth fell on 2 March in that year (Prof. E. J. Bickerman, 1980: 115), That implies that Rhea Silvia’s pregnancy lasted for 281 days. Rome was founded on the ninth day of the month Pharmuthi, which was April 21, as universally agreed. The Romans add that, about the time Romulus started to build the city, an eclipse of the Sun was observed by Antimachus, the Teian poet, on the 30th day of the lunar month. This eclipse (see above) had a magnitude of 54.6% at Teos, Asia Minor. Romulus vanished in the 54th year of his life, on the Nones of Quintilis (July), on a day when the Sun was darkened. The day turned into night, which sudden darkness was believed to be an eclipse of the Sun. It occurred on July 17, 709 BC, with a magnitude of 93.7%. (All these eclipse data have been calculated by Prof. Aurél Ponori-Thewrewk, retired director of the Planetarium of Budapest.) Plutarch placed it in the 37th year from the foundation of Rome, on the fifth of our month July, then called Quintiles, on “Caprotine Nones”. Livy (I, 21) also states that Romulus ruled for 37 years. He was slain by the Senate or disappeared in the 38th year of his reign. Most of these have been recorded by Plutarch (Lives of Romulus, Numa Pompilius and Camillus), Florus (Book I, I), Cicero (The Republic VI, 22: Scipio’s Dream), Dio (Dion) Cassius and Dionysius of Halicarnassus (L. 2). Dio, in his Book I of his Roman History, confirms these data by telling that Romulus was in his 18th year of age when he founded Rome. Therefore, three eclipse records indicate that Romulus reigned from 746 BC to 709 BC. Surprisingly this is very close to the calculation of the founding given by Rome’s first native historical writer, Quintus Fabius Pictor, who wrote that Rome was founded in the first year of the eighth Olympiad, 747 BC (Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Book 1, ch. 74,2).

Text #8982

"Romulus and Remus", in Wikipedia.

Ennius (fl. 180s BC) refers to Romulus as a divinity without reference to Quirinus, whom Roman mythographers identified as an originally Sabine war-deity, and thus to be identified with Roman Mars. Lucilius lists Quirinus and Romulus as separate deities, and Varro accords them different temples. Images of Quirinus showed him as a bearded warrior wielding a spear as a god of war, the embodiment of Roman strength and a deified likeness of the city of Rome. He had a Flamen Maior called the Flamen Quirinalis, who oversaw his worship and rituals in the ordainment of Roman religion attributed to Romulus’s royal successor, Numa Pompilius. There is however no evidence for the conflated Romulus-Quirinus before the 1st century BC.1 2

Ovid in Book 14, lines 812-828, of the Metamorphoses gives a description of the deification of Romulus and his wife Hersilia, who are given the new names of Quirinus and Hora respectively. Mars, the father of Romulus, is given permission by Jupiter to bring his son up to Olympus to live with the Olympians. Ovid uses the words of Ennius as a direct quote and puts them into the mouth of the King of the Gods, “There shall be one whom you shall raise to the blue vault of heaven”. Ovid then uses a simile to describe the change that Romulus undertakes as he ascends to live with the Olympians, “as leaden balls from a broad sling melt in mid sky: Finer his features now and worthier of heaven’s high-raised couch, his lineaments those of Quirinus in his robe of state”.

  1. Evans, 103 and footnote 66: citing quotation of Ennius in Cicero, 1.41.64. [OF]

  2. Fishwick, Duncan (1993), The Imperial Cult in the Latin West (2nd ed.), Leiden: Brill, p. 53 [OF]

Text #8966

Editorial comment by Laura Knight-Jadczyk

Noting that Ennius1 refers to Romulus as a divinity without reference to Quirinus who is said to have been originally a Sabine war-deity identified with Roman Mars, it appears that Romulus was only later identified/conflated with Quirinus sometime in the 1st century BC.2

The earliest reference to this story passed on to us more or less intact is Cicero’s comments en passant. This suggests that the story, as related by our next historian, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, was quite familiar to Cicero and his readers.3 Dionysius had a number of sources available to him and thus, when he says certain persons say this, and others say that, he is referring to these other sources. Obviously, there was some confusion though there was broad general agreement on certain aspects of the story, including the approximate dating. Notice that Plutarch says that Romulus was 53 (“in the fifty-fourth year of his age”) when he “vanished” in 717 BC, while Dionysius says that Romulus began his reign at 18, ruled for 37 years and died at 55 years old.

The evidence, overall, suggests that there were Latin texts or documents consulted that recorded eclipses. Since it is a well-known phenomenon that the wind can pick up due to the temperature drop in the atmosphere in the path of the eclipse this may be the element that was later exaggerated into a whirlwind/storm. Whether or not Romulus - if that was his real/original name - actually died at this time, either from natural causes or from mayhem, cannot be determined; however, taken as a whole, the occurrence of the eclipse at the approximate time does suggest a significant seed of historical fact is enclosed in this legend.

  1. Quintus Ennius was born in Rudiae in southern Italy, in about 239 B.C. His “Annales” was a highly original poem , both in its form - it was was the first major epic poem in the Latin language - and in its subject matter, dealing with the whole of Roman history from mythological times to events of the poet’s own lifetime. Up until the end of the first century B.C., the “Annales” was the most commonly read Latin poem. After the poem was superseded in popularity by the Aeneid, it remained of interest to grammarians for the large number of archaic words that it contained, and it is for this reason that many lines have been preserved from the poem, allowing us to reconstruct the outline of its 18 books. See: Ennius: Annales (fragments) Books 1-6, translated by by E.H.Warmington (1935), : Book I, Line 31: SERVIUS : According to Ennius, he [Romulus] will be reckoned with Aeneas among the gods.

  2. Fishwick, Duncan (1993), The Imperial Cult in the Latin West (2nd ed.), Leiden: Brill, p. 53

  3. Ennius: Annales (fragments) Books 1-6, translated by by E.H.Warmington (1935), : Book II Lines 117-20 CICERO : Indeed when a people is bereaved of a just king, then even as Ennius says, ‘after the passing of the best of kings, for many days longing filled their breasts - And at the same time they talked thus among themselves - ‘O Romulus, godly Romulus, what a guardian of your country did the gods beget you! O father and begetter, O blood sprung from the god!’ They used to call those whom they had lawfully obeyed not lords and masters, nor yet again kings, but guardians of their country, yes and fathers and gods. Nor was this without reason. For what do they say next ? - ‘You it was who brought us forth into the world of light.’

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