The Founding of Rome: The Tale of Romulus & Remus

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Kohaku

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Newly Edited and Re-Posted Owners Comments posted on an ancient denarius featuring Roma, Romulus and Remus, part of the Roman Empire Custom NGC Ancients Set...

According to ancient mythology, the Trojan prince Paris presided as judge over which goddess was fairest: Hera, Athena, or Aphrodite. To aid the decision process, each deity paraded nude before him – inviting centuries of artistic interpretation – and offered the choice of an enticing bribe: world domination (Hera), military prowess (Athena), or the world’s most beautiful woman (Aphrodite). Paris chose the latter, missing his chance to defy fate and declare a draw. However, as always there was a catch. The most beautiful woman, namely Helen, was married to the King of Sparta. No matter, Aphrodite helped Paris to win Helen and whisk her away to Troy, earning the wrath of the Spartans and their fellow Greeks (who roused a thousand ship fleet in response), not to mention Hera and Athena. The ensuing Trojan War, the subject of Homer’s 8th century BC epic, The Iliad, involved the intrepid machinations of many mortals and deities, and, ultimately, the city’s destruction.

Though his city burned about him, the heroic Aeneas managed to escape, as told by Virgil in The Aeneid, written during Augustus’ time. This highly popular work served as important propaganda for the new Emperor who, through his adoptive father Julius Caesar, claimed descent from the hero who eventually settled Italy, leading to Rome’s founding. Along the way, Aeneas dealt with storms and mythical monsters. Among his many stopovers was Carthage, wherein he left the love-struck Queen Dido despairing to the point she committed suicide. Following these adventures, Aeneas finally arrived at the shores of Italy.

Fourteen generations later, the mythos finally turns to the subject of the twin sons born of Ilia, the niece of usurper Amulius, and daughter of the deposed and imprisoned rightful ruler, King Numitor. To secure his dynasty (or so he thought), Amulius ordered that Ilia join the Vestal Virgins, vowing chastity upon fear of death by live burial. Even so, Ilia succumbed to Mars’ seduction, and the fate of the resulting infants fell into Amulius’ hands. The latter reasoned that killing the pair by his hand might incur the god's wrath. Instead, he planned an overly elaborate and exotic death by natural elements, placing the twins in a basket set afloat in the river Tiber. As it turned out, the situation was easily escapable. Owing to divine guidance, the basket landed safely downstream entangled by a fig tree’s roots. A she-wolf turned up to suckle the twins, which, along with a woodpecker’s beak-feeding, kept the pair alive. Later, the shepherd Faustulus arrived and adopted the boys, naming them Romulus and Remus.

When the brothers came of age, they settled the score against Amulius, restoring their grandfather’s rule. Not satisfied with this success, Romulus and Remus decided to found their own realm on the hilly lands they washed ashore as infants. Romulus started building atop Palantine Hill. Remus preferred Aventine Hill, and mocked his brother’s progress. In a fit of rage, Romulus killed his brother, and then finished building the city, naming it after himself. Afterwards, Romulus expanded his city (there were several more hills to occupy), and added an organization of advisory elders and an elite guard, precursors to the Senate and the Praetorian Guard, respectively. Eventually, Romulus’ reign came to an end when he mysteriously disappeared, probably the casualty of a disaffected Senate.

The various themes woven within the fable of Romulus and Remus – the rise and fall of a usurper, exacting revenge (even decades afterwards), and even murdering one’s own kin – comprise different facets of the Roman psyche. A myriad of alternate, related mythologies exist, most comprising similar elements and suggesting Rome’s founding in mid 8th century BC.

The spirit of Rome was also personified, or rather deified, as Roma. Over time, Roma’s priesthood grew. Only males served such a role, reflecting Rome’s virility. Eventually, Roma evolved to embody the entire Roman state.

Romulus, Remus, and Roma were popular icons among ancient Romans, as evidenced by this denarius, struck around 137 BC in the Roman Republic. The moneyer’s name was Sextus Pompeius Fostlus, who leveraged the opportunity to promote his clan’s claim of descent from Faustulus. The obverse depicts the helmeted head of Roma, to her right the mark of value (X), and to her left the religious symbol of a jug. The reverse depicts all the crucial elements of Rome’s founding myth: the she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus; a fig tree, whose roots snagged the twins’ basket ashore; two birds, one vertically perched upon the tree trunk, consistent with a woodpecker’s zygodactyl feet; and the arrival of Faustulus. The entire scene is encircled within the inscription of the moneyer’s name above and ROMA below.

The coin’s design is a marvel of organization and advertising, additional themes consistent with the spirit of ancient Rome.

 


Coin Details: ROMAN REPUBLIC, Sextus Pompeius Fostlus, 137 BC, AR Denarius (3.90 g, 19 mm), NGC Grade: MS, Strike: 5/5, Surface: 4/5, Obverse: Helmeted head of Roma right, jug to left, X (value mark) to right; Reverse: She-wolf standing right, head left, suckling Romulus and Remus, fig tree with birds behind, SEX. PO-F OSTLVS, ROMA in exergue, References: Crawford 235/1c; Sydenham 461a; Pompeia 1a.

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Thank you both for your comments! I am glad you enjoyed reading, stay tuned for more...I am going through all my Owner's Comments for my Roman Empire collection and making edits, and those that I am particularly fond of I will post here in my journal as well.  Cheers!

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