REFLECTIONS ON A MIRROR: POSSIBLE EVIDENCE FOR THE EARLY ORIGIN OF THE CANONICAL VERSION OF THE ROMAN FOUNDATION LEGEND

P. M. W. Tennant

Abstract


T.P. Wiseman (1991: 115-124) suggests that the whole story of the twins - and in particular
the life and death of Remus - was progressively invented between the Lex Licinia Sextia in
367 and the battle of Sentinum in 295, a period which "saw the establishment of a new
mythology, a new way of making sense of Rome and her destiny in an era of cataclysmic
change".1 Wiseman has not beel) the only scholar to postulate a relatively late development
of the Romulus and Remus legend: H. Strasburger (1968) argued that it was created during
the last decades of the 4th century or, more probably, during the first decades of the 3rd.
Furthermore, he maintained that, because the tale contained elements - notably that of
fratricide - which did not reflect favourably on the image of Rome, it was essentially the
product of anti-Roman propaganda. Wiseman, on the other hand, suggests that Remus
represents the Roman plebs and that the twins actually symbolise the "power-sharing"
between patricians and plebeians brought about by the Licinio-Sextian laws. The starting
point of Wiseman's thesis is that the plebs' "lateness" in coming to power is reflected in
the name "Remus", which signifies "slowness"; and he cites the etymology given in the
Origo Gentis Romanae (21.5), where "Romulus" is derived from "rhome" ("strength") and
"Remus" from "remores", because that is what the ancients called people who were "slow"
by nature .

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7445/40-2-501

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