April 21: the Eternal City had to start sometime

2012/04/21 § Leave a comment

On this day in 753 BC, Rome was founded.

Agreed: it’s no simple task to record exact dates in the long, long, long-ago past.  Well maybe not so simple for most people in most places.  But this is Rome we’re talking about.  And a city/culture/capital/empire as profound as this, with such a rich story of its beginnings, is allowed to select the date of that beginning and the rest of us are expected to duly take note.  Clio hopes you are writing this down.

The legend is well-known (as legends ought to be): the abandoned brothers cast upon the fates on the shores of the Tiber river, nourished by a “she-wolf” (what else could suckle them, one wonders), later cared for by a shepherd, finally the city is founded after the murder of Remus at the hands of his brother.  The Republic rises, the Empire ascends, and the rest is, as they say . . . well, you know.

Rome is not alone in the ritualistic codification of a foundations myth; even when the origins are not lost in the murky tides of long-ago-days, real history is often made mythic to enhance foundations, usually in the service of the city’s or nation’s collective Weltanschauung–generally speaking, “worldview” (although the German is more satisfying to speak).  So one wonders about the founding of Rome: a story of child abandonment, feral creatures, fratricide.  Quite a bit different from, say, a contest between noble gods bearing gifts (Athens), the mixing of male and female waters that begets earth and sky (Babylon), a big bird whose squawk shatters the silence of prehistoric chaos (Egypt); an angelic visitation to a future king (all of Hungary), a kindly Quaker who became instant BFFs with indigenous people who helped him invent whoopie pies (Philadelphia), the meeting of hot and cold which makes a dewy birth of a frost ogre and then it gets very confusing and ultimately ostensibly results in a cold landmass and cinnamon rolls (Scandinavia), a careless cow (modern Chicago).

Clio invites you to consider these mythical beginnings and their impact on shaping their nations’ and cities’ architecture.  It’s one of her favorite hobbies.

Image: She-Wolf with Romulus and Remus, Campidoglio, Rome (from this source)

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You are currently reading April 21: the Eternal City had to start sometime at Clio’s Calendar: Daily Musings on Architectural History.

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