CLAS 203 Lecture Notes - Lecture 13: Lars Porsena, Horatius Cocles, Roman Mythology

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4 Aug 2016
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Class 13: Interpretatio Romana: The Roman Appropriation of Greek Mythology
Final this Thursday, same room as class same, same time as class room.
1 essay question (3 choices), short identification, and multiple choice.
Cumulative (from the beginning until the end).
Roman Mythology vs Greek Mythology
Romans insert themselves into Greek Mythology, which implies they knew greek
mythology very well (Virgil did not have to explain Iliad and the Trojan War when he
Write Aeniad ), because from 3 BCE, it became trendy and normal for roman aristocra-
cy to learn greek language and literature. They learned Homer (Iliad and Odyssey).
All the Roman elite knew of greek mythology, and those from lower classes still knew
the story.
Romans had myths of their own by the time they encountered greek mythology, but
their deities were not associated with myth, more with ritual and cult. Contrary to greek
deities they were not anthropomorphic.
It took a while for the Romans to write about how they came to be- we dont have an-
cient roman historians (quite different from the Greeks), we are not quite sure why.
Livy (mentioned before)- not the first roman historian, but one of the most famous,
wrote the history of Rome, acknowledges that it was a long time ago so there are a lot
of things that cannot be known for sure.
Livy also acknowledges that the beginning of our history is intertwined with myth, hard
to separate the two.
Fabius Pictor (mentioned before)- first roman historian, 254-201 BCE.
Fought in the Punic wars
Did not write in latin, wrote in Greek- Roman literature was still in early stages, this
points to Greek influence.
By adopting and also adapting many greek gods and reinterpreting myths, they in a way
prolonged the life of greek mythology.
It can be said that Romans contributed more to the diffusion of greek myth than Greeks
themselves (because of how large the Roman empire was).
Roman writers re-telling Greek myth stories (Ovid, Virgil).
Pre-Roman Italy
Heterogeneous place, no one culture, or language
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Greeks, Etruscans, etc were settled there
Etruscans had a big influence on Roman culture and religion (although we cannot know
if they did in fact conquer them or not because language is not deciphered).
They influenced Roman Gods
Romans took a taste for greek gods and started to imitate them (statues of gods and
goddesses). Many statues we have today are roman copies of greek statues (they would
steal them and copy them).
Roman mythology
Romans like to think that they are the most pious people one earth
like to portray their enemies as arrogant and treterous, while they themselves are pious,
modest and rational and thought that Gods favoured them in war.
Roman mythological accounts include roman warriors that did great deeds for the
states, as opposed to gods
War between Rome and Alba Longa (Livy describes it as a sort of civil war) because
both cities claimed Trojan ancestry
2 parties agreed on a deal- war would be settled on the fight of best warriors on each
side (3 people on each side)
Romans select 3 brothers from the Horatti family
On the Alba Longa side they choose 3 brothers from the Curiatti family
Fight begins- 2 of the Horatti are killed by opponents, but the 3rd starts running away
The Curiatti start chasing him, but they become separated and the 3rd brother kills
them all one by one and thus wins the fight
Horatius (last Horatti brother) killed his sister from mourning an enemy and he was
condemned to death for killing his sister, but in Rome his sentence was reversed (in-
stead of killing him, he was forced to march under a yoke, and his father had to make
sacrifices)
This story demonstrates how popularity he gained from his victory over rose the
death penalty he would have experienced from killing his sister.
We are not sure how much the romans embellished this story but it certainly repre-
sents the values that romans prioritized.
Religion was very important for the Romans, they believed their success was due to
their commitment to religion and rituals, living by the rules.
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