Roman mythology

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Roman mythology is the body of traditional stories pertaining to ancient Rome's legendary origins and religious system, as represented in the literature and visual arts of the Romans. "Roman mythology" may also refer to the modern study of these representations, and to the subject matter as represented in the literature and art of other cultures in any period.

The Romans most often treated their traditional narratives as historical, even when these have miraculous or supernatural elements. When the stories illuminate Roman religious practices, they are more concerned with ritual, augury, and institutions than with theology or cosmogony. The Romans were curiously eager to identify their own gods with those of the Greeks (see interpretatio graeca), and reinterpret stories about Greek deities under the names of their Roman counterparts.[1] While Roman mythology lacks a comparable body of divine narratives, Romulus and Remus suckling the she-wolf is as famous as any image from Greek mythology except for the Trojan Horse.[2]

The study of Roman religion and myth is complicated by the early influence of Greek religion on the Italian peninsula during Rome's protohistory, and by the later self-conscious imitation of Greek literary models by Roman authors. Rome's early myths and legends also have a dynamic relationship with Etruscan religion, less documented than that of the Greeks.


Early Roman myth

Because ritual plays the central role in Roman religion that myth held for the Greeks, it is sometimes doubted that the Romans had much of a native mythology. The Roman tradition, however, is particularly rich in historical myths, or legends, concerning the foundation and rise of the city. These narratives focus on human actors, with only occasional intervention from deities but a pervasive sense of divinely ordered destiny. In Rome's earliest period, history and myth have a mutual and complementary relationship.[3]

The Aeneid and the first few books of Livy are the best extant sources for Rome's founding myths. Material from Greek heroic legend was grafted onto this native stock at an early date. The Trojan prince Aeneas was cast as husband of Lavinia, daughter of King Latinus, patronymical ancestor of the Latini, and therefore through a convoluted revisionist genealogy as forebear of Romulus and Remus. By extension, the Trojans were adopted as the mythical ancestors of the Roman people.[4]

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