Three Roman Legends to Reflect Upon

These three Roman legends will make you reflect on timeless themes such as love, revenge, and destiny.
Three Roman Legends to Reflect Upon

Last update: 23 February, 2021

Roman legends are a strange combination of human beings, fantastic natural elements, and mythological animals. They’re pretty symbolic, though.

Classical legends, Greco-Roman ones, in particular, were a way to express a feeling of patriotism among their inhabitants. These stories promoted great feats with which to understand the origins and history of the empire. Also, to instill the values of the time in the population.

“But being overborne with numbers, and nobody daring to face about, stretching out his hands to heaven, [Romulus] prayed to Jupiter to stop the army, and not to neglect but maintain the Roman cause, now in extreme danger. The prayer was no sooner made, than shame and respect for their king checked many; the fears of the fugitives changed suddenly into confidence.”

-Plutarch-

The most thought-provoking Roman legends

The classics have endured to this day as an exemplary element of what a culture should be like. Similarly, modern legends are there to make people think.

Ancient legends explain the world through their fantastic stories. This is due to their broad cultural and symbolic content, used daily by psychologists and professionals from various disciplines to exemplify the world.

A Roman legend wolf.

The she-wolf that nursed Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome

This legend arose for the purpose of giving a sort of divine origin to Rome. It’s about the she-wolf that nursed Romulus and Remus, the two founders of this oh-so-long-lasting empire.

According to the legend, a servant saves the twins from death and hides them on the banks of the Tiber River where a she-wolf hears them crying and takes care of them as if they were her own. Later, the shepherd Faustulus picks them up and brings them home to his wife, Acca Larentia.

The she-wolf was a sacred animal for many cultures, including the Etruscans — a group of people who lived in Italic lands before the Romans. There are other reflections in this story, however. For example, how much a person’s actions can change the world because who would’ve thought that a servant or a she-wolf or shepherd would contribute to the birth of one of the greatest and most powerful empires the world has ever had?

Circe and Rex Picus

This is another interesting Roman legend, though perhaps not as well-known as the previous one. It’s definitely striking. In this story, Rex Picus is the son of Saturn, father of Faunus, and married to the nymph Canente.

Picus is a primitive fortune-teller who carries a woodpecker around, also recognized as a prophetic bird. This bird had been a man and hadn’t corresponded to Circe’s love — the sorceress of the island of Aeaea who had been infatuated by him. Thus, she had transformed him into a bird with prophetic powers when he had failed to reciprocate her attention.

It’s interesting how many Greco-Roman fables and legends are about unrequited love. The kind that usually ends in either tragic, vengeful, or dramatic ways. Do people handle emotions any better these days? It’s important to acknowledge and control emotions as much as possible. Above all, it’s important to understand them. Otherwise, rage, revenge, or anger become a constant, as you can see in many classic tales.

Hercules and Cacus are Roman legends

Hercules is one of the favorite characters in Roman legends. So much so that Virgil, the Roman poet, narrated his defeat of Cacus, half satyr, half giant. Moreover, the story is immortalized in a sculpture in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence.

A statue of Hercules.

Virgil dreamed of creating a divine Roman origin. This is why he wrote The Aeneid, which depicts the adventures of Aeneas, founder of Rome, who flees from Troy when the Greeks invade it.

The section of Hercules and Cacus adds to this divine origin. Hercules discovers the half-giant after he steals some red oxen in the Tiber Valley and dismembers him.

Some say this story started the cult of Hercules. It’s also an anthropological key to learn about the commercial evolution in the area. However, there’s revenge, once again, and the subsequent victory of a strong man who can punish a morally reprehensible deed.

No doubt one can interpret Roman legends from a modern perspective and reflect on classic themes such as morality, ethics, revenge, justice, emotions, etc. People have been trying to understand them for thousands of years. Will we ever succeed?

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