Zonaras: Romulus and… Romus? (7.1 pt. III)

Zonaras relates the birth of Romulus and Remus, how they were cast out by Amulius, and how they were raised either by a wolf or a prostitute.

So much for Lavinium and the Albans. Roman affairs had as their beginning Numitor and Amulius, who were the sons of Aventinus, and the descendants of Aeneas. Once the throne in Alba Longa had fallen to them through succession, they wished to apportion it out between themselves, along with the royal possessions. When Amulius set both the property and the crown as private, and asked his brother which of the two he would like for himself, Numitor chose the crown because he was the older brother. Amulius took the property and surrounded himself with the power which naturally attends wealth, and with it seized the crown. Numitor had a daughter and Amulius, fearing that she might have children who would rebel against him, made her a priestess of Hestia which entailed that she would be an unmarried virgin through all of her life. She was seen later to be pregnant by Ares, as the myth goes, but most probably it was by some man. She was imprisoned on that account, so that she could not escape when she gave birth. She gave birth to two children who were great and noble. Amulius, now even more terrified, ordered that the children be cast out. So, he took them and placed them in a little skiff in the Tiber. The water’s flow led the skiff away to a pleasant spot, where they say that a she-wolf came upon the children and offered them her teat; they also say that there was a woodpecker there feeding them and guarding them. One of Amulius’ swineherds, named Faustulus, came upon the children there and took them. He then raised them with his wife, whose name was Larentia. One was named Romulus, and the other Romus. Some deny that a she-wolf nursed them, which would be more credible or even have more of an air of truth, but this story took hold from the beginning. The Romans call both she-wolves and prostitutes “lupas.” The fact that Larentia, who raised the boys, was a prostitute and on that account called a lupa (she-wolf), caused the region to buy into the myth.*

  • NOTE: This idea is at least as old as Livy: Sunt qui Larentiam volgato corpore lupam inter pastores vocatam putent. “There are those who would say that Larentia was called ‘the she-wolf’ among the pastors, on account of having put her body into common circulation.”

Καὶ ταῦτα μὲν περὶ Λαουινίου καὶ ᾿Αλβανῶν· τὰ δὲ τῶν ῾Ρωμαίων ἀρχὴν ἐσχήκασι τὸν Νομίτωρά τε καὶ τὸν ᾿Αμούλιον, οἳ ᾿Αουεντίνου μὲν ἐγένοντο υἱωνοί, τοῦ δ’ Αἰνείου ἀπόγονοι. τῆς γοῦν ἐν ῎Αλβῃ βασιλείας κατὰ διαδοχὴν περιελθούσης αὐτοῖς, νείμασθαι ταύτην ἠθέλησαν καὶ τὰ χρήματα. τοῦ ᾿Αμουλίου τοίνυν ἰδίᾳ μὲν τὰ χρήματα θέντος, ἰδίᾳ δέ γε τὴν βασιλείαν, καὶ ἐξ ἀμφοῖν τὸν ἀδελφὸν προτρεψαμένου ὃ πρὸς βουλῆς αὐτῷ ἐπιλέξασθαι, τὴν βασιλείαν εἵλετο ὁ Νομίτωρ, ἅτε καὶ πρεσβύτερος ἀδελφός· λαβὼν δὲ τὰ χρήματα ὁ ᾿Αμούλιος, καὶ δύναμιν ἐκ τούτων περιβαλλόμενος, καὶ τὴν βασιλείαν ἀφείλετο. θυγατρὸς δὲ τῷ Νομίτωρι οὔσης, δεδιὼς μὴ παῖδες ἐξ αὐτῆς γένοιντο καὶ κατεξανασταῖεν αὐτοῦ, ἱέρειαν τῆς ῾Εστίας ἐκείνην ἀπέδειξεν, ἄγαμον διὰ τοῦτο καὶ παρθένον διὰ βίου μέλλουσαν ἔσεσθαι. ἡ δὲ κύουσα ἐφωράθη μετέπειτα ὑπὸ ῎Αρεος, ὡς μυθεύεται, ὑπ’ ἀνθρώπων δὲ πάντως τινός. εἵρχθη οὖν διὰ τοῦτο, ἵνα μὴ λάθῃ τεκοῦσα. καὶ ἔτεκε διδύμους παῖδας μεγάλους τε καὶ καλούς. μᾶλλον οὖν φοβηθεὶς ὁ ᾿Αμούλιος ἐκέλευσε τὰ βρέφη ῥιφῆναι. καὶ ὁ ταῦτα λαβὼν σκάφῃ ἐνθέμενος ἐμβάλλει τῷ ποταμῷ τῷ Τιβέριδι. παρασῦραν δὲ τὴν σκάφην τὸ ῥεῦμα εἴς τινα χῶρον κατήνεγκε μαλθακόν· ἔνθα κειμένοις τοῖς βρέφεσι λύκαιναν ἱστοροῦσι προσιοῦσαν θηλὴν παρέχειν αὐτοῖς, καὶ ὄρνιν δρυοκολάπτην παρεῖναι ταῦτα ψωμίζοντα καὶ φυλάττοντα. ἐκεῖ δὲ κείμενα τὰ βρέφη λαθὼν ἀφείλετό τις ᾿Αμουλίου συοφορβὸς Φαυστοῦλος καλούμενος· καὶ παρὰ τῆς ἐκείνου ἐτράφησαν γυναικός, ᾗ ὄνομα Λαρεντία· καὶ ὁ μὲν ῾Ρωμύλος, ὁ δ’ ἕτερος ῾Ρῶμος ἐκλήθησαν. τινὲς δὲ μὴ λύκαιναν εἶναι τὴν τῶν παίδων φασὶ τροφόν, ὃ καὶ πιθανώτερον ἢ ἀληθέστερον μάλιστα, ἀρχὴν δὲ τὸν λόγον οὕτω λαβεῖν. λούπας καλοῦσι ῾Ρωμαῖοι τάς τε λυκαίνας καὶ τὰς ἑταίρας· πορνευομένη δ’ ἡ Λαρεντία, ἣ τοὺς παῖδας ἐθρέψατο, καὶ λοῦπα διὰ τοῦτο καλουμένη, χώραν τῷ μύθῳ παρέσχετο.

5 thoughts on “Zonaras: Romulus and… Romus? (7.1 pt. III)

    1. The prostitute idea is at least as old as Livy, who wrote with perhaps a bit more of a racy tone than Zonaras uses that “Sunt qui Larentiam volgato corpore lupam inter pastores vocatam putent;”

      I have noticed that Zonaras receives the typical sort of off-handed dismissal which most other Byzantine writers are subject to at the hands of Canon-only Classicists, but I’ve started to find him delightful in his own way. But I suppose that we have both been infected with Byzantine fever.

      1. Byzantine fever sounds like a good euphemism for the plague!

        I had forgotten the Livy stuff. But as a source (or at least partial aetiology) for the wolf-myth, I like it. But, you know me, mix in some animals, prostitutes and etymology and I’m yours.

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