Romulus and Romus abandon Alba Longa; the murder of Romus.
Romulus and Romus then gave the throne to their maternal grandfather Numitor, and to their mother they gave an honor which they judged suitable to themselves. For they did not undertake to seize power, and moreover they wished to found a city on the spot where they were nursed. When they set about the task of building the new city, there arose between the brothers a dispute about the city and who would be sovereign, and it came to blows; in this contest, Romus died. Another story has it that as Romulus was digging a trench which was to be the city enclosure, Romus now hindered the work, and now scoffed at it. At last, when Romus leapt over it as if to show how easily it could be attacked, he was killed; some say that this was at Romulus’ hands, and others aver that he was slain by some other man. For this reason, it was enacted that anyone who dared to cross the trench except by the customary paths would be condemned to death.
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.”
Zonaras discusses the history of Lavinium, the founding of Alba Longa, and the naming of the Tiber:
After some time had passed and the Latins had increased the population of Lavinium, most of them left the city and founded another one in a more agreeable region, which they called Alba Longa – Alba because of its whiteness, and Longa because of its magnitude. Upon the death of Ascanius, the Latins honored the son born to Aeneas from Lavinia (named Silvius) over and above the son of Ascanius, preferring Silvius because Latinus was his grandfather. An Aeneas was born to Silvius, from this Aeneas was born another Latinus, and Pastis succeeded this Latinus. A man named Tiberinus, setting out on the river named Albulus, fell in and died. This river was afterward called the Tiber after him; it flowed through Rome, provided a most excellent supply to the city, and was useful to the Romans in the highest degree. Amulius, the son of Tiberinus, who became exceedingly arrogant and attempted to deify himself, died while trying to return lightning against lightning by means of a contrivance, and even to make the light flash and hurl thunderbolts. The pond near which his palace was built suddenly began to flow and swept both Amulius and his palace into the sea. Then, Amulius’ son Aventinus was killed in battle.
This post will be the beginning of a much longer project, which I hope to sustain, of translating all of the specifically Roman history from Ioannes Zonaras’ vast Epitome. Books I-VI of the work are primarily concerned with Biblical and Judaic history; the rest of the work is a synopsis of Roman history from the founding of the city. Zonaras draws heavily on other historians, and even preserves substantial information which would have otherwise been lost. He is occasionally faulted for not being the most accurate historian, but this is a charge leveled against ancient writers of history all the way back to Herodotus. Gibbon makes heavy use of Zonaras in his Decline and Fall, and it is perhaps not coincidental that Gibbon himself is censured on occasion for his reliance on sources of dubious reliability.
Nevertheless, there is also (as far as I know) no full-scale English translation of all of Zonaras’ Roman history, and Byzantine chroniclers are not much in fashion (and perhaps never will be), so it may not be entirely out of place here to post it. I can swear no solemn oath that I will complete the project, but I will try to provide small daily updates.
Epitome Historiarum: 6.29-7.1
Since mention has been made of the history of the Romans, including their unconquerable strength, it is absolutely necessary to say and teach, or at least to recall those who are recorded in that book, and who these Romans were, and whence their race originally sprang, how they got their name, what sort of government they employed, what fortunes they enjoyed, and how they progressed to the highest point of happiness when they commanded but a tiny portion of the inhabited world and restrained the power of nearly all others; further, how they proceeded from their original monarchy to an aristocracy (that is, the dictatorship and the consulship), then to democracy, and finally back to monarchy. I must therefore discourse upon these things and set out in detail as much as it is possible for one trying to cut the wide breadth, and manage the tediousness, of such a wide subject, so that all pertaining to the history may be readily intelligible and not escape the memory of posterity.
Following the Trojan War, Aeneas came to the Aborigines, who first inhabited the region where Rome was founded, and where Latinus, the son of Faunus, then ruled. He continued on to Laurentum, near the river Numicium, where it is said that he prepared to found his city in accordance with a certain oracle. But Latinus, who was then the king of that land, prevented Aeneas from establishing a foundation there, and when it came to blows he was beaten. They were then reconciled by dreams which appeared to each of them. Latinus conceded the right of settlement to Aeneas, and even gave him his daughter Lavinia in marriage, for which reason Aeneas named the city which he founded Lavinium. The region was called Latium and the people who lived there were then called Latins.
But the neighboring Rutulians set out from their city of Ardea and since they were previously ill-disposed toward the Latins, they then initiated a war with the help of Turnus, a man both noble and formerly allied with Latinus. He had however become enraged with Latinus on account of Lavinia’s marriage, because she was previously promised to him. During the war, both Turnus and Latinus fell, and Aeneas won both the victory as well as his father-in-law’s throne. After a little time, however, the Rutulians received some aid from the Tyrsenians and came up against Aeneas again, this time winning the war. Aeneas disappeared, and since he was never again seen either living or dead, he was honored among the Latins as a god. Therefore, the Romans consider him their founder, and they boastfully call themselves the children of Aeneas (Aeneidae). Aeneas’ son Ascanius, who had followed his father from Troy, then assumed the throne, for Aeneas had not yet had a child with Lavinia, though he did leave her pregnant at his death. The enemy then surrounded Ascanius and besieged him, but the Latins set upon them at night and ended both the siege and the war.