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10-Nov-2019 13:34

In Rome's earliest period, history and myth have a mutual and complementary relationship. How does well-meaning authority turn into murderous tyranny?

The Roman stories still matter, as they mattered to Dante in 1300 and Shakespeare in 1600 and the founding fathers of the United States in 1776. Major sources for Roman myth include the Aeneid of Vergil and the first few books of Livy's history as well as Dionysius' s Roman Antiquities.

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Prophecies pertaining to world history and to Rome's destiny turn up fortuitously at critical junctures in history, discovered suddenly in the nebulous Sibylline books, which Tarquin the Proud (according to legend) purchased in the late 6th century BC from the Cumaean Sibyl.

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.

Some aspects of archaic Roman religion survived in the lost theological works of the 1st-century BC scholar Varro, known through other classical and Christian authors.

The earliest pantheon included Janus, Vesta, and a leading so-called Archaic Triad of Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus, whose flamens were of the highest order.Rome's early myths and legends also have a dynamic relationship with Etruscan religion, less documented than that of the Greeks.