The Romans believed they were descended from the ancient Trojans for 3 reasons. Each one of these reasons can be seen in the myth of Aeneas which had been known by the Roman people since the foundation of the city.
There are 3 reasons why the Romans believed they were Trojan. First, the Myth of Aeneas demonstrated Roman Values that Marked Aeneas as both Roman and Trojan. Second, The Trojan myth proved that the Romans were not Latin in the eyes of the Romans. Third, The Trojan myth gave Romans a reason for their continued right to rule
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Without further ado, here is exactly why the Romans believed they were descended from the Trojans.
The Myth of Aeneas Demonstrated Roman Values That Marked Aeneas As Both Roman And Trojan
One of the main reasons that the Romans believed they were descended from the Trojans was through the bloodline of Aeneas.
In Homer’s Greek mythological epic the Iliad Homer outlines the Trojan war that historians believe took place in the 13th century BC.
This tale outlines the sacking of Troy, the hero Achilles, and the escape of a few Trojans from Troy. One of the Trojans who escaped the burning was Aeneas, a relative of the King of Troy Priam.
The story of Aeneas tells a tale of a Trojan who spends his life working to build a new home for his people. He is a noble person who exhibits all the desired traits of the ideal Roman.
This included piety, duty, honor, dignity, self control, and reverence.
Our first mention by Romans of the myth of Aeneas comes from the 3rd century Roman historian Cato the Elder. The tale of Aeneas would have inspired the people of Rome during the middle Republic.
However, the Romans really started to believe that Aeneas was Roman when the 1st century BC legendary Roman poet Virgil created an entire epic poem called the Aeneid.
This epic directly linked the tale of Aeneas to the foundation of the city of Rome and the rise of the Roman Empire. However, it was written to demonstrate moral values of an ideal Roman by using Aeneas as a literary foil.
Because of this we can see that the Romans would see Aeneas as a Roman hero that they should emulate. As a result of Aeneas being portrayed as emulating Roman values Romans started to believe that they were in fact descended from Troy.
The Trojan Myth Proved That The Romans Were Not Latin In The Eyes Of The Romans
One of the main Reasons that the Romans believed they were Trojan was because it separated them from the other Latin’s in Italy.
Over the course of the Late Roman Republic the Romans would fight bitterly to keep the Latin’s out of their society. In the Romans’ eyes they were different from their Latin and Italian allies.
This difference was further reinforced with the foundational myth of Rome that all Romans were descended from Trojans and not Italians.
Evidence of this belief that Romans were inherently different can be seen in two events during the late Roman Republic. First, was the events of the Gracchi brothers in 133-122 BC. Second, was the Social War which lasted from 91-88 BC.
In both of these examples the Romans fought to keep the Italians and Latins from obtaining Roman citizenship.
The Romans believed they were different from the Latin and Italians across Italy. The myth of Aeneas and the creation of Rome through Trojan refugees directly supported this claim of difference.
Romans Believed They Were Descended From Troy Because it Solidified Their Right To Rule
One of the main reasons that Romans believed they were Trojan was because it solidified their right to dominate and rule.
In book 8 of Virgil’s Aeneid, Aeneas is preparing to confront Turnus, his rival. Aeneas is given a shield to protect him by the Roman goddess Venus. On this shield is an account of the entire future of the Roman people.
It details a triumph parade by Augustus where all of the known world marches in procession under the Trojan/Roman emperor.
The way Virgil describes this event clearly demonstrates that during his time Aeneas was seen as a linking line between the Romans and the Trojans.
This Trojan myth in the eyes of the Romans gave Rome the right to rule over all as they were militarily superior and had a long lineage of divine warriors through the link with Aeneas.
As such this remains one of the main reasons why the Romans believed they were Trojan.
There you have it; an entire article that outlines the 3 reasons why the Romans believed they were Trojan.
The concept of the Trojan myth in Rome is amazing. It has inspired countless reworks and can be seen in coinage all the way back to the founding of the city of Rome. Graduate students looking for a good thesis will find substantial material in this myth.
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