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Publié le : 10/5/2013 -Format: Document en format HTML protégé

Roman Mythology.
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Roman Mythology.
I

INTRODUCTION

Roman Mythology, the religious beliefs and practices of the people of ancient Rome. At first the Romans envisioned their gods more as powers than as persons, and as a
result there is little mythology that is purely Roman. According to Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro, only after the Romans came into contact with Greek culture in
the 6th century BC did they begin to represent their gods in human form. Over the last three centuries before Christ was born, writers such as Virgil and Ovid grafted
the names and functions of Roman gods onto Greek literary and artistic tradition, creating a hybrid Greco-Roman mythology that has inspired poets and painters from
antiquity to the present day. Most of what we know about ancient Rome and its mythology comes from the works of ancient Roman writers, from surviving artworks,
and from archaeological findings.
The Romans believed that their religious practices maintained the pax deorum--or "peace of the gods"--that ensured the community's continued prosperity. No private
citizen was likely to undertake business of any importance without seeking the favor of the appropriate god, and the Romans held numerous public festivals to honor
their gods.

II

MYTHS OF THE FOUNDING OF ROME

The Romans did not develop a myth about the creation of the world itself, but they did attach great importance to the founding of Rome. Two distinct myths developed
about the city's beginnings: the story of the twins Romulus and Remus, and the tale of Aeneas.
The myth of Romulus and Remus is best known from its account in the work of Livy, a Roman historian of the 1st century

BC.

The twins were the sons of the god Mars

and a mortal woman named Rhea Silvia. When they were infants, Romulus and Remus's great uncle set them adrift on the Tiber River to die. The great uncle had stolen
royal power from the twins' grandfather and did not want the boys to survive to challenge his right to power. But a she-wolf found Romulus and Remus and cared for
them until a shepherd discovered them. The shepherd and his wife took the boys in and raised them as their own children. Years later, after restoring their grandfather
to his throne, Romulus and Remus decided to found a city of their own. However, the two quarreled, and in the ensuing brawl Remus died. In some versions of the
story Romulus killed him, in other versions Romulus's followers did so. After his brother's death, Romulus named the new city Rome and became its first king. According
to Varro, the date that Romulus founded Rome was 753

BC.

The other legend of Rome's founding traced the origins of the city to Aeneas, the son of the goddess Venus and the Trojan prince Anchises. Aeneas came from the city
of Troy in Asia Minor, which according to tradition was conquered by Greek forces during the Trojan War. The war was fought in the late 13th or early 12th century

BC,

and it forms the setting for the epic poem the Iliad by the Greek poet Homer. Although Aeneas's role in the Iliad is small, Roman legend holds that after the war he led
a group of Trojan survivors who left Troy and eventually arrived at Carthage, where the queen, Dido, fell in love with Aeneas. But he left her and traveled to Italy,
where he founded Rome.
Scholars believe that the legend of Aeneas gained acceptance during the 3rd century

BC,

when Rome was developing as a nation and its citizens sought to enhance the

city's prestige by establishing a connection to the famous figures of Greek mythology. It was difficult, therefore, for later writers to reconcile the 400-year interval
between the story of Aeneas, which took place in the 12th century

BC,

and the account of Romulus and Remus, which occurred in the 8th century

BC.

The poet Virgil

resolved the problem in his epic the Aeneid, which describes Aeneas marrying Lavinia, daughter of the king of Latium, a kingdom that occupied the future territory of
Rome. Through this marriage, Aeneas became the originator of a line of kings and a direct ancestor of Romulus and the Romans.
Most of the other early stories of Rome have to do with the traditional Seven Kings, who were the first seven rulers of Rome. One of the best-known stories about the
reign of Romulus is the so-called Rape of the Sabines. According to this story, to ensure the future of Rome, Romulus and his band of followers needed wives who would
bear children to ensure the future of the new city. They invited their neighbors, the Sabine people, to a festival and then kidnapped the daughters of the Sabines. A war
broke out between the two communities, and peace was restored only when the Sabine women declared their preference for their Roman husbands. The Sabines then
joined the Romans in a single community.
The second Roman king was Numa Pompilius, whom the Romans credited with inventing their religious institutions. Artworks depict Numa as a priestly figure with a long
white beard. Legend tells that the fourth king, Ancus Martius (whose name means "warlike"), conquered many neighboring towns and greatly increased Roman
territory. The sixth king, Servius Tullius, developed the first census, or counting of the population and their property. According to tradition, Servius Tullius also built the
first city wall.

III

THE ROMAN GODS

The early Romans did not represent their gods in human or animal form, and the gods did not have well-defined personalities. Most Roman gods were, however,
associated with particular places. For example, high hilltops and oak-groves were associated with Jupiter, the god of rain, thunder, and lightning. Any piece of land
struck by lightning was dedicated to him. According to Varro, Romans worshiped their gods without images for 170 years after the city was founded. Only in the 6th
century

BC,

under the influence of the Greeks and of neighboring societies such as the Etruscan civilization did the Romans first represent their gods in human form and

build temples for them.
While the personalities of their gods were not important to the early Romans, they cared a great deal about the gods' functions. Gods presided over every aspect of life
and death, including the phases of the agricultural year. The Romans integrated their worship into the routines of public and private life. For example, the doorway of a
house--an important threshold separating personal space from public space--fell under the protection of the god Janus, who was also the god of beginnings. The first
month of the year, January, was named for him. The hearth, which served as the center of the home, was the province of the goddess Vest...


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