Written by historian Marc Hyden, Romulus recounts the history of the almost mythical founder of not only the Roman people but also, the city of his name, Rome. Most modern scholars tend to throw the stories and legends surrounding Romulus into the realm of mythology. Not the ancient Romans. To them, he was more than a legend. He not only established the city of Rome (ca. April 21st in the 8th century BCE), he also gave it its governing bodies, religious structure and so much more.
I have mentioned this once before and I will mention it again. The author, Marc Hyden, showcases a unique and wonderful talent, in that, he knows how to tell a story. I really enjoyed this book and despite the often contradictory sources, I really enjoyed how Hyden framed the entire story of the mythological founder of Rome into a single cohesive narrative.
This is not your typical research novel. It recounts a tale of epic proportions. However, the accounts written of its main protagonist do not stem from a single source. From Cicero to Pliny, Plutarch, Vergil and many more, Hyden relies on the ancient authors themselves to get as close to the source of the events as possible. And when there is doubt or a need to confirm any aspects to the narrative, the author provides the archaeological evidence.
Our story begins with Aeneas and his fleeing from the burning citadel of Troy. It was a place in which he once called home. He, his son, father and a band of Trojan refugees embark on an exodus West of the Anatolian mainland and through a series of trials and tribulations eventually lands on the Western regions of the Italian mainland.
Generations pass and we get to the events of when Alba Longa’s ruler Numitor was dethroned by the usurper and his brother, Amulius. Numitor’s sons were mysteriously executed and his daughter was sentenced to be a vestal virgin. It is there that she was impregnated (by the god Mars) and gave birth to the twins, Romulus and Remus. Upon discovery of this Amulius sentences the young infants to death. However, they escape this fate and live a simple life as shepherds until they discover that Numitor is their grandfather, where they aid him in reclaiming the throne.
The very detailed events that follow focus on the twins and as soon as Remus is killed, on Romulus alone. The reader may take notice that many of his trials reflect that of his forefather, Aeneas.
Again, I immensely enjoyed reading Romulus and would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in either Roman history or general Greco-Roman mythology.
A Book Review by Petros Koutoupis