The Roman people were a overly proud and highly re

ligious people, whose sense of identity as romans came primarily from their accomplishments in war and their respect of their ancestors. By examining Livys The Early History of Rome, we can identify these traits through roman patterns of behavior and the foundation myths that their nation is built upon.

The romans repeatedly display not only an overdeveloped personal sense of pride, but an exceptional pride in their nation – taking precedence over even family loyalty. The first example of this Roman pride is seen in the very first foundation myth of Rome, the tale of Romulus and Remus. The second of the two versions of this story tells how after the auspices have indicated Romulus as the rightful leader of this new nation, “Remus, by way of jeering at his brother, jumped over the half-built walls of the new settlement, whereupon Romulus killed him in a fit of rage, adding the threat, So perish whoever else shall overleap my battlements( P.40 Livy) .” Not only do we see a foreshadowing of Romes violent nature in this tale, but it seems to indicate a strong belief in the superiority of this ( barely existant ) nation, one that necessitates a national pride of greater magnitude than the even the strength of the loyalty between brothers.

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This kind of loyalty to country, as displayed by the Romes founder, certainly sets a precendent for later roman citizens. Not surprisingly then, we see this same kind of pride with similar consequences later on following a battle between Rome and the Albans. The victory had been decided, not by a full scale war, but by a contest between three men from each country ( two sets of three brothers ). This contest left Rome victorious and five people dead – only one roman brother stood living. The victor returned to rome carrying the triple spoils and,”slung across his shoulders was a cloak, and his sister recognized it as the cloak she had made with her own hand for her lover. The sight overcame her : she loosened her hair and, in a voice choked with tears, called her dead lovers name. That his sister should dare to grieve at the very moment of his own triumph and in the midst of national rejoicing filled horatius with such uncontrollable rage that he drew his sword and stabbed her to the heart( Livy 62).” Again we see the word “rage” used to describe this similarly extreme exhibition of extreme national pride.

Back in the foundation myth of Romulus and Remus, we see another aspect of Roman pride. There is some indication that, In Livys time, there was some suspicion that Greek infulence in Rome was detrimental to Roman society. Livy seems to emphasize the absence of any kind of formal schooling ( which would have been greek ) in the adolescence of both Romulus and Remus ( P.38 Livy ) The idea that Romulus in particular, was a self-made man, shows that Rome owes nothing to previous and other nations like Greece and so the pride of such a great nation is all theirs.

There is plenty of evidence that Rome was always a highly religious nation. From even as early as the founding of the nation we see their dependance on auguries of the gods to make important decisions – namely the choice between Romulus and Remus as their leader. ” As the brothers were twins and all question of seniority was thereby precluded, they determined to ask the tutelary gods of the countryside to declare by augury which of them should govern the new town once it was founded, and give his name to it ( p.40 Livy ).”
More than any one other aspect of Roman behavior, I feel that recognition and respect of the ways of their ancestors as the ways of True Romans was the most primary source from which Romans defined there identity. This respect stemmed from oral tradition and early historians works that have not survived to us, but which Livy owes his knowledge. From the respect of great deeds that made their cultural history so worth of pride, came their habits of dedicating particular places and edifices in the name of honorable contemporaries and ancestors. Take for instance the story of Caius Mucius Scaevola, a man who was willing to risk anything to save rome from a Etruscan attack. It cost him his hand, hence the name Scaevola- translating as the Left-Handed Man, but his efforts brought peace to the struggle. Livy tells of the recognition of this Roman hero: “Cauis Muscius was rewarded by the Senate with a grant of land west of the river; it was known subsequently as the Muscian Meadows ( P.120 Livy ).” Not only was this naming of places indicative of the honor, but the name they chose showed something – the congnomen Musius was chosen, not his prinomen or Scaevola, the name he won for himself. It was recognized that the honor was for the family and for the family, though Caius would be remembered, the gaine family pride of the Mucius family only contributed to their own pride in their country.

Roman society encouraged being proud and respectful of the honors of the city and its citizens. Roman tradition and respect for the mos maiorum ( ways of the ancestors ) was not only a trait that defined everyday roman life, but the way with which romans defined their own personal identity as Romans.


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