10 Exciting Roman mythologies and legends

Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece have always been on top when it came to their mythologies and legends. The myths and legends have influenced every culture, tradition, art, and literature. 

Romans have always had a massive belief in their legendary gods and supernatural activities. Even the foundation of the city of Rome has a myth and a legend behind it. 

The myths of Janus and legend about Aeneas are some of the famous Roman mythologies and legends. However, numerous other myths and legends have been a part of Roman history and have had a significant impact on the day-to-day lifestyle of the Romans.

The top 10 most famous mythologies and legends are discussed here in this article.

10. The myth about the abduction of the Sabine Women 

A portrait depicting the abduction of the Sabine Woman
A portrait depicting the abduction of the Sabine Woman
Source: Wikimedia Common

This is one of the famous myths of ancient Rome, which is still taught in schools in Italy. During the beginning of Rome in the 8th Century BC, the myth was with the city’s foundation by Romulus.

Initially, Rome’s population only included males, mostly the Latins, Italics, and bandits. The absence of a female population created fear in the city, the Senate, and the Emperors, not lasting forever.

The fear led to bringing females from the nearest cities and making them the Romans’ wives. This would help to extend their family and the population of the city.

But, the plan was not accepted by any female living in nearby towns, so the Senate came up with another method of putting on a festival, Neptune Equester, with numerous activities and games dedicated to the Neptune God. 

The Sabines were the people living nearest to the city of Rome, and they were against sending their women to Rome. But, the festival organized attracted the Sabines as well – both men and women.

However, it ended wrongly as the Romans began fighting with Sabine men, abducting about 30 Sabine women and forced them to marry them. Not just the female, Romans seized their family as well. 

This act of abducting or kidnapping was not a one-time incident in ancient days but a frequent one. This abduction led to war between the Romans and the Sabines’ which was stopped with the wife of Romulus, Hersilia – a Sabine Woman.

Despite the initial hesitation, the abducted women accepted the Romans as their husbands with time.

9.  The Myth of Janus

A double headed statue of Roman God Janus
A double-headed statue of Roman God Janus
Source: Wikimedia Common

The myth of Janus is about the Roman God Janus, who is associated as the Roman god of gates, beginnings, time, transitions, and duality.

Since his character had both the sides of the beginning and the ending, the month of January was named after him. In January, everybody would look back on the last year as the ending, and at the same time, they would also look forward to the next year as the beginning.

Even the temple’s gates dedicated to him would have their gates opened during the beginning of the war and closed at the end. He was considered responsible for starting and ending wars and as the god with two faces – war and peace.

However, this particular myth is related to the incident of the Sabine Women’s abduction. According to the legend, Janus saved Sabine women abducted by Romulus by flooding the way with a volcanic hot spring. 

The spring would bury all the kidnappers coming to abduct the Sabine women under the boiling water. With this idea, Janus saved many women but could not protect 20 women that the Romans successfully abducted.

8. The myth about Pluto and the River Styx

The photo of water from one of the sources of the River Styx
The photo of water from one of the sources of the River Styx
Source: Wikimedia Common

The myth about Pluto and the River Styx is the most exciting myth of ancient Rome. It is related to the Roman god of death, Pluto, and a river between life and death, River Styx.

According to this myth, anyone who died would have to cross the river of death, River Styx, and reach the other side where they would be waiting for their turn to be reborn.

The time they would be waiting would make them forget their past life, and when reborn, they would have a fresh brain without any memory of their past.

But to reach the other side, the dead would have to be buried with a coin on their mouth, as the coin would work as the fare for their journey in a boat across the river.

The person responsible for taking the deads to the other side of the river was Ferryman Charon. He would only take a dead person on his boat if that person had a coin in his mouth.

The person buried without a coin in his mouth would be stuck and never get a chance to cross the river unless he tried and swam across the massive river.

The river had a bad omen, anyone touching the river or getting in nearest contact with it would be unable to speak for nine years. Even the gods would have to face this consequence, so this river was taken as the most powerful river in ancient days.

7. The myth of Jupiter and the Bee

The King of the Roman Gods, Jupiter
The King of the Roman Gods, Jupiter
Source: Wikimedia Common

The myth is about the King of the Roman Gods, Jupiter, Queen of the Roman gods, Juno, and the hive Queen.

According to the myth, the hive’s queen was frustrated with mortals taking the honey from the pack without permission. So, she goes to the King of the Roman Gods to help protect her honey and punish the people involved.

She offers him some of her honey to King Jupiter, which he finds very delicious. He, in return, asks her what he could do for her. The bee then asks him to provide her with a shield or a weapon to protect the honey from the mortals taking her honey.

Jupiter gets a bit annoyed at first and asks if she was talking about killing all the kings, including Jupiter.  Thinking her wish would not be fulfilled through the King, she goes to queen Juno and offers her some honey.

Like Jupiter, Juno also finds the honey very delicious and suggests that Jupiter bless the bee with a stinger but a condition.

If any bee stings anyone for stealing the honey, the bee would have to pay its life for it. The bee would have a choice of either stinging and losing its life or sharing the honey. So, the blessing was for every bee, and it stands today; any bee who stings must pay back with their life.

6. The Myth of Jupiter and lo

Depiction of the cloud version of Jupiter and lo
Depiction of the cloud version of Jupiter and lo
Source: Wikimedia Common

This is the myth about the King of Roman gods, Jupiter, and a priestess lo, who fall in love. 

Despite being married to Juno, Jupiter falls deeply in love with lo and changes himself into a black cloud. The plan works for a while as no one knew the truth about the black cloud.

However, Juno finds out that her husband turned himself into a black cloud for lo, and she in return converts lo into a white cow. She then asks her most trustworthy guard, Argus, to keep an eye on him. 

Argus would never sleep as he had hundreds of eyes, and they would never sleep at once. The task of freeing lo from Angus seemed very difficult to Jupiter. But he still asks his son Mercury to tell stories until Argus fell asleep with all his eyes and then skilled him.

The plan becomes successful after numerous trials. Juno comes to know about this incident, and she asks a gadfly to sting the white cow. 

Knowing about this plan, Jupiter convinces Juno not to do that, and for that, he would never chase lo. Lo then goes to Egypt and has never returned since then.

5. Legend of Lucretia

A portrait of Lucretia's rape scene by Sextus Tarquinius
A portrait of Lucretia’s rape scene by Sextus Tarquinius
Source: Wikimedia Common

The legend of Lucretia changed the Roman government from a monarchy to a republic. The story surrounds the event of rape and suicide of Lucretia, a legendary heroine of ancient Rome. It is one of the darkest sides of Ancient Rome that surprisingly inspired and left an imprint on the world forever.

The legend begins with the rape of Lucretia by Tarquin, an Etruscan King’s son, which resulted in the suicide of Lucretia and then in the rebellion against the Roman monarchy.

The husband of Lucretia, along with the influential families and prominent figures, formed a republic going against the ill deeds of the Etruscan and Latins. Since then, rape has gained the top position in European art and literature.

The incident of rape happened in 509 BCE, but all the records of this event were destroyed in 390 BCE by the Gauls. Though the incident was a cruel one, the result became a lesson learning incident for everyone since the event.

Rape was considered a severe crime, and the person involved was punished with a painful punishment.

4. Legend about Apollo and Cassandra

A statue of Apollo
A statue of Apollo
Source: Wikimedia Common

This is a legend about Apollo, the son of Zeus-Leto, and Cassandra, the daughter of Priam-Hecuba. Apollo was the most handsome male of the Olympus, while Cassandra was the most beautiful woman of Troy.

According to the legend, Apollo was in love with Cassandra and wanted her to team with him, and in return, he would give her the power of prophecy.

Cassandra agreed to the plan and achieved the power prophecy, but she avoided Apollo and burnt him into flames once she achieved it.

In anger and revenge, Apollo told everyone not to believe in anything she says as everything she speaks is always a lie and words of betrayal. Apollo’s anger resulted in a bad phase in Cassandra’s life as no one believed in her prophecy.

As Apollo said, she tried to warn Troy that the Greeks would destroy it, but no one was ready to listen to her or believe her. But Troy was destroyed by the Greeks, as foreseen by Cassandra.

3. Legend about Aeneas

a portrayal of Aeneas
a portrayal of Aeneas
Source: WIikimedia Common

This legend is about the mythical hero of Rome and Troy, Aeneas, also known as the ancestors of Romulus and Remus. He played a prominent role during the war between the Greeks and Troy in the Trojan War. 

According to the Roman poet Virgil’s poem – the Aeneid, Aeneas traveled to Italy and became the progenitor of the Romans along with many other.

The whole group was known as the Aeneads, and Aeneas was one of the few who was not harmed during the Trojan War, even after Troy was destroyed.

The team of the Aeneads carried many statues of Trojan Gods to plant them in Italy as they honored every god and goddess.

However, they had to travel a long way for about six years before they reached Carthage. While reaching Carthage, Aeneas meets Dido, the Queen of Carthage, and they fall in love.

They plan on living together in Carthage and building a future for themselves. But, Aeneas leaves Carthage after few months as his mother advises him to come back to brighten his future.

Dido gets frustrated on finding that Aeneas has left her alone, and she stabs herself with a sword and curses of enmity in Rome. 

2. Legend about legendary woman Cloelia

A portrait of Cloelia trying to cross the Tiber
A portrait of Cloelia trying to cross the Tiber
Source: Wikimedia Common

This legend is about Cloelia, the most courageous woman of ancient history. She was a regular woman abducted by the Romans along with other young noblemen and maidens.

After his victory in the Etruscan war, the Romans kidnapped this group to gift them to Lars Porsena, the Etruscan King.

The act of Cloelia after being abducted made history as she led the women and escaped from the Porsena’s camp. Despite successfully escaping, their parents returned to the King as they feared being punished and wanted to complete the treaty period.

King Porsena was already impressed by the bravery shown by Cloelia, so he granted her a horse, weapon, and freedom. Cloelia, during her freedom, demands the release of the other women as well.

King accepts her offer and releases Cloelia and other younger girls. Since the incident, Cloelia has been an inspiration and idol for almost all the women then and until today.

1. The legend of Romulus and Remus

The young image of Romulus and Remus
The young image of Romulus and Remus
Source: Wikimedia Common

The legend of Romulus and Remus is the most famous legend about twin brothers, Romulus and Remus.

The legend begins with abandoning these twin brothers by their parents, Mars and Rhea Silvia when they were very young. Both the brothers were put in a basket and placed into the Tiber River to be floated to a new place.

The baskets floated across the river until a female wolf found and saved them. They began living in a village as farmers and shepherds, but they returned to Alba Longa’s birthplace.

They argued for supporting Numitor, and Amulius and Remus ended up being in prison in Alba Longa. And then, they both came to know about their original identity and then fought on the topic of where to build the city.

Remus was killed in the fight, and Romulus ended up founding the city of Rome alone. Since then, Rome and the whole Roman Empire have been upgrading in every field and influencing everyone.

Conclusion

Though inspired by Greek mythology, Rome has had its own identity based on its unique culture or these fantastic myths and legends. 

All the myths mentioned above and many more have been exciting topics to read and also some to be inspired. For me, the most exciting and most believable is the myth of Jupiter and the Bee since its effect can still be seen in the present day. 

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