Founding of Rome after Troy

The connection of Troy and Rome always fascinated me. I always wanted to know how is the great war related to the great city. So, here I have given an effort to know how was the city of ROME founded on 21st April 753 BCE and what is the connection of Troy with the city.

Aeneas flees burning Troy
by Federico Barocci (1598 AD)


The Virgil’s Aeneid explains that Aeneas is one of the few Trojans who were not killed or enslaved when Troy fell. Aeneas was the chief lieutenant of Hector. Aeneas, after being commanded by the gods to flee, gathered a group, collectively known as the Aeneads, who then traveled to Italy and became progenitors of Romans. The Aeneads included Aeneas’s trumpeter Misenus, his father Anchises, his friends Achates, Sergestus, and Acmon, the healer Iapyx, the helmsman Palinurus, his wife Creusa and his son Ascanius (also known as Iulus, Julus, or Ascanius Julius). He carried with him the Lares and Penates, the statues of the household gods of Troy and transplanted them to Italy. Several attempts to find a new home failed; one such stop was on Sicily, where in Drepanum, on the island’s western coast, his father, Anchises, died peacefully.

The Meeting of Dido and Aeneas
by Sir Nathaniel Dance-Holland(1766 AD)

Dido was, according to ancient Greek and Roman sources, the founder and first queen of Carthage (modern-day Tunisia). She is primarily known from the account given by the Roman poet Virgil in his epic, Aeneid. After a brief but fierce storm sent up against the group at Juno’s request, Aeneas and his fleet made landfall at Carthage after six years of wanderings. Aeneas had a year-long affair with the Carthaginian queen Dido (also known as Elissa), who proposed that the Trojans settle in her land and that she and Aeneas reign jointly over their peoples. A marriage of sorts was arranged between Dido and Aeneas at the instigation of Juno. Dido was told that her favorite city would eventually be defeated by the Trojans’ descendants. Aeneas’s mother Venus (the Roman adaptation of Aphrodite) realized that her son and his company needed a temporary respite to reinforce themselves for the journey to come. However, the messenger god Mercury was sent by Jupiter and Venus to remind Aeneas of his journey and his purpose, compelling him to leave secretly. When Dido learned of this, she uttered a curse that would forever pit Carthage against Rome, an enmity that would culminate in the Punic Wars. She then committed suicide by stabbing herself with the same sword she gave Aeneas when they first met. After the sojourn in Carthage, the Trojans returned to Sicily where Aeneas organized funeral games to honor his father, who had died a year before. The company traveled on and landed on the western coast of Italy. Aeneas descended into the underworld where he met Dido (who turned away from him to return to her husband) and his father, who showed him the future of his descendants and thus the history of Rome.

The Death of Dido
Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-92 AD)

Mercury told Aeneas of all the promising Italian lands and orders Aeneas to get his fleet ready. Dido could no longer bear to live. She had her sister Anna build her a pyre under the pretense of burning all that reminded her of Aeneas, including weapons and clothes that Aeneas had left behind and (what she calls) their bridal bed (though, according to Aeneas, they were never officially married). When Dido saw Aeneas’ fleet leaving she cursed him and his Trojans and proclaimed endless hate between Carthage and the descendants of Troy, foreshadowing the Punic Wars. Dido ascended the pyre, lay again on the couch which she had shared with Aeneas, and then fell on a sword that Aeneas had given her. Anna rushed in and embraced her dying sister; Juno sent Iris from heaven to release Dido’s spirit from her body. From their ships, Aeneas and his crew saw the glow of Dido’s burning funeral pyre and could only guess what has happened

After leaving Carthage, Aeneas and his fleet made their way back to Sicily, where they landed at Eryx. Their next major stop was in Italy, shortly before their destination, at Cumae. There they met with the prophetic priestess the Sibyl of Cumae, who assisted Aeneas to descend to the Underworld, where he met with his father. His father once again confirmed his victory in Italy and the founding of Rome and told his son that Lavinia would become his new wife. So, after leaving the Underworld Aeneas gathered his fleet and sailed.

From a Liebig trade card
A Trojan embassy comes with gifts before King Latinus of Latium. The newcomers offer alliance along with the relics from Troy. The king, remembering the oracle, offers the hand of his daughter Lavinia to the absent Aeneas.

Latinus was the ruler of Latium, His daughter, Lavinia, was promised in marriage to the handsome prince Turnus, but when Latinus sought the oracle, he was told that his daughter should wed the Trojan, Aeneas. The elderly Latinus wishing for peace, obeyed the oracle. Turnus attacked the combined forces of the Trojans and the Latins. In the battle Latinus was killed but Turnus was defeated. Aeneas became the leader of both the Trojan and the Latins who were rapidly marrying into a single people. Turnus turned north to seek help from the powerful Etruscans who then attached the Combined forces of the Latins. Aeneas’s forces defeated the Etruscans and Turnus died by the blade of Aeneas. The war ended leaving the Tiber river as the boundary between the Latins and the Etruscans.

After Aeneas died, his son Ascanius became the king. Ascanius’s mother Creusa was the daughter of the Trojen king Priam. The city of Lavinium, founded by Aeneas earlier, became too small to accommodate the growing population of the Trojans so, Ascanius moved east and established a new city called Alba Longa, thirty years after the city Lavinium was established. As the day progressed Latins became powerful and secured. Ascanius was succeeded by Silvius, the son of Aeneas and Lavinia. Generations followed and from the family tree of Aeneas and Lavinia two brothers came into power named Numitor and Amulius. Amulius seized the power to the throne and the king Numitor was driven out from Alba Longa. All the sons of Numitor was killed and his daughter Rhea Silvia was forced to became a vestal virgin to ensure that she would bear no children who can threat Amulius.

“Dedication of a Vestal”
 by Alessandro Marchesini (1710 AD)

Vestal Virgins : In ancient Rome, the Vestals or Vestal Virgins were priestesses of Vesta, goddess of the hearthhome, and family in the Roman religion . The College of the Vestals and its well-being were regarded as fundamental to the continuance and security of Rome. They cultivated the sacred fire that was not allowed to go out. The Vestals were freed of the usual social obligations to marry and bear children, and took a vow of chastity in order to devote themselves to the study and correct observance of state rituals that were off-limits to the male colleges of priests. Their tasks included the maintenance of the fire sacred to Vesta, the goddess of the hearth and home, collecting water from a sacred spring, preparation of food used in rituals and caring for sacred objects in the temple’s sanctuary. By maintaining Vesta’s sacred fire, from which anyone could receive fire for household use, they functioned as “surrogate housekeepers”, in a religious sense, for all of Rome. Their sacred fire was treated, in Imperial times, as the emperor’s household fire. The Vestals were put in charge of keeping safe the wills and testaments of various people such as Caesar and Mark Antony. In addition, the Vestals also guarded some sacred objects, including the Palladium, and made a special kind of flour called Mola salsa which was sprinkled on all public offerings to a god.

“Mars and Rhea Silvia”
by Peter Paul Rubens (1617 AD)
Now in the Liechtenstein Museum in Vienna. It shows Mars’s rape of Rhea Silvia, which resulted in the birth of Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome

After taking the vows (for becoming a Vestal Virgin), Rhea Silvia, the daughter of Numitor, became the victim of rape and consequently gave birth to twin boys. Rhea declared that the god Mars was the father but nobody gave importance. For the crime of allowing herself to be raped she was thrown imprisoned.

Romulus and Remus milked by the she-wolf
by Sir Peter Paul Rubens(1616 AD)
The painting depicts Shepherd Faustol (on the right) finding Romulus and Remus nursed by a wolf (center). An old man (symbolizing the Tiber river) and a woman (Rhea Silvia, mother of Romulus and Remus) assist the scene on the left

The twins, Romulus & Remus were sent to be drowned in the Tiber however the man entrusted with the task found the river flooded and left the boys in a sluggish water rather than slogging their way into the river itself. When the flood-water ceded, the babies were left alive and well in the reeds. Legend says here that a she wolf coming to the river to quench its thrust found the babies and offered her tits to them to suck along. Later a herdsman came upon the scene and gathered the children up from the wolf and took them home with him. The herdsman and his wife Acca Larentia raised the boys Romulus and Remus.

The Shepherd Faustulus Bringing Romulus and Remus to His Wife
by Nicolas Mignard (1654 AD)


The two boys grew up to be shepherds like their adoptive father but they used to fight with the local criminals who raided the countryside. The boys also began taking fight against the robbers, raiding their camp and stealing from them. The criminals angered by the theft of their booty set a trap for Romulus and Remus. Romulus managed to escape but Remus was captured. The bargain took Remus to the local landowner who turned out to be none other than the exiled Numitor. The criminals claimed that Remus and his brother were caught stealing Numitor’s cattle and should be punished. Out of perception, Numitor started to inquire and finally recognized Remus as his grandson. On the other side, the herdsman too decided to tell Romulus the whole story. As Numitor, Romulus and Remus came close to each other, the next plan was to capture the throne of Alba Longa from Amulius. With Romulus and Remus leading two groups of men, they attacked and killed Amulius and brought back Numitor to Alba Longa. Numitor became the king.

After Amulius’ death, the brothers left Alba Longa seeking to found their own city at the spot where they were left to be drowned, and each set out to find the best locale. The brothers quarreled over the location of the foundation of their new city; Romulus wished to start the city on the Palatine Hill, while Remus wished to found it on the Aventine Hill. In order to settle their disagreement, they agreed to consult augury; augury is a type of prophecy in which birds are examined and observed to determine what actions or persons the gods favor. Each brother prepared a sacred space on their respective hills and began to watch for birds. Remus claimed to have seen six birds, while Romulus said he saw twelve birds. Romulus asserted that he was the clear winner by six birds, but Remus argued that since he saw his six birds first, he had won. The brothers remained at a standstill and continued to quarrel until Romulus began to dig trenches and build walls around his hill: the Palatine Hill

In response to Romulus’ construction, Remus made continuous fun of the wall and his brother’s city. Remus was so bold as to jump over Romulus’ wall jestingly. In response to Remus’ mockeries and for jumping over his wall, Romulus, angered by his brother’s belittlement, killed him. There are several versions as to how Remus was killed on the day Rome was founded. In Livy’s version, Remus simply died after jumping over Romulus’ wall, which is thought to be a sign from the gods of Rome’s power and fate. According to St. Jerome, Remus was killed for his mockery by one of Romulus’ supporters, either Fabius or Celer, who killed Remus by throwing a spade at his head. Afterwards, Romulus mournfully buries his brother, bestowing upon him full funeral honors. However, most sources would convey that Romulus killed Remus. Remus’ death and founding of Rome are dated by Livy to April 21st, 753 BCE

After Romulus founded the city, it became apparent that he would need to attract settlers in order to ensure the city’s survival. City was opened to all, however all the outrages of the society such as fugitives, escapes, slaves, debtors and criminals all flocked to the new town to start afresh and Romulus welcomed them with open arms. The first Roman legion was established which consisted of three thousand foot soldiers and three hundred cavalry. Soldiers in those days had to equip themselves, so only wealthy citizens own the cavalry. Romulus established a council of hundred senators to help him govern the kingdom. The number ‘hundred’ has got a significance. It is possible that their were not enough men noble enough to be given such responsibilities. Descendants of these senators will be called the Patricians in the later Rome who would find them in constant arch with the Plebeian class, the descendants of the remaining unwashed masses.

‘Representation of a sitting of the Roman senate’
Cicero attacks Catiline, from a 19th-century fresco in Palazzo Madama, Rome

Rome was now ready to defend and govern itself but the problem was that the new immigrants were entirely male. Without any woman, around the dream of Rome, would die after a single generation so delegations were sent to the neighboring communities asking for the intermarriages but wherever the Romans went they were refused. Fathers did not want their daughters to marry the Romans who were nothing but a collection of despicable men. Romans resented their rejection and planned for a mass stealing. Romans invited all the neighboring communities in a festival honoring Neptune. A great crowd gathered on the day including the famous Sabines. Romulus suddenly gave a signal and men of Rome captured all the visiting women. Festival broken up as parents of the ceased women fled the city cursing the treachery of the Romans.

“The Rape of the Sabine Women”
by Nicolas POUSSIN (Rome, 1637-38 AD)

The painting depicts one of the mythical episodes surrounding the history of ancient Rome. Poussin has chosen to illustrate the scene of the abduction. Romulus stands on the left, dominating the proceedings, in a pose directly inspired by Imperial statues. In the central section, the painter emphasizes the panic and confrontation between the men and women(Ref – Louvre Museum)


Three years after the “rape of the Sabine Women”, the Sabines attempted to get them back. Attacked followed in succession from the victimized communities but each was repelled my Romulus and his men. Only the Sabines did not take the revenge and they waited & planned rather than immediately taking the action. The Sabines bribed a young girl to let them into the Citadel of the City and attacked it before the Romans could react. Romans immediately launched a counter attack. A brief battle was joined but neither side got the upper hand. Finally the Sabine women, daughters at one end and husbands on the other, intervened pleading them to hold. Their movement ultimately moved the opposing armies and the peace was made ultimately making the Romans and the Sabines into a single political entity.

The Intervention of the Sabine Women
by Jacques-Louis David (1799 AD)

David depicts the episode here. The Sabine women are intervening to stop the bloodshed. Hersilia is throwing herself between her husband, the king of Rome, and her father, the king of the Sabines. Thus peace was achieved between the two peoples(Ref – Louvre Museum)

After the Sabines joined with the Romans and power sharing agreement was reached, Romulus agreed to rule jointly with the Sabine king Theseus. The newly integrated citizens of the city were divided into three tribes – the first was made of the Romans, the second was with the Sabines and the third one consisted of the remaining population mostly from the Etruscan origin. A hundred leading Sabines were then added to the senate doubling its size. Leadership thus established, Romulus formed the first great citizens’ assembly “the commit of Creada”. To do so he further divided each tribe into ten Quriae named each one after the name of the abducted Sabine woman to honor them for their role in the peace making. Each Quriae cast one collected vote making thirty total and the assembly was passed with electing various magistrate and enacting various routine laws. Thus the original Political Constitution was settled. The king remained supreme but from the beginning the senate and the citizens’ assembly were involved in various judicial and legislative functions. During this time the Roman legions doubled its size with approximately six thousand men. The power sharing agreement with the Sabine king lasted for five years. After that, due to some reason, the Sabine king had assaulted some anguish from Lavinium and later when he arrived at the city for routine religious services he was killed by a mob. Romulus did not seek war with Lavinia and secretly welcomed the death of his rival co-rular. The Sabines outraged but fearing Romulus’s power and divine mission held themselves. Romulus now reign supreme once again. For the next forty years Rome fought against hostile neighbors continuously usually Etruscans cities to the north. By the time Romulus was dead, he left the Romans with the power to be recon with. His death is not clear. It is possible that he was murdered by his senators.

Romulus, Victory Over Acron
by is a painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres(1812 AD)

The composition shows Romulus, the mythical founder of Rome, who has just triumphed over the Ceninenses, a people near Rome, following the rape of the Sabine women. Acron, king of the Ceninenses, is lying on the ground on the right. Romulus has taken the spolia opima and is taking them in a procession to Jupiter’s temple (Ref – Luovre Museum)


From a collection of shepherds Rome transformed into an original power. The city’s initial inhabitants were criminals. The City was founded by a man who killed his own brother and was raised by a whore. The newly founded city which could not find a single willing woman to join them and eventually women were kidnapped and rapped and then to protect their ill god they proceeded to make war with their in-laws. There was not a single sympathetic figure in the whole bunch. The city almost found itself ruling for the Etruscans to put the rebel down and restore some decency into the world. But at least the Romans were strong and would not be conquered even if they were total bastards. This is the moral of the Roman birth. The Romans won and grew and thrive not because of they were good or right or god’s chosen people, but because they were strong and knew how to win battle. Might may not make right but can make a thousand year old civilization.

Roman legion by the end of Augustus Caesar’s rule, Rome’s first Emperor
Ref – centrici.hypotheses.org


References from: ‘The History of ROME’ by Mike Duncan(Podcast Series),
‘Aeneid’ by Virgil, Wikipedia & other sources

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