Plutarch’s Life of Romulus
In Plutarch’s Life of Romulus 11.1-3, the Greek historian chronicles Romulus’ creation of Rome, thus employing a textual element to expose the meanings behind the city’s concepts and structures.
Ancient philosophers and historians often created narrative textual pieces in order to make sense of their surrounding environments and their connection to history. These stories were not often considered to be historically accurate but rather reasonably plausible accounts. Plutarch accounts the way in which he believed that Rome was built under the leadership of Romulus in order to establish a created history for the city. The Romans valued these accounts because they desired an understanding for societal aspects that lacked a sense of contextual meaning. Plutarch writes that after Romulus buried his brother Remus, he enlisted men from Etruria to aid in digging a circular pit around what is known as the “Comitium.” In this pit they placed the “first fruits of all things whose use is thought good by custom and necessary by nature.” Then all the men mixed soils from their native lands in the pit, which they then named the “mundus.” Plutarch explains that this process was outlined in “certain sacred laws and writings” that the men from Etruria taught to Romulus in a way that was similar to a “religious ritual.” This example gives a meaning to the way in which the founders of Rome established a central point around which they drew boundaries for the city. Without this created history, Rome’s placement could be analyzed as entirely arbitrary. Plutarch explains the manner in which the founders employed a bull and cow to drag a plow with a bronze blade to create a groove in the earth that marked the placement of the city’s walls. He continues by writing that the plow was lifted off the ground wherever a gate would be placed instead of wall, thus designating that only the walls would be considered sacred. Plutarch writes, “For if...
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