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Romulus and Remus – The story that won

Lupa di Roma

Lupa di Roma – Wee Sen Goh via Flickr

In Roman myth Romulus (c. 771 BCE – 717 BCE) and Remus (c. 771 BCE – 753 BCE) are twin brothers born of Mars and Rhea Silvia, a Vestal Virgin.

According to legend Romulus and Remus founded Rome. The story says they were thrown into the Tiber river. After floating downstream to the Palatine, they are discovered and nurtured by a she-wolf.

Upon maturation, they erect a city wall at the place where they had been rescued by the she-wolf.

Later, the two argue over who is favored by the gods to name the new city. The upshot of this conflict is that Romulus – or maybe one of his henchmen – murders Remus.

Romulus then becomes the first ruler of Rome and names the city after himself.

The ancient writers Plutarch and Livy treat this tale as if it were actual history. But today, we have a different story:

The origins of the different elements in Rome’s foundation myth are a subject of ongoing debate. they may have come from the Romans’ own indigenous origins, or from Hellenic influences that were included later. Definitively identifying those original elements has so far eluded the classical academic community. Although the tale takes place before the founding of Rome around 750 BC, the earliest known written account of the myth is from the late 3rd century BC.[6] There is an ongoing debate about how and when the “complete” fable came together.¹

Romulus and Remus nursed by the She-wolf by Pe...

Romulus and Remus nursed by the She-wolf by Peter Paul Rubens Rome, Capitoline Museums (Photo: Wikipedia)

As noted elsewhere, the Romulus and Remus myth is not the only story about the founding of Rome:

The founding of Rome is understood in terms of two mythic tales. One about Romulus and Remus. The other about Aeneas. The Romulus and Remus myth seems to have mostly won out. Any popular videos I’ve seen about Rome tell about their being suckled by a she-wolf but ignore the tale of Aeneas. Such is life… and history.

I’m not a Roman historian so, rather than spend days rewriting something I’m only mildly interested in, I have highlighted some main points here. Readers wanting more could also check out the lively podcast at Spotify: The History of Rome (mobile).²



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In the original Star Trek TV series Sargon is a forceful, intelligent mind residing in a glowing orb. Sargon abducts Captain Kirk and plans to inhabit his body.¹

This fictional Sargon is named after two ancient Sargons who walked this Earth. Sargon I was a Akkadian king (2400 BCE) said to have built Babylon. Sargon II was an Assyrian king (around 700 BCE). Both were successful militarists.

More and more people are saying that the Star Trek franchise has created something of a modern myth. One of the ingredients for Star Trek‘s lasting success is the recasting of elements from history, myth and legend within an optimistic, socially progressive future.

King Sargon II and a Dignatary by Sharon Mollerus

King Sargon II and a Dignatary by Sharon Mollerus via Flickr

Depth psychologists and cultural theorists say that the use of history in storytelling sets off a subconscious resonance, giving a story charm, fascination and, as religious studies scholars would put it, numinous allure.

The use of Sargon in this episode is a good example of calling up the past, injecting it into the present while imagining the future.

¹ Excellent outline of the story »



English: Athanasius Kircher's Map of Atlantis ...

Athanasius Kircher’s Map of Atlantis (c.1669). Note that north is at bottom. Latina: Situs Insulae Atlantidis, a Mari olim absorpte ex mente Egyptiorum et Platonis descriptio. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Atlantis is an ancient, possibly legendary civilization whose military capabilities apparently posed a threat to Europe and Africa before it finally disappeared into the sea.

This known history goes like this:

An Egyptian priest at Sykes showed the Greek statesman Solon ancient temple records telling of Atlantis. Dating back over 9,000 years, the records claimed that massive destruction periodically befalls the Earth, forcing mankind “to begin again like children with no memory of what went before.” The destruction of Atlantis is variously attributed to an earthquake, volcano or high-tech weapons.

The grandfather of the Greek philosopher Plato heard the story of Atlantis from Solon. And Plato writes about Atlantis as a kind of utopia in his dialogues Timeus and Critias.

Subsequent variations of the story say the Atlantians had high-tech death-rays, hot and cold running water and miraculous cures.

But archaeological paintings allegedly depicting Atlantis include boats propelled by men with primitive poles, which doesn’t quite add up: Why so primitive a means of propulsion if Atlantis boasted incredibly high tech resources?

Recent scientific and archaeological expeditions are hoping to uncover hard evidence for Atlantis. Some researchers believe that orbiting electronic instruments will discover Atlantis’ true location. Others are using Google Earth to try to discern the location.

Said to be a paradise before its destruction, Atlantis apparently had a temple of Poseidon at its center. And after its destruction, some survivors are said to have been scattered across the globe by sea. Some believe this accounts for the seemingly paranormal feats of architecture found around the world—from Stonehenge to the massive sandstone etchings in Peru, and the staggering pyramids of Egypt and Aztec Central America.

Also, parallel tales about a lost civilization destroyed by catastrophe were simultaneously recorded by an Egyptian scribe and a Mayan stone cutter.

True or false?

Apparently the Greek government prohibited exploration of an underwater area that researchers believe would prove the existence of Atlantis.

Aristotle seemed to believe that Plato was mythologizing about Atlantis to symbolically warn against “overweening ambition,” as Shakespeare would later caution through his character, Macbeth.

Stargate Atlantis

Stargate Atlantis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Paula Byerly Croxon adds that Plato’s myth about Atlantis was “underscored by the visions of Madame Blavatsky and Edgar Cayce.”¹

While it’s easy to be skeptical about the historicity of Atlantis, we should keep in mind that the ancient city of Troy was widely thought to be mythical until an archaeological dig proved its existence in the 1870s.

Whatever the truth may be, the myth continues with the American-Canadian science fiction TV program Stargate Atlantis that appeared in 2006, a spin-off from the very popular Stargate SG-1 series.

¹ The Piatkus Dictionary of Mind, Body & Spirit, London: Piatkus, 2003 p. 24.

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A sculpture of the sword given to King Arthur ...

A sculpture of the sword given to King Arthur by the Lady of the Lake, in the lake of Kingston Maurward gardens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Excalibur is the legendary sword of King Arthur, often said in traditional and contemporary¹ lore to have magical powers.

In Malory’s Morte d’Arthur the young boy Arthur succeeds in pulling the sword from a stone, a seemingly impossible feat which not even adults can accomplish. In another account the sword is given to Arthur by the Lady of the Lake.

As Arthur is dying he commands Sir Bedivere to toss the sword into the lake and a mysterious hand grasps it, drawing it under the surface. In an older version of the legend by Geoffrey of Monmouth, Arthur’s sword is known as Caliburn.

¹ Such as the TV series Merlin » and

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The Three Fates

The Three Fates, Leeson Street Gate, Stephen's Green, Dublin, Ireland - Jaqian via Wikipedia

The Greek Fates or Moirae were three goddesses in charge of the destiny of human beings from birth to death.

Clotho spun the thread of a person’s life. Lachesis determined the length of the thread (one’s lifespan). And Atropos clipped the thread at the time of a person’s death.

Although other Greek gods were immortal, they too feared the Fates. The gods often favored heroic or noble human beings and had to appease or bargain with the Fates to deliver someone from the underworld.

Fortune tellers acted as mediums for the Fates. Normally depicted as ugly old hags, some mythic stories say the Fates were born of Zeus and the Titaness Themis (representing justice) but no unified opinion exists as to their origin.

They were called Parcae by the Romans, who incorporated many Greek core ideas into their religion.


Holy Grail

"How at the Castle of Corbin a maiden bar...

"How at the Castle of Corbin a maiden bare in the Sangreal and foretold the achievements of Galahad via Wikipedia

The Holy Grail is the chalice that, according to legend, Christ and his disciplines drank from at the Last Supper. Joseph of Arimathea is said to have placed drops of Christ’s blood in the Grail before taking it to Glastonbury.

In Arthurian legend the cup is named Sangreal and was pursued by the Knights of the Round Table after it miraculously appeared at Pentecost, just above King Arthur’s famous Round Table.

Some scholars believe that the archetypal “Holy Cup” may have appeared in pre-Christian Celtic myth but by the 12th century the Grail was well established in medieval romantic literature. The most popular of these is Chrétien de Troyes and Robert de Boron’s Joseph d’Arimathie. But the idea first emerged in Perceval, le Conte du Graal (The Story of the Grail) by Chrétien de Troyes.

The Grail is first featured in Perceval, le Conte du Graal (The Story of the Grail) by Chrétien de Troyes, who claims he was working from a source book given to him by his patron, Count Philip of Flanders. In this incomplete poem, dated sometime between 1180 and 1191, the object has not yet acquired the implications of holiness it would have in later works. While dining in the magical abode of the Fisher King, Perceval witnesses a wondrous procession in which youths carry magnificent objects from one chamber to another, passing before him at each course of the meal. First comes a young man carrying a bleeding lance, then two boys carrying candelabras. Finally, a beautiful young girl emerges bearing an elaborately decorated graal, or “grail.”¹

The depth psychiatrist Carl Jung saw the Grail as a symbol of the eternal self, and other Jungians have gone into an elaborate archetypal analysis of the Grail story, conforming their interpretations to Jung’s theories.

More recently some treat the Holy Grail as historical fact instead of fiction or psychological fact. And new legends have arisen from that. But to most, complicated metaphysical Holy Grail theories, old and new, are at best legends intended to inspire. The more recent of these could also be calculated attempts to sell books to gullible consumers always on the watch for some ephemeral fascination.


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Perceval, le Conte du Graal (The Story of the Grail) by Chrétien de Troyes

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The Rhine at the Loreley

The Rhine at the Loreley via Wikipedia

Lorelei is a Germanic enchantress or mermaid whose melodious song drew sailors over reefs to their doom.

Lorelei began as a literary figure created by Klemens Brentano at the turn of the 19th century. This “Lore Lay”

is falsely accused of maliciously bewitching men and driving them to ruin; later pardoned and on the way to a nunnery she passes and climbs the Lorelei rock, watching out for the lover who abandoned her, and falls to her death; the rock still retained an echo of her name afterwards. Brentano had taken inspiration from Ovid and the Echo myth.¹

She soon became the object of poetry and legend throughout England, to the extent that a myth arose concerning a tall, echoing rock in the Rhine river-the “Lorelei Rock.”

Lorelei has also been recounted in song, from composers as diverse as the virtuoso Franz Liszt to the pop stars Styx and the underground hipsters the Cocteau Twins.