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Legendary Rivals: Collegiality and Ambition in the Tales of Early Rome, by Jaclyn Neel

Leiden & Boston: E.J. Brill, 2014. Pp. x, 274. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $148.00. ISBN: 9004272690.

Roman Politics Shaping and Being Shaped by the Legendary Past

Prof. Neel (York, Canada) looks into the myth of “Romulus and Remus” and the early history of Rome as the myth evolved over the centuries of the Republic and the Empire. Unlike some historians of Rome – and other cultures with a seemingly mythical early history – Neel neither accepts nor rejects the traditional mythic origins of Rome. Her goal is to examines the ways in which later Romans used and shaped the tales to reflect contemporary political experience. 

So Neel finds that in periods during which, despite often serious political differences, there was a high degree of harmony among consular colleagues, most notably during the Punic Wars, versions of Rome’s foundation myths stressed the initial cooperation between the twins, working together to restore their grandfather to his throne and found a new city. On the other hand, in the aftermath of the civil wars that ended the Republic, interpretations stressed the tensions and violence between the twins, reflecting the initial unity and later conflict between the members of the two triumvirates.  

This is a very serious work, and will not only be of value to rigorous students of Roman history, but also to folklorists, political scientists, and probably even historians and anthropologists trying to elucidate the relationship between the foundation myths and the early history of non-literate and other early cultures. 


Note: Legendary Rivals is also available as an e-pup, $148.00, ISBN 978-9-0042-8185-1.


Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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