N1: Now it is time to learn about one of the greatest ancient civilizations: Rome.
N2: Let’s contact the spirits of the ancient Romans. Oh spirits, come and tell us about ancient Rome!
N1: Look!, I see something!
N2: No one else has that shape! I would recognize it anywhere!
N1: It is Italia! The spirit of Italy! And she has little Sicilia (Sicily) with her!
ITALIA: Yes, it is I, Italia! If you want to understand the Romans, first you must understand me, the land of Italy!
N2: Tell us about yourself, Italia!
ITALIA: First, I am, obviously, shaped like a giant, high heeled boot, which seems to be kicking the island of Sicily, which is shaped like a football.
ITALIA: My top is sheltered by the mountains called the Alps, My toe and heel slice into the Mediterranean Sea. My position in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea made me a perfect location for controlling both the eastern and western halves of the Mediterranean.
N1: Are you a mountainous land, like the land of Greece?
ITALIA: I have a range of mountains, called the Apennine Mountains, which run the full length of my eastern side, but they are not as high or rugged as the mountains of Greece. Trade and travel were easier in my land than in Greece. My strategic position in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, and my rich, rolling farmland were important advantages.
N2: So is everything about you advantageous, Italia?
ITALIA: No, I have disadvantages, like every other land. The Alps in the north separate me from the rest of Europe. That was both good and bad. Sometimes the Alps protected me from attack. But there are passes through the Alps, and sometimes invaders streamed through these passes and attacked me. Also my beautiful coastline, which was an advantage most of the time, was sometimes a disadvantage. Sometimes pirates raided me from the sea.
N2: What about rivers. Do you have rivers?
ITALIA: Yes!, The Po River in my northern region lies in a rich, fertile valley. The Arno and Rubicon are smaller, but also important. Tiber River, which runs through my middle, is where my greatest city, Rome,was founded. Here is my friend, the spirit of the Tiber River.
FATHER-TIBER: The city of Rome was founded, in west-central Italy, in the region called Latium, along my banks at a place where there were 7 hills. The location was about 20 miles inland from the Mediterranean Sea, which made it less open to attack by pirates. Rome was founded at a place where I, the Tiber River, was shallow, and was easy to cross.
N2: Will you tell us how Rome was founded?
FATHER –TIBER: Shall I start with the myth or with the historical fact?
N1: Isn’t historical fact more important than myth, father Tiber?
FATHER-TIBER: Not necessarily! Both are important. Myths are sometimes even more important because they tell us what the ancient people believed about themselves. They are a window into the minds and hearts of the people. The great Roman poet Virgil wrote the epic poem, The Aeneid, which told about how Aeneas, a Trojan, came to Italy.
VIRGIL: Long ago, about 1250BC, there was a great war between Greece and Troy. The Greeks won, and burned the city of Troy. After the Greeks destroyed the city, Aeneas, who was a cousin of the royal family of Troy, escaped along with his old father, his small son, and a small group of tired, ragged refugees.
AENEAS: I am Aeneas! I carried my old crippled father on my shoulders, and led my little son by the hand through the smoke of the burning city of Troy. My wife followed, but unfortunately she got lost in the smoke and confusion, and was killed by a Greek soldier. So I, along with my father and son, and a few other ragged survivors escaped from Troy. We sailed around the Mediterranean, had many adventures. We were ship-wrecked on the coast of north Africa where I had a passionate love affair with Dido, Queen of Carthage.
N1: Did you stay in Carthage with Dido?
AENEAS: No, Jupiter sent me a message that I must leave and sail to Italy, where it was my destiny to found a new race of people. So I left her. Alas, she killed herself because of her grief.
N2: What happened next?
AENEAS: I settled in Italy, and married an Italian princess. My son Ascanius eventually founded a town called Alba Longa. The famous twins, Romulus and Remus, were born there about 400 years later.
N1: You mean you were a Trojan! Weren’t the Trojans the enemies of the Greeks!
AENEAS: That’s the whole point, don’t you see! My story tells you how the Romans viewed themselves. While the Romans admired the art and literature of the Greeks, they viewed them with suspicion . They saw themselves as more practical and direct, and more concerned with law and justice. They identified themselves with me, Aeneas, and with the Trojans, that city that was so terribly mistreated by the Greeks! They saw themselves as a resurrected Troy.
N2: That’s fascinating. Now where do Romulus and Remus fit in?
LIVY: I am Livy, a Roman historian who wrote a history of Rome. I started with the legend of Romulus and Remus. About 800BC, many generations after Aeneas and the Trojans settled in Italy, there was a good king of Alba Longa, named Numitor. He was overthrown by his wicked brother Amulius. Listen to the story:
AMULIUS: I have overthrown my brother Numitor and imprisoned him, and now I rule Alba Longa. However, my brother has a daughter, Rhea Silvia. I must make sure that she does not have sons that will try to overthrow me. I will make her a “Vestal Virgin”, a priestess to the goddess Vesta, so she will never marry and have children! LIVY: That is what Amulius did, but the god Mars saw Rhea Silvia, and fell in love with her. He came to her, and she conceived and bore two fine little boys, Romulus and Remus!