The Greek origin of the Romans – Part 3: Aeneas and his Trojans

Here we present selected excerpts from Dionysius of Halicarnassus’ book ‘The Roman Antiquities‘ (The Loeb Classical Library). Apparently, there had been hardly any doubt for Dionysius and the majority of ancient Greek and Roman historians up to his time (1st century B.C.) that the Romans were a nation of mostly Greek origin/genealogy.


“In the second generation after the departure of Hercules, and about the fifty-fifth year, according to the Romans’ own account, the king of the Aborigines was Latinus, who passed for the son of Faunus, but was actually the son of Hercules; he was now in the thirty-fifth year of his reign.

At that time the Trojans who had fled with Aeneas from Troy after its capture landed at Laurentum, which is on the coast of the Aborigines facing the Tyrrhenian sea, not far from the mouth of the Tiber. And having received from the Aborigines some land for their habitation and everything else they desired, they built a town on a hill not far from
the sea and called it Lavinium. Soon after this they changed their ancient name and, together with the Aborigines, were called Latins, after the king of that country. And leaving Lavinium, they joined with the inhabitants of those parts in building a larger city, surrounded by a wall, which they called Alba; and setting out thence, they built many other cities, the cities of the so-called Prisci Latini, of which the greatest part were inhabited even to my day. Then, sixteen generations after the taking of Troy, sending out a colony to Pallantium and Saturnia, where the Peloponnesians and the Arcadians had made their first settlement and where there were still left some remains of the ancient race, they settled these places and surrounded Pallantium with a wall, so that it then first received the form of a city. This settlement they called Rome, after Romulus, who was the leader of the colony and the seventeenth in descent from Aeneas.”

“Aeneas and his band overtook their people while still on the road, and being united now
in one body, they seized the strongest parts of Mount Ida. Here they were joined not only by the inhabitants of Dardanus, who, upon seeing a great and unusual fire rising from Ilium, had in the night left their city undefended,—all except the men with Elymus and Aegestus, who had got ready some ships and had departed even earlier,—but also by the
whole populace of Ophrynium and by those of the other Trojan cities who clung to their liberty; and in a very short time this force of the Trojans became a very large one. Accordingly, the fugitives who had escaped with Aeneas from the taking of the city and were tarrying on Mount Ida were in hopes of returning home soon, when the enemy should have sailed away; but the Achaeans, having reduced to slavery the people who were left in the city and in the places near by and having demolished the forts, were preparing to subdue those also who were in the mountains. When, however, the Trojans sent heralds to treat for peace and begged them not to reduce them to the necessity of making war, the Achaeans held an assembly and made peace with them upon the following terms: Aeneas and his people were to depart from the Troad with all the
valuables they had saved in their flight within a certain fixed time, after first delivering up the forts to the Achaeans; and the Achaeans were to allow them a safe-conduct by land and sea throughout all their dominions when they departed in pursuance of these terms. Aeneas, having accepted these conditions, which he looked upon as the best possible in the circumstances, sent away Ascanius, his eldest son, with some of the allies, chiefly Phrygians, to the country of Dascyhtis, as it is called, in which lies the Ascanian lake, since he had been invited by the inhabitants to reign over them. But Ascanius did
not tarry there for any great length of time; for when Scamandrius and the other descendants of Hector who had been permitted by Neoptolemus to return home from Greece, came to him, he went to Troy, in order to restore them to their ancestral kingdom. Regarding Ascanius, then, this is all that is told. As for Aeneas, after his fleet was ready, he embarked with the rest of his sons and his father, taking with him the images of the gods, and crossing the Hellespont, sailed to the nearest peninsula, which lies in front of Europe and is called Pallene. This country was occupied by a Thracian people called Crusaeans, who were allies of the Trojans and had assisted them during the war with greater zeal than any of the others (…) The arrival of Aeneas and the Trojans in Italy is attested by all the Romans and evidences of it are to be seen in the ceremonies observed by them both in their sacrifices and festivals, as well as in the Sibyl’s utterances, in the Pythian oracles, and in many other things, which none ought to disdain as invented for the sake of embellishment.”

Latinus, the king of the country at that time, who was at war with a neighbouring people called the Rutulians and had fought some battles with ill success, received an account of what had passed in the most alarming form, to the effect that all his
coast was being laid waste by a foreign army and that, if he did not immediately put a stop to their depredations, the war with his neighbours would seem to him a joy in comparison. Latinus was struck with fear at this news, and immediately abandoning the war in which he was then engaged, he marched against the Trojans with a great army. But seeing them armed like Greeks, drawn up in good order and resolutely awaiting the conflict, he gave up the idea of hazarding an immediate engagement, since he saw no probability now of defeating them at the first onset, as he had expected when he set out
from home against them. And encamping on a hill, he thought he ought first to let his troops recover from their present fatigue, which from the length of the march and the eagerness of the pursuit was very great; and passing the night there, he was resolving to engage the enemy at break of day. But when he had reached this decision, a certain divinity of the place appeared to him in his sleep and bade him receive the Greeks into his land to dwell with his own subjects, adding that their coming was a great advantage to him and a benefit to all the Aborigines alike. And the same night Aeneas’ household gods appeared to him and admonished him to persuade Latinus to grant them of his own accord a settlement in the part of the country they desired and to treat the Greek forces rather as allies than as enemies. Thus the dream hindered both of them from beginning an engagement. And as soon as it was day and the armies were drawn up in order of battle, heralds came to each of the commanders from the other with the same request, that they should meet for a parley; and so it came to pass.

And first Latinus complained of the sudden war which they had made upon his subjects without any previous declaration and demanded that Aeneas tell him who he was and what he meant by plundering the country without any provocation, since he could not be ignorant that every one who is attacked in war defends himself against the aggressor; and he complained that when Aeneas might have obtained amicably and with the consent of the inhabitants whatever he could reasonably desire, he had chosen to take it by force, contrary to the universal sense of justice and with greater dishonour than credit to himself. After he had spoken thus Aeneas answered: ‘We are natives of Troy, not the least famous city among the Greeks; but since this has been captured and taken from us by the Achaeans after a ten-years’ war, we have been wanderers, roving about for want both of a city and a country where we may henceforth live, and are come hither in obedience to the commands of the gods; and this land alone, as the oracles tell us, is left for us as the haven of our wandering. We are indeed taking from the country the things we need, with greater regard to our unfortunate situation than to propriety,— a course which until recently we by no means wished to pursue. But we will make compensation for them with many good services in return, offering you our bodies and our minds, well disciplined against dangers, to employ as you think proper in keeping your country free from the ravages of enemies and in heartily assisting you to conquer their lands. We humbly entreat you not to resent what we have done, realizing, as you must, that we did it, not out of wantonness, but constrained by necessity; and everything that is involuntary deserves forgiveness. And you ought not to take any hostile resolution concerning us as we stretch forth our hands to you; but if you do so, we will first beg the gods and divinities who possess this land to forgive us even for what we do under the constraint of necessity and will then endeavour to defend ourselves against you who are the aggressors in the war; for this will not be the first nor the greatest war that we have
experienced.’ When Latinus heard this he answered him: ‘Nay, but I cherish a kindly feeling towards the whole Greek race and am greatly grieved by the inevitable calamities of mankind. And I should be very solicitous for your safety if it were clear to me that you have come here in search of a habitation and that, contented with a suitable share of the land and enjoying in a spirit of friendship what shall be given you, you will not endeavour to deprive me of the sovereignty by force; and if the assurances you give me are real, I desire to give and receive pledges which will preserve our compact inviolate.’

Aeneas having accepted this proposal, a treaty was made between the two nations and confirmed by oaths to this effect: the Aborigines were to grant to the Trojans as much land as they desired, that is, the space of about forty stades in every direction from the hill; the Trojans, on their part, were to assist the Aborigines in the war they were then engaged in and also to join them with their forces upon every other occasion when summoned; and, mutually, both nations were to aid each other to the utmost of their power, both with their arms and with their counsel. After they had concluded this treaty and had given pledges by handing over children as hostages, they marched with joint forces against the cities of the Rutulians; and having soon subdued all opposition there, they came to the town of the Trojans, which was still but half-finished, and all working with a common zeal, they fortified the town with a wall. This town Aeneas called Lavinium, after the daughter of Latinus, according to the Romans’ own account; for her name, they say, was Lavinia. But according to some of the Greek mythographers he named it after the daughter of Anius, the king of the Delians, who was also called Lavinia; for as she was the first to die of illness at the time of the building of the city and
was buried in the place where she died, the city was made her memorial (…) After the Trojans’ city was built all were extremely desirous of enjoying the mutual benefit of their new alliance. And their kings setting the example, united the excellence of the two races, the native and the foreign, by ties of marriage. Latinus giving his daughter Lavinia to Aeneas. Thereupon the rest also conceived the same desire as their kings; and combining in a very brief time their customs, laws and religious ceremonies, forming ties through intermarriages and becoming mingled together in the wars they jointly waged, and all calling themselves by the common name of Latins, after the king of the Aborigines, they adhered so firmly to their pact that no lapse of time has yet severed them from one another.

The nations, therefore, which came together and shared in a common life and from which the Roman people derived their origin before the city they now inhabit was built, are these: first, the Aborigines, who drove the Sicels out of these parts and were originally Greeks from the Peloponnesus, the same who with Oenotrus removed from the country now called Arcadia, according to my opinion; then, the Pelasgians, who came from Haemonia, as it was then called, but now Thessaly; third, those who came into Italy with Evander from the city of Pallantium; after them the Epeans and Pheneats, who were part of the Peloponnesian army commanded by Hercules, with whom a Trojan element also was commingled; and, last of all, the Trojans who had escaped with Aeneas from Ilium, Dardanus and the other Trojan cities.”

(End of Part 3)

αρχείο λήψης

Research-Selection: Isidoros Aggelos

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