The Albans and the founding of Rome

Here we present selected excerpts from Dionysius of Halicarnassus’ book ‘The Roman Antiquities‘ (The Loeb Classical Library). Dionysius informs us of the various Roman ancestries here. One of them was that of the Albans (Αλβανοί).

“The Oenotrians were an Arcadian tribe who had of their own accord left the country then called Lycaonia and now Arcadia, in search of a better land, under the leadership of Oenotrus, the son of Lycaon, from whom the nation received its name. While the Aborigines occupied this region the first who joined with them in their settlement were the Pelasgians, a wandering people who came from the country then called Haemonia and now Thessaly. where they had lived for some time. After the Pelasgians came the Arcadians from the city of Pallantium, who had chosen as leader of their colony Evander, the son of Hermes and the nymph Themis. These built a town beside one of the seven hills that stands near the middle of Rome, calling the place Pallantium, from their mother-city in Arcadia. Not long afterwards, when Hercules came into Italy on his return home with his army from Erytheia, a certain part of his force, consisting of Greeks, remained behind and settled near Pallantium, beside another of the hills that are now inclosed within the city. This was then called by the inhabitants the Saturnian hill, but is now called the Capitoline hill by the Romans. The greater part of these men were Epeans who had abandoned their city in Elis after their country had been laid waste by Hercules.


[Picture: Romulus’ Victory Over Acron’ (1812) by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres]

In the sixteenth generation after the Trojan war the Albans united both these places into one settlement, surrounding them with a wall and a ditch. For until then there were only folds for cattle and sheep and quarters of the other herdsmen, as the land round about yielded plenty of grass, not only for winter but also for summer pasture, by reason of the rivers that refresh and water it. The Albans were a mixed nation composed of Pelasgians, of Arcadians, of the Epeans who came from Elis, and, last of all, of the Trojans who came into Italy with Aeneas, the son of Anchises and Aphrodite, after the taking of Troy. It is probable that a barbarian element also from among the neighbouring peoples or a remnant of the ancient inhabitants of the place was mixed with the Greek. But all these people, having lost their tribal designations, came to be called by one common name, Latins, after Latinus, who had been king of this country. The walled city, then, was built by these tribes in the four hundred and thirty-second year after the taking of Troy, and in the seventh Olympiad*. The leaders of the colony were twin brothers of the royal family, Romulus being the name of one and Remus of the other. On the mother’s side they were descended from Aeneas and were Dardanidae; it is hard to say with certainty who their father was, but the Romans believe them to have been the sons of Mars, However, they did not both continue to be leaders of the colony, since they quarrelled over the command; but after one of them had been slain in the battle that ensued, Romulus, who survived, became the founder of the city** and called it after his own name. The great numbers of which the colony had originally consisted when sent out with him were now reduced to a few, the survivors amounting to three thousand foot and three hundred horse.”

*751 B.C.


Research-Selection for NovoScriptorium: Isidoros Aggelos

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