Characters of the Greek and Roman Myths

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Lucius Junius Brutus

Lucius Junius Brutus was the son of the Roman king’s sister, Tarquinia.1 He became one of the first councils of the Roman Republic in 509 B.C. after he significantly contributed to the fall of the Roman monarchy in 510 B.C.2 He is mentioned in The History of Rome by Titus Livius. It is stated that Brutus swore to overthrow the monarchy after he found that Lucretia, a Roman matron, was raped by Sextus Tarquinius, the king’s son, and committed suicide afterward.3 The example of Lucius Junius Brutus shows how seriously Romans took oaths: he did overthrow the monarchy as he had sworn, established the Republic, and made people swear they would never tolerate kings again.4 When Brutus learned his sons were conspiring to re-establish the monarchy, he watched them being scourged and executed as traitors but did not break his oath to help them.5, 6

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Telemachus

Telemachus was the son of Odysseus and Penelope in Greek mythology. Homer depicts him as a 20-year-old person who turns from a scared boy into a virile man.7, 8 Telemachus is one of the key characters of Homer’s The Odyssey, where he, after being visited by Athena, goes to look for his father who left approximately 20 years ago to fight in the Trojan war.9 The story of The Odyssey depicts, in particular, an ideal family for Ancient Greeks, where the man went to war, the woman stayed at home and brought up the son, and the son went to look for his father. Penelope stayed resilient and faithful to her husband, despite the tremendous pressure she was put under by the “suitors” (although Odysseus had several romantic encounters in his travels, which demonstrates double standards of the Ancient Greek culture10). Telemachus matured, found his father, and avenged his mother. And Odysseus, having returned home, also found his father and reunited with his whole family.11

Hector

Hector was the greatest Trojan hero and military leader in the Trojan war.12 He was the eldest son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy. Hector is one of the characters of Homer’s The Iliad.13 He is also mentioned in other texts, e.g. Gaius Julius Hyginus’ Fabulae.14 In The Iliad, Hector is shown as a brave warrior of the Trojan people; his behavior is heroic, for he fights for his native city, kills numerous enemies, and dies for the sake of his polis.15 He is also a devoted family man, and he dies protecting not only his city but also his wife Andromache and his son Scamandrius.16, 17 Hector, therefore, is an example of a heroic man for the Greek culture, even though he was a Trojan.

Romulus

Romulus, according to Roman myths, was the founder and the first king of the city of Rome.18 Together with his twin brother Remus, he was a son of Rhea Silvia, a Vestal Virgin, and the god of war and agriculture Mars. Having been abandoned in their infanthood, the twins were raised by animals; they are often portrayed as babies suckling a she-wolf. 19, 20 Plutarch tells of Romulus’ life in his Parallel Lives; Romulus supposedly lived in the 8th century B.C., the century when Rome was founded.21 According to Plutarch, Romulus and Remus argued about on which hill to establish a new city. Romulus won a bet by seeing more vultures, but later Remus found out that Romulus cheated. That made Remus angry, and he started obstructing the process of building; for that, Remus was killed, possibly by Romulus.22 Therefore, Rome was built on violence, which is tied to the Roman history of constant war and conquest.

Medea

In Greek mythology, Medea was a princess of Colchis, a daughter of the Colchian King Aeetes and a granddaughter of Helios, the god of the Sun. She was an enchantress who used magical powers to help Jason obtain the Golden Fleece.23 She is mentioned in several texts, in particular, in Seneca’s play Medea.24 Having helped Jason get the Golden Fleece, Medea married him and was a good wife, producing two songs for him. However, Jason was unfaithful; he abandoned her because of another woman.25 Seneca tells the story of Medea’s revenge; she killed her and Jason’s two sons to take vengeance.26 It is stated that she murders in the myth because she represents the East, which was barbaric according to the Greek beliefs.27

Mars

Mars, according to Ancient Roman beliefs, was the god of war and agriculture. His origins are obscure28; in some myths, he is said to be a son of Juno alone.29 He is usually depicted with his spear.30 He is present in some sources; for instance, Plautus mentions him in his play Truculentus, writing that Mars’ spouse was Neriene.31 Mars was one of the main gods in Roman mythology, for both war and husbandry played important roles in Ancient Roman culture. The name of the month March was derived from Mar’s name; March was the time to both plant crops and start wars.32, 33 The fact that Mars was believed to be the father of Romulus the founder of Rome also made Mars important for the Ancient Romans.

Bibliography

Byrd, Robert C. The Senate of the Roman Republic: Addresses on the History of the Roman Constitutionalism. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1995.

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Homer. “The Iliad.” Translated by A. T. Murray. The Greek Mythology. Web.

Homer. “The Odyssey.” Translated by Robert Fagles. AquinasHistory. Web.

Hyginus. “Fabulae.” Translated by Mary Grant. The Greek Mythology. Web.

“Mars, Roman God.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Web.

“Medea.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Web.

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Plautus. “Truculentus.” Perseus under PhiloLogic. 2015. Web.

Plutarch. “Romulus.” Translated by John Dryden. The Internet Classics Archive. 2015. Web.

Powell, Barry B. A Short Introduction to Classical Myth. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2002.

Seneca. “Medea.” Translated by Frank Justus Miller. The Greek Mythology. 2015. Web.

Titus Livius. The History of Rome. Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts, Edited by Ernst Rhys. London, England: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1905. Web.

Footnotes

  1. Titus Livius. The History of Rome, trans. Rev. Canon Roberts, ed. Ernst Rhys (London, England: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1905), Web.
  2. Robert C Byrd, The Senate of the Roman Republic: Addresses on the History of the Roman Constitutionalism (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1995), 29.
  3. Titus Livius. The History of Rome, trans. Rev. Canon Roberts, ed. Ernst Rhys (London, England: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1905), Web.
  4. Titus Livius. The History of Rome, trans. Rev. Canon Roberts, ed. Ernst Rhys (London, England: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1905), Web.
  5. Titus Livius. The History of Rome, trans. Rev. Canon Roberts, ed. Ernst Rhys (London, England: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1905), Web.
  6. Robert C Byrd, The Senate of the Roman Republic: Addresses on the History of the Roman Constitutionalism (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1995), 9-10.
  7. Course Materials.
  8. Homer, “The Odyssey,” trans. Robert Fagles, AquinasHistory, Web.
  9. Homer, “The Odyssey,” trans. Robert Fagles, AquinasHistory, Web.
  10. Course Materials.
  11. Course Materials.
  12. Course Materials.
  13. Homer, “The Iliad,” trans. A. T. Murray, Theoi Greek Mythology, Web.
  14. Hyginus, “Fabulae,” trans. Mary Grant, Theoi Greek Mythology, Web.
  15. Course Materials.
  16. Homer, “The Iliad,” trans. A. T. Murray, Theoi Greek Mythology, Web.
  17. Barry B. Powell, A Short Introduction to Classical Myth (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002), 13.
  18. Barry B. Powell, A Short Introduction to Classical Myth (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002), 37.
  19. Barry B. Powell, A Short Introduction to Classical Myth (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002), 62.
  20. Course Materials.
  21. Plutarch, “Romulus,” trans. John Dryden, The Internet Classics Archive, Web.
  22. Plutarch, “Romulus,” trans. John Dryden, The Internet Classics Archive, Web.
  23. “Medea,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, Web.
  24. Seneca, “Medea,” trans. Frank Justus Miller, Theoi Greek Mythology, Web.
  25. Course Materials.
  26. Seneca, “Medea,” trans. Frank Justus Miller, Theoi Greek Mythology, Web.
  27. Barry B. Powell, A Short Introduction to Classical Myth (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002), 201.
  28. Barry B. Powell, A Short Introduction to Classical Myth (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002), 183.
  29. “Mars, Roman God.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, Web.
  30. Barry B. Powell, A Short Introduction to Classical Myth (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002), 183.
  31. Plautus, “Truculentus,” Perseus under PhiloLogic, Web.
  32. Barry B. Powell, A Short Introduction to Classical Myth (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002), 183.
  33. Course Materials.

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