Monday, 31 August 2020

Lucian's parody of the book of Revelation

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Lucian, a 2nd century satirical essayist, wrote a very close parody of this episode from the New Testament book of Revelation. Historians of early Christianity tend not to notice this. Sometimes they even reject it out of hand when it’s pointed out: I’m not quite sure why.

Maybe it’s because when ancient pagan authors mention Christians, people start having arguments about the historical Jesus. With Lucian, though, that doesn’t have to be a problem: he wrote about contemporary Christians, not about Jesus himself.

Gustave Doré, ‘La nouvelle Jérusalem’ (1865)

Lucian was a Syrian who lived in Antioch, close to the border between modern Turkey and Syria. Greek wasn’t his first language, but he was perhaps the most brilliant prose writer in the entire history of classical Greek. No, wait, ‘prose writer’ isn’t enough: he was an artist. His unique wit holds up today whether he’s writing about letters of the alphabet bringing lawsuits against each other because of spelling changes, or Poseidon’s jaw dropping at the news that Zeus has given birth to Dionysus out of his leg, or when he satirises classic writers like Herodotus and Ctesias.

Scholars of early Christianity are familiar with his picture of ancient Christians in the essay The death of Peregrinus. Peregrinus — a joke name, from the Latin for ‘outsider, travelling visitor’ — was supposedly a free thinker who became a Christian for a while, got imprisoned for his beliefs, and embezzled the defence funds raised by his fellow Christians. Lucian comments that Christians are an easy target for cons:

These unfortunate (Christians) have totally convinced themselves that they’re going to be immortal and live for all time, and as a result they scorn death, and often devote themselves willingly. Plus, their first law-giver instructed them that they were all each other’s brothers, once they transgressed by rejecting the Greek gods and worshipping him — that sophist who was crucified — and by living under his laws. So they scorn everything indiscriminately, and treat property as common. They carry on these traditions without any reliable guarantee.

But even specialists tend to assume that Lucian’s knowledge of Christianity was only hearsay. Never mind that Antioch was the premier centre of Christian evangelism in the ancient Mediterranean. And never mind that in another piece, Lucian does a close parody of Revelation that shows great familiarity with the text.

Lucian’s True history and the new Jerusalem

Lucian’s famous True history is a hilarious novella about a crew of explorers who find their ship caught up in all sorts of Munchausenesque adventures, including an island of vine-women, a war between the Moon and the Sun over colonisation rights to Venus, a Sea of Milk, visits to the afterlife on the Island of the Blessed and the Island of the Damned, and so on. It’s this last episode that contains the parody. Lucian’s description of the city where the blessed dead live is in large part a rip-off of the new Jerusalem, coming down to earth out of heaven, described in Revelation chapters 21 and 22.

The ‘new Jerusalem’ is a trope in the ancient Judaeo-Christian tradition. For Revelation, it represented Christians being freed from the tyranny of Rome, referred to slyly as ‘Babylon’. In earlier examples it had different meanings. For the Qumran New Jerusalem text, from the Dead Sea scrolls (Vermes 2004: 607–610), the oppressor is Antiochus, who persecuted the Jews in the 2nd century BCE; for Ezekiel 40–48, in the Hebrew Bible, the oppressor is the real Babylon. In each case, the Judaeo-Christian god is enthroned in the new city and lives there with his people.

‘Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.’ Revelation 22.1–2. (Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, MS Vit. 14.2, f. 254. Source:

Lucian’s parody doesn’t share this theological-historical background. He wasn’t interested in oppressors and liberation: his imitation focuses on isolated motifs, and exaggerating them for comic effect. Lucian scholars have sometimes noticed the parody, sometimes not. The most recent English-language commentary, by Georgiadou and Larmour, is non-committal on whether Lucian knew Revelation; Stengel dismisses it without discussion. Two other commentators mention the parody, Betz and von Moellendorff, but they don’t realise its full extent.

Note. Perhaps excusably, I missed a more recent commentary by Frank Redmond (2015): Redmond is entirely unaware of the parody. This is surprising given that even the Byzantine scholia draw attention to it.

Historians of early Christianity are prone to object that Lucian was probably satirising something else. Well, that isn’t impossible. But first, why assume that another target is more likely? Revelation is a core Christian text, Lucian lived in a city that had a core Christian community. Second, the only other potential targets that we know of are much more obscure, and aren’t remotely as close a match. You think Lucian was reading Ezekiel or the Qumran New Jerusalem text, and didn’t read Revelation? Hardly. A third candidate is the Coptic Acts of Peter and the twelve apostles from Nag Hammadi (NHC vi.1; Robinson 2000: iii.197–229), which has a city with some passing resemblances. That one’s probably later than Lucian. Sure, you can postulate some other lost text as Lucian’s target. But as we’ll see below, it’s hard to imagine a closer match.

First, let’s establish the elements where Revelation plays on the earlier Jewish texts. The main elements copied are:

None of these shared features reappears in Lucian. He was unfamiliar with the tradition: he only knew Revelation.

Lucian’s parody

In Revelation, some motifs get duplicated; Lucian condenses them into one spot. Only one motif is entirely out of sequence. So it’s easy to tabulate the parallels: just put the two texts side by side.

Revelation 21–22 (NRSV translation) Lucian, True history 2.11–13 (translated by A. M. Harmon)
21.10 ... the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal.
(18 the city is pure gold, clear as glass. ...)
(21 ... and the street of the city is pure gold, transparent as glass.)
11 The city itself is all of gold
12 It has a great, high wall and the wall around it of emerald.
with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites; 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. ...
(21 And the twelve gates are twelve pearls, each of the gates is a single pearl ...)
It has seven gates, all of single planks of cinnamon.
And the wall of the city has twelve foundations, and on them are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. ... The foundations of the city and the ground within its walls
19 The foundations of the wall of the city are adorned with every jewel; the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth cornelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. ... are ivory.
22 I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. There are temples of all the gods, built of beryl, and in them great monolithic altars of amethyst, on which they make their great burnt-offerings.
27 But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practises abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. 22.1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city. Around the city runs a river of the finest myrrh, a hundred royal cubits wide and five deep, so that one can swim in it comfortably. For baths they have large houses of glass, warmed by burning cinnamon; instead of water there is hot dew in the tubs. 12 For clothing they use delicate purple spider-webs. As for themselves, they have no bodies, but are intangible and fleshless, with only shape and figure. ... Nobody grows old, but stays the same age as on coming there.
(out of sequence) 21.23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. ... 25 Its gates will never be shut by day — and there will be no night there.
(22.5 And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign for ever and ever)
Again, it is neither night among them nor yet very bright day, but the light which is on the country is like the gray morning toward dawn, when the sun has not yet risen.
(return to sequence) 22.2 On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Moreover, they are acquainted with only one season of the year, for it is always spring there and the only wind that blows there is Zephyr. 13 The country abounds in flowers and plants of all kinds, cultivated and otherwise. The grape-vines yield twelve vintages a year, bearing every month; the pomegranates, apples and other fruit-trees were said to bear thirteen times a year, for in one month, their Minoan, they bear twice. Instead of wheat-ears, loaves of bread all baked grow on the tops of the halms, so that they look like mushrooms.

Lucian is a satirist, not a slavish copyist. He freely adds and removes elements. Where Revelation gives measurements for the city’s dimensions, Lucian measures only the river. The new Jerusalem has a river of the water of life; Lucian has a river of myrrh. The new Jerusalem has no temple; Lucian has temples of all the gods. Some of the substitutions are just for humour. The gates are each made of a single pearl in Revelation, a single plank of cinnamon in Lucian. At the end of his description Lucian adds an element that isn’t borrowed from Revelation: 365 fresh water springs near the city, 365 springs of honey, and 500 of myrrh ... but these ones are much smaller!

Adding pointless, extravagant details for laughs is very typical for Lucian. Targetting a relatively marginal text like Revelation is also completely in character. Seamlessly darting from one allusion to another is a way of marking himself as a pepaideumenos, a member of the educated hellenised elite. Sophistication and education were central to the construction of a Greek-speaking identity, while the empire was still ruled from Rome — especially for people who weren’t ethnically Greek.

Albrecht Dürer, the heavenly Jerusalem and the chaining of the dragon ... with Jerusalem represented as Dürer’s Nürnberg (1498)

Probably the funniest bit is something that Lucian didn’t even include in his parody. Lucian’s novella is called the True history: the title calls attention to its falseness. It flavours everything with ludicrousness. As Lucian puts it in his introduction,

... πολὺ τῶν ἄλλων εὐγνωμονέστερον· κἂν ἓν γὰρ δὴ τοῦτο ἀληθεύσω λέγων ὅτι ψεύδομαι.

my lying is far more honest than (other people’s), for though I tell the truth in nothing else, I shall at least be truthful in saying that I am a liar.

So when we turn to Revelation, and see how it finishes off its description of the new Jerusalem, it’s hard not to burst out laughing at Lucian’s sublime twist on the allusion:

καὶ εἶπέν μοι· οὗτοι οἱ λόγοι πιστοὶ καὶ ἀληθινοί.

And (the angel) said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true.’


  • Robinson, J. M. 2000. The Coptic gnostic library. A complete edition of the Nag Hammadi codices, 5 volumes (reprint of editions published piecemeal 1975–1995). Brill.
  • Vermes, Geza 2004. The complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English. Revised edition of the 4th edition (1st edition 1962). Penguin.
Note. This is a more focused and expanded version of a comparison I drew in a 2011 article: ‘Satire and the marginal text: Lucian parodies Diktys (VH 2.26–26)’, Hermes 139: 97–105.

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Who founded Rome?

The ‘Capitoline wolf’, Musei Capitolini, Rome.
Pop quiz. Who, according to legend, founded the city of Rome? Was it:
  1. Aeneas
  2. Evander
  3. Latinus
  4. Romulus
  5. Romulus and Remus
Make sure to choose your answer before going on!

While you keep your answer in your mind, let’s look at a related modern myth. The ‘Capitoline wolf’, pictured at top, with baby Romulus and Remus suckling at her teats, is the most famous representation of Romulus and Remus and Rome’s foundation legend.

The Capitoline wolf

You may know about this already, if you remember reading about it in the news back in 2012. The statue supposedly evokes the following story. Romulus and Remus are the babies of Rhea Silvia, princess of Alba Longa, raped by the god Mars. Their evil great-uncle, the usurper Amulius, wants the twins dead and orders the babies to be exposed. But they are miraculously rescued and suckled by a wolf — the scene shown in the statue. Later, when they grow up, they decide to go and found their own city.

The statue itself is a major piece of cultural heritage. It was given to the city of Rome in 1471 by Pope Sixtus IV, and it grew into an emblem of the city. It appears on countless books and postcards. It represents Roman-ness and nationalism, in both good ways and bad ways (Mussolini really liked it), to Italians and italophiles, tourists and scholars alike. Dozens of copies of it exist all round the world.
Rugged and uncouth though it is, this statue moved my spirit more than all the beautiful images that surround it.
Theodor Mommsen, writing in 1845 (tr. Wiseman)
It’s been known for centuries that the babies, representing Romulus and Remus suckling at the wolf’s teats, weren’t originally part of the statue. They were added in the 1400s.

The wolf herself was usually thought to be genuinely ancient, though. You may still see people identifying her as Etruscan, dating to the 6th–5th centuries BCE, the last days of Rome’s monarchy or the very early republic.

But nowadays, if you still see people claiming that ... well, it’s just denial. It turns out the wolf isn’t ancient either. Its origins were hotly debated between sceptics and traditionalists in the 2000s. But in 2012 the results of radiocarbon testing confirmed sceptics’ suspicions, and since then there’s been no wiggle-room. It’s definitely mediaeval.
Left to right: Michael von Albrecht, A history of Roman literature vol. 1 (Brill, 1997); Livy, The early history of Rome (Penguin, 2002); Gary Forsythe, A critical history of early Rome (U. of California, 2006); Jennifer Rea, Legendary Rome (Bloomsbury, 2013); Paul Zoch, Ancient Rome. An introductory history, 2nd ed. (U. of Oklahoma, 2020; the 2000 edition had something genuinely ancient, but they seem to have made a point of swapping in the mediaeval statue for the 2020 edition!)
The debate arose mainly because of the casting technique used to make the wolf (Carruba 2006; Radnoti-Alföldi et al. 2011). It’s a distinctively mediaeval technique. That wasn’t conclusive enough for traditionalists, so cue the radiocarbon testing. A group at the Università del Salento tested organic residue in the remains of the original clay casting core. They announced their results at a conference in 2012 (von Hase Salto 2012) and published them a few years later (Calcagnile et al. 2019).

The date range for the 95% confidence interval is 1021 CE to 1153 CE.

To be sure, it does look like an older style — it’s deliberately archaising! But it isn’t even faux Etruscan. It’s faux Carolingian.

Loosely similar scenes appear on ancient coins as well, but the ancient scenes have a different posture. The Capitoline wolf turns her head off to the side; the ancient one turns her head backwards to look at the babies. It’s doubtful whether the Capitoline wolf was intended to represent Romulus’ and Remus’ wolf at all.

It’s possible the wolf was copied from another earlier statue in front of the Lateran Palace, mentioned in a 10th century source. Maybe the older wolf (which was genuinely Carolingian) was damaged, and this one was made to replace it? We’ll probably never know.

Answer to the pop quiz

All right, and now for the question I posed at the start. Who’s the legendary founder of Rome?

But hang on! Let’s stir things up a bit more. Here are some more options for you to choose from.
  1. Romulus (son of Aeneas, rather than son of Mars and Rhea Silvia)
  2. Romulus (grandson of Telemachus and Circe)
  3. Aeneas and Odysseus
  4. Romus (son of Aeneas)
  5. Romus (grandson of Aeneas)
  6. Romus (son of Odysseus and Circe)
  7. Romus, Romulus, and Telegonus (sons of Latinus)
  8. Romanus (son of Odysseus and Circe)
  9. Latinus (son of Odysseus)
  10. Latinus (son of Telemachus and Circe)
  11. Latinus (a Trojan)
  12. Greeks returning from Troy and stranded in Latium
Feel like changing your mind? Take a moment to think about it, then go on.

The true answer is in fact ... (drum roll)
  1. All of the above.
The classic story, the one about Romulus and Remus the sons of Rhea Silvia, is just one version among many. It happens to be the one that Livy and Plutarch spend most time on. Thanks to them, it has a certain prestige.

A full account of all the variants can be found in T. P. Wiseman’s book Remus. A Roman myth (1995). There are ... well, lots of them.
Note. Yes, the same Wiseman who was once rumoured to be the inspiration for Professor Dumbledore in the Harry Potter books. He has denied it, pointing out that his beard was black in the 80s when J. K. Rowling was in his class.
Wiseman discusses the variants, their purposes, and a host of other related matters, and in an appendix to the book he gathers together some primary sources. Between them, they offer up sixty-one further foundation legends alongside the best-known story. Some examples:
  • Hellanicus of Lesbos, BNJ 4 F 84
    But the author (Hellanicus of Lesbos) of the history of the priestesses at Argos, and the events that happened in the time of each of them, says that Aeneas came from the land of the Molossians into Italy, and along with Odysseus became the founder of the city.
  • Sallust, War of Catiline 6.1
    The city of Rome, as I understand it, was originally founded and occupied by Trojans who were wandering as refugees with no fixed abode under the leadership of Aeneas, together with the Aborigines (‘autochthonous people’). a wild race without law or authority, free and uncontrolled.
  • Plutarch, Life of Romulus 2.2
    Some say he (Romulus) was a son of Aeneas and Dexithea the daughter of Phorbas, and that he was brought to Italy as a baby along with his brother Rhomos; all the other ships were wrecked in the overflowing river, but the one with the children in was tipped gently on to a soft bank; they were unexpectedly saved, and the place was called Rome.
  • Servius, commentary on Aeneid 7.678
    ... others say it was founded by Evander, and Virgil follows them when he writes ‘The king Evander, founder of the Roman citadel ...’
  • John Lydus, De mensibus 4.4
    They say that Latinus was Telegonus’ brother, Circe’s son, and Aeneas’ father-in-law, and that in the course of founding the citadel of Rome, before the arrival of Aeneas, he discovered a laurel tree by chance on the site, and so he allowed it to remain there. That is the reason why they call the Palatine ‘Daphne’.

Where do the different versions come from?

Historians of early Rome sometimes take great pains to dismiss sources about early Rome, especially when they come from Greek writers. The main reason is that almost no documentation survives from early Rome: most surviving sources are writing centuries afterwards, without the aid of any documentation. And the earlier sources — all in Greek — are problematic because they’re writing from an outside perspective, supposedly ‘imposing’ their own translations and categories.
At first glance it would seem that the story of the twins [Romulus and Remus] ... was an ancient and indigenous legend, while that of Aeneas, with its patently Greek origin, was a subsequent literary accretion imposed on the Roman tradition from outside.
Cornell 1975: 2 (emphasis added)
(In some contexts I’ve seen a different objection: when Greek writers seem to be writing about Rome, there’s something wrong with the text, because they couldn’t have written about Rome or Roman military power before the 2nd century BCE: Rome wasn’t powerful enough until then. This is a silly objection. The better historians of early Rome don’t fall into that trap, and I trust we don’t have to deal with it here.)

Now, most of the objections to alternate traditions come from historians who focus narrowly on Rome. The main point I want to make in response to that is that Rome isn’t unique. Lots of places in early Italy have links to Greek legendary figures. Greek legends are everywhere, in Etruria and Latium as well as in southern Italy.

They’re definitely not accretions ‘imposed from outside’. The question isn’t whether the Italians adopted Greek legendary figures, or whether they did it at an early date. The answer to both is: ‘Yes, they did.’ The real question is which Italians were choosing to adopt Greek legends, and why.
According to some sources, Clusium was founded by Telemachus; Caere, Tusculum, and Praeneste by Telegonus; Rome by Aeneas and Odysseus; Lavinium by Aeneas; Circeii (named after Circe) by the Romans themselves. Clusium, Caere, Rome, and Praeneste have competing foundation legends; Tusculum, Lavinium, and Circeii do not.
First, here’s a selection of testimony we have of native Italian use of Greek legendary figures at an early date, as well as native Italian figures popping up in Greek traditions where there’s an overlap with Italian traditions:
  • Early Etruscan art gives intense prominence to Greek mythological themes from the 7th century BCE onwards.
  • The Romans named a colony after Circe, with a cult site linked to Circe, around the late 6th century BCE.
  • Circeii’s link to Circe was known as far afield as Athens (Aeschylus fr. eleg. 2 ed. West, ‘the Tyrrhenian race, a pharmakon-making people’).
  • Latinus and Faunus, Italian mythological figures, appear in an early Greek source, a passage added to the end of the Hesiodic Theogony (1013, 1015–1016; Faunus hellenised as ‘Agrios’).
  • Aeneas, Hercules, and the Dioscuri appear in art and sources relating to 5th century BCE Rome and Latium.
  • Italian families claim descent from various Greek legendary figures, such as the Mamilii of Tusculum (from Telegonus, son of Odysseus and Circe), the Julii (from Iulus, son of Aeneas), the Fabii (from Hercules and Evander), the Geganii (from Aeneas’ companion Gyas), etc.
  • Timaeus (4th-3rd cent. BCE) reports that his information about a ‘Trojan’ artefact at Lavinium came from questioning local inhabitants (BNJ 566 F 60).
Next, consider that there’s copious evidence of Odysseus and his family, in particular, being involved in legends and folktales set in Italy. These links are founded ultimately on the idea that Circe’s home was imagined as being at Monte Circeo, as it’s now called, 85 km to the southeast of Rome.
Monte Circeo, Lazio, seen from the north by a drone. The early Roman colony was originally on the east side of the peak (to the left), later on the inland side; Terracina is 15 km to the east. (Source: video by Mauro Cassandra, 2015.)
E. D. Phillips (1953) gives extensive documentation of Odysseus’ role in legends and folktales set in Italy, ranging from the south to Latium and Etruria. Much of his wanderings on his way home were regarded as being set in Italy: so the Cyclops and Laestrygonians were in Sicily, Aeolus in the Isole Eolie, the Sirens on the Galli islands south of the Sorrento peninsula, Circe at Monte Circeo, and the summoning of the spirits of the dead at Averno (Lake Avernus) near Naples. There was a temple of Athena on the Sorrento peninsula which Odysseus supposedly founded. According to one memorable folktale, he came to a sticky end in an encounter with an apprentice of Circe’s in Latium: she turned him into a horse, and he spent the rest of his life in that form. A couple of sources identify Cortona, in northern Etruria, as the site of Odysseus’ grave.

We can add material relating to Odysseus’ various children. Tusculum, 20 km outside Rome, was always regarded as founded by Telegonus, Odysseus’ and Circe’s son. For some cities, the sources disagree on whether their founders were Greeks, native Italians, or someone else. So the founder of Praeneste (Palestrina) is usually the Italian hero Caeculus; but in Aristocles it’s Telegonus; in Zenodotus it’s Praenestis or Praenestus, son of Latinus and grandson of Odysseus. Etruscan cities usually have Lydian or Pelasgian founders, but for Caere and Clusium, alongside the concocted names Tyrrhenus, Pelasgus, and Clusius, Servius also mentions Telegonus and Telemachus.
  • Praeneste. Caeculus: see e.g. Verg. Aen. 7.678, Solinus 2.9. Telegonus: Aristocles BNJ 831 F 2 (the garlands in Aristocles’ story also appear in Strabo 5.3.11, Pliny NH 3.64). Praenestis: BNJ 821 F1a (= Solinus; NB: Horster’s BNJ edition treats ablative ‘Praeneste’ as nominative). Praenestus: BNJ 821 F1b (= Steph. Byz.).
  • Caere. Lydian/Pelasgian founders: see e.g. Hdt. 1.94; Dion. Hal. 1.25-30. Pelasgus, Telegonus, or Tyrrhenus: Servius auctus on Aen. 8.479.
  • Clusium. Clusius or Telemachus: Servius auctus on Aen. 10.167.
If lots of Italian places are laying claim to Greek legendary figures, then there’s a good case for treating similar stories in Rome as potentially having a similar standing.

It’s not as though Rome was cut off from the rest of the world in the 6th-5th centuries. Nicola Terrenato (2019: 51–72) has much to say about interactions between city-states of the time — both short-range and long-distance — and geographical mobility in the sixth century BCE, including some people who migrated between Greece, Etruria, and Rome.

Besides, look at where the most popular story of Rome’s founding comes from. When Plutarch tells us the story of Romulus and Remus, he blandly informs us
The story that carries the most trustworthiness, in its main points, and which is the one most widely repeated, is one that was first told to the Greeks by Diocles of Peparethos. Fabius Pictor followed him in most respects.
Plutarch, Romulus 3.1
That is, the story originally appeared in a Greek source — just like Hellanicus’ story of Aeneas and Odysseus, and Cephalon’s story of Romus the son of Aeneas. The earliest Roman source, Fabius Pictor, simply repeated it.

Is there debate over the relationship between Diocles and Fabius Pictor? Oh hell you bet there is. We can’t allow Romulus and Remus to originate in a Greek source! (See Beck 2016 for bibliography.) The problem with that debate isn’t to do with Diocles himself, the problem is its underlying assumptions: ‘If the story appears in a Greek source, it must originate in a Greek source.’

Be that as it may, whoever’s in the right, there’s no disentangling this material into a story that doesn’t involve Greek writers.

So, who’s imposing what from outside? I think it’s far more economical to treat the Greek accounts of Roman legendary origins as more-or-less authentic reports of what the Romans themselves were saying. They may well be selective. But that doesn’t mean Greek writers were somehow compelling the Etruscans to use Greek legendary figures in their art, or forcing elite Italian families to claim Greeks in their ancestry.


  • Beck, H. 2016. ‘Diokles of Proparethos (820).’ Brill’s new Jacoby (subscription required).
  • Calcagnile, Lucio; D’Elia, Marisa; Maruccio, Lucio; Braione, Eugenia; Celant, Alessandra; Quarta, Gianluca 2019. ‘Solving an historical puzzle: radiocarbon dating the Capitoline she wolf.’ Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section B: Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms 455: 209–212 (Elsevier).
  • Carruba, A. M. 2006. La lupa capitolina. Un bronzo medievale. De Luca.
  • Cornell, T. J. 1975. ‘Aeneas and the twins.’ Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society 21: 1-32 (JSTOR).
  • Phillips, E. D. 1953. ‘Odysseus in Italy.’ Journal of Hellenic Studies 73: 53-67 (JSTOR).
  • Radnoti-Alföldi, M.; Formigli, E.; Fried, J. 2011. Die römische Wölfin. Ein antikes Monument stürzt von seinem Sockel / The Lupa Romana. An antique monument falls from her pedestal. Franz Steiner.
  • Von Hase Salto, M. A. 2012. ‘Ein Werk des Mittelalters. Neue Erkenntnisse über die Kapitolinische Wölfin.’ Antike Welt 2012.5: 53–56 (JSTOR).