He Founded Rome

What is this? Who is that burly guy and why is he carrying an old man?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gian_Lorenzo_Bernini_cat01.jpg–photo licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The burly guy is Aeneas, the legendary founder of Rome; and he’s caring his dad, Anchises. They are getting out of Troy, their home, as fast as they can because the city is on fire.
The little boy is Aeneas’ son, Ascanius.

What’s the old man carrying?

Those are the penates, the home-gods that watch over you. Every household had some in a niche in the hall. They were what you grabbed to take with you when you could take only one thing. They would protect you and your family.

Who made the statue?

Gian Lorenzo Bernini. He carved it in 1619, when he was only twenty. It is in the Galleria Borghese, Rome.

But what is the story?

It is a side-story in the Trojan War legend, the subject of the Illiad, Homer’s great epic poem. The Greeks all knew this and many other stories from that idealized history of their country. The Greek version of this one ended with the flight of Aeneas, a prince of Troy, and his family.

Aeneas and his father as depicted on a Greek vase

When Rome was inventing its own history years later and looking for a founder, it took up this Aeneas thread. Roman historians thought they couldn’t do better than the old Greek legends. Monkeying the story of Ulysses, who after the Trojan War was kept wandering around the world because of the curse of an angry god, they said Aeneas and his family were made to wander around the Mediterranean after leaving Troy because of the curse of an angry goddess. The hero was not able to settle down until, after years, he reached Latium, the place that would become Rome. Anchises died along the way. Aeneas’s wife did too. Eventually Aeneas became king of the Latins and married a local princess.

Aeneas’ flight from Troy with his father on his shoulders was always a hard one to depict with grace.

Here is a version by Carle Van Loo:

Aeneas is carrying the old man and really struggling with the weight.

Barocci’s painting is wonderful illustration of the whole scene:


This entry was posted in 1, art, history, Romans, The Greeks, war and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to He Founded Rome

  1. hiit says:

    Mmmm the history of Rome

  2. 100swallows says:

    Christopher Matthew Burt: Thanks for your comment. All the interest ended when classical studies were dropped at the end of the nineteenth century.

  3. 100swallows says:

    giveitasecondlook: Thanks. Be kind to your friends, though, and don’t lord it over.

  4. 100swallows says:

    ashleythinks: Thanks. I hope I can interest you in Spanish history too. And maybe even art history. Check out my other blog:

  5. 100swallows says:

    Flower Boy:
    Thanks. I hope you’ll be back with more flowers like that.

  6. 100swallows says:

    djaka rubijanto: Thank you. The clothes and armor Aeneas is wearing in the vase painting, and the others in old Greek vase paintings, are the best models, though the vases were made hundreds of years after the taking of Troy and might also be anachronisms. Barocci’s outfit looks more Roman than Greek, doesn’t it?

  7. 100swallows says:

    derekpiotr: Thanks. Sometimes “new” art does get tiring.

  8. 100swallows says:

    boyerwrites: Thanks. I enjoyed my visit at your blog. Good luck.

  9. 100swallows says:

    ritj: You should still think so. As I said in a comment here, Romulus and Remus were the legendary founders of the city of Rome. Aeneas was the founder of the project of Rome, the father (progenitor) of the Roman people. I’m sorry if the title misleads.

  10. 100swallows says:

    cantueso: Thanks a lot for reading my posts in both blogs, and for such applause.

  11. 100swallows says:

    sellphone: The Roman poet Virgil wrote a long epic poem about Aeneas (the Aeneid), enlarging on, beautifying the myth. Generations up to the time of our grandparents used to study it at school. “Arma virumque cano…”, they would quote for you: “I sing a man (Aeneas) and arms (weapons)”.

  12. jimmynorth says:

    i like this!! i always loved ancient story of Greece, Egypt and Rome! it is wonderful, my friends!

  13. sellphone says:

    That really blew my socks off! The one thing I knew about Rome was the Remus and Romulus story. My aunt had a little bronze statue of the two kids drinking from the udder of a wolf!

    And so this is just a myth? I guess if you study history long enough you’ll find that everything is just a myth.

  14. cantueso says:

    Do you know you have been listed as one of 10 best posts at WordPress.com?
    Look up http://wordpress.com/
    and poke the Freshly pressed tab.
    It is a great blog, but your other blog, the one about art, is even better.
    And, by the way, your avatar and your user name also deserve praise.

  15. rltj says:

    Until your article I always thought that Rome was about the legend of brothers Remus and Romulus.

  16. boyerwrites says:

    I enjoy your writing on history. This is my first blog to another site because I am fairly new to Word Press. My most recent writing was “Murder at the Kiev Opera” which gives a historical account of Russian politics and a slide presentation of my photography of Ukraine. Best wishes N.Boyer

    Hope you will view it.


  17. 100swallows says:

    Warrant One Girl-asil: Maybe you would be interested in seeing my other post on art:

  18. Very interesting and a great read.

    Tell us the artists for which these sculptures and paintings can be attributed to.

    Two of my favorites are Michaelangelo and Leonardo.

  19. derekpiotr says:

    nice this morning to have some light shed on beautiful old art. thanks for this

  20. Once my teacher read us story of a Greek history. Since then I like Roman and Greek history very much. But there is a different costume weared by Aeneas and the old man on the Barocci and Raphael’s painting. Which one is more factual?

  21. shathaa says:

    very informative!

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  23. NEIL LORD V. GUITANG says:

    very informative!

  24. Flower Boy says:

    Splendid post, glad I found your blog. Bookmarked. The Greeks & Romans – founders of western civilisation, and with what style!

  25. Is this history out of an art or art that depicts history? Whatever, it is it is I found an interesting story unfold from a picture that I had failed to notice.

  26. Christopher Mathew Burt says:

    I am currently reading both the Iliad and the Aeneid in my Greek Gender and Sexuality in Classical Antiquity class. It was beautiful to see this very emotional scene carried out through several mediums. I was not aware of more modern, granted they are still very old, artists’ rendering of this scene. It’s amazing.

  27. 100swallows says:

    charkeyjk4: “According to the mythology outlined by Virgil in the Aeneid, Romulus and Remus were both descendants of Aeneas through their mother Rhea Silvia, making Aeneas progenitor of the Roman people [in that sense, the founder of the Romans]. Some early sources call him their father or grandfather, but considering the commonly accepted dates of the fall of Troy (1184 BC) and the founding of Rome (753 BC), this seems unlikely.” (Wikipedia)
    Romulus and Remus were founders of the city of Rome. Two different legends knitted together.

  28. ashleythinks says:

    I love Roman history (as do many I realize), but great blog.

  29. charleyjk4 says:

    Emm…Excuse me.What about Remus and Romulus?.

  30. gloriadelia says:

    Thank you for the Roman history review. I’m going to enjoy exploring your blog. I’ll pass it on to a history-loving friend or two. Gloris
    You might like this post of mine on Mesopotamia:

  31. Steven Harris says:

    Art and cultural history combined. Thank you. Funny how every dominant power group incorporates legends and beliefs from the previous dominant group, the better to legitimize their own regime.

  32. Pretty Project says:

    LOVE this. I like the way you showed us pics along with your historical stories. Fun reading! :)


  33. kseverny says:

    An interesting look at art history

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