The nature of Roman myth
ritual played the central role in Roman religion that myth did for the Greeks, it is sometimes doubted that the Romans had much of a native mythology. This perception is a product of
Romanticism and the
classical scholarship of the 19th century, which valued Greek civilization as more "authentically creative."
 From the
Renaissance to the 18th century, however, Roman myths were an inspiration particularly for
 The Roman tradition is rich in historical myths, or
legends, concerning the foundation and rise of the city. These narratives focus on human actors, with only occasional intervention from deities but a pervasive sense of divinely ordered destiny. In Rome's earliest period, history and myth have a mutual and complementary relationship.
T. P. Wiseman notes:
The Roman stories still matter, as they mattered to
Dante in 1300 and
Shakespeare in 1600 and the
founding fathers of the United States in 1776. What does it take to be a
free citizen? Can a
superpower still be a
republic? How does well-meaning
authority turn into murderous
Major sources for Roman myth include the
Vergil and the first few books of
Livy's history as well as Dionysius' s Roman Antiquities. Other important sources are the
Ovid, a six-book poem structured by the
Roman religious calendar, and the fourth book of elegies by
Propertius. Scenes from Roman myth also appear in Roman
The Aeneid and Livy's early history are the best extant sources for
Rome's founding myths. Material from Greek heroic legend was grafted onto this native stock at an early date. The Trojan prince
Aeneas was cast as husband of
Lavinia, daughter of King
Latinus, patronymical ancestor of the
Latini, and therefore through a
convoluted revisionist genealogy as forebear of
Romulus and Remus. By extension, the Trojans were adopted as the mythical ancestors of the Roman people.
Mucius Scaevola in the Presence of Lars Porsenna
(early 1640s) by
The characteristic myths of Rome are often political or moral, that is, they deal with the development of
Roman government in accordance with divine law, as expressed by
Roman religion, and with demonstrations of the individual's adherence to moral expectations (
mos maiorum) or failures to do so.
Rape of the Sabine women, explaining the importance of the
Sabines in the formation of Roman culture, and the growth of Rome through conflict and alliance.
Numa Pompilius, the Sabine second
king of Rome who consorted with the
Egeria and established many of Rome's legal and religious institutions.
Servius Tullius, the sixth king of Rome, whose mysterious origins were freely mythologized and who was said to have been the lover of the goddess
Tarpeian Rock, and why it was used for the execution of traitors.
Lucretia, whose self-sacrifice prompted the overthrow of the
early Roman monarchy and led to the establishment of the Republic.
Cloelia, A Roman woman taken hostage by
Lars Porsena. She escaped the Clusian camp with a group of Roman virgins.
Horatius at the bridge, on the importance of individual
Mucius Scaevola, who thrust his right hand into the fire to prove his loyalty to Rome.
Caeculus and the founding of
Manlius and the geese, about divine intervention at the
Gallic siege of Rome.
- Stories pertaining to the
Nonae Caprotinae and
Coriolanus, a story of politics and morality.
Etruscan city of
Corythus as the "cradle" of Trojan and Italian civilization.
- The arrival of the
Great Mother (Cybele) in Rome.