Wherefore art thou, Romulus?

February 24, 2020 · Print This Article

There’s been some hot news in archaeological circles – the tomb of Romulus, founding father of the world’s first superpower, has been unearthed. Quite a find if you ask me. The tomb was excavated by archaelogists in an ancient temple in the city of Rome.  But historians are divided as to whether it is actually Romulus’ tomb.

The sarcophagus contained no bones and the legend has it Romulus either went to heaven as the god Quirinus, or was torn to pieces by jealous senators (ouch!). Whatever happened to Romulus, have you ever wondered what happened to the mighty empire named after him? After all, it lasted for 1000 years and some thought it would go on forever.

Romulus is said to have founded the city of Rome on Palatine Hill in 753 BC. He had grown up with his twin brother, Remus. Abandoned at birth, the story goes that they were rescued by a she-wolf, who protected them and fed them on her own milk. Eventually, they grew up and established separate cities. But after a dispute between the brothers, Remus violated a city boundary and Romulus killed him.

Fast forward some 1000 years and we see one of the most influential civilisations in the world fall, now consigned to the history books. But the fall did not come from war or revolution. So how did it happen?

That’s a big question with many possible answers. Some argue it was due to the influx of barbaric hordes, others because of an over-stretched, under-resourced military, and some say Rome’s moral decay – declining virtue and rising vice – was a factor. However, there’s one idea about the fall of Rome that I wasn’t expecting to discover.

Edward Gibbon, a famous historian who wrote, “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” argues that it was partly due to the rise of Christianity and its effect on the Roman psyche. Gibbon concluded that the adoption of Christianity “encouraged a “turn-the-other-cheek mentality” which ultimately condemned the war machine, leaving it in the hands of the invading barbarians”.[1] An Interesting thought!

Ideas are powerful, but what’s this ‘turn-the-other-check’ idea all about? “You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”[2] The person saying this was Jesus in one of his most famous speeches.

He was talking about building a different kind of civilisation; one built on peace, not war; on restraint, not retaliation. A culture that does not return like-for-like but stops the cycle of revenge and hate because its citizens absorb and kill any offense, stopping it in its toxic tracks. It is the idea of grace: giving mercy when the person doesn’t deserve it. A revolutionary idea, indeed. Enough to make anyone think twice about slapping you on the other cheek.

Just think of how many relationships this principle could heal, how much hurt it could reverse, and how many lives it could save. Imagine if Romulus had just turned the other cheek, maybe things would have turned out differently for Remus.

Richard Fowler info@because.uk.com

Richard is editorial assistant at Because

[1] https://www.ancient.eu/article/835/fall-of-the-western-roman-empire/
[2] The Bible, Matthew 5:38-39 (NIVUK)
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