Yet if I am right … where is the Underworld association for Remus? Answer? Right there in the Romans’ own knowledge of their ancestral religion.
Lemuria, to be precise. The occurrence each year wherein the Lemures – the Shades of the Dead – come back to the mortal city. Ovid identifies “Lemuria” as having etymological origin with “Remuria”, and goes further to assert that the tradition and the custom was initiated by Romulus following the appearance of the Ghost [‘Yama’, you might say, all over again – “Death/Image”] of Remus to him to ask for such an observance. Of further interest for our purposes is that Ovid claims this etymological and heortological information was provided by Mercury Himself. In terms of what this is, it would be perhaps hard to conceive of a better or more relevant immediate source.
There are other accounts that can be utilized to lend strength to this position. Some later sources instead suggest that “Lemuria” derived its name from Romulus choosing to bury his brother at a site named Remoria. The place where Romulus had set his divinatory tent and/or had wished to found the future settlement, the future kingdom, that would have become Rome.
Or, perhaps, been its direct equivalent. Its mirror. Its “Image”. For you see – there is yet another tradition that has Remus managing to survive for long enough to do just exactly that. Set up a parallel city some five miles away from Rome, and named it Remuria. Interestingly, the preceding line from RV X 13 has a distance of “Five Steps” away from “Earth” for the figure who ascends to the Heavenly sphere as the Consecrator of Order [it should, perhaps, be noted that at this stage of Vedic cosmology, Yama’s realm is in High Heaven, not underground]. Meanwhile, the next line after the self-sacrifice of Yama notes that in His stead, the Seven instead proceed to the Youth, the Alive figure. That would be Yama/Remus’ twin – Manu/Romulus. And while it is likely that the Seven in this particular RigVedic context are intended to represent the Seven Rivers … it could not help but be noted that there are also Seven Hills of Rome. Perhaps it is a coincidence. Perhaps they are both coincidences. But after so many – all of those coincidences start to look like the not-so-distant nor accidentally placed stars of some grander constellation.
But to return to Remuria – what I am suggesting, in essence, is that both Traditions are somehow true. Mythically true, and scripturally represented as convenient for a source at the time … before eventually being forgotten about in their true essence, and bowdlerized, euhemerized by later commentators until pseudo-historical fact was most of that which was left. With, to be sure, a certain amount of semi-deliberate poetic and political license going on in order to re-fit the Mythic narrative for the needs of its inheritor-bearer people. After all, they had already ‘tweaked’ a story that cannot have taken place in Italy [I am yet to hear of anybody seriously proposing an Italic Indo-European Urheimat], to not only do so … but do so in their own fairly recently remembered (relatively speaking) history. Why not also introduce the metaphoric element of “Kinslaying” between Brothers, in order to truthfully drive home the point that Rome’s ongoing internecine internal conflicts were a tragedy, rather than a triumph – albeit potentially something of a necessary one. Never mind the ‘values dissonance’ of Kinslaying in the ancient world, and the fact that the morally turgid acts against one’s own kin were what precipitated the whole narrative in Alba Longa to begin with. But again, I digress.
The Classical-era sources which we have parsed state that Remus died … but also, that Remus set up a parallel city to Romulus’ Rome. They call this Remuria.
Further Classical-era source material suggests that Lemuria, Lemures are related to this “Remuria”, and to Remus – who is specifically honoured during this occasion, when the Shades of the Dead (Our Dead, were we Romans) are also to be found among us, the living. How can one be both Dead and the founder of a City? Simple, if it is a City of the Dead. A vital and necessary – if frankly underappreciated – role, which allows the Living to go forward, and helps also to enable them to keep their ancient, ancestral link with the past. While also providing them, paradoxically, with a Future, post-mortem. “Death”, as they say, “Is Only The Beginning”.
“Remuria”, in other words, would be “YamaLoka”. And the ‘Dual Kingship’ hailed for Romulus and Remus by the Romans – was indeed just exactly that. One for the Living – and One for the Dead. Similar, in some ways, to Mitra and Varuna – the Day-side and Night-side Kings from the Vedas. Or Ingwe-Freyr and Draugadrottin Odin, in a slightly different sense as respective Lords amongst the Norse.
There are yet further supports for this concept. Indirectly, we could infer that Remus’ leap over the wall of Romulus’ domain may recall Yama’s taking flight from the Mortal Realm, to find His space in the Great Beyond. It is, after all, per some versions of the myth, what leads immediately to Remus’ death. And rather amusingly (although perhaps inconsequentially) the customary phrase uttered at this moment does make direct reference to a Manu in the original Latin – albeit there meaning “Hand”.
But more directly, we have those wonderful lines of Ennius, to be found immediately following the commencement of the divinatory contest – wherein several strange and portentous signs ‘midst the heavens are seen portending to each Brother-Twin’s future fate.
Now I shall not go through these in any great detail – because suffice to say, for a mere dozen or so lines of slightly archaic Latin, they have generated some considerable weight of feasible interpretation by several centuries worth of academic enthusiasts. And parsing all of these would be well beyond the intended scope and scale of this piece. Suffice to say, it is a viable belief that both Romulus and Remus see Omens in the sky – in the form of flights of birds; and that there is some disagreement as to whether the Two Suns that are mentioned in the course of proceedings are intended to be the Setting and the Rising Sun either side of a dark night, or two hanging more curiously in the air semi-simultaneously. It is my belief that whereas others have interpreted these constellation of signifers to be what was watched-for and cursorily marked up as ‘positive’ or ‘even more positive’ by the two twin augurs of old … the actual language of Ennius’ description of the matter is not to be interpreted quite so mundanely. But is instead, in symbolic terms, the actual substance of the divination itself. That is to say – in metaphoric terms, it is what is being conveyed about the impending fate of each Brother. Not simply a score-sheet of how many birds, or how many Suns one or the other was able to see at which given time. Ennius was, after all, a poet.
The Twin Suns represent the Twin Sons. One White – the pale colour of death and dying – retreating downwards into the Infernal Regions [“Interea sol albus recessit in infera noctis.”]. This is, after all, the place to which Remus had earlier pledged himself in his Devotio oath – and is also where we should expect Yama to wind up … along with Varuna [the ‘Setting Sun’], per RV X 14 7. The two sightings of Birds, likewise, stand for the fates of the two brothers. The first, is of a single “exceptionally lucky” bird that comes flying in from the ‘left’ [interestingly, the term utilized for ‘left’ in the original Latin – ‘laeva’ – is a rather close pun for ‘larva’ … that is to say, ‘Ghost’ … a fitting parallel for the Infernal destination which the White Sun has just descended into], and may portend Remus’ flying forth alone into such a sepulchral sphere – and with the added connotation that this is a positive undertaking for him. The second, is of a whole flock of birds, potentially accompanied by a sudden ray of light. This likely stands for the ensuing coronation of Romulus – whereby, by Divine appointment, he shall rule ‘in the light’ [a term that shall recur later in Ennius in reference to Romulus’ paternal role for the putative Roman folk], over a multiplicity of men, in the form of his flock, his folk. The latter-mentioned Sun – the Golden Sun – further serves to confirm this, rising as it does [in much the same manner as the Solar association of the other half of the Mitra-Varuna Dvandva – Mitra as the Ascending Sun … as well as the ‘stablishment of covenant-ry amidst men – something that is about to happen for the soon-to-be-Romans as Romulus begins to bring about His Order to their localized civitas/cosmos/living-lives to replicate and reflect that being done on the ‘other side of the wall’ betwixt life and death by Remus for the Shades of the Dead Ancestors]; an ideal poetic illustration for the ascending glory and greatness of this new people under their new King.
As Ennius has the now ‘Romans’ proudly declare:
“O pater o genitor o sanguen dis oriundum,
Tu produxisti nos intra luminis oras.”
“O Father, O Progenitor, O Blood Descended/Arisen From The Gods
You Brought Us Into The Border/Shore/Realm of Light!”
This is an interesting construction, because it simultaneously brings together many of the crucial characteristics of Light in these Origin Of The Indo-European Man myths. And matches them up well with the established character of the Romulus-Manu figure.
First, we have the immediate Father figure – and that ought also be understood in its leadership, as well as ancestral context. Patriarchy, you might say, as well as Paternity.
Light is, as we have previously examined, very much this for the Vedic Manu – it is Vivasvat, His Father; as well as being representative and indicative of Rulership, being the Sun King, the ordering and directing and central figure of the State. [Interestingly, in terms of the Latinate use of ‘Ora’ here – the Sanskrit “Loka” is directly derived from the same particle as “Look” (PIE: ‘Lewk’) [Latin: Lucus, meaning a sacred grove, rather like the one in which Romulus & Remus were first conceived, is similarly rooted], and can also mean both the faculty of sight, but more usually means a kingdom, a realm, a world. What is seen is under dominion. However, it can also mean a people, and particularly Mankind. We who live in this realm of Light.].
Genitor is similarly initially relevant – however continues to maintain this saliency even beyond its immediate application to Manu-Romulus as the Son of the Sun [‘Dyaus’, perhaps – but more upon that later]. For as the (Pro)Genitor of the Romans and/or the Indo-Europeans, the assertion being made is, in effect, that the (Divine) Blood Of Light [‘Deus’/’Deva’ – ‘Shining One’] did not merely stop with Romulus/Manu – but rather has continued as the essential blood and civilizational tie of His Inheritors, His Children .. His Kind. Hence the next clause, around the Blood Sprung from The Gods Themselves – and thus entering into the descendant, sovereign-subject People, therethrough. Which makes rather more sense, admittedly, when we are considering Manu as a mythic progenitor of Mankind, rather than Romulus as a rather later appointed/accepted sovereign of the Roman people, who turns up to reign over various humans largely already in existence. Mythic ‘localization’, with its inherent ‘descent’ in relation to the relative needs of its bearer-community, can not infrequently lose some of its grandeur as it ‘scales downwards’ in saliency as well as distance into the indistinguishable past. The transition from ‘Mythic’ to ‘Mythic-Historical’, or worse outright to ‘Euhemeric’, means bringing things down to our level. Which is why it is quite inappropriate. As it is quite literally about The Gods.
Yet it is that last line which intrigues me the most. “Tu produxisti nos intra luminis oras.” – “You Lead Us Forth Into The Border/Shore/Realm of Light!”
This is partially for cosmological reasons. There is a well-known Indo-European tendency to regard the liminal spaces between worlds – especially between the worlds [Lokas] of the Living and that of the Dead – as being akin to the banks or shores of some body of water. Think of the River Styx, or the Oceanus, or the Rasa, for instance. The straightforward interpretation, therefore, is the progenitorial one – that as the author of his people’s existence, he brings them forth into the ‘world of light’. This is, as it happens, an accepted and somewhat freestanding idiom in Latin – the bringing into the world of light meaning ‘to give birth to’. A slightly more poetic interpretation would have ‘realm of light’ as ‘heavenly’ – and therefore the bringing forth of the Roman people with him into the immortality of the ages, won through deeds and divine heritage being lived up to. It would go nicely with the line sometime earlier in the section concerning Romulus himself going forth in just such a manner, as was once upon a time foretold. But that’s all pretty obvious.
How I choose to interpret the saliency of Light as the characteristic of this realm goes rather further. Insofar as it means Order, and the veer-y concept of ‘Rome’ itself. As applies the latter, the sense is therefore not that which cannot have been, in the Roman recollection (despite its potential in the mythology of Manu Himself), of literally giving birth or other authorship of existence to the now-Roman persons. But instead … the much more magnificent feat for a historical figure, of giving birth to the Roman people – as in, the idea of Rome, and thence inducing the people who would become his to join him in that. Leading them forth, via illumination, into this new manner and mode (manes?) of being, as one. The bringing of Order, conceived of as the ‘Light’, and finding its direct expression via the social structures instituted by Romulus in order to bind a group of individuals and families into a polity, a people – including not only acts of Lawgiving [‘Manusmriti’, one might perhaps recall – although not the relatively recent historical text, the original concept] for the general populace, but the division of society into clades based upon merit, heredity, and need.
The notion of the World of the Living as ‘Light’, and the leaving of life to the ‘Darkness’ of ‘Exile’ finds ancient expressing in, for instance, RV II 23 7 [interestingly, for our purposes, a Varuna hymnal]; however, it should be noted that Order is actually to be found amidst both the realms of Light and Dark. And, of course, in the separation of Light and Dark in the first place. Which is an underlying necessity for the ordering of time and the universe [viz. Yami’s marking of the time since Yama’s death via the progression of days and nights thusly created]. Dark, in particular, has a strong association with Order – as seen not only via Yama and Varuna having exactly this porfolio, but also the perhaps surprising mytholinguistic strength and depth of association I explored in “RAGNAROK AND THE NIGHT LORD” some months ago – wherein a direct and repeated pattern across the Indo-European languages of terms for ‘rulership’/’regime/’order’ and for ‘darkness’/’night’ are frequent close (to the point of near indistinguishability to the untrained speaker] phonetic equivalents.
The act of Remus’ Devotio, then, far from being the chaotic and disordered conceit of a Kinslaying by Romulus [and recall the Kinstrife at Alba Longa which precipitates their local myth], is actually a fundamentally ordered and order-bringing agency. Of Cosmic necessity, and enduring saliency (after all, death – unlike life – is far more enduring; as is its realm and therefore denizens), and deserving of far more recognition for it, in much the same manner as we hail Yama today – and for the same broad reason. As a sepulchral invocation popular some centuries ago used to run – “As You Are, We Once Were. As We Are, You Shall Be.”
[Due to its length, this article has been further subdivided – it shall continue in Part IV Section III – ‘Forensic Theology’]