Romulus, the Master Spin Doctor

Modern day politicians could take a lesson from Romulus. You see, he was probably the first to understand and use events to his advantage Long before we ever heard of special prosecutors, CNN, tabloid press, aspiring investigative reporters and network news anchors, A the spectacles was the vehicle used to report events. The master spin doctor, Romulus, learned to manipulate Athe spectacles to sway public opinion and create his god-like image. All by mastering his own version of a sound bite and early public relations. It has been said that events in Rome were staged. In fact, they believed that all the world was a stage and A life was like a play to be acted out. The event often defined the individual and  the spectacle" can be an insight to a person's character, moral fiber, their nature, and their compassion for mankind.

The model for   the spectacle  goes back to the very beginnings of Rome. Romulus and Remus were the first to use the spectacle to further their own agendas. After the new settlement was established, the time to chose a leader was at hand. Legend would have it that the gods would give a sign to the brother who was the chosen leader. Each took up camp on their respect hills; Romulus on the Palentine, and Remus on the Aventine.

It was time to decide who would rule this new town, and all waited with anticipation for the sign to come.

The first to receive a sign was Remus. His auspex witnessed six vultures which was a grand sign. However, Romulus' interpreter sighted twice the amount of birds. The brothers fought over the outcome and Remus was killed. Through the use of augury and the staging of this divination, the grandness of this spectacle set the stage for Romulus' rise to power. The use of the spectacle was the first of many in the life of Romulus.

Livy in The Early History of Rome recounts several incidents of spectacle in the life of Romulus. As the growth of Rome continued, this settlement was to survive only if certain measures were taken.

Women for potential mates through inter-marriage and treaties with Rome's neighbors would all be necessary. The neighboring clans resented and feared the Latins. But once again the use of the spectacle and staging was put into play to ensure the success of power of the new kingdom. It was essential that the new Romans put their plan to work and achieve their mission. "Romulus, seeing it must come, set the scene for it with elaborate care.......he prepared to celebrate the Consualia, a solemn festival in honour of Neptune....and sent notice of his intention all over the neighboring countryside. The better to advertise it, his people lavished up their preparations for the spectacle all the resources-at their command. On the appointed day crowds flocked to Rome, partly, no doubt, out of sheer curiosity to see the new town." (Livy pg. 43)

Romulus used the feast as the back drop for the deception. Any and all Romans could obtain wives that they were not able to secure through diplomatic channels. By throwing open the gates of the city, Romulus showed to the neighboring people just what Rome had to offer. All the neighboring settlements of Caenina, Custumium, and Antemnae were provided with hospitality and a show. And all the Sabine were there as well. The last thing that anyone suspected that it was just a trick to get the Sabine Women into Rome.

By securing the Sabine Women for his people, Romulus once again showed the power of his reign. And he did so through the use of staging the events to play into his agenda. By staging this spectacle, not only did Romulus ensure the continuation of Rome but it also ensured the continuation of his leadership. The Roman men were happy to have secured wives. And the hostages themselves, eventually gave up their resentment.

The families of the women were however less than forgiving. The parents according to Livy,"began to stir up trouble in earnest." (pg. 45).

War was inevitable, "the men of Caenina invaded Roman territory... Romulus himself cut down their prince and stripped him of his arms, then, their leader dead, took the town at the first assault. The victorious army returned, and Romulus proceed to dispose of the spoils...he took the armour...and carried it to the Capitol, where, by an oak which the shepherds regarded as a sacred tree, he laid it down as an offering to Jupiter. At the same time he determined on the site of a plot of ground consecrated to the God Jupiter..." (pg. 45).

At this point he uttered a prayer or command that all future leaders would dedicate the spoils of victory to the Gods.

It would seem that through this act of the offering of armour in some way absolved Romulus of the rape of Sabine women and the carnage of the battle caused from it. This particular spectacle lifted Romulus to the level of a holy man. It set him up for all others to follow. He turned this opportunity for himself into establishing his greatness. Romulus was in reality a despicable character. He developed the art of spectacle and all others that came after him could take lessons. He was a con man, murderer and rapist yet he knew how to use the events to his advantage. He used the art of the spectacle and his charismatic nature to persuade and nurture the common everyday people to love and revere him as a god. They would follow him anywhere and on any assault.

Even the Sabine women came to his defense. First, by taking the blame for their plight, then by making pleas to their families to halt the war and finally by stopping the strife. They united the two peoples under Romulus' rule. A monarchy that lasted for over 40 years.

Throughout the life and times of Romulus, he learned to master the art of the spectacle. This mastery enabled him to maintain his power, control the masses, and to set Rome on the way to domination of the entire region.

According to Livy, even in death Romulus was able to create the spectacle. To the very end Romulus was a showman, even with this passing. You see, he ascended to heaven in a rain cloud. This final spectacle was interpreted to prove he was a son of a god, and truly a master of the spectacle.

Written by Mary A. Cornwell
CFXS Director


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