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Mendacia Maiorum: Tales Of Deceit In Pre-Republican Rome

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Chapter Summary

Rome may have stood, as Ennius claimed, on its 'ancient customs and its men', but, according to the Romans' own accounts of the founding and early history of their city, one of those mores was a talent for deceit, and those viri were frequently liars. This chapter seeks to determine whether the role of lies and deceit is represented as positive or negative, in what circumstances deceit is brought into play, and what the utility of deceit in the narratives of this formative period indicates about Rome and Roman identity. The utility of deceit in war is echoed by its use as a tool of internal Roman social governance in accounts of the pre-Republican period. The innovations of Numa are correct and appropriate ways of honouring the gods and administering Roman civic religion. One of the more ambiguous is the lie which ensures the ascension of Servius Tullius.

Keywords: pre-Republican period; Roman civic religion; Servius Tullius

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