Founding figures : a comparative analysis between Rome’s Romulus and China’s Huangdi
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By studying the Greco-Roman worlds and their literature in relation to other cultures, we can develop a more complex and holistic understanding of the ways in which ancient civilizations developed and interacted. Although Sino-Roman studies are only just beginning to gain exposure, the social and cultural aspects of the two civilizations have received comparably less attention than other subjects. To further this development, this thesis will compare the foundation myth of Romulus and the legend of Huangdi as told in two fundamental historical texts, Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita and Sima Qian’s Shiji, respectively. Specifically, I will be exploring the context in which these figures came to be leaders, their characteristics, and the relationship between these myths and cultural identity. The goal of this thesis is to contribute to the growing number of Sino-Roman comparative studies, respond to the call to broaden the field of classics, and draw attention to the cultural values that are revealed by looking at the founding figures. Foundation myths are culturally fundamental as they reveal psychological tendencies and cultural values. Despite the significant distance between the two empires, based on the foundation myths of Huangdi and Romulus, the ancient Chinese and Romans had similar expectations for their rulers. Shared features of the two founding figures include divine association, military exploits, a divided state, brotherly rivalry, and the need for expansion. When compared together, the quasi-historical figures of Romulus and Huangdi provide a cultural link between –– as well as a new lens into –– the rise of China and Rome that has yet to be explored.