During the crisis of the Republic, the founder of Rome became the symbol of a cold-blooded and unscrupulous tyrant. This image of Romulus, which has been rationalized and almost completely bereft of its mythical traits, seems to persist and influence recent interpretations aiming to unfold the more hidden layers of the narrative in Ovid’s Fasti, which so to say rehabilitates Romulus. Researchers attempting a new reading of the text identify ”traces” that they believe undermined and discredited the image of Romulus, arousing sympathy or at least compassion, and along with it, Augustan propaganda – in accordance with the author’s intention, as they suppose.
This study briefly introduces the most characteristic traits of the negative Romulus-image, and then discusses the preconceptions that may have rendered the Fasti, which has long been considered an artistic failure of a great poet, a distinguished text in post-modern classical philology. This paper examines some examples of these subversive readings and interpretation techniques, and also points out their less convincing aspects. It will be argued that while the post-modern approach has uncovered numerous unnoticed artistic values of the Fasti, concerning the story of Romulus the suspicious reading described by Eco may well lead to overinterpretations that do not throw light upon many aspects of Ovid’s narrative art but rather obscure them.