In Roman mythology, Evander (from Greek Εὔανδρος Euandros, "good man" or "strong man": an etymology used by poets to emphasize the hero's virtue) was a culture hero from Arcadia, Greece, who was said to have brought the Greek pantheon, laws, and alphabet to Italy, where he founded the city of Pallantium on the future site of Rome, sixty years before the Trojan War. He instituted the festival of the Lupercalia. Evander was deified after his death and an altar was constructed to him on the Aventine Hill.
Dionysius of Halicarnassus writes that Evander was the son of Hermes and a local nymph of the Arcadians, called Themis. He also mentions that the writers of the early history of Rome called her, in their native language, Carmenta. Strabo writes that the Romans honour the mother of Evander, regarding her as one of the nymphs, and have renamed her Carmenta (a derivation of the Latin word for song). Evander's wisdom was beyond that of all Arcadians. His son Pallas apparently died childless; however, the gens Fabia claimed descent from Evander.
In the Aeneid
Evander plays a major role in Virgil's Aeneid Books VIII-XII. Previous to the Trojan War, Evander gathered a group of native Latins[who?] to a city he founded in Italy near the Tiber river, which he named Pallantium. Virgil states that he named the city in honour of his Arcadian ancestor, Pallas, although Pausanias, Livy and Dionysius of Halicarnassus say that originally Evander's birth city was Pallantium in Arcadia, after which he named the new city. It is said that Evander's mother persuaded him to murder his father, Hermes leading to the pair being banished from Arcadia. They settled in Pallantium where it is said Evander killed Erulus, the king of Italy, three times in one day, prior to becoming the most powerful King of Italy.
The oldest tradition of its founding ascribes to Evander the erection of the Great Altar of Hercules in the Forum Boarium. In Aeneid, VIII, where Aeneas and his crew first come upon Evander and his people, they were venerating Hercules for dispatching the giant Cacus. Virgil's listeners would have related this scene to the same Great Altar of Hercules in the Forum Boarium of their own day, one detail among many in the Aeneid that Virgil used to link the heroic past of myth with the Age of Augustus. Also according to Virgil, Hercules was returning from Gades with Geryon's cattle when Evander entertained him. Evander then became the first to raise an altar to Hercules' heroism. This archaic altar was destroyed in the Great Fire of Rome, AD 64.
Because of their traditional ties, Evander aids Aeneas in his war against Turnus and the Rutuli: the Arcadian had known the father of Aeneas, Anchises, before the Trojan War, and shares a common ancestry through Atlas with Aeneas's family. In the Aeneid, it is said that Evander took possession of the country Italy by force, murdering king Herilus, the king of Praeneste.
- Charlton T. Lewis, Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary at the Perseus Digital Library via the Perseus Hopper, version 4.
- Strabo, Geography, 5.3.3
- Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, 2.1
- Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, 1.32.1
- Aeneid, viii
- Ab Urbe Condita, 1.5.1
- Roman Antiquities, i. 31
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. .
- Escher, Euandros 1 in Paulys Realencyclopaedie der classischen Altertumswissenschaften, trans. into English