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Romulus and Remus were twin brothers. Their mother, Rhea Silvia was the daughter of Numitor, king of Alba Longa, an ancient city of Latium. Before the twins are conceived, Rhea Silvia’s uncle Amulius takes power, kills Numitor’s male heirs and forces Rhea Silvia to become a Vestal Virgin. Vestal Virgins were charged with keeping a sacred fire that was never to be extinguished and were sworn to chastity.
However, Rhea Silvia conceives the twins. Most accounts claim their father was either the god Mars, or the demigod Hercules. However, Livy claimed that Rhea Silvia was raped by an unknown man.
Once the twins are born. Amulius is furious and has his servants place the twins in a basket by the flooded river Tiber, which sweeps them away.
Downstream they are discovered by a she wolf. The lupa suckles and nurses them, and they are fed by a woodpecker until they are found and taken away by a shepherd. They are raised by the shepherd and his wife, and both soon prove to be natural leaders.
As adults, the brothers resolved to found a city on the site where they met the wolf. However they soon quarrelled about the site of the city, and Romulus murdered Remus.
While Romulus wanted to found the new city on the Palatine Hill, Remus preferred the Aventine Hill. He subsequently founded Rome, lending it his name.
Sculpture of Romulus, mythical founder of Rome, with his twin brother Remus, who were said to have been suckled by a she-wolf.
He led Rome in a number of military victories, supervising its expansion. As Rome swelled with numbers of disaffected male refugees, Romulus led a war against the Sabine people, which was won and in doing so absorbed the Sabines into Rome.
Under his leadership Rome became the dominant force in the region, but as Romulus grew older his rule became more autocratic, and he eventually disappeared in mysterious circumstances.
In later versions of the myths, Romulus ascended to heaven, and is associated with the divine incarnation of the Roman people.
Romulus and Remus
Romulus and his twin brother Remus are the sons of vestal Rhea Silvia and the god Mars. Rhea Silvia is the daughter of Numitor, king of the legendary Latin city of Albe la Longue (founded by Ascagne, son of Aeneas) and dispossessed of the throne by his brother Amulius. The latter, fearing that his grandnephews would claim their due by growing up, takes the pretext that they are the sons of a Vestal, who had vowed chastity and ordered that they are thrown into the Tiber.
But the order is poorly executed, the newborns are abandoned in a basket on the river, survive miraculously (protected by the gods, says the legend), and are discovered under a wild fig tree (the Ficus Ruminalis) located in front of the entrance of the Lupercale cave, at the foot of the Palatine Hill, by a she-wolf (Lupa) who nurses them and by a woodpecker, the bird of Mars.
Livy and Plutarch give another explanation of the legend: the twins were certainly fed by a she-wolf but in the sense of prostitute. They are found in the cave of Lupercale, by the shepherd Faustulus, guardian of the herds of Amulius, and his wife Larentia, a prostitute whom the shepherds nicknamed Lupa, “the Wolf”, who raises them.
Later, the twins, to whom is revealed the secret of their birth, will kill Amulius (slain by Remus according to some, pierced by the sword of Romulus according to others) and will restore their grandfather Numitor on the throne of Albe.
According to tradition, the two twins left Albe to found a new city. Romulus and Remus then took the auspices to know where it would be built. Remus was the first to see birds: he saw 6 vultures coming from the right. But just afterwards, Romulus saw 12. So Romulus was appointed a king and set the new city on the Palatine Hill.
To create his city Romulus dug a ditch and decided that whoever would cross it without his permission would be executed. His brother defied him and was killed or, according to other people, they fought, then Remus fell and his brother killed him, but remorseful, Romulus buried Remus under the Aventine.
The first king
Romulus and his warriors have no women, so they decide to invite the neighbouring people, the Sabines to a party. They close the doors, drunk the men, then kill them and keep the women. Titus Tatius, king of the Sabines, then declared war on the Romans. The war lasts until the Sabines intervene between their fathers and the Romans. Titus Tatius and Romulus will then share the kingship for five years. When Titus Tatius dies, he is solemnly buried on Mount Aventine.
Livy also tells of the death of Romulus. As a Roman, he states that Romulus in a whirlwind of dust was raised to the heavens: this would be the phenomenon of Apotheosis. But as a historian, he does not omit the rumor of the time saying that taking advantage of bad weather, the Patricians have murdered him.
When Amulius overthrew his brother Numitor, King of Albe-la-Longue, he also forced his only daughter, Rhea Silvia, to become a vestal, thus ensuring that there would be no descendants to claim the throne.
But Mars, the god of war, seduced her and she gave birth to two twins Remus and Romulus. Amulius ordered his servants to kill the newborns, but they were content to throw them into the Tiber. The cradle was quickly swept away by the current and finally stopped on a mud bank.
There, a wolf watched over the children. Later, Romulus and Remus were found in the den of the animal by a shepherd named Faustulus, who brought them home. They were raised as shepherds but soon their leadership and fighting skills made them famous. One day, Numitor met Remus and guessed who he was. The family has reunited again but the two brothers could not content themselves with living peacefully at Albe-la-Longue. They left to found their own city. However, a quarrel broke out between the twins.
Then Romulus populated his city and after the fusion of the two peoples, he reigned with Titus Tatius. But soon Tatius died. Romulus remained the only king. 33 years later, the day of the July nuns, he reviewed the army in the Champ de Mars. Suddenly broke a terrible storm, accompanying a solar eclipse. Everything disappeared under the torrents of water. Once the storm was over, when everyone came out of his shelter, it was in vain that the king was searched everywhere. Later, a Roman, Julius Proculus, claimed that Romulus had appeared to him in a dream to reveal to him that he had been kidnapped by the gods and that he had become the god Quirinus. He asked for a shrine to be raised on Mount Quirinal, which was done.
Hersilia, one of the Sabines abducted by the Romans, and become the wife of Romulus, was also placed, after his death, at the rank of the divinities. He was honored, in the same temple as Quirinus, under the names of Hora or Horta. His worship had some connection with that of Hebe, and it was invoked to attract his protection to the Roman youth. She passed to inspire young men with a taste for virtue and glorious deeds. His shrines were never closed, a symbol of the need where the young man is, to be stimulated day and night to do good. It was also called Simula.
According to other ancient sources, the foundation of the city would have a link with the Greek world, since the founders had a Trojan ancestry. This legend presents Aeneas, Trojan prince, as one of the direct ancestors of Romulus and Remus, who also became king after marrying the daughter of the Latin king.
This interpretation is not only found in the theories of Greek historians, but this thesis is also defended in the Italic world, which is confronted with other myths attributing its origin to Arcadius or Achéos. Be that as it may, Greek historiography has attributed divine and Greek origins to the founding of Rome. However, the Trojan origin of Rome is hardly acceptable, if we compare the date of the destruction of Troy (1200 BC) with the archaeological remains of the village of Latium and Septimontium.
The legend of Romulus and Remus
The legend tells that Spain – son of the Trojan hero Aeneas (son of Venus and Anchises) – would have founded the city of Alba Long on the right bank of the Tiber. Many of his descendants ruled there until the arrival of Numitor and his brother Amulius. The latter dethroned Numitor, and so that there is no offspring that could steal the throne, he condemned his daughter, Rhea Silvia, to be a priestess of God Vesta to remain a virgin.
Despite this, Rhea Silvia gave birth to the twins Romulus and Remus, begotten by Mars, the god of war. When they were born, to be saved, the brothers were thrown into the Tiber, placed in a basket that failed near the area of the seven hills near the mouth of the Tiber.
A wolf, called Luperca, approached the river to drink she recovered them and breastfed in her lair on the Palatine Hill until they were found and saved by a priest who will have them raised by his wife. As adults, the twins will restore their grandfather Numitor to the throne of Alba Long and will found a city on the right bank of the Tiber, where they were suckled by the wolf, to finally become kings. It is said that the wolf that suckled Romulus and Remus was actually their adopted human mother. The term wolf, Latin Lupa, was also used pejoratively, to designate the prostitutes of the time.
The legend also tells how Romulus killed Remus. Near the mouth of the Tiber, there were seven hills: the Aventine, Cælius, Capitol, Esquiline, Palatine, Quirinal and Viminal mountains. Romulus and Remus did not agree on where the city should be based, so they decided to watch the flight of birds in the Etruscan way. Romulus saw twelve vultures fly over the Palatine, and Remus only saw six from other hills. To demarcate the new city, Romulus drew an enclosure, dug by a plough on top of the Palatine Hill and swore to kill anyone who would cross his enclosure. Remus disobeyed and went inside, mocking his brother, who, irritated, killed his brother and was the first and first king of Rome. This event would have occurred in the year 754 BC. BC, according to the version of the official history of ancient Rome.
Romulus and Remus Timeline - History
The Myth of the Birth of the Hero , by Otto Rank, , at sacred-texts.com
The original version of the story of Romulus and Remus--as told by the most ancient Roman annalist Quintus Fabius Pictor--is rendered as follows by Mommsen: 1
After Rome had been founded, later on, King Romulus built himself a house not far from the place where his tub had stood. The gully in which the she-wolf had disappeared has been known since that time as the Wolf's Gully, the Lupercal. The image in ore of the she-wolf with the twins was subsequently erected at this spot, 1 and the she-wolf herself, the Lupa, was worshipped by the Romans as a divinity.
The Romulus saga later on underwent manifold transmutations, mutilations, additions, and interpretations. 2 It is best known in the form transmitted by Livy (I, 3 ff.), where we learn something about the antecedents and subsequent fate of the twins:
The narrative of the exposure in the Tiber goes on to relate that the floating tub, in which the boys had been exposed, was left on dry land by the receding waters, and that a thirsty wolf, attracted from the neighboring mountains by the children's cries, offered them her teats. The boys are said to have been found by the chief royal herder, supposedly named Faustulus, who took them to the homestead of his wife, Larentia, where they were raised. Some believe that Larentia was called Lupa ("she-wolf") by the herders because she offered her body, and that this was the origin of the wonderful saga.
Grown to manhood, the youths Romulus and Remus protect the herds against the attacks of wild animals and robbers. One day Remus is taken prisoner by the robbers, who accuse him of having stolen Numitor's flocks. But Numitor, to whom he is surrendered for punishment, was touched by his tender age, and when he learned of the twin brothers, he suspected that they might be his exposed grandsons. While he was anxiously pondering the resemblance with the features of his daughter, and the boy's age as corresponding to the time of the exposure, Faustulus arrived with Romulus, and a conspiracy was hatched when the descent of the boys had been learned from the herders. The youths armed themselves for vengeance, while Numitor took up weapons to defend his claim to the throne he had usurped. After Amulius had been assassinated, Numitor was reinstituted as the ruler, and the youths resolved to found a city in the region where they had been exposed and brought up. A furious dispute arose upon the question of which brother was to be the ruler of the newly erected city, for neither twin was favored by the right of primogeniture, and the outcome of the bird oracle was equally doubtful. The saga relates that Remus jumped over the new wall, to deride his twin, and Romulus became so much enraged that he slew his brother. Romulus then
usurped the sole mastery, and the city was named Rome after him.
The Roman tale of Romulus and Remus has a close counterpart in the Greek myth of a city foundation by the twin brothers Amphion and Zethus, who were the first to found the site of Thebes of the Seven Gates. The enormous rocks which Zethus brought from the mountains were joined by the music drawn from Amphion's lyre strings to form the walls which became so famous later on. Amphion and Zethus passed as the children of Zeus and Antiope, daughter of King Nykteus. She escaped by flight from the punishment of her father, who died of grief on his deathbed he implored his brother and successor on the throne, Lycus, to punish the wrongdoing of Antiope. Meantime she had married Epopeus, the king of Sicyon, who was killed by Lycus. Antiope was led away by him in fetters. She gave birth to twin sons in the Cithaeron, where she left them. A shepherd raised the boys and called them Amphion and Zethus. Later on, Antiope succeeded in escaping from the torments of Lycus and his wife, Dirce. She accidentally sought shelter in the Cithaeron, with the twin brothers, now grown up. The shepherd reveals to the youths the fact that Antiope is their mother. Thereupon they cruelly kill Dirce, and deprive Lycus of the rulership.
The remaining twin sagas, 1 which are extremely numerous, cannot be discussed in detail in this connection. Possibly they represent a complication of the birth myth by another very ancient and widely distributed myth complex, that of the hostile brothers, the detailed discussion of which belongs elsewhere. The apparently late and secondary character of the twin type in the birth myths justifies the separation of this part of mythology from the present theme. As regards the Romulus saga, Mommsen considers it highly probable that it originally told only of Romulus, while the figure of Remus was added subsequently, and somewhat disjointedly, when it became desirable
to invest the consulate with a solemnity founded on old tradition. 1
44:1 Theodor Mommsen: "Die echte and die falsche Acca Larentia" in Festgaben für G. Homeyer (Berlin, 1891), pp. 93 ff and Römische Forschungen (Berlin, 1879), Vol. II, pp. 1 ff. Mommsen reconstructs the lost narrative of Fabius from the preserved reports of Dionysius (I, 79-831) and of Plutarch (Romulus).
45:1 The Capitoline She-Wolf is considered the work of very ancient Etruscan artists it was erected at the Lupercal in the year 296 B.C., according to Livy (X, 231).
45:2 All these renderings were compiled by Schwegler, in his Roman History, Vol. I, pp. 384 ff.
47:1 Some Greek twin sagas are quoted by Schubert (op. cit. pp. 13 ff.) in their essential content. Concerning the extensive distribution of this legendary form, compare the somewhat confused book of J. H. Becker: The Twin Saga as the Key to the Interpretation of Ancient Tradition (Leipzig, 1891).
Today in History: Rome is Founded (753 BCE)
According to tradition, and stories passed down, Rome was founded by Romulus and Remus, two young boys who were raised by a she-wolf.
According to legend, they then decided to build a city, but before that could happen, Romulus killed his brother Remus. Roman historians believe this happened on April 21, 753 BCE.
There are other legends and myths about the founding of Rome, and the truth is that historians really don&rsquot know when or how it was really founded.
What they do know, from archaeology, is that there has been human activity in the region of Rome for more than 14,000 years. It is one of the world&rsquos longest continuously populated sites, no matter when the actual city was founded. The actual myth of the two brothers first came about in the 4th century BCE, and the date of the founding was set by Marcus Terentius Varro in the 1st century BCE.
Another popular legend about the founding of Rome came from Greece around the same time. The legend states that the Trojan Aeneas founded the city several centuries before Romulus and Remus were born. It was in the 5th century BCE that many historians in Greece speculated that Aeneas settled in Rome, but most wrote that there was already a small city-state on the site.
The actual method and time of the founding may be a mystery that will never be solved, but the history since that time is well documented. From the powerful and egotistical leaders of the Roman Empire, to the largess that is the Catholic Church, Rome has a deep and very rich history, making it one of the most interesting cities to research and visit as someone interested in history and culture.
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Legend of Rome – Quiz
Check that you have understood the Legend of Rome by completing the sentences below:
a. Rome and Remus
b. Fred and Barney
c. Tom and Jerry
d. Homer and Marge
e. Romulus and Remus
3. Their wicked ________ wanted to become ruler instead of them.
4. The boys were put into a ________ on the river Tiber.
5. Their ________ hoped that they would drown.
6. They were rescued by a ________ .
7. Later they were found by a ________ . He and his wife looked after them until they grew up.
8. When the boys were older, they decided to build a ________ .
9. They argued about who should be King and ________ was killed.
b. The Shepherd
d. The Wolf
10. Romulus became the first King of ________ .
Click the ‘Next’ button below to find out how many you got correct.
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Romulus and Remus
Romulus and Remus were the legendary founders of Rome. In Roman mythology they were twin brothers, children of Rhea Silvia and the god Mars.
Rhea Silvia was the daughter of Numitor Silvius, king of Alba Longa, a legendary town founded by Ascanius, son of Aeneas, prince of Troy. When Numitor's brother Amulius became king by force, he made Rhea Silvia a Vestal Virgin, so she would not have children who could be kings instead of him. But the god Mars seduced her and she had the twins Romulus and Remus. Rhea Silvia was punished, and her sons were thrown into the Tiber, but were saved by the river god Tiberinus, who also saved Rhea Silvia and married her. Romulus and Remus were found by a wolf who suckled them. A woodpecker fed them. The brothers were later found by a shepherd, Faustulus, who raised them.
Once they were grown, Romulus and Remus founded the city of Rome. However, the twins had an argument about where to start Rome. Romulus favored the Palatine Hill, but Remus favored the Aventine Hill. They decided to settle the disagreement by asking the gods. Each brother stood on his respective hill. Remus saw six birds fly overhead, and Romulus saw twelve. However, Remus countered that he had seen the birds first. Nonetheless, Romulus started to build a wall around his city. Then, Remus jumped over the wall as an insult to his brother. Angered, Romulus killed Remus. He regretted it, and took Remus to Amulius's palace, and buried him there.
Student Activities for Romulus and Remus
Romulus and Remus and the Foundation of Rome
King Numitor once ruled Alba Longa. His brother, Amulius, deposed him, killed his male heirs, and forced his daughter, Rhea Silvia, to become a Vestal Virgin. While in the service to the temple, Rhea Silvia became pregnant, supposedly by the god of war, Mars. She gave birth to twin boys.
Amulius, now king, feared the boys would one day grow up to challenge him for the throne. Fearing divine retribution for killing the sons of Mars, Amulius had the infants left to die of exposure to the elements. A servant put the boys in a basket on the Tiber River. The basket ran aground and the babies were found by a wolf.
The she-wolf suckled the two babies and protected them from danger. A woodpecker brought them food to eat. A group of shepherds came across the wolf and the babies. One shepherd, named Faustulus, took the babies home and raised them to be shepherds.
When the boys were older, they got into an argument with shepherds of the king and Remus was arrested. Romulus gathered people to free Remus. Their true identities were revealed and King Amulius was killed. The people wished to crown the boys as kings, but they decided to give the throne back to Numitor.
The brothers wanted to found their own city near the place where they were found by the she-wolf. They both had their own ideas of where the city should be built: Romulus wanted the Palantine Hill and Remus wanted the Aventine Hill. The brothers tried to decide via augury Remus saw six vultures first, and then Romulus saw twelve. Both claimed their chosen spot was favored and they began to argue. Romulus began to build a wall around his chosen location.
Remus made fun of Romulus and the wall he was building. Remus jumped over the wall, mocking its ineffectualness. Angry that his brother would belittle his work to such an extent and aggravated by his mockeries, Romulus killed his brother. Romulus founded his city, Roma, and established a government.
Romulus and Remus
Romulus and Remus were twins
Their father was a god called “Mars”
Who had a planet named for him
And lots of chocolate bars.
The twins had a wicked uncle who
Threw them in the river to die.
But they were rescued by a wolf
Who happened to pass by.
The wolf pulled them out of the river
And took them back home to her den.
She dried them off and fed them milk,
Until they were healthy again.
Before long a shepherd found them
And took them back home to his wife.
The couple raised them as their own
They had a happy life.
The twins grew into big strong men.
Both leaders with lots of allies.
They decided to build a city
At the place where the wolf heard their cries.
But the twins could not quite agree
On the exact location.
They had a nasty falling out,
A violent altercation.
Romulus killed his brother Remus
And very soon became
The king of the great city that
He named after his own name.
Yes, Romulus founded Rome,
It’s where the name came from,
Although I’ve often wondered why
It’s “Rome” instead of “Rom”.