Key Facts & Summary:
- They are believed to be the founders of Rome
- They were twins.
- They were believed to be the son of god Mars.
In Roman mythology, Romulus and Remus, twin sons of the princess and vestal Rhea Silvia and the god Mars, are the legendary founders of Rome
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.