The wolf that made Rome possible

The wolf with Romolus and Remus

Many people gape at Rome’s monuments, their authenticity makes it incredibly easy to picture toga-clad muscular men busy organizing naval battles at the Colosseum, but how many have wondered how all this started?

To make sure Rome’s foundation sounded as grand as its present and future, historians, writers and poets back in the BCs produced eternal works on it.

As many might have guessed, the greatness of all things Roman started in Greece, with Aeneas, hero of Virgil’s Aeneid. Son of goddess Venus, Aeneas fled the sack of Troy and went to Italy, with a brief stop in Carthage, just in time to make the queen Dido fall in love with him and then kill herself when he’s forced to leave by Fate and Jupiter.

Once reached Cumae, in Italy, Aeneas summons the Cumaean Sybil who directs him to the Underworld where his dead father Anchises reveals to him that his destiny is in Rome. In Lazio (Latium), Rome’s region, Aeneas is welcomed by the king Latino and especially by his daughter, Lavinia. After winning a duel with her arranged fiancé Turno (you didn’t believe he could lose, did you? I didn’t think so), Aeneas marries Lavinia and founds a city named after her, Lavinio.

Thirty years later, Ascanius, Aeneas’ son also called Iulius, founds yet another city, Alba Longa, where his descendants ruled for generations, until the king Numitor got overthrown by his brother Amulius who, among the other things, forces Numitor’s daughter, Rhea Silvia, to become vestal sworn to chastity in order not to be able to have children and give birth to a potential pretender to the throne.

However, Amulius didn’t really consider everything.

In fact, the god Mars fell in love with Rhea Silvia, and nine months later she gave birth to twins Romulus and Remus. The king Amulius, as soon as he heard the news, ordered to kill the twins, but the servant in charge couldn’t do it and left them on a basket on the shore of the Tiber river.

After floating along for a while, the basket stopped near the Campidoglio, in the area where today lie the Fori Romani, and the twins were rescued and fed by a wolf that had heard them cry. This is the wolf in the picture that still lies in the Musei Capitolini in Rome’s Campidoglio, just where the twins were found.

Once adults, Romulus and Remus went back to Alba Longa, killed Amulius and put their grandfather Numitor (amazingly still alive and strong enough to rule) back in power. Once Numitor is at the head of Alba Longa again, since the two nephews didn’t want to rule there at least as long as he was alive, they received permission for founding a brand new city in the place where they grew up. Romulus wants to build it on the Palatino Mount and call it Roma, while Remus prefers the Aventino and wants to name the new city Remora.

Here we only know for sure that Remus died, but there are many accounts on the how. He did die at the hand of his brother, but we are not sure if it was within a normal fight or cheated by him. Any way it happened, Romulus won, founded the city of Rome and became its first king.

All these volumes, writings, books, stories, adventures and years of study in school, just to let everybody know that the dynasty of Rome’s kings (Gens Iulia, from Iulius, Ascanius), of which belonged also Iulius Ceasar, has divine origins. Romolus was the son of the god Mars and Ascanius the nephew of Venus, nonetheless.

Did you really think today’s marketing tricks were so original? Looks like ancient Rome has left us more messages than we might think.

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10 Comments
  1. I always loved Roman myths.These posts sounds like a really interesting idea for a tour of mythical Rome.

    • There are so many mythical places in Rome, tour guides only mention history, which is obviously important, but myths were so crucial to Rome’s life that they really are intertwined with its history.

  2. Although I knew the basic story of Romolus and Remus, you filled in a lot of detail for me. Marketing tricks indeed! I’ve never seen that sculpture either.

  3. Interesting! Myths add a ton of flavour to common travel destinations

  4. Combined with all the catacombs and mysteries underneath the Vatican, Rome hides more stories than she reveals!

  5. Wasn’t aware of that whole story, thanks for sharing!

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