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1001 Stories Collection

Romulus and Remus

1001 Romulus Remus Tahoe
Added on 31st July 2020

Oral tradition Roman myth

A Roman myth telling of the founding of Rome.

Story

Romulus and Remus were the twin sons of Rhea Silvia. Different versions of the myth credit Mars or Hercules as their father. Rhea Silvia was a vestal virgin and the daughter of the deposed ruler King Numitor, who was an ancestor of the Trojan hero Aeneas. When the twins were born the then ruler King Amulius ordered the babies to be killed by abandoning them on a remote hillside. However a she-wolf suckled the boys before they were found and brought up by a shepherd.

When fighting broke out between supporters of the deposed King Numitor and the current ruler King Amunius, the boys discovered their true identity and helped to return King Numitor to the throne. The boys then decided to build their own city but disagreed about the precise location. Remus wished to build on the Aventine Hill, whilst Romulus prefered the Palatine Hill. In the course of their arguing Remus was killed and Romulus proceeded to build the city of Rome.

Why we chose it

The myth of Romulus and Remus was a popular subject for Roman writers. Versions of the story are found in the works of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Plutarch, Livy, Virgil and Ovid. The story is firmly rooted in the real topography of the city of Rome, with the emperor Augustus choosing to build his palace on the Palatine Hill near the legendary site of the cave where the she-wolf was said to have suckled Romulus and Remus.

Where it came from

The story of Romulus and Remus provided a line of direct descent from the heroes of Troy to the Roman emperors and helped legitimise their power. Romulus was also credited with establishing the Roman army and system of government.

Where it went next

The image of the she-wolf suckling the twin boys became a powerful symbol of Rome. An image of the famous bronze statue of a wolf suckling two boys in the Capitoline Museum is the symbol of football club A.S. Roma and was also used as the emblem for the 1960 Olympics in Rome.

Associated stories

In order to expand the population of the newly-founded city, the Romans invite nearby tribes, including the Sabines, to a feast but then abduct the women. After years of fighting, peace is eventually established after the Sabine women intervene to prevent further bloodshed.

According to Ovid, when Romulus dies he becomes the God Quirinus and ascends to Olympus to join the other Roman Gods.

Added on 31st July 2020

Oral tradition Roman myth