The Birth of Rome

According to tradition, on April 21, 753 B.C.E, Romulus and his twin brother, Remus, found Rome on the site where they were suckled by a she-wolf named Lupa as orphaned infants. The twin-brothers were the sons of Mars, God of War, and Rhea Silvia, the Vestal Virgin.

The story begins with the deposition of Numitor (their grandfather and king of the ancient Italian city of Alba Longa), by his brother Amulius. Numitor's daughter, Rhea Silvia, was made a Vestal Virgin by Amulius - which meant that she was made a priestess of the Goddess Vesta and therefore forbidden to marry. However, the God Mars came to her in the Temple of Vesta and with him she conceived her two sons, Romulus and Remus.

They were unwanted because Amulius feared that the boys would grow up to overthrow him, so he had them placed in a channel and thrown into the River Tiber. At that time the river was flooded and when the waters fell, the trough still containing the two boys came ashore. They were found by a she-wolf named Lupa, who instead of killing them, looked after them and fed them with her milk. Lupa was helped by a woodpecker named Picus that brought them food as well. They were sent by Mars to protect and take care of the boys.

Romulus and Remus were then discovered by Faustulus, a shepherd, who brought the children to his home. Faustulus and his wife, Acca Larentia, raised the boys as their own. Upon reaching adulthood, Romulus and Remus led a band of young warriors against the dark king Amulius and reinstated Numitor, their grandfather, as King of Alba Longa, and then they decided to found a town of their own. Romulus and Remus chose the place where Lupa had nursed them. Romulus began to build walls on the Palatine Hill, but Remus jeered at them because they were so low. He leaped over them to prove this, and Romulus in anger killed him. Romulus buries Remus with honor and regret.

Romulus continued the building of the new city, naming it Roma (Rome) after his own name. Then he divides his fighting men into regiments of 3000 infantry and 300 cavalry, which he calls "legions". From the rest of the populace he selects 100 of the most noble and wealthy fathers to serve as his council. He calls these men Patricians: they are fathers of Rome, not only because they care for their own legitimate citizen-sons but because they have a fatherly care for Rome and its entire people. They are also its elders, and are therefore known as Senators. Romulus thereby inaugurates a system of government and social hierarchy based on the patron-client relationship.

Rome draws exiles, refugees, the dispossessed, criminals and runaway slaves. The city expands its boundaries to accommodate them; five of the Seven Hills of Rome are settled: the Capitoline Hill, the Aventine Hill, the Caelian Hill, the Quirinal Hill, and the Palatine Hill. As most of these immigrants are men, Rome finds itself with a shortage of marriageable women.

So Romulus decided to steal women from the Sabines, an Italian tribe. He proclaimed a festival to Neptune and invited many Sabines to it. While the attention of the Sabine men was elsewhere Romulus' men rushed in and carried off the women. This was the famous "Rape (carrying off) of the Sabine women", which later became a subject for painters. The Sabine men were furious and, led by their king Titus Tatius, declared war on Romulus. When the fighting had reached its peak, the Sabine women, who had grown fond of their Roman husbands, rushed between the ranks and begged both sides to make peace. So the battle was stopped, Romulus and Titus Tatius ruled together over the two peoples until Titus Tatius was killed in battle. For the rest of his life Romulus ruled alone, proving himself a great leader in peace and war. He did not die but disappeared one day in a violent storm. The Romans believing he had been taken up to heaven, worshiped him under the name of Quirinus. He was succeeded by Numa Pompilius.


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