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Statue of the Capitoline Wolf

The Lupercal (from lupa, Latin for she-wolf) is a cave at the foot of the south side of Palatine Hill in Rome, between the Temple of Apollo Palatinus and the Basilica di Sant'Anastasia al Palatino. In the legend of Rome's foundation, Romulus and Remus were found there by the lactating female wolf who suckled them until they were found by Faustulus. The priests of Lupercus later celebrated certain ceremonies of the Lupercalia there, from the earliest days of the City until AD 494, when the practice was ended by Pope Gelasius I.

Modern discovery[edit]

In January 2007, Italian archaeologist Irene Iacopi announced that she had probably found the legendary cave beneath the remains of Emperor Augustus's house, the Domus Livia, on the Palatine. Archaeologists came across the 15-meter-deep cavity while working to restore the decaying palace.[1][2]

On 20 November 2007, the first set of photos were released showing the vault of the cave which is encrusted with colourful mosaics, pumice stones and seashells. The center of the ceiling features a depiction of a white eagle, the symbol of the Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus, the first Roman emperor. Archaeologists are still searching for the entrance of the grotto.[3]

The cave beneath the Domus Livia on the Palatine Hill. The photo was taken with a probe.

Its location below Augustus' residence is thought to be significant; Octavian, before he became Augustus, had considered taking the name Romulus to indicate that he intended to found Rome anew.[4][5]

Opposing opinions[edit]

Adriano La Regina (formerly Rome’s archaeological superintendent 1976-2004, professor of Etruscology at Rome’s La Sapienza University),[6] Professor Fausto Zevi (professor of Roman Archaeology at Rome's La Sapienza University)[7] and Professor Henner von Hesberg (head of the German Archaeological Institute, Rome)[8] denied the identification of the grotto with Lupercal on topographic and stylistic grounds. They concluded that the grotto is actually a nymphaeum or underground triclinium from Neronian times.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Valsecchi, Maria Cristina (26 January 2007). "Sacred Cave of Rome's Founders Discovered, Archaeologists Say". National Geographic News. National Geographic. Retrieved 20 November 2007. 
  2. ^ "Descubren la cueva donde Rómulo y Remo fueron amamantados por la loba"
  3. ^ Jaggard, Victoria (20 November 2007). "Photo in the News: Grotto of Rome's Founders Revealed". National Geographic News. National Geographic. Retrieved 21 November 2007. 
  4. ^ The New York Times, 22 October 2007.
  5. ^ Suetonius, Vita Divi Augusti, I.7
  6. ^ Aloisi, Silvia. "Expert doubts Lupercale 'find'", The Australian, 24 November 2007.
  7. ^ "È uno splendido ninfeo, ma il Lupercale non era lì", la Repubblica, 23 November 2007.
  8. ^ Schulz, Matthia. "Is Italy's Spectacular Find Authentic?" Spiegel Online, 29 November 2007.