Romulus and Remus
Romulus // and Remus // are the twin brothers and main characters of Rome's foundation myth. Their mother is Rhea Silvia, daughter of Numitor, king of Alba Longa. Before their conception, Numitor's brother Amulius had seized power, killed Numitor's male heirs and forced Rhea Silvia to become a Vestal Virgin, sworn to chastity. Rhea Silvia conceives the twins by the god Mars. Once the twins are born, Amulius has them abandoned to die in the Tiber river. They are saved by a series of miraculous interventions: the river carries them to a place of safety, where a she-wolf finds and suckles them, and a woodpecker feeds them. A shepherd and his wife find them there, and foster them to manhood as simple shepherds. The twins, still ignorant of their true origins, prove to be natural leaders. Each acquires many followers. When they discover the truth of their birth, they kill Amulius and restore Numitor to his throne. Rather than wait to inherit Alba Longa, they choose to found a new city, at the place of their rescue and upbringing.
Romulus wants to found the new city on the Palatine Hill; but Remus prefers the Aventine Hill. They agree to determine the site through augury but when each claims the results in his own favor, they quarrel and Remus is killed. Romulus founds the new city, names it Rome, after himself, and creates its first legions and senate. The new city grows rapidly, swelled by landless refugees; as most of these are male and unmarried, Romulus arranges the abduction of women from the neighboring Sabines. The ensuing war ends with the joining of Sabines and Romans as one Roman people. Thanks to divine favour and Romulus's inspired leadership, Rome becomes a dominant force, but Romulus himself becomes increasingly autocratic, and disappears or dies in mysterious circumstances; he is later identified with Quirinus, the divine personification of the Roman people.
Roman historians and Roman traditions traced most Roman institutions to Romulus; he was thought to have founded Rome's armies, Senate and government, basic laws, citizen rights and responsibilities, religious institutions, earliest political alliances and even the patronage that underpinned both civil and military life. In reality, such developments would have been spread over a considerable span of time; some were much older, and others much more recent. To most Romans, the evidence for the veracity of the legend and its central characters seemed clear and concrete, an essential part of Rome's sacred topography; one could visit the cave where the twins were suckled by the she-wolf; or offer worship to the deified Romulus-Quirinus at his shepherd's hut; or watch a sacred play on the subject, or simply read the Fasti. Modern scholarship offers no support for a historical Romulus, or a Remus.
The legend as a whole encapsulates Rome's ideas of itself, its origins and moral values. For modern scholarship, it remains one of the most complex and problematic of all foundation myths, particularly in the manner of Remus's death. Ancient historians had no doubt that Romulus gave his name to the city. Most modern historians believe his name a back-formation from the name Rome; the basis for Remus's name and role remain subjects of ancient and modern speculation. The myth was fully developed into something like an "official", chronological version in the Late Republican and early Imperial era; Roman historians dated the city's foundation to between 758 and 728 BC, and Plutarch reckoned the twins' birth year as 771 BC. A tradition that gave Romulus a distant ancestor in the semi-divine Trojan prince Aeneas was further embellished, and Romulus was made the direct ancestor of Rome's first Imperial dynasty. Possible historical bases for the broad mythological narrative remain unclear and disputed. The image of the she-wolf suckling the divinely fathered twins became an iconic representation of the city and its founding legend, making Romulus and Remus preeminent among the feral children of ancient mythography.
- 1 Legend in ancient sources
- 2 Founding of Rome
- 3 Romulus-Quirinus
- 4 Iconography
- 5 In popular culture
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
Legend in ancient sources
Modern scholarship approaches the various known stories of Romulus and Remus as cumulative elaborations and later interpretations of Roman foundation-myth. Particular versions and collations were presented by Roman historians as authoritative, an official history trimmed of contradictions and untidy variants to justify contemporary developments, genealogies and actions in relation to Roman morality. Other narratives appear to represent popular or folkloric tradition; some of these remain inscrutable in purpose and meaning. Wiseman sums the whole as the mythography of an unusually problematic foundation and early history. Cornell and others describe particular elements of the mythos as "shameful". Nevertheless, by the 4th century BC, the fundamentals of the Romulus and Remus story were standard Roman fare, and by 269 BC the wolf and suckling twins appeared on one of the earliest, if not the earliest issues of Roman silver coinage. Rome's foundation story was evidently a matter of national pride. It featured in the earliest known history of Rome, which was attributed to Diocles of Peparethus. The patrician senator Quintus Fabius Pictor used Diocles' as a source for his own history of Rome, now lost but written around the time of Rome's war with Hannibal and probably intended for circulation among Rome's Greek-speaking allies.
Fabius' history provided a basis for the early books of Livy's Ab Urbe Condita, which he wrote in Latin, and for several Greek-language histories of Rome, including Dionysius of Halicarnassus's Roman Antiquities, written during the late 1st century BC, and Plutarch's early 2nd century Life of Romulus. These three accounts provide the broad literary basis for studies of Rome's founding mythography. They have much in common, but each is selective to its purpose. Livy's is a dignified handbook, justifying the purpose and morality of Roman traditions observed in his own times. Dionysius and Plutarch approach the same subjects as interested outsiders, and include founder-traditions not mentioned by Livy, untraceable to a common source and probably specific to particular regions, social classes or oral traditions. A Roman text of the late Imperial era, Origo gentis Romanae (The origin of the Roman people) is dedicated to the many "more or less bizarre", often contradictory variants of Rome's foundation myth, including versions in which Remus founds a city named Remuria, five miles from Rome, and outlives his brother Romulus.
Myths of ancestry and parentage
Plutarch presents Romulus's and Remus's ancient descent from prince Aeneas, fugitive from Troy after its destruction by the Greeks. Their maternal grandfather is his descendant Numitor, who inherits the kingship of Alba Longa. Numitor's brother Amulius inherits its treasury, including the gold brought by Aeneas from Troy. Amulius uses his control of the treasury to dethrone Numitor, but fears that Numitor's daughter, Rhea Silvia, will bear children who could overthrow him. He forces her to perpetual virginity as a Vestal priestess but she is impregnated by the god Mars, or by the demi-god Hercules. The king sees his niece's pregnancy and confines her. When she gives birth to twin boys, her uncle orders her death and theirs.
In every version, a servant is charged with the deed of killing the twins, but cannot bring himself to harm them. He places them in a basket and leaves it on the banks of the Tiber. The river rises in flood and carries the twins downstream, unharmed.
The river deity Tiberinus makes the basket catch in the roots of a fig tree that grows in the Velabrum swamp at the base of the Palatine Hill. The twins are found and suckled by a she-wolf (Lupa) and fed by a woodpecker (Picus). A shepherd of Amulius named Faustulus discovers them and takes them to his hut, where he and his wife Acca Larentia raise them as their own children.
Founding of Rome
In all versions of the founding myth, the twins grow up as shepherds. While tending their flocks, they come into conflict with the shepherds of Amulius. Remus is captured and brought before Amulius, who discovers his identity. Romulus raises a band of shepherds to liberate his brother and Amulius is killed. Romulus and Remus are conjointly offered the crown but they refuse it and restore Numitor to the throne. They decide to found their own city at the place of their rescue and upbringing but cannot agree on its precise location; Romulus prefers the Palatine Hill, and Remus prefers the Aventine Hill. They agree to seek the will of the gods in this matter, through augury. Each takes position on his respective hill and prepares a sacred space there. Remus sees six auspicious birds; Romulus sees twelve, and claims superior augury as the divine basis of his right to decide. Remus makes a counterclaim: he saw his six vultures first. Romulus sets to work with his supporters, digging a trench (or building a wall, according to Dionysius) around the Palatine to define his city boundary.
Death of Remus
Livy gives two versions of Remus's death. In the one "more generally received", Remus criticises and belittles the new wall, then insults his brother and new city alike by leaping over it. In response, Romulus kills him, saying "So perish every one that shall hereafter leap over my wall". In the other version, Remus is simply stated as dead; no murder is alleged. Two other, lesser known accounts have Remus killed by a blow to the head with a spade, wielded either by Romulus's commander Fabius (according to St. Jerome's version) or by a man named Celer. Romulus buries Remus with honour and regret.
War and the Sabine women
The new city draws in a population of the landless, poor and desperate. Most are men, and Rome finds itself with a shortage of marriageable women. Romulus invites the neighboring Sabines and Latins, along with their womenfolk, to a festival of horse-racing at the Circus Maximus. While the men are distracted by the races and befuddled with wine, the Romans seize their daughters and take them into the city. The Sabines and Latins demand the return of their daughters, and take up arms but are soundly defeated by Romulus, who kills Acron, the king of Caenina, with his own hands and celebrates the first Roman triumph shortly after. Romulus is magnanimous in victory – most of the conquered land is divided among Rome's citizens but none of the defeated were enslaved.
The Sabine king Titus Tatius marches on Rome to assault its Capitoline citadel. The citadel commander's daughter Tarpeia opens the gates for them, in return for "what they wear on their left arms". She expects their golden bracelets but the Sabines crushed her to death under a pile of their shields.
The Sabines leave the citadel to meet the Romans in open battle in the space later known as the comitium. The outcome hangs in the balance; the Romans retreat to the Palatine Hill, where Romulus calls on Jupiter for help – traditionally at the place where a temple to Jupiter Stator ("the stayer") was built. The Romans drive the Sabines back to the point where the Curia Hostilia later stood.
Many of the abducted Sabine women have formed relationships with Roman men; and now they intervene to beg for unity between Sabines and Romans. A truce is made, then peace. The Romans base themselves on the Palatine and the Sabines on the Quirinal, with Romulus and Tatius as joint kings and the Comitium as the common centre of government and culture. 100 Sabine elders and clan leaders join the Senate. The Sabines adopt the Roman calendar, and the Romans adopt the armour and oblong shield of the Sabines. The legions are doubled in size.
Organization and growth
Romulus and Tatius rule jointly for five years and subdue the Alban colony of the Camerini. Then Tatius shelters some allies who have illegally plundered the Lavinians, and have murdered ambassadors sent to seek justice. Romulus and the Senate decide that Tatius should go to Lavinium to offer sacrifice and appease his offence. At Lavinium, Tatius is assassinated and Romulus became sole king.
As king, Romulus has authority over Rome's armies and judiciary. He organises Rome's administration according to tribe; one of Latins (Ramnes), one of Sabines (Titites), and one of Luceres. Each elects a tribune to represent their civil, religious, and military interests. Romulus divides each tribe into ten curiae to form the Comitia Curiata. The thirty curiae derive their individual names from thirty of the kidnapped Sabine women. The individual curiae were further divided into ten gentes, held to form the basis for the nomen in the Roman naming convention. Proposals made by Romulus or the Senate are offered to the Curiate assembly for ratification; the ten gentes within each curia cast a vote, and the matter is carried by whichever gens has a majority.
Romulus forms a personal mounted guard called the Celeres, commanded by a tribune of the Ramnes; in one version of the founding tale, Celer kills Remus and helps Romulus found the city of Rome. The provision of a personal guard for Romulus helped justify the Augustan development of a Praetorian Guard, responsible for internal security and the personal safety of the Emperor. The relationship between Romulus and his Tribune resembled the later relation between the Roman Dictator and his Magister Equitum. Celer, as the Celerum Tribune, occupies the second place in the state, and in Romulus's absence can convoke the Comitia and command the armies.
For more than two decades, Romulus wages wars and expands Rome's territory. He subdues Fidenae, which had seized Roman provisions during a famine, and founds a Roman colony there. Then he subdues the Crustumini, who had murdered Roman colonists in their territory. The Etruscans of Veii protest the presence of a Roman garrison at Fidenae, and demand the return of the town to its citizens. When Romulus refuses, they confront him in battle and are defeated. They agree to a hundred-year truce and surrender fifty noble hostages: Romulus celebrates his third and last triumph.
When Romulus's grandfather Numitor dies, the people of Alba Longa offer him the crown as rightful heir. Romulus adapts the government of the city to a Roman model. Henceforth, the citizens held annual elections and choose one of their own as Roman governor.
In Rome, Romulus begins to show signs of autocratic rule. The Senate looses influence in administration and lawmaking; Romulus rules by edict, and divides his conquered territories among his soldiers without Patrician consent. Senatorial resentment grows to hatred.
Death of Romulus
While offering a sacrifice, Romulus "mysteriously" disappears during a storm or whirlwind. Suspicion arises that the resentful Senate has murdered him; the Senate allay some of these suspicions by decreeing divine honors to Romulus, as to one not dead, but translated to a higher condition. One Proculus, a man of note, swears that he saw Romulus being taken up into heaven, crying out that hereafter, he should be called Quirinus. Livy repeats more or less the same story, adding that Romulus assures Proculus that by heaven's will, "my Rome shall be capital of the world. Let them learn to be soldiers. Let them know, and teach their children, that no power on earth can stand against Roman arms". Livy infers the possibility of Romulus's murder by the Senate as no more than a dim and doubtful whisper from the past; but it evidently had sufficient currency during the Late Republic for Cicero to employ it in a speech. Dio's version of Romulus' death, though fragmentary, is unequivocal; Romulus is surrounded by hostile, resentful senators and "rent limb from limb" in the senate-house itself. An eclipse and sudden storm, "the same sort of phenomenon that had attended his birth", conceal the deed from the soldiers and the people, who are anxiously seeking their king. Proculus fakes a personal vision of Romulus's spontaneous ascent to heaven, and claims to pass on a message from Romulus-Quirinus, that a new king must be chosen at once.
Plutarch says that Romulus was 53 ("in the fifty-fourth year of his age") when he "vanished" in 717 BC; this gives the twins a birth-date in the year 771 BC, and Romulus's founding of Rome at the age of 18. Dionysius of Halicarnassus says that Romulus began his reign at 18, ruled for 37 years and died at 55 years old. The Roman ab urbe condita dating system began from the annalistic founding of the city, which it places as 21 April 753 BC.
Ennius (fl. 180s BC) refers to Romulus as a divinity in his own right, without reference to Quirinus. Roman mythographers identified the latter as an originally Sabine war-deity, and thus to be identified with Roman Mars. Lucilius lists Quirinus and Romulus as separate deities, and Varro accords them different temples. Images of Quirinus showed him as a bearded warrior wielding a spear as a god of war, the embodiment of Roman strength and a deified likeness of the city of Rome. He had a Flamen Maior called the Flamen Quirinalis, who oversaw his worship and rituals in the ordainment of Roman religion attributed to Romulus's royal successor, Numa Pompilius. There is however no evidence for the conflated Romulus-Quirinus before the 1st century BC.
Ovid in Book 14, lines 812-828, of the Metamorphoses gives a description of the deification of Romulus and his wife Hersilia, who are given the new names of Quirinus and Hora respectively. Mars, the father of Romulus, is given permission by Jupiter to bring his son up to Olympus to live with the Olympians.
Ancient pictures of the Roman twins usually follow certain symbolic traditions, depending on the legend they follow: they either show a shepherd, the she-wolf, the twins under a fig tree, and one or two birds (Livy, Plutarch); or they depict two shepherds, the she-wolf, the twins in a cave, seldom a fig tree, and never any birds (Dionysius of Halicarnassus).
Also there are coins with Lupa and the tiny twins placed beneath her.
The Franks Casket, an Anglo-Saxon ivory box (early 7th century AD) shows Romulus and Remus in an unusual setting, two wolves instead of one, a grove instead of one tree or a cave, four kneeling warriors instead of one or two gesticulating shepherds. According to one interpretation, and as the runic inscription ("far from home") indicates, the twins are cited here as the Dioscuri, helpers at voyages such as Castor and Polydeuces. Their descent from the Roman god of war predestines them as helpers on the way to war. The carver transferred them into the Germanic holy grove and has Woden's second wolf join them. Thus the picture served — along with five other ones — to influence "wyrd", the fortune and fate of a warrior king.
In popular culture
- Romolo e Remo: a 1961 film starring Steve Reeves and Gordon Scott as the two brothers.
- The Rape of the Sabine Women: a 1962 film starring Wolf Ruvinskis as Romulus.
- In the Star Trek universe, Romulus and Remus are neighbouring planets with Remus being tidally locked to the star. Romulus is the capital of the Romulan Star Empire, which is loosely based on the Roman Empire.
- The novel Founding Fathers by Alfred Duggan describes the founding and first decades of Rome from the points of view of Marcus, one of Romulus's Latin followers, Publius, a Sabine who settles in Rome as part of the peace agreement with Tatius, Perperna, an Etruscan fugitive who is accepted into the tribe of Luceres after his own city is destroyed, and Macro, a Greek seeking purification from blood-guilt who comes to the city in the last years of Romulus's reign. Publiusa and Perpernia become senators. Romulus is portrayed as a gifted leader though a remarkably unpleasant person, chiefly distinguished by his luck; the story of his surreptitious murder by the senators is adopted, but although the story of his deification is fabricated, his murderers themselves think he may indeed have become a god. The novel begins with the founding of the city and the killing of Remus, and ends with the accession of Numa Pompilius.
- In the game Undead Knights, the main characters are brothers named Romulus and Remus.
- In Harry Potter, one of the characters is named after Remus—Remus John Lupin. And at one point uses the code name Romulus. Professor Lupin is a teacher of defence against the dark arts, and is in fact a werewolf. This reflects the Remus of Roman mythology, who was raised by a wolf. In fact, the name Lupin comes from the Latin word lupus, meaning wolf.
- In Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood Romulus is worshipped as a god by the Followers of Romulus cult. The main character, Ezio Auditore, comes into conflict with the cult on several occasions during his adventures in Rome while trying to locate the keys to the Armor of Brutus, wiping out the cult in the process.
- In the Death Grips song, "Black Quarterback" Romulus and Remus are mentioned. In characteristic Death Grips style, their lyric isn't contextualised in any typical linear sense.
- "Up the Wolves" by The Mountain Goats is a song that alludes to Romulus and Remus.
- Ex Deo released an album in 2009 titled Romulus. Its title track concerns the myth of Romulus and Remus and the founding of Rome.
- Asena, a similar legend concerning the origin of the Turks
- Proto-Indo-European religion, §Brothers
- The Golden Bough, a tale concerning Aeneas and Rome
- Adriano La Regina, "La lupa del Campidoglio è medievale la prova è nel test al carbonio". La Repubblica. 9 July 2008
- Dionysius of Halicarnasus, Roman Antiquities, 1.85
- Ovid has Romulus invent the festival of Lemuria to appease Remus's resentful ghost. Ovid Fasti 5.461
- The archaeologist Andrea Carandini is one of very few modern scholars who accept Romulus and Remus as historical figures, based on the 1988 discovery of an ancient wall on the north slope of the Palatine Hill in Rome. Carandini dates the structure to the mid-8th century BC and names it the Murus Romuli. See Carandini, La nascita di Roma. Dèi, lari, eroi e uomini all'alba di una civiltà (Torino: Einaudi, 1997) and Carandini. Remo e Romolo. Dai rioni dei Quiriti alla città dei Romani (775/750 - 700/675 a. C. circa) (Torino: Einaudi, 2006)
- Wiseman, TP (1995), Remus, A Roman myth, Cambridge University Press.
- Momigliano, Arnoldo (2007), "An interim report on the origins of Rome", Terzo contributo alla storia degli studi classici e del mondo antico, 1, Rome, IT: Edizioni di storia e letteratura, pp. 545–98. A critical, chronological review of historiography related to Rome's origins.
- Cornell, pp 60–2: "these elements have convinced the eminent historiographer H. Strasburger that Rome's foundation myth represents not native tradition but defamatory foreign propaganda, probably originated by Rome's neighbours in Magna Graecia and successfully foist on an impressionable and ethnically confused Roman people." Cornell and Momigliano find this argument impeccably developed but entirely implausible; if an exercise in mockery, it was a signal failure.
- The escape of Aeneas from Troy and his foundation of a "New Troy" in Italy was not an exclusively Roman ancestor-myth. It is represented by 4th century votive statuettes from Etruscan Veii and was known in archaic Latium. Beard et al., pp. 1-2..
- Fabius wrote in Greek, the Mediterranean lingua franca of the time. His narrative began with the arrival of the Greek hero Herakles in Italy. Plutarch claims that Fabius' history follows Diocles "on most points". Wiseman, pp. 1-2..
- of Halicarnassus, Dionysius, Thayer, ed., Roman Antiquities, Chicago, IL, USA: Loeb, pp. 1, 72–90; 2, 1–76.
- Plutarch, "The life of Romulus", in Thayer, The Parallel Lives, Chicago, IL, USA: Loeb.
- Momigliano, Arnoldo (1990), The classical foundations of modern historiography, University Presses of California, Columbia and Princeton, p. 101. Modern historiographic perspectives on this source material.
- Dillery (2009), Feldherr, Andrew, ed., The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Historians, Cambridge University Press, pp. 78–81 ff..
- Cornell, pp. 57-8.
- Banchich (2004), Origo Gentis Romanae (PDF), trans. by Haniszewski, et al., Cansius College. Translation and commentaries.
- Compare the story of Romulus and Remus to Moses, Perseus, and Sargon of Akkad for similar stories of babies being placed in cradles and set afloat in a body of water.
- Livy, (i), p. 4.
- Ovid, Fasti (iii), p. 55.
- Wiseman, pp. 9 -11.
- In Varro, the Ramnes derive their name from Romulus, the Titites derived their name from Titus Tatius, and the Luceres derived their name from an Etruscan leader or his title of honour: Livy, 1.13 describes the origin of the Luceres as unknown.
- The tribunes were magistrates of their tribes, performed sacrifices on their behalf, and commanded their tribal levies in times of war.
- Plutarch, Life of Numa Pompilius.
- Livy, 1.16, trans. A. de Selincourt, The Early History of Rome, 34-35 rel2243-04.fa03.fsu.edu
- Cicero's seeming familiarity with the story of Romulus's murder and divinity must have been shared by his target audience and readership. See Evans, 103: citing Cicero, de Rep. 2.10.20.
- Cassius Dio, Roman History, 1, (fragment: Ioann. Laur. Lyd., De magistr. rei publ. Rom. 1, 7, Zonaras) online at Thayer's website penelope.uchicago.edu
- Plutarch, Romulus, Classics, trans. by John Dryden, MIT.
- Dionysius of Hallicarnassus, Roman Antiquities 2.56
- Gordon, Arthur Ernest (1983). Illustrated introduction to Latin epigraphy. University of California Press. p. 226. ISBN 978-0-520-03898-1. Retrieved 20 April 2011.
- Evans, 103 and footnote 66: citing quotation of Ennius in Cicero, 1.41.64.
- Fishwick, Duncan (1993), The Imperial Cult in the Latin West (2nd ed.), Leiden: Brill, p. 53, ISBN 90-04-07179-2.
- ; see also "The Travelling Twins: Romulus and Remus in Anglo-Saxon England
- Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
- Albertoni, Margherita, et al. The Capitoline Museums: Guide. Milan: Electa, 2006. For information on the Capitoline She-Wolf.
- Beard, M., North, J., Price, S., Religions of Rome, vol. 1, illustrated, reprint, Cambridge University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-521-31682-0
- Cornell, T., The Beginnings of Rome: Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars (c. 1000–264 BC), Routledge, 1995. ISBN 978-0-415-01596-7
- Wiseman, T. P., Remus: a Roman myth, Cambridge University Press, 1995. ISBN 978-0-521-48366-7
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Romulus and Remus.|
- Plutarch (Lives of Romulus, Numa Pompilius, Camillus)
- Romulus and Remus (Romwalus and Reumwalus) and two wolves on the Franks Casket: Franks Casket, Helpers on the way to war
- Romulous and Remus on the Ara Pacis Augustae
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|King of Alba Longa|