Romulus and Remus

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Romulus and Remus are Rome's twin founders in its traditional foundation myth, although the former is sometimes said to be the sole founder. Their maternal grandfather is Numitor, rightful king of Alba Longa, a descendant of the Trojan prince, Aeneas and father to Rhea Silvia (also known as Ilia). Before their conception, Numitor's brother Amulius deposes his brother, kills his sons and forces Rhea to become a Vestal Virgin, intending to deprive Numitor of lawful heirs and thus secure his own position; but Rhea conceives Romulus and Remus by the god Mars or the demi-god Hercules. When the twins are born, Amulius has them exposed them to die. They are saved by a series of miraculous interventions and are found by a she-wolf who suckles and cares for them. Then a shepherd discovers them: he and his wife foster them and raise them to manhood as shepherds. The twins prove to be natural leaders, and acquire many followers. When told their true identities, they kill Amulius, restore Numitor to the throne of Alba Longa and decide to found a new city for themselves.

Romulus wishes to build the new city on the Palatine Hill but Remus prefers the Aventine Hill.[2] They agree to determine the site through augury. Romulus appears to receive the more favourable signs but each claims the results in his favour. In the disputes that follow, Remus is killed.[3] Ovid has Romulus invent the festival of Lemuria to appease Remus' resentful ghost.[4] Romulus names the new city Rome, after himself, and goes on to create the Roman Legions and the Roman Senate. Rome's population is swelled by incomers, including landless refugees and outlaws; most are men. Romulus arranges the abduction of women from the neighboring Sabine tribes, which immediately leads to war but eventually results in the combination of Sabines and Romans as one Roman people. Rome rapidly expands to become a dominant force in central Italy, due to divine favour and the inspired administrative, military and political leadership of Romulus. In later life Romulus becomes increasingly autocratic, disappears in mysterious circumstances and is deified as the god Quirinus, the divine persona of the Roman people.

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. 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 matter and manner of Remus' 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' name and role remain subjects of ancient and modern speculation. Several very different variations of the myth are known: some are contradictory. The myth did not achieve its fully developed and rationalised form until the Late Republican era, when Roman historians dated the city's foundation variously from 758 to 728 BC. Plutarch says Romulus was fifty-three at his death; which reckoning gives the twins' birth year as c. 771 BC. Possible historical bases for the broad mythological narrative remain unclear and are much disputed.[5]

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