Romulus and Remus: the founding of Rome

Romulus and Remus: the founding of Rome

Romulus and Remus were the legendary founders of the city of Rome. As tradition has it, Numitor, king of Alba Longa, was overthrown by his younger brother, Amulius. Fearing that Numitor’s daughter, Rhea Silvia, might eventually have sons who would have a better claim to the throne than he, Amulius forced her to become a vestal virgin, which meant she had to take a sacred vow of chastity.

But Mars, the god of war, came to her in the temple, and she gave birth to twin sons—Romulus and Remus. Intending them to drown, Amulius had the infants abandoned on a trough in the Tiber River. But their trough floated down the river, coming to rest at a site near a sacred fig tree, where one day they would found their city. A she-wolf and a woodpecker, both sacred to their father Mars, found the infants and suckled and fed them. Eventually they were discovered by a herdsman who, along with his wife, raised them to adulthood.

As young men, Romulus and Remus gathered around them a band of hardy, adventurous companions. With this band, Romulus and Remus killed Amulius, and returned their grandfather Numitor to the throne. Afterward, the twins established a town at the site where they were saved from the death that Amulius had intended for them.

When Romulus built a wall around the new city, Remus, taking it as a challenge, leapt over the wall, at which Romulus grew angry and killed him. Romulus then named his city after himself and offered asylum to exiles and fugitives in order to enlarge the city’s population. Then, to get wives for the men of his city, Romulus invited the neighboring Sabines to a festival. When the Sabines were too drunk to fight, the Romans abducted their women, an act known as the rape of the Sabine women. Although the Sabines intended to attack Rome, to retrieve the women and regain their honor, the women, who had by then married their captors, persuaded the Sabines to make peace with Rome instead.

As one of the conditions of the peace treaty, Romulus had to accept Titus Tatius, the Sabine king, as his co-ruler, but Titus Tatius died soon afterward, so Romulus was again the undisputed king of Rome. He ruled for many years, until one day he mysteriously disappeared in the midst of a violent storm.

The Romans believed he had been transformed into a god, and they worshipped him as the god Quirinus.

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