Romulus and Remus


In Roman mythology they were a twin pair of sons. Their father was Mars, the god of war, and their mother was Rhea Silvia, a priestess. According to the tradition of Plutarch and Tito Levi and others Roman history records that Romulus was the first king in the era of Roman kingship.

The two brothers later quarreled and even fought over the issue of who should name the new city after the local gods, resulting in Romulus killing Remus. Since then Romulus also founded the Roman legions and the Roman Senate. He populated the new city by robbing the women of the nearby Sabines, thus integrating the Romans and Sabines into one people. Romulus became the greatest conqueror of ancient Rome, bringing large areas and their inhabitants under Roman rule.

After Romulus’ death he was elevated to the status of Quirinus, a god who symbolized the Romans. Most people believe that Romulus and Remus were legendary figures who derived their names from Rome, which may have originally meant “river”. However, some scholars believe that Romulus is indeed a historical figure. One of the reasons for this theory is the discovery of the “MurusRomuli” wall on the northern slopes of the Palatine Hill in Rome in 1988.

Romulus and Remus are the most famous stories and legends of children raised by wild animals.

Romulus with Remus and the she-wolf

Before the establishment of the city of Rome

Numitor, the maternal grandfather of Romulus and Remus, and his brother Amulius were descendants of Aeneas who escaped from Troy. After the death of their father Numitor became king of Albalange, while Amulius acquired the royal treasure, which included the gold of Troy brought by Aeneas.

Since Amulius had the treasure, he had more power. Eventually he overthrew Numite and usurped the throne as king himself. But he was afraid that Numite’s daughter Rhea Sylvia would give birth to a child to overthrow him one day, so he forced Rhea Sylvia to become a Vesta virgin. Vesta virgins were priestesses of Vesta who had to be virgins and took a vow not to have sex with men.

One night, Mars, the god of war, came to the temple of Vesta where Sylvia was and raped her.

One theory is that Mars raped Sylvia in the form of a wolf. Sylvia gave birth to two unusually strong and beautiful twin boys: Romulus and Remus. Amulius was so angry about this that he ordered Sylvia to be buried alive (a punishment for violating her vow to the Vesta virgin) and abandoned the twins to the countryside.

Another theory is that Amulius ordered Sylvia to be thrown into the Tiber River along with the twins she had given birth to. There are also accounts of Sylvia being rescued by Tiberinus and becoming his wife.

The servants sent to kill Romulus and Remus did not want to kill the brothers, so they placed their cradle on the banks of the Tiber. The cradle was steadily carried away when the river rose.

An altar found in Ostia, which shows how Romulus and Remus were found. Today this altar is preserved in the Palace of Massimo

The river god of the Tiber protected Romulus and Remus and eventually guided their cradle to a banyan tree in the Villabrum Marshes, hence the high symbolic importance of the banyan tree in Rome. The river god then brought the twins to the Palatine hills, where a she-wolf reared the brothers under a banyan tree. A woodpecker also fed them. Both the wolf and the woodpecker are sacred animals of Mars. Since the Latin word for wolf (Lupa) also means prostitute or priestess of the wolf god, it is also believed that the so-called wolves were actually human beings.

Later, Faustre, a shepherd of Amulius, found the two brothers and brought them home. Faustler and his wife, Arca Laurentia, brought them up.

Another legend says that Hercules married Arca Laurentia to Faustulus, who found Romulus and Remus. The two already had 12 sons at that time. Later on one of them died and Romulus replaced him. Together with the remaining 11 brothers, he set up the Brotherhood of Alvar. The Alvar Brotherhood saw Aka Larentia as the goddess of growth, and the priests of Quirinus completed the cremation of his stepmother (as the goddess) as Romulus (who was later elevated to the god Quirinus).

It has been suggested that the notion that Romulus and Remus were raised by wolves is a misconception in the circulation of the legend. In fact Aka Larentia was immortalized by the name lupa (wolf, whore) (Levi, Ovid). As religious practices change, past traditions are often misinterpreted and the meaning of the story altered by later accounts. New traditions overshadowed the mythological traditions of the past. Some scholars believe that the change in meaning of this legend may have occurred during the gradual development of the Roman city from a matriarchal goddess mythological tradition to a patriarchal male god myth. The ancient legend may have appeared immoral in the eyes of the new religion and was therefore altered.

Another theory is that the goddess who raised Romulus and Remus was Arca Larentia, and her husband was Lupercus, a wolf and livestock god. Lupercus in Roman mythology was the god who made the sheep reproduce and prevented the wolves from invading them.

In Roman mythology Acha Larentia has many names, or many gods are seen as derived from her, or their origins are related to her.

In short, while still in their childhood Romulus and Remus already showed their noble birth through their beauty and tallness. They were very manly, intelligent, brave and bold. But Romulus was the wiser and more politically astute of the two. In his discussions with his neighbors about pasture and hunting he showed that he was a man who issued orders, not a man who obeyed them.

Legend has it that they were loved by the poor and other shepherds, but resented the king’s officers and officials. They hunted, fought against robbers, caught thieves, and sought justice for those who had been wronged. Thus their reputation grew in Latium.

Romulus and Remus were 18 years old when a quarrel broke out between the shepherds under Numite and Amulius. Some of the shepherds under Numite drove Amulius’ cattle away. This made the shepherds of Amulius very angry. Romulus and Remus gathered the shepherds of Amulius, found and killed the shepherds of Numite, and recovered the lost cattle. And through their courage they made many able men and slaves under Numite to join them, which made Numite very angry.

Romulus was a very godly man, so he often offered sacrifices to the gods. While he was offering sacrifices to the gods, Numite’s shepherds attacked Remus and some of his friends. There were many casualties on both sides, and finally Remus was taken prisoner. The shepherds brought him to Numitor and demanded that he be punished. But Numitor did not punish Remus, because Remus was a man of Amulius, who was king, and Numitor was afraid of offending Amulius, so he went to Amulius first to demand justice. And the people of Alba Longa sympathized with Numite, and they thought that Numite had suffered a loss. Therefore Amulius ordered that Remus be handed over to Numitor to punish Remus as he pleased.

Numitor left Remus at home, where he was fascinated by the young man’s strong torso and elegant image. After hearing what Remus had done and his virtues he asked Remus how he was born and who he really was. When Remus told Numitor that they were raised by wolves and found on the banks of the Tiber, Numitor guessed by Remus’ age that he might be the son of Rhea.

Romulus returns from his sacrifice after Fasturoth tells him about his brother’s capture and asks him to rescue Remus. Immediately, Romulus started to gather an army to march towards Alba Longa. And Fasturoth immediately took the cradle where he had found Romulus and Remus to Alba Longa. But he was stopped at the city gate by the guard who happened to be the same servant who had placed the brothers by the river. He recognized the cradle and knew that Fasturoth was telling the truth. He immediately brought Fasturoth before Amulius for interrogation. Fasturoth admitted that Romulus and Remus were still alive, but lied that they were living with shepherds far from Alba Longa.

Angry and afraid, Amulius sent one of Numite’s friends to spy on Numite to find out if he had gotten word that the twins were still alive. The man entered Numite’s house just in time to see Numite embracing Remus, thus confirming that Remus was his grandson. The friend advised Numitor and Remus to act immediately, because Romulus was about to attack Alba Longa with the men who hated and feared Amulius. Rimos immediately gathered the citizens to riot in the city, and Romulus attacked from the outside. Amulius was completely unprepared and had no measures to protect himself. He was thus captured and executed.

Establishment of Rome

After the death of Amulius the situation in the city gradually stabilized and the citizens asked Romulus and Remus to be kings, but they refused because their grandfather was still alive and they decided that they would not live in the city as long as their grandfather was alive. Thus Numite regained its status as king, and they moved again to the Palatine hills to establish their city after paying homage to their mother, Rhea Silvia. But before they left Alba Longa they also took with them all the refugees and runaway slaves, as well as all those who wanted to make a fresh start.

After Romulus and Remus arrived at Mount Palatinate the two began to argue about where to build the city. Romulus wanted to build the city on Mount Palatinate, while Remus suggested the more strategic and more easily defensible Mount Aventine. They decided to settle the argument by bird watching and looking at the will of the gods. They each sat down at the place where they wanted to build the city. According to Plutarch Rimos saw six buzzards and Romulus saw twelve (the buzzards were seen as the sacred birds of their father Mars).

Remus was very angry with Romulus for his victory. When Romulus started digging a trench to build his wall on April 21, 753, Remus sabotaged part of the work and hindered the rest. Finally Remus jumped over the trench, which was a bad sign because it indicated that the city’s walls were easily breached. Therefore, Romulus killed Remus. In the battle that followed, Fasturos was also killed. After the battle, Romulus buried Remus and Fasturos, and then he continued to build the city. He named the city Rome after himself and became its first king.

After the city was built, Romulus divided the city’s combat-ready inhabitants into regiments of 3,000 infantry and 300 cavalry, which he called “legions”. The rest of the city’s population became citizens. From among the citizens he chose 100 of the noblest to be the city’s council, and he called them the Patricius, whose council was the Roman Senate, the word Patricius originally meaning “father”. Romulus called them so not only because they had no illegitimate sons, but were the fathers of legitimate sons, but also because he intended that the rich and noble men of the city should take care of the poor as fathers take care of their sons.

Robbing Sabine women

Romulus spread the reputation of Rome as a refuge for all those who were willing to start a new life, so Rome attracted many fugitives as well as murderers, prisoners and runaway slaves. Soon Rome expanded to five of the seven hills of Rome. But Romulus was faced with a huge problem. Many outsiders had gathered in his city, but only a few had wives. Therefore Romulus decided that he had to move the women to Rome.

So he held a huge banquet and invited the neighboring Sabine tribes to attend as guests. Many Sabines came and brought their daughters with them. Romulus planned to kidnap the Sabine women and bring them back to Rome. When the Sabines arrived Romulus sat between his senators, wearing a vivid red cloak. As a code for robbery he stood up, folded his cloak, and then shook it out and draped it again. His men were armed with swords and many of them kept watching him. When his signal was given his nobles drew their swords and rushed in with shouts, capturing the Sabine daughters, but allowing the men to flee. About 700 Sabine women were captured and taken back to Rome. There are many later works entitled “The Robbery of the Sabine Women”.

War against the Sabines

Although the Sabines were numerous and warlike, they did not dare to declare war on Rome easily because their daughters had been captured by the Romans. They sent an ambassador who merely asked Rome to send back their daughters, apologized for his actions, and publicly stated that the two peoples would live together in friendship. But Romulus refused to send back the women he had plundered and instead demanded that the Sabines agree to their marriage with the Romans. Both sides therefore decided to prepare for war.

Romulus dedicating the rich spoils of his plunder to the temple of Jupiter, painted by Jean-Auguste Dominique Angell

Just when the Sabines were still making preparations for war some people from other cities allied to attack Rome. But in the battle they were defeated and they surrendered to Romulus, their domain was occupied by Rome and the inhabitants of it moved to Rome. Romulus distributed the newly occupied territories to the citizens of Rome. Only the land of the parents of the plundered girls was not confiscated and they were allowed to keep their original land.

This enraged the Sabines even more. They instructed Titus Tatius to be the supreme commander of all the Sabines and to march on Rome. But Rome was not easy to capture, especially the fortress on Capitol Hill. But Tapian, the daughter of the fortress commander, was impressed by the gold on the Sabines’ arm guard. She and the Sabines offered to open the gates for the Sabines in exchange for the Sabines giving her everything they wore on their left arm. Tatius agreed to this request, so in the night Tapian opened a door of the fortress. When Tatius entered the fortress he threw to Tapian the arm guard on his left arm and the shield he held in his left hand, and ordered all his men to do the same. As a result, Tapian was killed by the many arm guards and shields.

After the Sabines captured Mount Carpitol Romulus challenged them to fight him on the battlefield. Tatius boldly agreed. The Sabines walked down Capitol Hill and fought the Romans on the swampy ground between the mountains. This place was later turned into a Roman square. The Sabines soon caused the Romans to keep retreating, and finally the Romans retreated all the way to the foot of the wall of the Palatinate. Some of the Romans had begun to flee. At this point Romulus prayed to Jupiter and soon the Romans had the upper hand again, and later a temple to Jupiter was built on the spot where Romulus had prayed. Romulus led the Romans to drive the Sabines all the way to the place where the temple of Vesta was later built.

Sabine Women, painted by Jacques-Louis David

Just as the Romans and Sabines were planning to continue the battle, the girls of the Sabines who had been taken from the Roman city rushed out, past the ranks of infantry and the dead bodies. They ran to their husbands and fathers and brothers, some carrying small children. The two armies were stunned by the sight. They made way for the women. The Sabine women pleaded with their Roman husbands and Sabine fathers and brothers to accept each other and form one people. Both armies were moved. They reached an agreement and the chiefs of both sides met. It was finally decided that Romulus and Tatius would be Roman kings together, while the Romans would include the Romans of the past and the new Sabines.

Rome doubled its expansion. Within the city of Rome the original Romans lived on the Palatine Hill, while the Sabines lived on the Quirilno Hill. The Capitol Hill was chosen as the center of government and administration. The Sabines also elected 100 of the city’s nobles to the Senate. The number of legions was also doubled, from 3,000 infantry and 300 cavalry to 6,000 infantry and 600 cavalry. Roman and Sabine cultures were also mixed together. The Sabines adopted the Roman calendar, while the Romans adopted the Sabine armor and their long shields.

After the founding of Rome

Governance of the city

Romulus and Tatius ruled together for five years before Tatius was assassinated by a foreign ambassador and Romulus became the sole king of Rome. He introduced laws against adultery and murder. He was not only the supreme commander of the army, but also the supreme judge of the city. His judgments in several cases were retained in Rome, and none of them were challenged in his judgments during this time.

Romulus divided the Romans into three tribes: the Latins (Ramnes), the Sabines (Tities) and the Itlascans (Luceres), which were united as the Romans. Each tribe had a tribune. The tribunes represented their tribes in civil, religious and military matters. In the city they managed the affairs of the tribe and sacrificed to the gods on behalf of their tribe, and in times of war they were the commanders of the army.

After that he established the Roman Council (ComitiaCuriata), for which he divided each tribe into 10 curia (tribes). Each curia had its own name, which was given after the 30 Sabine women plundered by Romulus and his men.

Each curia was divided into 10 clans (gentes), the names of which were the source of the Roman surnames. At the Roman Council each clan voted internally on issues proposed by Romulus or the Senate. Each clan had one vote. The opinion that received the majority vote represented the entire clan voting in the council. This is the prototype of the modern electoral college system.

Romulus also created a guard of his own, which consisted of 300 of his best horsemen, whose commander was the tribune of the Latin tribe. This tribune had a higher status than the other tribunes. He had the right to command the army and to call Roman councils when Romulus was away.

During the 20 years from the foundation of Rome until his death, Romulus continued to conquer and expand the territory of Rome. He conquered many of the surrounding Itracan cities and gained much territory in Latium, Tuscany, Umbria and Abruzzo. Although he was occasionally defeated in a battle, he never lost a battle.

After his last battle against the Itlascans, his grandfather and king of Alba Longa, Numitor, died. The people of Alba Longa voluntarily asked Romulus to be their king, as he was the logical heir as Numit’s grandson. Romulus accepted this throne, but left the rule of Alba Longa to the citizens, which expanded his prestige in Alba Longa. Every year Romulus appointed as governor a man elected by the Alba Longa themselves.

In his later years Romulus became more and more detached from the Senate. Although this was theoretically legal, he violated tradition. The Senate thus lost its power and had nothing to say in the administration of the city. The Senate met only when Romulus summoned them, and at the meetings it was only the senators who listened to his orders. The senators soon discovered that the only advantage they had over the general population was that they heard the orders issued by Romulus earlier than the general population. Romulus distributed the lands he had conquered to his soldiers without any regard for the wishes of the city’s nobles, who therefore felt that Romulus had violated the rights of the senate. Although the senators grew to hate him, they also feared him so much that no one dared to openly oppose him or show their displeasure.

Death or Ascension

Romulus died in the 38th year of his reign, if he was not murdered by the Senate, then he disappeared supernaturally.

One day Romulus and all the people were in the square of the god of war, when suddenly a hurricane blew up and the sky went dark, and all the people fled. The Romans returned to the same place after the gale, but could not find Romulus. He could not be found elsewhere either. While everyone was talking, a senator stood up and told everyone to calm down.

He said that he had seen Romulus ascend to heaven. Romulus told him to tell everyone that he would live among the gods and that he wanted the Romans to treat him as the god Quirinus. So the Romans built a temple on the spot where the senator said Romulus had ascended to heaven. In honor of Romulus the mountain was called Quirino, and for many years afterwards the Romans worshiped Romulus, the builder and first king of their city, here.

Plutarch records this event with some skepticism.

Livy also reports the story as follows.

As Quirinus Romulus joined Jupiter and Mars as the “Three Great Gods”. Quirinus is generally depicted as a bearded warrior with a spear, both in religious garb and in battle armor, and thus he is seen as a god of war and Roman power, and more importantly he is seen as the divine body of Rome itself. Quirinus was given a high priest of his own, who was in charge of his worship and rituals. The Romans called themselves “Quirites” to honor him. After the death of Romulus, Luoma Pompeius became his successor and the second king of Rome.

Traditional images

Ancient images of Roman twins generally followed a certain symbolic tradition to depict them, and according to the legends that have been handed down, they were shown as twins carried by a shepherd and she-wolf under a banyan tree with one or two birds (representing Livy and Plutarch), or two shepherds and she-wolf with twins in a cave. The latter rarely has a banyan tree without any birds (Halicarnassus’ version of Dionysius)).

There are also silver coins of wolves with two small twins.

The image of Romulus and Remus on the Anglo-Saxon Franks box made in the early 7th century is very unusual. Instead of one wolf, there are two wolves, instead of a tree or a cave, there is a wood, and in addition instead of one or two gesticulating shepherds, there are four kneeling warriors. According to the inscription on the box (“far from home”) the twins shown here resemble Catos and Plexus, the helpers of the travelers. The descendants of the Roman god of war were helpers of those who embarked on a journey far from home. The engraver transferred them to the sacred forest of the Germans and added the wolf of Woden to accompany them. The painting is thus a talisman for the leader of an army.

Pop Culture

Romulus debuted in the mobile game “Fate/GrandOrder” as a “Lancer” with the treasures “All things in the world are my gun” and “All things in the world are my love”.

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