Romulus and Remus

Romulus and Remus were the twin sons of Rhea Silvia and Mars, and the two founders of Rome.

Rhea Silvia had been the only child of King Numitor of Alba Longa. When Numitor’s brother Amulius deposed him, he also forced Rhea Silvia to become a vestal virgin, thereby ensuring that there would be no other claimant to the throne. But the war god Mars raped her in his sacred grove, and Rhea Silvia gave birth to Romulus and Remus.

Amulius ordered his servants to kill the new born twins, but instead they cast them on the Tiber. Their cradle was carried swiftly away and eventually came to rest on a mud bank. To look after his children, Mars sent his sacred animal the wolf. Later Romulus and Remus were discovered in the wolf’s lair by a shepherd named Faustulus, who took the foundlings home. So they were raised as shepherds, although the ability of the brothers to lead others, and to fight, eventually became wildly known.

One day Numitor met Remus and guessed who he was and so the lost grandchildren were reunited with him, but they were not content to live quietly in Alba Longa. Instead, they went off and founded a city of their own – Rome. A quarrel, however, ensued and Romulus killed Remus, possibly with a blow from a spade.

Though he showed remorse at the funeral, Romulus ruled Rome with a strong hand and the city flourished. It was a haven for runaway slaves and other fugitives, but suffered from a shortage of women, which Romulus overcame by arranging for the capture of Sabine women at a nearby festival.

After a reign of forty years he disappeared to become, some of his subjects believed, the war god Quirinus.