Romulus and Remus

From Academic Kids

This is an article about Roman mythology. For information about the Star Trek planets, see Romulus and Remus (Star Trek).
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Romulus and Remus, (771 BC¹-717 BC Romulus, 771 BC-753 BC Remus), the legendary founders of Rome in Roman mythology, were the twin sons of the priestess Rhea Silvia, fathered by the god of war Mars. According to the legend recorded as history by Livy, Romulus was the first King of Rome. After his death, Romulus was deified as the god Quirinus.


Early Life

Missing image
The Roman Column in Timisoara, Romania

Their mother, Rhea Silvia, had been forced to become a Vestal Virgin by her uncle, Amulius, because he had overthrown her father, Numitor, and wanted to ensure she would not have any sons that might have a better matrilineal right and could attempt to overthrow him. However, Mars, the god of war, came to her in her temple and of him she conceived her twin sons, Romulus and Remus. When they were born, Amulius ordered a servant to kill the twins, but the merciful servant set them adrift in the river Tiber (compare Perseus and Moses).

Romulus and Remus, however, were found by Tiberinus, the river god, and nursed by a female wolf underneath a fig tree, among the most famous feral children in mythology and fiction. Romulus and Remus were then discovered by Faustulus, a shepherd, who brought the children to his home. Faustulus and his wife, Acca Larentia, raised the boys as their own. According to Livy, some said that Faustulus's wife had been named Loba ("lupa", she-wolf), and that she had suckled the twins. Upon reaching adulthood, Romulus and Remus returned and killed Amulius and reinstated Numitor, their grandfather, as King of Alba Longa.

Founding of Rome

Then they built a settlement on the Palatine Hill, beginning on April 21, 753 BC, according to the traditional date given by Varro (but see below). Remus then thoughtlessly jumped the unfinished city wall, an omen of ill fortune, and Romulus instinctively killed him. Remorsefully he then named the city Roma, and made himself king, marrying Hersilia.

According to a medieval Sienese founding legend, Siena was founded by Senius, a son of Remus.

Romulus attracted a population to his city by inviting exiles, refugees, murderers, criminals and runaway slaves, a population that extended the infant city to settle four of the seven hills of Rome: the Capitoline, Aventine, Caelian and Quirinal. The outlaw squatters acquired women and matrilineal respectability by inviting the Sabine men to the festival of Consualia. While the men were occupied, the Romans stole the women, the theme of the Rape of the Sabine Women. Marriage by abduction remained a Latin tradition. Eventually, the Sabine women effected a truce and the Sabines accepted Romulus as their king.

Missing image
An Italian poster from World War II using the Romulus and Remus myth: the wolf is tearing apart a Union Jack to encourage Italians to buy war bonds.

Death, return from the dead, and ascension into heaven of Romulus

Romulus's end, in the 38th year of his reign, was a supernatural disappearance, if he was not slain by the Senate. Plutarch (Life of Numa Pompilius) tells the legend with a note of skepticism:

"It was the thirty-seventh year, counted from the foundation of Rome, when Romulus, then reigning, did, on the fifth day of the month of July, called the Caprotine Nones, offer a public sacrifice at the Goat's Marsh, in presence of the senate and people of Rome. Suddenly the sky was darkened, a thick cloud of storm and rain settled on the earth; the common people fled in affright, and were dispersed; and in this whirlwind Romulus disappeared, his body being never found either living or dead. A foul suspicion presently attached to the patricians, and rumors were current among the people as if that they, weary of kingly government, and exasperated of late by the imperious deportment of Romulus towards them, had plotted against his life and made him away, that so they might assume the authority and government into their own hands. This suspicion they sought to turn aside by decreeing divine honors to Romulus, as to one not dead but translated to a higher condition. And Proculus, a man of note, took oath that he saw Romulus caught up into heaven in his arms and vestments, and heard him, as he ascended, cry out that they should hereafter style him by the name of Quirinus."

"Then a few voices began to proclaim Romulus's divinity; the cry was taken up, and at last every man present hailed him as a god and son of a god, and prayed to him to be for ever gracious and to protect his children. However, even on this great occasion there were, I believe, a few dissentients who secretly maintained that the king had been torn to pieces by the senators. At all events the story got about, though in veiled terms; but it was not important, as awe, and admiration for Romulus's greatness, set the seal upon the other version of his end, which was, moreover, given further credit by the timely action of a certain Julius Proculus, a man, we are told, honored for his wise counsel on weighty matters. The loss of the king had left the people in an uneasy mood and suspicious of the senators, and Proculus, aware of the prevalent temper, conceived the shrewd idea of addressing the Assembly. Romulus, he declared, the father of our City descended from heaven at dawn this morning and appeared to me. In awe and reverence I stood before him, praying for permission to look upon his face without sin. "Go," he said, "and tell the Romans 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. Having spoken these words, he was taken up again into the sky. " (Livy, 1.16, trans. A. de Selincourt, The Early History of Rome, 34-35) [1] (

After Romulus' death he was succeeded by Numa Pompilius.

The mythic theme of twins is deep-seated in Mediterranean mythology: compare Castor and Polydeuces (the Dioscuri) of Greece, and Amphion and Zethus of Thebes.



1- The exact date of Romulus and Remus's birth is unknown. Some writing, including those from Plutarch, say that Romulus was 54 years old at his death in 717 BC. If this is true, Romulus and Remus would have been born sometime in the year 771 BC. This also means that Romulus and Remus began the founding of Rome at the age of 18.

External links and references

  • Grafton, Anthony 2003. "Some Uses of Eclipses in Early Modern Chronology" in Journal of the History of Ideas (The Johns Hopkins University Press) vol. 64:2, April 2003, pp 213-229
  • Ancient History (
  • History Wiz (
  • Miracles ( "The parallels here are unmistakable. In both stories we have a "king" addressing his subjects, a cloud enveloping the "king", and the bodily ascension upwards into the heavens. Jesus and Romulus are simply two examples among many."

Preceded by:
King of Rome
753-717 BC
Succeeded by:
Numa Pompilius

Template:End boxde:Romulus und Remus fr:Romulus et Remus it:Romolo e Remo la:Romulus nl:Romulus en Remus pl:Romulus i Remus pt:Rmulo e Remo ru:Ромул и Рем fi:Romulus uk:Ромул


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