Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Art & History Feature - the Myth of Romulus and Remus

Capitoline Wolf - depiction of the She-wolf with Romulus and Remus

Rome - the eternal city. The city where history is layered so thick, figuratively and literally, that to this day archaeologists are uncovering new ancient sites every time the city digs to expand the subway. When I was there a couple of years ago with my husband, we were directed towards a church that was built in the middle ages. Under that church, was an archaeological excavation of a church that was built in the early first century. Under that was an archaeological excavation of an ancient Roman villa of a family that lived in the 2nd Century B.C. And that is quintessential Rome.

The history of Rome fascinates me, and one cannot talk about the history of this great city without talking about the myth of its creation - the story of brothers Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of the city Rome.

Romulus and Remus were twin brothers, born to Rhea Silvia by either the god Mars or by the demi-god Hercules. Once born, the twin are abandoned but are saved through a series of miraculous supernatural occurrences. They are put into a basket and set in the river Tiber, but the river carries them to safety. Once out of the river, they are found and suckled by a she-wolf, until a shepherd finds them and raises them with his wife.

The discovery of Romulus and Remus by Paul Rubens

When the brothers become adults, they decide to found a new city, but argue about the location of where it should be. Romulus wants it on the Palantine Hill, while Remus wants it on the Aventine Hill. Eventually Remus is killed and Romulus names a new city that he founds after himself. He also creates the first legions and a senate.

While the city grows fast, most of its population are unmarried men who are refugees. To keep populating the city, Romulus arranges the abduction of Sabine women from a neighboring land. Even though war follows, Sabines and Romans eventually unite and Romans become the dominant people in the area.

The Rape of the Sabine Women by Nicolas Poussin

 It is not clear what happens to Romulus following these events.

Modern historians are not proponents of the idea that Rome was named after Romulus, but the myth is nevertheless still a subject of fascination and study, especially as the source of ancient Roman ideologies, values and morality.

What is fascinating to me is that the she-wolf from this story became a symbol of Rome (and you know how I love everything that has to do with wolves :)) She is a symbol of fertility and strength.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...