2. Romulus, Remus, and the founding of Rome
The image of a she-wolf suckling human infants, twin boys, remains a symbol of the City of Rome in the 21st century. The boys are Romulus and Remus, in one telling of the tale sons of the god Mars. In another, they are the sons of a deposed king, Numitor. The latter’s brother, who stole his throne, banished the twins to a site near the Tiber river bank. There, another god, Tiberinus, intervened. The twins were hidden in a cave, known as the Lupercal, where they received nourishment from a she-wolf. As they grew older they shepherded flocks, an unusual occupation for someone so closely associated with wolves. Eventually, they emerged as community leaders, and after fighting in a failed war to restore Numitor to his throne they established their own community, near the seven hills on the Tiber.
The brothers failed to agree on which hill to establish their city, and the falling out led to fighting between them. They decided to allow the gods to decide which should prevail, and subsequently, rule as king. After Romulus won, he either killed Remus or had one of his followers do so. He then ruled as the first King of Rome. Whether the twins were based on actual historical figures, embellished with folklore over time, or were entirely fictional remains in debate. In 1988, an archaeologist discovered a wall on the Palatine Hill (one of the fabled Seven Hills of Rome) which he claimed to be indicative of the Lupercal. Romulus, Remus, and the she-wolf appeared in ancient Roman art, tapestries, and on coins. Their story and images continued to inspire artists, poets, and mythologists throughout history ever since.