The Birth of Romulus and Remus


According to legend, the story of the founding of Rome begins with the fall of another great ancient city, Troy. After Troy’s destruction, the Trojan hero Aeneas escaped with a small group of followers, eventually managing to reach the coast of Italy, where he landed on the estuary of the Tiber River and made a new home. He married a local princess, and their son, Ascanius, founded the city of Alba Longa on a site just southeast of present-day Rome. Ascanius’s descendants reigned there for 14 generations, until the ruling king Numitor was dethroned by his brother Amulius.

Amulius arranged for Numitor’s daughter, Rea Silvia, to become one of the Vestal Virgins, the priestesses who tended the sacred hearth of the goddess Vesta. They were all forbidden to indulge in sexual intercourse. Nevertheless, Rea Silvia was seduced by Mars, the god of war, and gave birth to twin boys in the sanctuary of Vesta. When the children were discovered, Amulius threw Rea Silvia into a dungeon and had the infants put in a wicker basket and set adrift on the river. The basket became caught in the bulrushes, where the babies were suckled by a she-wolf until they were found by a shepherd. He took the twins home, adopted them, and named them Romulus and Remus.

– Harris. T., Lowe. L. et al. (2011) Ancient Rome: An Illustrated History Tarrytown, NY, United States p. 6