The Founding of Rome

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The subject of Rome is generally brought up in general converse as the pinnacle of art, architecture, and colonization; however, the founding of this eternal power is much less commendable.

The often debated, and historically exaggerated, story of how Rome was formed begins with twin brothers born in the city of Alba Longa, Romulus and Remus, the offspring of a mortal priestess, Rhea Silvia, and the Roman god of war (However it is often believed that she was raped by an unknown stranger, and blamed her pregnancy on divine conception). After some monarchal conflict, Rhea was forced to become a Vestal Virgin and follow an oath of celibacy. The orthodox punishment for breaking this oath of celibacy was to be buried alive, however since the children were sons of the god Mars, the King, fearing the wrath of gods, imprisoned Rhea, and sentenced the twins to death. The King Amulius, fearing staining his hands with the blood of a god’s offspring, decided that to throw the children into the River Tiber would have nature kill them, not the townspeople. The king orders a servant to kill the boys, however in a state of pity he spares them, and puts them into a woven basket, onto the river. After floating down the river for some time they are evidently laid them at the base of the Palatine hill, inside the Velabrum swamp. Eventually, they were discovered by a she-wolf, lupa, and raised for around 2 years. One day a nearby couple saw this and took the baby to be raised, by the shepherd and his wife: Faustulus and Acca Larentia. The boys were nurtured to become shepherds like their adoptive father. One evening while herding sheep the boys came across some of the shepherds of King Amulius, they began to quarrel and were eventually Remus was captured and set before the King. While Remus was held hostage Romulus gathered a band of fellow shepherds with the task of freeing Remus. The King, of course, after not having seen them for so long, and assuming they were deceased didn’t recognise either of the brothers; evidently during the freeing of Remus the King Amulius was killed. They had refused the townspeople’s offering of the crown, and instead set off to found their own city, giving their grandfather Nimitor the Crown of Alba Longa.

Founding of Rome | BOOK OF DAYS TALES
A statue of the twins at lupa‘s teat (Early 11th – 12 Century)

Once Romulus and Remus had left the city of Alba Longa they began debating where the city should be founded; Romulus argued for the Palatine Hill, while Remus argued for the Aventine Hill. In order to settle their disagreement, they agreed to consult augury; they agreed that the gods would send more birds over whatever hill they believed the new city should be founded upon. The brothers returned to consult each other on how many birds they saw, Remus claimed to have seen six while Romulus saw twelve, therefore claiming his victory. This however, did not go so smoothly, Remus claimed that since he had seen the six birds before Romulus’s twelve, the gods clearly wanted the city to be found on the Aventine hill. In order to settle their disagreement, they agreed to consult augury; they agreed that the gods would send more birds over whatever hill they believed the new city should be founded upon. The brothers returned to consult each other on how many birds they saw, Remus claimed to have seen six while Romulus saw twelve, therefore claiming his victory. This however, did not go so smoothly, Remus claimed that since he had seen the six birds before Romulus’s twelve, the gods clearly wanted the city to be found on the Aventine hill. They remained at a stalemate until Romulus had begun to dig trenches, and build walls around the Palatine Hill.

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Illustrated Map of the hills within Rome

They remained at a stalemate until Romulus had begun to dig trenches, and build walls around the Palatine Hill. Remus had continuously mocked, and ridiculed these walls, jumping over repeatedly. Romulus, angered by his brothers belittlements killed him. Exactly how is widely debated; some say Remus simply died after jumping over Romulus’ wall, which is thought to be a sign from the gods of Rome’s power and fate. Some sources claim that Romulus killed Remus. Remus’ death and founding of Rome are dated by Livy to April 21st, 753 BCE. Regardless, Romulus mournfully buried his brother, bestowing upon him full funeral honours.

Romulus named his city Roma, after himself. Soon after the foundations of Roma were complete there was a Governmental system instated, involing senators and patricians. Rome’s initial population was supplied by fugitives, exiles, run away slaves, and criminals and other cast offs. Due to this the city was physically incapable of creating its own generations, as there were no women. Then after, the romans invited members of the neighbouring city, Sabina, for a celebration of the festival of Cronus. While the men were distracted the Romans abducted the women, raped them, and persuaded them to marry them. Inevitably the husbands and brothers of these women came from Sabina and launched and attack on Roma, which failed, becoming Rome’s first military triumph. The Sabines did not take this defeat graciously, and instead marched back to Rome, almost defeating them, until Romulus prayed to the god Jupiter, who aided them to their second victory. In honour the Temple of Jupiter was built, and the Sabines agreed to a truce of a duel reign over the area. After more monarchal disputes the Sabine king was exciled, and Rome grew to incorporate Sabina. The next big growth in size was when Numitor died, and Rome claimed Alba Longa as well.

File:Rape of the Sabine Women by Sebastiano Ricci.jpg
Rape of the Sabines

While Rome’s progress may have been littered with Rape, such as the Sabines, or Lucretia and Tarquins, Murder, such as Remus’s killing, and Extortion, such as Cicero at the Sicily, it still managed to grow its way to one of the most eternal powers ever, from the determination of two twin orphans.


References

  1. Romulus and Remus. Apr. 18, 2018 Ancient History Encyclopedia. https://www.ancient.eu/Romulus_and_Remus/ .
  2. SPRQ. 2015. Profile Books LTD, Mary Beard
  3. Capitoline Wolf. Nov. 3, 2020 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitoline_Wolf

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