Numitor of Alba Longa was ejected by his younger brother Amulius.
To do away with any further possible pretenders to his usurped
throne, Amulius murdered Numitor's sons and forced Numitor's
daughter, Rhea Silvia, to become a vestal virgin. (vestal virgins
were priestesses to the goddess Vesta and were expected to guard
their virginity in the goddess' honour on pain of death.)
However, Mars, the god of war, became enchanted by her beauty and
had his way with her while she slept. As a result of this, Rhea
Silvia gave birth to twins, Romulus and Remus.
An enraged Amulius had Rhea Silvia thrown into the Tiber river
where she was caught beneath the waves by the river god who married
The twins were set adrift on the river in a reed basket. They floated
downstream until the basket was caught in the branches of a fig
This was where they were found by a she-wolf who suckled them (wolves
are sacred to Mars) until a shepherd found them.
Another version of the same story tells of the shepherd finding
them and taking them to his wife, who had just lost a stillborn
child and who breast fed them.
Which one of the two versions is the original is hard to tell.
As the two boys had grown to men in the care of the couple, they
were told of their true origins. Amulius was subsequently slain
in battle and Numitor was restored to his throne.
The twins decided to found a new city close to where they had been
washed ashore, caught by the fig tree.
Reading omens of the flight of birds, they decided to build their
city on Palatine Hill and decided that Romulus should be King.
Romulus took to marking the city's boundaries with a plough drawn
by a white bull and a white cow.
Remus, however, leapt over the furrow, either in jest or derision.
Romulus lost his temper and killed his brother.
The new city, little more than a small settlement, had almost no
women. So, determined to solve this problem, Romulus invited the
neighbouring tribe of the Sabines.