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Friday, July 12, 2024
King 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 her.

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 tree.

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.
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The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.


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