In Roman mythology, Romulus and Remus are twin brothers, whose story tells the events that led to the founding of the city of Rome and the Roman Kingdom by Romulus. The killing of Remus by his brother, and other tales from their story, have inspired artists throughout the ages, since ancient times, the image of the twins being suckled by a she-wolf has been a symbol of the city of Rome and the Roman people. Although the tale takes place before the founding of Rome around 750 BC, whether the twins myth was an original part of Roman myth or a later development is a subject of ongoing debate. Romulus and Remus were born in Alba Longa, one of the ancient Latin cities near the site of Rome. Their mother, Rhea Silvia was a virgin and the daughter of the former king, Numitor. In some sources, Rhea Silvia conceived them when their father, through their mother, the twins were descended from Greek and Latin nobility. Seeing them as a threat to his rule, King Amulius ordered them to be killed. They were saved by the god Tiberinus, Father of the River and survived with the care of others, in the most well-known episode, the twins were suckled by a she-wolf, in a cave now known as the Lupercal. Eventually, they were adopted by Faustulus, a shepherd and they grew up tending flocks, unaware of their true identities. Over time, their leadership abilities attracted a company of supporters from the community. When they were adults, they became involved in a dispute between supporters of Numitor and Amulius. As a result, Remus was taken prisoner and brought to Alba Longa, both his grandfather and the king suspected his true identity. Romulus, meanwhile, had organized an effort to free his brother, during this time they learned of their past and joined forces with their grandfather to restore him to the throne. Amulius was killed and Numitor was reinstated as king of Alba, the twins set out to build a city of their own. After arriving back in the area of the seven hills, they disagreed about the hill upon which to build, Romulus preferred the Palatine Hill, above the Lupercal, Remus preferred the Aventine Hill. When they could not resolve the dispute, they agreed to seek the gods approval through a contest of augury, Remus first saw 6 auspicious birds but soon afterward, Romulus saw 12, and claimed to have won divine approval. The new dispute furthered the contention between them, in the aftermath, Remus was killed either by Romulus or by one of his supporters. Romulus then went on to found the city of Rome, its institutions, government, military and he reigned for many years as its first king
Image: She wolf suckles Romulus and Remus
Altar to Mars (divine father of Romulus and Remus) and Venus (their divine ancestress) depicting elements of their legend. Tiberinus, the Father of the Tiber and the infant twins being suckled by a she-wolf in the Lupercal are below. A vulture from the contest of augury and Palatine hill are to the left. (From Ostia, now at the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme).
The Shepherd Faustulus Bringing Romulus and Remus to His Wife, Nicolas Mignard (1654)
Detail of Romulus and Remus on the allegory of Tiber