HOW IT ALL BEGAN

Between history and myth, we are used to set the establishment of the Eternal City on the 21st of April, 753 B.C. Obviously this is a conventional date, linked more to tradition than reality.

Rome was founded by two twin brothers, Romulus and Remus, sons of Mars, the god of war, and Rhea Silvia, a vestal virgin (a priestess of the virgin goddess Vesta). Let’s start from the very beginning: after the destruction of Troy by the Achaeans, Aeneas - son of Venus, the goddess of love - escaped from the beloved homeland with his father Anchises, his son Ascanius and a few other things. After wandering across the Mediterranean sea he finally arrived in the Italic region of Lazio, where he met and then married Lavinia, daughter of Latino. He then founded a city named after his wife and lived peacefully for the rest of his days. His son Ascanius, instead, founded Alba Longa that soon became a rich and powerful city, the most important of the entire region. About 300 years later, two descendants brothers, Numitor and Amulius, competed for the throne of Alba Longa.Amulius banished his brothers and killed his sons, while forcing his only daughter, Rhea Silvia, to become a vestal, preventing her to give birth to possible heirs to the throne. In fact vestals were forbidden to have children, on pain of death. One day the good looking Rhea Silvia - who was sunbathing on the Tiber bank - fell asleep and was accidentally noticed by Mars. The god - famous for his passion both for war and beautiful girls – descended on earth and got her pregnant. Did Rhea Silvia get raped? Did she want it? It’s hard to tell. However, this union generated two strong babies.When Amulius found out the event, he got very mad and after his niece gave birth, he kidnapped the twins, but instead of killing them he put them on a small raft in the Tiber, hoping they would drown. As usual in this type of situations, something went wrong. The raft ran ashore nearby and the crying of the two babies summoned a she-wolf, which didn’t eat them, but nursed them as cubs.

That’s why the She-wolf is the symbol of the city. It is important to point out that for someone the “she-wolf” (“Lupa” in Italian) was the nickname of a harlot, Acca Larentia, who raised the kids as her own children, and who was named like that for her wild and aggressive nature. That is the reason why in the Ancient Rome, prostitutes where called “Lupe”.As soon as they grew up the two brothers took the name of Romulus and Remus, they killed their uncle Amulius and gave the throne to their grandfather Numitor. Then they decided to found a city where their little raft once ran ashore. The two brothers immediately started to argue about the name of the future city and so they decided to rely on a challenge to establish which one of them should choose the name. The winner would have been the one who saw more birds in the sky. Remus climbed the Aventine Hill and saw 10 birds, while Romulus – on the Palatine Hill – saw 12 of them. Therefore Romulus chose the name: “Rome”. The etymology of this word is still discussed by historians. Maybe it was the archaic name of Etruscan origins of the Tiber river. However, the two twins traced the boundaries of the city with a plough and built a little wall to define its perimeter. Then they took the solemn oath to kill anyone who would try to cross the borders. Remus – probably still angry for the loss of the challenge – kicked the wall saying it was too weak. Romulus remained loyal to his vow and killed his brother. It is interesting to notice how Rome – a city destined to become the cradle of the Western culture and the capital city of one of the most famous Empire in history – was born from a homicide.

Giuseppe Rosselli

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Read 1752 times Last modified on Monday, 08 April 2019 17:40

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