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Romulus and Remus

Nationality/Culture

Roman

Pronunciation

ROM-yuh-luhs and REE-muhs

Alternate Names

None

Appears In

Ovid's Metamorphoses

Lineage

Sons of Mars and Rhea Silvia

Character Overview

In Roman mythology , Romulus and Remus were the twin sons of the god Mars, and were the founders of the city of Rome. Their mother, Rhea Silvia, was the only daughter of King Numitor (pronounced NOO-muh-tor) of Alba Longa. Numitor's brother Amulius (pronounced uh-MYOO-lee-uhs) seized the throne and kept Rhea Silvia from marrying, since any sons she had would be the rightful heirs to the throne. However, Mars, the god of war, made love to her, and she gave birth to Romulus and Remus.

When Amulius found out about the twins , he ordered that they be thrown into the Tiber River to drown. The boys floated downstream, coming ashore near a sacred fig tree. A she-wolf and a woodpecker— creatures sacred to Mars—fed the twins and kept them alive until a shepherd found them. Faustulus (pronounced FAW-stoo-luhs), the shepherd, and his wife raised the boys. They grew up to be brave and bold.

The twins became involved in local conflicts and led a group of youths on raids, including a raid on a herd of cattle that belonged to Numitor. Remus was caught and brought before Numitor. In questioning the young man, Numitor realized that Remus was his grandson. Shordy afterward, the twins led a revolt against Amulius. They killed him and put Numitor back on the throne.

Afterward, Romulus and Remus wanted to found a city of their own, so they returned to the place where Faustulus had discovered them. A sign from the gods indicated that Romulus was to be the founder of the new city. He marked out the city boundaries and began to build a city wall. When Remus jumped over the unfinished wall, mocking his brother for thinking that it could keep anyone out of the city, Romulus killed him. Romulus became the sole leader of the new city, named Rome.

To populate Rome, Romulus invited people who had fled from nearby areas to live there. However, most of these settlers were men. The city needed women. Romulus invited the Sabine (pronounced SAY-bye-n) people, who lived in neighboring towns, to come to Rome for a great festival. While the Sabine men were enjoying themselves, the Romans seized the Sabine maidens, drove the men from the city, and married their women. The event became known as the “rape of the Sabine women.”

The Sabine men planned revenge and staged several small but unsuccessful raids. Then Titus Tatius (pronounced TAY-shuhs), the Sabine king, led an army against Rome. The Romans were losing the battle when Romulus prayed to Jupiter (pronounced JOO-pi-tur), the king of the gods, for help. At that point, the Sabine women stepped in. They pleaded with the warring men to stop, for they could not bear to see their fathers and husbands killing one another. The two sides agreed to a peace in which the Sabines and Romans formed a union, with Rome as the capital.

Romulus ruled Rome for forty years. He disappeared mysteriously while reviewing his army on the Campus Martius (Field of Mars) in a thunderstorm. Some legends indicate he ascended into the heavens, where he became the god Quirinus (pronounced kwi-RYE-nuhs) and sat alongside Jupiter, the king of the gods.

Romulus and Remus in Context

The myth of Romulus and Remus reflects the Roman view of their empire as destined by the gods, and the Roman desire to establish a unique cultural identity based on their own origin myths. The transformation of Romulus from a mortal man to a god would be repeated later in Roman history when the Romans declared other human leaders such as Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus to be gods after their deaths. This cultural transformation from “man” to “god” is known as divination and strengthened the Roman claims to greatness through the glorification of its leaders.

The myth was also meant to strike fear into the hearts of those who might rebel against the Romans. When Romulus kills Remus after he leaps over the wall, he states that anyone attempting to breach the walls of Rome will suffer the same fate. This is a clear message meant not only to stir up Roman pride, but to warn outsiders against ever attempting to take control of the city.

Key Themes and Symbols

One of the central themes in the myth of Romulus and Remus is the unavoidable nature of destiny. Amulius tries to keep Rhea Silvia from having sons, but the god Mars intervenes. Amulius then tries to keep Romulus and Remus away from his kingdom, but fate keeps them alive, and ultimately they lead a revolt against their wicked uncle. Later, Romulus receives a sign from the gods that he alone is to be the founder of a new city. After his brother insults Romulus by leaping over the wall he builds, Romulus kills his brother and founds the city by himself

Some scholars have pointed to the killing of Remus by Romulus as being similar to stories in other cultures about twins in which one twin kills the other and creates something from the body of the dead twin. Although Romulus did not actually use the body of Remus in the founding of Rome, it is significant that he killed Remus as Rome is being built, and that the killing involves the city walls. In this way, Remus becomes a sort of sacrifice that makes the founding of Rome possible, echoing the theme of sacrifice as being necessary for the advancement of society that is found in other cultures.

Romulus and Remus in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life

Romulus and Remus were a popular subject in ancient Roman art, and were often depicted suckling from the she-wolf that raised them for a time. Another subject popular with later painters, including Peter Paul Rubens, Jacques-Louis David, and Pablo Picasso, was the abduction of the Sabine women.

In modern times, the legend of the abduction of the Sabines served as the inspiration for a short story by Stephen Vincent Benet titled “The Sobbin' Women,” with the setting updated to rural America. This in turn inspired the successful 1954 musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Romulus appears as a mysterious enemy of the superhero Wolverine in the Marvel Comics Universe. Remus and Romulus were also the names given to two planets in the Star Trek universe, home to the race of aliens known as Romulans.

Read, Write, Think, Discuss

The myth of Romulus and Remus embraced by ancient Romans as a proud part of their founding history, is a tale of murder, kidnapping, and war. What do you think this says about ancient Roman culture that they created and embraced such a myth as a fundamental part of Roman identity?

SEE ALSO Roman Mythology; Sacrifice; Twins

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Romulus and Remus

In Roman mythology Romulus and Remus were the twin sons of the god Mars* and the founders of the city of Rome. Their mother, Rhea Silvia, was the only daughter of King Numitor of Alba Longa. Numitor's brother Amulius seized the throne and forced Rhea Silvia to become a Vestal Virgin. He wanted to make sure that she had no children who would have a claim to the throne. However, Rhea Silvia was raped by Mars and gave birth to Romulus and Remus.


Early Years. When Amulius found out about the twins, he ordered that they be thrown into the Tiber River to drown. The boys floated downstream, coming ashore near a sacred fig tree. A she-wolf and a woodpeckercreatures sacred to Marsfed the twins and kept them alive until a shepherd found them. Faustulus, the shepherd, and his wife raised the boys. They grew up to be brave and bold.

The twins became involved in local conflicts and led a group of youths on raids, including a raid on a herd of cattle that belonged to Numitor. Remus was caught and brought before Numitor. In questioning the young man, Numitor realized that Remus was his grandson. Shortly afterward, the twins led a revolt against Amulius. They killed him and put Numitor back on the throne.


Founding of Rome. Romulus and Remus wanted to found a city of their own, so they returned to the place where Faustulus had discovered them. An omen determined that Romulus should be the founder of the new city. He marked out the city boundaries and began to build a city wall. When Remus jumped over the unfinished wall, mocking his brother for thinking that it could keep anyone out of the city, Romulus killed him. Romulus became the sole leader of the new city, named Rome.


The Rape of the Sabine Women. To populate Rome, Romulus invited people who had fled from nearby areas to live there. However, most of these settlers were men. The city needed women. Romulus invited the Sabine people, who lived in neighboring towns, to come to Rome for a great festival. While the Sabine men were enjoying themselves, the Romans seized the Sabine maidens, drove the men from the city, and married their women. The event became known as The Rape of the Sabine Women.

Vestal Virgin priestess of the Roman goddess Vesta who was required to remain a virgin

omen sign of future events

The Sabine men planned revenge and staged several small but unsuccessful raids. Then Titus Tatius, the Sabine king, led an army against Rome. The Romans were losing the battle when Romulus prayed to Jupiter* for help. At that point, the Sabine women stepped in. They pleaded with the warring men to stop, for they could not bear to see their fathers and husbands killing one another. The two sides agreed to a peace in which the Sabines and Romans formed a union, with Rome as the capital.

Romulus ruled Rome for 40 years. He disappeared mysteriously while reviewing his army on the Campus Martius (Field of Mars) in a thunderstorm.

See also Roman Mythology; Twins.

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Romulus the legendary founder of Rome, one of the twin sons of Mars by the Vestal Virgin Rhea Silvia; he and his brother Remus were exposed at birth in a basket on the River Tiber but were found and suckled by a she-wolf and later brought up by a shepherd family.

Grown to manhood, the twins founded a new settlement on the spot at which they had been washed ashore from the Tiber. An augury in the form of a flight of birds indicated that Romulus should be king, but during the building of the walls of Rome the brothers quarrelled, and Remus was killed.

The new city was settled by Romulus. To find wives for his followers, Romulus is said to have invited the neighbouring Sabines to witness a spectacle; in the course of this, the Sabine women were carried off (the Rape of the Sabines). The fighting which followed was eventually settled without the women returning to their own people.

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Romulus and Remus In Roman mythology, founders of Rome. Twin brothers, they were said to be sons of Mars. Amulius, who usurped the throne, ordered the babies to be drowned in the Tiber. They survived and were suckled by a wolf, before being found by a shepherd, Faustulus. They built a city on the site of their rescue. Romulus killed Remus during a quarrel.