The bronze statue sitting in Rome's Capitoline Museum has long been the iconic symbol of Rome. You will see interpretations of it in sculptures and paintings throughout the city. Of course, there's a legend behind the she-wolf figure suckling twin boys. It goes like this:
Rhea Silvia was the only daughter of King Numitor of Alba Longa. Numitor’s brother, Amulius, seized the throne and forced Rhea 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 was raped by Mars and gave birth to twins, 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.
Once grown, the boys wanted to found a city of their own, so they returned to the place the shepherd discovered them. An omen determined that Romulus would be named king of the new city. He marked the city boundaries and began to build a city wall. When Remus jumped over the unfinished wall and mocked his brother for thinking he could keep anyone out, Romulus killed him. Romulus became the first king of the new city, named Rome.
For years, it was believed that this statue was an Etruscan treasure from the early part of the 5th century. However, recent radio-carbon tests have shown it was manufactured in the Middle Ages. Does this new revelation really matter? Surely, it does to art historians who prize themselves by knowing the true origins of the works they study. But, I say pshaw! It's another wonderful piece of art with a fabulous history and interesting story -- part of what makes Rome so special!
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