According to myths, when did Remus and Romulus found the city of Rome?

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The origins of Rome are lost in the mists of history, a fascinating tale of myth and reality. In the 8th century BC, the legendary Romulus and Remus, sired by the vestal Rhéa Silvia and Mars, the god of war, laid the foundations for what was to become one of the world’s most influential civilizations. Their exceptional adventure, recounted by renowned scribes such as Titus Livius and Plutarch in his Parallel Lives, continues to inspire and provoke debate on the foundations of the Eternal City.

Plutarch’s Parallel Lives and the writings of Titus Livius plunge us into this distant universe. Their accounts show how, despite early abandonment and a childhood saved by a she-wolf, the brothers succeeded in dethroning the tyrant Amulius. This victory marked the beginning of the construction of Rome, an event that would forever mark Roman history and, more broadly, that of antiquity.

This article explores the legends surrounding the founding of this mythical city, in an attempt to distinguish between reality and mythological additions.

The myth of Rome’s foundation

The divine origin of Romulus and Remus

The epic legend of Romulus and Remus begins with a supernatural event that heralds the extraordinary destiny of Rome. Born of the vestal Rhéa Silvia and the god Mars, they embody the extraordinary union between mortals and divinities. This mystical origin promises the twins an essential role not only in the emergence of Rome, but also as symbols of its future splendor.

In the many tales of Roman mythology, certain texts suggest that Vulcan, the god of fire, was their true ancestor. This adds a sacred dimension to their history, illustrating the Romans’ aspiration to a divine lineage as a token of their superiority and divine right.

The accounts of Titus Livius and Plutarch, though differing in places, converge on this fundamental truth: the birth of Rome was an act blessed by the gods, predestining the city for universal glory.

Survival and education by the she-wolf

The twins’ fate seemed sealed when they were abandoned on the banks of the Tiber. But fate decided otherwise, thanks to the intervention of a she-wolf who adopted and raised them. This striking episode, often depicted in the arts, symbolizes Rome’s tenacity and resilience.

The she-wolf, a figure of protection and affection, embodies the essence of the city, a symbol of power and fertility. The rudimentary but essential education provided by this wild animal endowed Romulus and Remus with the virtues necessary for their future conquests: courage, determination and autonomy, the founding values of the future Roman Republic.

Growing up in this wilderness, guided by providence, the twins mature until they meet the shepherd Faustulus. He introduces them to human society, marking the beginning of their legendary destiny.

The conflict between the two brothers

The creation of Rome is also marred by tragedy, with the bloody feud between the two brothers. After discovering their noble lineage, Romulus and Remus plan to build a city. However, their disagreement over the name and location of the new city quickly escalates.

This dramatic disagreement culminates in the death of Remus, the victim of his brother Romulus. This painful tale highlights the sacrifices made for the advent of Rome. It also exposes the harsh reality of Roman governance, with its loneliness and difficult decisions. With the death of Remus, Romulus found himself alone at the head of what was to become one of the world’s greatest civilizations.

The loss of Remus, though tragic, was a crucial step in the founding of Rome. It symbolizes the principle of determination and the sense of sacrifice that have been the cornerstones of the Roman spirit throughout its history.

The mythical year of Rome’s foundation

The traditional date and its calculation

Traditionally considered the starting point of the Roman calendar, the founding of Rome is set on April 21, 753 B.C. This date, emblematic of the annual festivals of Parilia, is based on the writings of the historian Titus Livius and other ancient figures. The latter established chronologies by consolidating reigns and events, although this approach borrows more from mythology than archaeology.

The development of this date required the harmonization of mythical accounts and the revision of historical sequences to arrive at a solid chronology. This approach underlines the importance the Romans attached to their history, imbued with symbolism and continuity.

The reliability of this date is the subject of debate among specialists, some of whom consider it to be consistent with pre-existing astronomical phenomena or celebrations. Despite these controversies, it remains a pivotal date for the study of Rome, symbolizing the identity and heritage of this thousand-year-old city.

Ancient sources and their interpretation

Our knowledge of the founding of Rome comes mainly from the texts of Titus Livius, Plutarch and Dionysius of Halicarnassus. Although they postdate the alleged events, these authors provide us with enriched versions of the basic accounts.

Livy describes a Rome bathed in the divine, Plutarch illustrates the values embodied by Romulus and Remus, and Dionysius of Halicarnassus emphasizes Rome’s Greek roots. Exploring these writings requires careful reading, to disentangle the true from the mythical and grasp the Roman perception of its past.

The symbolic significance of the foundation year

Far from being a simple time marker, the year of Rome’s foundation has considerable symbolic significance. It marks the beginning of an era that will see Rome rise to the pinnacle of Mediterranean civilization, affirming its deep connection with its legendary past.

The date also illustrates Rome’s ambition to measure up to the great civilizations of Greece and Egypt. Claiming a heroic and divine heritage, Rome asserts its greatness and legitimacy in the concert of nations.

Proud symbol of Roman excellence and durability, the myth of its foundation in 753 BC continues to inspire. Rome, Urbs Aeterna, remains firmly anchored in our collective imagination, a living testimony to its golden age.

The importance of Romulus and Remus in Roman culture

The story of Romulus and Remus goes beyond legend to become deeply rooted in Roman culture. Having become the emblem of Rome, the twins raised by a she-wolf symbolize the city’s power and divine origin. Their image spread through art, coinage and literature, becoming a pillar of Roman identity.

Their epic, marked by survival and triumph in the face of adversity, became a model of virtue and resistance. The Romans saw in their story an ideal of courage, determination and filial respect to emulate.

The annual commemoration of the founding of Rome during the Parilia festival underlines the enduring importance of Romulus and Remus in the traditions and celebrations that unite the Roman community.

The Rome of Romulus vs. historical Rome

While the legend of Romulus and Remus shapes the founding myth of Rome, archaeology reveals a more nuanced history. The Etruscans and Sabines, among others, played a decisive role in the evolution of what was to become ancient Rome.

Historical Rome appears to be the fruit of a cultural melting pot, far from the simplified image proposed by myth. This synthesis of cultures and traditions laid the foundations for the Roman Republic and, later, its empire.

This duality between myth and historical reality shaped the Romans’ perception of their past, glorifying Romulus while valuing the contribution of other civilizations to their heritage.

The myth’s influence on Roman identity

The myth of Romulus and Remus has exerted a considerable influence on Roman identity, providing a framework for understanding their link with the divine and affirming Rome’s destiny as the superpower of antiquity.

This mythical narrative offered Romans a place in a cosmic order where men and gods join forces against disorder and destruction. This myth reinforced social cohesion and a sense of belonging among citizens, forging a common origin and history that welded generations together and consolidated the unity of ancient Rome.

The story of Romulus and Remus goes beyond the simple account of the founding of Rome. In fact, it resonates deeply with Roman identity, symbolizing the principles of strength, resilience and divine destiny. These ideals propelled ancient Rome into its golden age.



According to myths, when did Remus and Romulus found the city of Rome?


According to Roman myths, Romulus founded the city of Rome on the site of Mount Palatine on the Tiber on April 21, 753 BC.