Romulus and Remus

In the city of Alba Longa, the Trojans and the Latins grew and prospered, and the descendants of Aeneas's son Julius ruled over them as their kings. The twelfth king was named Proca, and he had two sons: Numitor was the elder and Amulius was the younger. According to the laws of the Latins, Numitor should have been the king, but Amulius loved power more than law or custom, and so when Proca died, Amulius seized the throne for himself. Amulius drove Numitor into exile, and because he feared that some day one of Numitor's descendants would overthrow him, he had Numitor's two sons killed. Numitor had also had a daughter, Rhea Silvia, and Amulius appointed her to be one of the priestesses of Vesta, so that she would never be able to marry. But he did not recon with the will of the gods.

The god Mars saw the disgrace of Amulius stealing his brother's throne, and the sorrow of Rhea at her father's exile and her brothers' death. Mars knew it was fated that Rhea was a descendant of Aeneas, and he admired her beauty, and so he came to her in secret and became her husband. No one but Rhea knew of her marriage to the god, but when she bore twin sons, Amulius feared that they would grow up to get revenge against him and restore their grandfather's throne. So he threw Rhea into prison and ordered that the babies be drowned in the river Tiber.

However, the servant King Amulius sent out to drown the boys could not bring himself to kill such strong and active-looking babies. So he placed the boys in a basket and put the basket in the river saying, "I will not drown them. If the basket sinks, let the river god take the blame for their lives."

Recognizing the sons of Mars, the river god guided the basket with the twin to shore, and when evening came a she-wolf came down to the riverbank to drink and found the twin boys there. The babies were crying in hunger, and the she-wolf took pity on them and nursed them as her own cubs. Some time later, a shepherd named named Faustulus came upon the baby boys, whom the she-wolf had been caring for. He and his wife had no children, so he took the two boys home to his hut. Faustulus and his wife raised the boys as their own and named them Romulus and Remus.

The twins grew up into strong young men with broad shoulders and great courage. They tended their father's flocks on the hillsides and drove away wild beasts who threatened the sheep. At one time, a band of robbers came into that part of the land. They would set upon travelers on the road, steal their gold and silver, beat them, and leave them for dead. Romulus and Remus hunted the robbers, found their lair, and killed them. They took the treasure the robbers had amassed and shared it among all the shepherds.

Now as it happened, Numitor was living in exile on a large farm not far from that place. He heard from his tenant farmers that two young men, twins of great courage and the pride and bearing of noblemen, had become the leaders of the shepherds in the hills, and at once Numitor wondered if these might be his own grandsons who had been left to die. He sent for Romulus and Remus, and for Faustulus their father, and asked them in great detail about their youth and who their relatives might be. When Faustulus at last told the story of how he had found the two boys being cared for by a she-wolf, twenty years before, Numitor knew that they must indeed be the sons of Rhea, and he embraced them and told them of their true parentage.

When the twins heard of how Amulius had imprisoned their mother and banished their grandfather, they lost no time in gathering their shepherd friends, arming themselves, and setting off for Alba Longa. They approached Amulius's palace at night, and looking in the windows they saw that he was feasting with his friends. At a signal from the twins, they and their band of shepherds leaped in through the windows, scattering the guards and the king's guests.

Remus grabbed the king and held him down, shouting to the surprised guests, "Amulius has imprisoned our mother, exiled our grandfather, angered the gods and tried to kill us. For this, there can be only one punishment." With that, Romulus struck off Amulius's head.

Rhea was freed from imprisonment, and Numitor was crowned as rightful king of Alba Longa. But although King Numitor was grateful to his grandsons and would happily have given them anything they asked for, the twins soon grew restless. So with their grandfather's blessing they set off with their shepherd friends to found a new city which they would rule themselves.

They chose a site on the river Tiber where seven hills stood close together, but soon they argued. Romulus wanted to build the citadel on the Palatine Hill, while Remus wanted it built on the Aventine hill. And each of the twins thought that he should be king. They agreed that each would go to the place he thought should be the new city's forum, and wait there for a sign from the gods. Remus saw a sign first, when six vultures circled above him, and then settled in a row before him. He rushed to where Romulus was waiting for a sign to tell him that the gods favored his plan. But as he arrived, twelve vultures circled over Romulus and settled in a row on the place Romulus had selected. Remus insisted that the gods supported him because his sign had been seen first, but Romulus argued that his sign was the more important because he had seen twice as many birds.

They argued until at last, Romulus became so angry that he drew his sword and killed Remus. Looking down at the body of his brother, Romulus was sorry for what he had done, and begged the gods not to curse him for spilling the blood of his own brother.

Romulus buried his brother on the Palatine Hill and made sacrifices in his honor. Over his grave they built the citadel of Rome, named after Romulus its founder. Around it they built strong walls. Romulus ruled over the city as king and under his rule the city became large and powerful.

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