Skip to comments.Sanctuary of Rome's 'Founder' Revealed
Posted on 11/20/2007 10:08:23 AM PST by Pyro7480
ROME - Archaeologists on Tuesday unveiled an underground grotto believed to have been revered by ancient Romans as the place where a wolf nursed the city's legendary founder Romulus and his twin brother Remus.
Decorated with seashells and colored marble, the vaulted sanctuary is buried 52 feet inside the Palatine hill, the palatial center of power in imperial Rome, the archaeologists said at a news conference.
In the past two years, experts have been probing the space with endoscopes and laser scanners, fearing that the fragile grotto, already partially caved-in, would not survive a full-scale dig, said Giorgio Croci, an engineer who worked on the site.
The archaeologists are convinced that they have found the place of worship where Romans believed a she-wolf suckled Romulus and Remus, the twin sons of the god of war Mars who were abandoned in a basket and left adrift on the Tiber.
Thanks to the wolf, a symbol of Rome to this day, the twins survived, and Romulus founded the city, becoming its first king after killing Remus in a power struggle.
Ancient texts say the grotto known as the "Lupercale"_ from "lupa," Latin for she-wolf was near the palace of Augustus, Rome's first emperor, who was said to have restored it, and was decorated with a white eagle.
That symbol of the Roman Empire was found atop the sanctuary's vault, which lies just below the ruins of the palace built by Augustus, said Irene Iacopi, the archaeologist in charge of the Palatine and the nearby Roman Forum.
Augustus, who ruled from the late 1st century B.C. to his death in the year 14, was keen on being close to the places of Rome's mythical foundation and used the city's religious traditions to bolster his hold on power, Iacopi said.
"The Lupercale must have had an important role in Augustus' policies," she said. "He saw himself as a new Romulus."
Andrea Carandini, a professor of archaeology at Rome's La Sapienza University and an expert on the Palatine, said the grotto is almost certainly the "Lupercale."
"The chances that it's not are minimal," said Carandini, who did not take part in the dig. "It's one of the greatest discoveries ever made."
Most of the sanctuary is filled with earth, but laser scans allowed experts to estimate that the circular structure has a height of 26 feet and a diameter of 24 feet, Croci said.
Archaeologists at the news conference were divided on how to gain access to the "Lupercale."
Iacopi said a new dig would start soon to find the grotto's original entrance at the bottom of the hill. Carandini suggested enlarging the hole at the top through which probes have been lowered so far, saying that burrowing at the base of the hill could disturb the foundations of other ruins.
The Palatine is honeycombed with palaces and other ancient monuments, from the 8th-century B.C. remains of Rome's first fledgling huts to a medieval fortress and Renaissance villas. But the remains are fragile and plagued by collapses, leaving more than half of the hill, including Augustus' palace, closed to the public.
Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli said the first area to benefit from an extensive, $17.5 million restoration of the hills' ruins will be Augustus' palace, scheduled to reopen in February after being closed for decades.
Awesome discovery. I credit the Romulus and Remus legend a little more now that I saw a show on Discovery (I think) about a Russian boy that was an orphan and lived with dogs on the street.
Pyro: Thanks for posting this.
My only ‘Humm’ on this is that I was under the impression that this was a fictional story.
So are they saying this is NOT fiction?
Or that this is the REAL location of a fictional event?
Very cool indeed. It’s amazing how much has survived until now.
It’s where the ancient Roman believed the legend took place.
OK, I admit, I laughed.
But seriously, interesting article! Thanks for posting.
Thanks for the tip, Mr. Steves.
I was in Rome last Christmas and Palatine Hill was also our favorite place. Went twice and could have gone again. This find is very important!
How long before the Muslims come in and blow it up like they destroyed the Bamiyan Buddha statues in Afghanistan in 2001...
Great story, thanks for posting it. I read somewhere that in old Latin the word for female wolf was similar to a slang term for prostitute and that maybe the legend of the twins being nursed by a she-wolf was a distortion of the fact that their mother was a prostitute. Which implies that there was an historical Romulus and Remus, of course.
Yeah, it's terrific, isn't it. Just a fascinating place. Did you get to go to Torre Argentina? It's the site where Julius Caesar was assassinated and is now a cat sanctuary. Literally hundreds of cats live there, right where Caesar fell.
It's a good thing the other brother didn't win, we'd be calling it Remu.
I always considered it fortuitous that Romulus won the combat with his brother. I can’t conceive much reverence for the “glories of ancient Reme.”
There is also the legend that Rome was founded by Aeneas, a Trojan who fled to what we now call Italy after the sack of Troy. I am not sure how the two legends relate, but would like to know.
Is that the place where all the cats are?
I think Romulus and Remus were supposed to be descendants of Aeneas.
Romulus and Remus were supposedly descended from Aeneas.
Within 3 secs of each other. ;-)
That’s Torre Argentina.
LOL. Great minds and all that.
Romulus and Remus were supposedly descended from Aeneas.
Thanks for the information. I have wanted to read Virgil's Aenead for a long time. Maybe I will find time next summer.
“Ancient texts say the grotto known as the “Lupercale”_ from “lupa,” Latin for she-wolf was near the palace of Augustus, Rome’s first emperor, who was said to have restored it, and was decorated with a white eagle.
That symbol of the Roman Empire was found atop the sanctuary’s vault, which lies just below the ruins of the palace built by Augustus, said Irene Iacopi, the archaeologist in charge of the Palatine and the nearby Roman Forum.
Augustus, who ruled from the late 1st century B.C. to his death in the year 14, was keen on being close to the places of Rome’s mythical foundation and used the city’s religious traditions to bolster his hold on power, Iacopi said.”
The Romans were hilarious in that regard. They literally invented their founding mythology, knowing damn well what their origins really were: A minor Latin tribe ruled over by the Etruscans.
Augustus deliberately rewrote and embroidered Rome’s origins. He after all commissioned the writer Virgil (making him an offer he couldn’t refuse) to dream up the Aneid out of whole cloth; inserting the wandering Trojan warrior Aneas and inserting him into Rome’s founding.
Something tells me this “grotto” is of a piece with Augustus’s propaganda.
“I credit the Romulus and Remus legend a little more now that I saw a show on Discovery (I think) about a Russian boy that was an orphan and lived with dogs on the street.”
Check this out, then.
The other really cool spot in Rome was the San Clemente church. It’s a 12th Century church, but then you go into the basement and it’s a church from the 4th Century, with frescoes still remaining on the walls. Go down another level and you’re at 1st Century Roman street level, with a series of rooms that were an apartment building, an alleyway, a small Mithraic temple and more. We wandered around that place a long time.
My pleasure. It’s a fun place to visit if you ever get the chance.
I was just in Rome last month. I wish I had gone there.
Just means that you have to go back. We went there on our second visit to Rome.
Is that Sophia Loren as Aldonza/ Dulcinea?
Claims a view into the burial place of St. Peter. We did go through burial sites for many Roman families and looked in the wall where they had escavated under the main altar.
More Clues in the Legend (or Is It Fact?) of Romulus[Rome]
The New York Times | 12 June 2007 | JOHN NOBLE WILFORD
Posted on 06/13/2007 9:21:26 AM EDT by BGHater
even more pictures:
Mythical Roman cave ‘unearthed’[Cave of Romulus and Remus?]
BBC | 20 Nov 2007 | BBC
Posted on 11/20/2007 3:47:31 PM EST by BGHater
Thanks Pyro7480, BGHater, and GovernmentIsTheProblem.
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Wow...great recent shot! Thanks.
“Or that this is the REAL location of a fictional event?”
Troy was thought to be a fictional event. I think that behind every story is a kernel of truth and I don’t think the Romulus/Remus story is so far out that its beyond the realm of credibility.
If they ever take over Europe, we can kiss good-by to everything from Tara to the Acropolis.
Lupa can mean she-wolf or female prostitute.
Very nice, but wrong city - Naples.