According to Roman legend, Romulus founded the city of Rome in 753 B.C. Romulus (whose name means “Roman”) and Remus were the twin grandsons of Numitor, the king of Alba Longa and a descendant of Aeneas, a Trojan leader in the legendary war against Greece. Numitor was overthrown by his brother Amulius, who forced Numitor’s daughter Rhea Silvia to become a Vestal Virgin. As a Vestal Virgin, Rhea Silvia was not allowed to have children. However, she gave birth to twin boys whom she claimed were fathered by the god Mars. When Amulius learned of the twins’ birth, he imprisoned Rhea Silvia and ordered his servants to drown the babies in the Tiber River. Instead, the servants placed the babies in a cradle and released it to float on the river, which was in flood. When the river waters receded, the babies were stranded in the mud. They were rescued by a she-wolf who nursed the infants until they were discovered by Faustulus, a shepherd. Faustulus took the boys home to his wife. The shepherd and his wife named the babies Romulus and Remus and raised them as their own.

When Romulus and Remus became adults, they learned that Numitor was their grandfather. They killed Amulius and restored Numitor to the throne. The young men decided to found their own city at the site where they had been abandoned as infants. They argued over who was to be king of the new city, and Romulus killed Remus. Romulus founded Rome on the Palatine Hill. He invited settlers to his new city and offered asylum* to refugees and fugitives. To provide wives for themselves, the Romans seized the women of the neighboring tribe of the Sabines. After ruling Rome for 40 years, Romulus mysteriously disappeared in a whirlwind. Later Romans worshiped him as the god Quirinus, one of the major Roman deities*. (See also Divinities; Rome, City of; Vesta.)

Left to drown in the Tiber River, the twins Romulus and Remus are said to have been nursed by a she-wolf and raised by a shepherd and his wife. Then, as adults, according to legend, Romulus killed Remus and founded the city of Rome.

* asylum place of refuge and protection

* deity god or goddess

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