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Synopsis

Romulus and Remus are the twin brothers and central characters of Rome's foundation myth. Their mother was Rhea Silvia, daughter to Numitor, king of Alba Longa. Before their conception, Numitor's brother Amulius had seized power, killed Numitor's male heirs and forced Rhea Silvia to become a Vestal Virgin, sworn to chastity. Rhea Silvia conceived the twins by the god Mars, or by the demi-god Hercules; once the twins were born, Amulius had them abandoned to die in the river Tiber. They were saved by a series of miraculous interventions: the river carried them to safety, a she-wolf found and suckled them, and a woodpecker fed them. A shepherd and his wife found and fostered them to manhood, as simple shepherds. The twins, still ignorant of their true origins, were natural leaders. Each acquired many followers. When they discovered the truth of their birth, they killed Amulius and restored Numitor to his throne. Rather than wait to inherit Alba Longa they chose to found a new city.

Romulus wanted to found a city on the Palatine Hill; Remus preferred the Aventine Hill. They agreed to determine the site through augury but when each claimed the results in his own favor, they quarreled and Remus was killed. Romulus founded the new city, named it Rome, after himself, and created its first legions and senate. The new city grew rapidly, swelled by landless refugees; as most were unmarried, Romulus arranged the abduction of women from the neighboring Sabines. The ensuing war ended with the joining of Sabines and Romans as one Roman people. Thanks to divine favour and Romulus' inspired leadership, Rome became a dominant force, but Romulus himself became increasingly autocratic, and disappeared or died in mysterious circumstances. In later forms of the myth, he ascended to heaven, and was identified with Quirinus, the divine personification of the Roman people.

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