So, Thursday already and we’re actually getting a bit of sunshine up here this week! I must admit am feeling a little exhausted already, have been doing some survey work this week and is 12 hour shifts so sadly by the time I get home not much else is getting done. Still only a few more left and then hopefully can get back to a normal writing routine 🙂
In the meantime, we’re carrying on with the A to Z Challenge and today we’re going back to some mythology, specifically the Romans this time. You’ve probably heard the most famous Roman myth involving wolves.
Long ago Numitor was King of the Italian kingdom of Alba Longa. However, his brother Amulius was jealous and ended up taking the throne for himself. Fearing that his brother’s only daughter Rhea might produce children who could one day overthrow him, he forced Rhea to become a Vestal Virgin, a priestess sworn to celibacy. But Mars, Roman God of War was said to have already seduced Rhea in the woods while she was searching for water.
King Amulius noticed that Rhea was pregnant and had her imprisoned until she gave birth to twin boys of remarkable size and beauty, later named Romulus and Remus. Amulius was enraged and ordered Rhea and the twins killed. Rhea by being buried alive (the standard punishment for Vestal Virgins who violated their vow of celibacy) and the twins thrown into the River Tiber.
However, the servant ordered to kill the boys could not do it and instead placed them in a basket on the banks of the Tiber river and went away. The river rose and gently carried the basket and the twins downstream. Romulus and Remus were kept safe by the river deity Tiberinus, who made the cradle catch in the roots of a fig tree. He then brought the infant twins up onto the Palatine Hill. There, they were found and nursed by a she-wolf; ‘La Lupa’, an animal that was sacred to Mars.
Romulus and Remus were then discovered by Faustulus, a shepherd, who brought the children to his home. Faustulus and his wife raised the boys as their own. As the two boys grew to men, they were told of their true origins. They raised an army and marched on Alba Longa. Amulius was slain in battle and Numitor was restored to his throne.
The twins decided to found a new city close to where they had been washed ashore, caught by the fig tree. The twins disputed which hill their city should be built on, Romulus favouring the Palatine, Remus choosing another (possibly the Aventine). Taking the auspices to read the will of the Gods, Remus on his hill saw six birds, Romulus saw twelve. So it was decided that Romulus’ choice was the right one and he and his followers took to building their city, named ‘Roma’ or ‘Rome’ in honour of Romulus, on the Palatine Hill.
As a consequence, the Italian wolf is the national animal of the modern Italian Republic. In Antiquity, the she-wolf was identified as a symbol of Rome by both the Romans themselves and nations under the Roman rule. The Lupa Romana was an iconic scene that represented in the first place the idea of romanitas, being Roman. When it was used in the Roman Provinces it was seen as an expression of loyalty to Rome and the emperor.
The treatment given to wolves diﬀered from the treatment meted out to other large predators. The Romans generally seem to have refrained from intentionally harming wolves. For instance, they were not hunted for pleasure (but only in order to protect herds that were out at pasture).The special status of the wolf was not based on national ideology, but rather was connected to the religious importance of the wolf to the Romans.
Lupa was also seen as an immortal wolf goddess – and fans of Percy Jackson may remember her showing up to train demigods at Wolf House before they were then sent along to Camp Jupiter.
Take care x