Through the investigation of primary and secondary sources, students in this lesson will identify, understand and be able to explain the details behind the story of Romulus and Remus. The mythical/historical narrative behind the founding of the Eternal City, and how the myth of Romulus and Remus is central to understanding how Romans saw (and still see) their sense of identity, and why these stories are important to the development of western civilization.
When Remus knew of the deceit, he was enraged, and as Romulus was digging a trench where his city's wall was to run, he ridiculed some parts of the work, and obstructed others. At last, when he leaped across it, he was smitten (by Romulus himself, as some say; according to others, by Celer, one of his companions), and fell dead there…
Romulus buried Remus, together with his foster-fathers, in the Remonia, and then set himself to building his city, after summoning from Tuscany men who prescribed all the details in accordance with certain sacred ordinances and writings, and taught them to him as in religious rite. A circular trench was dug around what is now the Comitium, and in this were deposited the first-fruits of all things the use of which was sanctioned by custom as good and by nature as necessary; and finally, every man brought a small portion of the soil of his native land, and these were cast in among the first-fruits and mingled with them. They call this trench, as they do the heavens, by the name of "mundus." Then, taking this as a centre, they marked out the city in a circle round it. And the founder, having shod a plough with a brazen ploughshare, and having yoked to it a bull and a cow, himself drove a deep furrow round the boundary lines, while those who followed after him had to turn the clods, which the plough threw up, inwards towards the city, and suffer no clod to lie turned outwards. 3 With this line they mark out the course of the wall, and it is called, by contraction, "pomerium," that is, "post murum," behind or next the wall. And where they purposed to put in a gate, there they took the share out of the ground, lifted the plough over, and left a vacant space. And this is the reason why they regard all the wall as sacred except the gates; but if they held the gates sacred, it would not be possible, without religious scruples, to bring into and send out of the city things which are necessary, and yet unclean.
Now it is agreed that the city was founded on the twenty-first of April, and this day the Romans celebrate with a festival, calling it the birthday of their country.
“The Life of Romulus” in Plutarch’s Parallel Lives (approx. 75 CE)
Translated by William Thayer, University of Chicago
For most Romans, the images of Romulus and Remus are central to the story of the founding of the city. Unfortunately, the narrative, so central to the city’s identity, is shrouded in myth. Were the twins descended from Mars (who, it is said, raped their mother), the Roman god of war? Were they orphaned and suckled by a she-wolf? Did Romulus kill Remus? If so, why did he do it? Perhaps more importantly, why would Romans choose to link their very sense of self to a man who had murdered his brother?
Through the investigation of primary and secondary sources, students in this lesson will identify, understand and be able to explain the details behind the story of Romulus and Remus, the mythical/historical narrative behind the founding of the Eternal City, and how the myth of Romulus and Remus is central to understanding how Romans saw (and still see) their sense of identity, and why these stories are important to the development of western civilization.
To view resource web pages, download the lesson plan PDF above.
While on tour, students can see images of Romulus and Remus suckling on the She-Wolf all over the city. They are on gravesites, buildings, street posts, and even soccer shirts. To see the statue that inspires these images, go to the Musei Capitolini (Capitoline Museums) on Capitoline Hill (overlooking the Forum) and have students find the “Capitoline Wolf.” Scholars and art historians cannot agree on when it was made. Some say it is from the ancient Etruscans, while others believe it is from the middle ages. With such a huge date range, the debate goes on.
passports Educational Group Travel partners with teachers across the United States to provide high-quality educational travel experiences to their students. Educational tours visit destinations around the world - primarily France, Italy, England, Spain and Costa Rica - at low, guaranteed prices.
51 Union Street Suite 106
Worcester, MA 01608