The early history of Rome is shrouded in legends and myths. The earliest Romans did not know how to read or write, so they passed down their history as oral tales and poems. Over the years these stories got rather mixed.
Later Romans studied the old tales and legends and checked them against the written histories of the Greek colonies and other nearby states. They used these to put together a coherent account of the first 300 years of so of the history of Rome.
According to this account, Rome was founded by two brothers named Romulus and Remus. The city was founded on what in the modern calendar would be 21 April 753bc. By that date the brothers had already led exciting lives.
Romulus and Remus were the grandsons and heirs of King Numitor of Alba Longa, an Etruscan city. When Numitor’s brother Amulius grabbed the throne by force, he threw the baby brothers into the River Tiber to drown.
However the two boys washed up on a sandbank where they were found by a she-wolf, who gave them her milk to drink. After some time with the wolf, the boys were found by a shepherd named Faustulus who brought them up with the help of his wife Larentia.
When they grew up, the twins became leaders of the local shepherds. They decided to found their own state on the spot where they had been cared for by the wolf, a hill known as the Palatine standing beside the Tiber in the land of the Latins.
Romulus had the job of building a wall around the hill top. Remus said the wall was too low to keep out enemy soldiers. To prove this, Remus jumped over the wall in a single bound. Romulus was furious and killed his brother.
In this way Romulus became the first King of Rome. Romulus then kidnapped all the unmarried women from the nearby town of Sabina to be wives to his band of shepherds.
The Sabine men marched to destroy Rome, but the Sabine women refused to let their fathers kill their husbands. A treaty of eternal friendship was drawn up between Sabina and Rome.
One day in 716bc Romulus was reviewing the Roman army when a thunderstorm appeared and the king was struck dead by lightning. He was buried beneath a black marble slab at the foot of the Palatine.
This is an extract from 1000 Facts on Ancient Rome by Rupert Matthews.