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The Myth of the Birth of the Hero, by Otto Rank, [1914], at

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The original version of the story of Romulus and Remus--as told by the most ancient Roman annalist Quintus Fabius Pictor--is rendered as follows by Mommsen: 1

The twins borne by Ilia, the daughter of the preceding king Numitor, from the embrace of the war-god Mars were condemned by King Amulius, the present ruler of Alba, to be cast into the river. The king's servants took the children and carried them from Alba as far as the Tiber on the Palatine Hill; but when they tried to descend the hill to the river, to carry out the command, they found that the river had risen, and they were unable to reach its bed. The tub with the children was therefore thrust by them into the shallow water at the shore. It floated for a while; but the water promptly receded, and knocking against a stone, the tub capsized, and the screaming infants were upset into the river mud. They were heard by a she-wolf who had just brought forth and had her udders full of milk; she came and gave her teats to the boys, to nurse them, and as they were drinking she licked them clean with her tongue. Above them flew a woodpecker, which guarded the children, and also carried food to them. The father was providing for his sons: for the wolf and the woodpecker are animals consecrated to father Mars. This was seen by one of the royal herdsmen, who was driving his pigs back to the pasture from which the water had receded. Startled by the spectacle, he summoned his mates, who found the she-wolf attending like a mother to the children, and the children treated her as their mother. The men made a loud noise to scare the animal away; but the

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wolf was not afraid; she left the children, but not from fear; slowly, without heeding the herdsmen, she disappeared into the wilderness of the forest, at the holy site of Faunus, where the water gushes from a gully of the mountain. Meanwhile the men picked up the boys and carried them to the chief swineherd of the king, Faustulus, for they believed that the gods did not wish the children to perish. But the wife of Faustulus had just given birth to a dead child, and was full of sorrow. Her husband gave her the twins, and she nursed them; the couple raised the children, and named them Romulus and Remus.

After Rome had been founded, later on, King Romulus built himself a house not far from the place where his tub had stood. The gully in which the she-wolf had disappeared has been known since that time as the Wolf's Gully, the Lupercal. The image in ore of the she-wolf with the twins was subsequently erected at this spot, 1 and the she-wolf herself, the Lupa, was worshipped by the Romans as a divinity.

The Romulus saga later on underwent manifold transmutations, mutilations, additions, and interpretations. 2 It is best known in the form transmitted by Livy (I, 3 ff.), where we learn something about the antecedents and subsequent fate of the twins:

King Proca bequeaths the royal dignity to his firstborn son, Numitor. But his younger brother, Amulius, pushes him from the throne, and becomes king himself. So that no scion from Numitor's family may arise, as the avenger, he kills the male descendants of his brother. Rhea Silvia, the daughter, he elects as a vestal, and thus deprives her of the hope of progeny, through perpetual virginity as enjoined upon her under the semblance of a most honorable distinction. But the vestal maiden was overcome by violence, and

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having brought forth twins, she named Mars as the father of her illegitimate offspring, be it from conviction, or because a god appeared more creditable to her as the perpetrator of the crime.

The narrative of the exposure in the Tiber goes on to relate that the floating tub, in which the boys had been exposed, was left on dry land by the receding waters, and that a thirsty wolf, attracted from the neighboring mountains by the children's cries, offered them her teats. The boys are said to have been found by the chief royal herder, supposedly named Faustulus, who took them to the homestead of his wife, Larentia, where they were raised. Some believe that Larentia was called Lupa ("she-wolf") by the herders because she offered her body, and that this was the origin of the wonderful saga.

Grown to manhood, the youths Romulus and Remus protect the herds against the attacks of wild animals and robbers. One day Remus is taken prisoner by the robbers, who accuse him of having stolen Numitor's flocks. But Numitor, to whom he is surrendered for punishment, was touched by his tender age, and when he learned of the twin brothers, he suspected that they might be his exposed grandsons. While he was anxiously pondering the resemblance with the features of his daughter, and the boy's age as corresponding to the time of the exposure, Faustulus arrived with Romulus, and a conspiracy was hatched when the descent of the boys had been learned from the herders. The youths armed themselves for vengeance, while Numitor took up weapons to defend his claim to the throne he had usurped. After Amulius had been assassinated, Numitor was reinstituted as the ruler, and the youths resolved to found a city in the region where they had been exposed and brought up. A furious dispute arose upon the question of which brother was to be the ruler of the newly erected city, for neither twin was favored by the right of primogeniture, and the outcome of the bird oracle was equally doubtful. The saga relates that Remus jumped over the new wall, to deride his twin, and Romulus became so much enraged that he slew his brother. Romulus then

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usurped the sole mastery, and the city was named Rome after him.

The Roman tale of Romulus and Remus has a close counterpart in the Greek myth of a city foundation by the twin brothers Amphion and Zethus, who were the first to found the site of Thebes of the Seven Gates. The enormous rocks which Zethus brought from the mountains were joined by the music drawn from Amphion's lyre strings to form the walls which became so famous later on. Amphion and Zethus passed as the children of Zeus and Antiope, daughter of King Nykteus. She escaped by flight from the punishment of her father, who died of grief; on his deathbed he implored his brother and successor on the throne, Lycus, to punish the wrongdoing of Antiope. Meantime she had married Epopeus, the king of Sicyon, who was killed by Lycus. Antiope was led away by him in fetters. She gave birth to twin sons in the Cithaeron, where she left them. A shepherd raised the boys and called them Amphion and Zethus. Later on, Antiope succeeded in escaping from the torments of Lycus and his wife, Dirce. She accidentally sought shelter in the Cithaeron, with the twin brothers, now grown up. The shepherd reveals to the youths the fact that Antiope is their mother. Thereupon they cruelly kill Dirce, and deprive Lycus of the rulership.

The remaining twin sagas, 1 which are extremely numerous, cannot be discussed in detail in this connection. Possibly they represent a complication of the birth myth by another very ancient and widely distributed myth complex, that of the hostile brothers, the detailed discussion of which belongs elsewhere. The apparently late and secondary character of the twin type in the birth myths justifies the separation of this part of mythology from the present theme. As regards the Romulus saga, Mommsen considers it highly probable that it originally told only of Romulus, while the figure of Remus was added subsequently, and somewhat disjointedly, when it became desirable

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to invest the consulate with a solemnity founded on old tradition. 1


44:1 Theodor Mommsen: "Die echte and die falsche Acca Larentia"; in Festgaben für G. Homeyer (Berlin, 1891), pp. 93 ff; and Römische Forschungen (Berlin, 1879), Vol. II, pp. 1 ff. Mommsen reconstructs the lost narrative of Fabius from the preserved reports of Dionysius (I, 79-831) and of Plutarch (Romulus).

45:1 The Capitoline She-Wolf is considered the work of very ancient Etruscan artists; it was erected at the Lupercal in the year 296 B.C., according to Livy (X, 231).

45:2 All these renderings were compiled by Schwegler, in his Roman History, Vol. I, pp. 384 ff.

47:1 Some Greek twin sagas are quoted by Schubert (op. cit. pp. 13 ff.) in their essential content. Concerning the extensive distribution of this legendary form, compare the somewhat confused book of J. H. Becker: The Twin Saga as the Key to the Interpretation of Ancient Tradition (Leipzig, 1891).

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