One of the most famous Roman myths is the story of how Rome was founded. The legend of Romulus and Remus was created by Romans, one of the few that was not adapted from a Greek myth, although according to the legend, the brothers were descendants a famous Greek hero. This legend was made to explain why Rome was an important city, and why Romans were fit to rule the people they conquered.
THE LEGEND OF ROMULUS AND REMUS
Romulus and Remus were the twin sons of the god Mars and a vestal virgin named Rhea.
Rhea was the daughter of Numitor, who was king before he was usurped by his brother Amulius. King Amulius was worried that the twin babies would one day grow up and take the throne from him, but he was afraid to kill the sons of Mars. Instead, he ordered that the babies be thrown in the river.
A peasant was given the task, but he took pity on the twins. He carved a small boat from a log and put the babies inside, so they could float along the river. The god of the river kept the river calm and the boys were rescued by a mother wolf. The wolf fed them and guarded them with the help of a woodpecker who brought berries. One day a shepherd found the babies. He named them Romulus and Remus and raised them as his own sons.
The twins grew up to be strong men, handsome and dignified, generous and brave. They became involved in a dispute among shepherds and Remus was captured by Numitor. Remus was Numitor’s grandson, but neither of them knew it, but Numitor was impressed by Remus nonetheless.
Meanwhile, Romulus was gathering a group of shepherds and farmers to help him get his brother back.
Remus told Numitor about how their father had found them on the shore in a boat carved from a log, and Numitor realized this was his grandson. Numitor was delighted to be reunited with his grandson, and Remus was happy to find out he was the son of a god and descended from royalty. When Romulus arrived with his army of shepherds and farmers, they learned the truth as well. The people of the city were awed by Romulus and Remus. They joined together with Numitor and overthrew King Amulius, the usurper.
Numitor was king again and wanted to reward his grandsons, so he gave them part of the kingdom to build their own city. Many people followed the twins to this new wild land.
Romulus and Remus disagreed about where to build their new city. There were seven hills to choose from. Romulus wanted to build on Palatine Hill and Remus wanted to build on Aventine Hill. They decided to look for an omen. Each of the brothers stood on their favored hill and waited for a sign. Romulus saw an omen first, six birds flying over Palatine Hill. But then Remus saw twelve birds over Aventine Hill. They could not agree on which sign was the better omen. They got so angry that a fight broke out between the supporters of Romulus and the supporters of Remus. Romulus won the fight and started to build city walls around his hill. Remus was not happy about losing though, and he made fun of his brother’s wall. In a fit of rage, Romulus struck his brother and Remus was killed.
Romulus was very sorry that he had killed his brother. He gave Remus a grand funeral but he was still so upset that he couldn’t eat or sleep. It wasn’t until he had performed a ceremony to appease his brother’s spirit that he recovered. He went back to work building his city. The supporters of Remus joined Romulus and they named the city Roma, after Romulus. Roma would eventually grow to cover all seven hills.
text © 2019 Christa Galloway
Romulus and Remus
One of the most famous Roman myths is the tale of Romulus and Remus. This story is unique in Roman mythology because it is an original Roman myth, rather than a legend borrowed from the Greeks or another culture. In this lesson, students learn about the legend of Romulus and Remus and the founding of Rome. The free PDF includes information handouts, a vocabulary exercise and differentiated reading response worksheets.
10 Pages (including 4 answer sheets)
- 2-page Reading Handout
- Antonym or Synonym Worksheet
- Differentiated Reading Response (Comprehension Questions / Multiple Choices / True or False)
- Answer Sheets