ROMULUS AND REMUS
BY MRS. GUY E. LLOYD
Every one has heard tell of Rome, that great city,
already ancient when Cæsar found on the shores of
Britain woad-painted savages living in a swamp where
now stands the mightiest city in the world. The story
of Romulus and Remus tells of the founding of this
ancient city, and how it took its name from its first
Older even than Rome was a town built on a hill not
far away by Iulus, son of Æneas, of whose wanderings
you have heard, and called Alba Longa, the Long White
When my story begins it was ruled by King Amulius.
He had no right to the throne, but he had seized it by
force from his elder brother, Numitor, who was a peace-abiding
man, and no match for his ambitious brother.
Amulius had nothing to fear from the gentle Numitor,
who abode with his flocks and herds, but his guilty conscience
would not let him rest, and he lived in terror lest
one day the children of Numitor should avenge their
father's wrongs and take the throne that was theirs by
right of inheritance.
So he hired assassins to kill the boy, and the girl,
Sylvia, he doomed to be a vestal virgin. These were
maidens vowed to remain single all their lives, and to
watch the ever-burning fire in the shrine of the goddess
Vesta; this could only be kept alive by spotless virgins,
and on its life depended the safety of the city—of Alba
first, and afterwards of Rome.
But the god Mars, whom all Romans worship as the
leader of their hosts and the founder of their race, looked
with pity on the maid, and willed not that the seed of
Numitor should perish. So he visited her as she lay
asleep in the temple of Vesta, and he sent her a wonderful
She dreamt that as she sat and watched the sacred
fire, she dozed, and the fillet slipped from her brow,
and from the fillet there sprang two palm trees that grew
and spread till their tops reached the heavens, and their
branches overspread all the earth. Seven times did she
dream the same dream, and she knew at last that it
was a message of the god. And lo, in due time
there were born to her twin sons of more than mortal
When Amulius heard of the birth of these twins his
wrath was kindled. He commanded that Sylvia should
forthwith be buried alive, for that is the punishment
appointed for virgins unfaithful to their vows; and himself
seizing the wicker cradle in which the babes lay
asleep, he flung it into the yellow Tiber.
But Mars was mindful of his own. The mother, Sylvia,
was nowhere to be found, for the god had spirited her
away in safety, and the helpless babes, still sleeping
quietly, floated upon the turbid waters as though their
cradle had been a boat, while Father Tiber quelled his
raging flood to let them pass unharmed.
On drifted the frail bark down the river till it came
to where, at the foot of a hill, stood a great wild fig
tree, its gnarled roots laid bare by the wash of the flood.
The floating cradle was driven against the roots of this
tree and held fast there, for the water had reached its
highest level and was beginning now to ebb.
Through all the roaring of the raging river the babes
had slept, but now, with a start, they awoke and looked
up, expecting to see their mother bending over them and
ready to take them to her breast. But over their heads
they saw only a glimmer of twilight through the branches
of the fig tree, and there was no sound save the sough
of the wind and the lapping of the waters, and now and
again the distant howl of a wolf seeking its evening
meal. Cold and hungry, they cried piteously. Presently,
through the gathering darkness, two green eyes stared
down at them. It was a great gray she-wolf, and the
hungry babes hushed their cry and gazed in wonder at
those lamps of fire.
The wolf sniffed all round the cradle; then she pushed
it with her forepaws till it fell right over on its side and
the two infants rolled out of it. She licked them gently
with her rough tongue, and they cuddled to her warm
flanks and clutched instinctively with their tiny fingers
at her shaggy fell. She dragged them gently up the hillside,
away from the water, to a mossy cavern where she
had her lair, and there she gave them milk as though
they had been her own cubs, and nestling close against
her the babes fell asleep.
It chanced that Faustulus, the chief herdsman of King
Amulius, went forth one morning to see if the floods
were abated and the pastures once more clear. As he
wandered along at the foot of the Palatine hill he saw
a cradle lying on its side beneath a fig tree. He went
towards it, and as he neared the place his eye was caught
by something moving within the dark shadow of an
overhanging rock. He bent his steps to the cave to see
what might be within it, when on a sudden a she-wolf
sprang out and away among the bushes before he could
aim a dart at her; and, to his amazement, a green woodpecker,
with a piece of bread in its beak, came fluttering
forth from the hollow. Both wolf and woodpecker, you
must know, are special servants of Mars, and these were
doing his pleasure and tending the helpless infants.
Faustulus came to the cave and stooped to look in.
There, scrambling over one another on a soft bed of
moss and fern, were two beautiful boys; and he marveled
greatly, and said to himself: "These babes were
not born of common mortals, but of one of the immortal
gods. A naiad, or haply a river-god, must have interposed
to save them from the flood, and to feed them with
ambrosia, the food of the gods."
So he took them home to his wife Laurentia, and told
her the tale. And when she saw their innocent faces
her motherly heart was stirred with love and pity, and
she tended them as though they had been her own sons,
and called them Romulus and Remus.
The boys grew up brave and strong. When they were
old enough they helped the herdsmen of King Amulius;
and, because they were ever foremost where there was
danger, all the other lads came to look up to them as
leaders. It was a life that pleased the twins well. All
day they wandered on the slopes of the hills, guarding
the grazing cattle from wild beasts or robbers, and at
night all the herdsmen would join together and make a
camp in some sheltered valley or beneath spreading trees
on the mountain side. And here they would build great
fires to keep off the wolves, and would lie beside them,
singing songs or telling tales to one another.
Sometimes the herdsmen of King Amulius had desperate
fights with other herdsmen over good camping-grounds,
or fertile pastures, or safe watering-places, or
over the ownership of strayed cattle. More especially
were their quarrels fierce and frequent with the herdsmen
of Numitor, whose grazing-grounds marched with those
of King Amulius. Sometimes, after these fights, the
herdsmen of Numitor would complain to their master of
the two tall striplings who constantly led the herdsmen
of Amulius to victory.
At length, one day they laid an ambush and caught
Remus, and bore him away to Numitor. As soon as the
deposed king saw the lad he was reminded of the face
of his long-lost daughter Sylvia, and he eagerly desired
to see Romulus also.
Faustulus and his foster-son were wondering what
could have befallen Remus, and were preparing to set
out in search of him, when they saw a band of youths
approaching, with olive boughs in their hands, in token
that they came on a peaceful errand.
"Wherefore come you hither, friends?" asked Romulus.
The leader of the band made answer: "Our master,
Numitor, has sent us, Romulus, to pray thee to hasten
to his presence."
"Nay," answered Romulus, "I cannot go with you,
for I must seek my brother Remus, who is lost."
Then said the herdsman: "Fear not for thy brother.
He is already with our master Numitor."
Then Faustulus, who long ago had guessed who the
boys must be, said to Romulus: "Do thou the bidding of
Numitor, and go with these youths. I myself will go
with thee, and will tell thee on the way certain matters
that it much imports thee to know."
So on the way to the hall of Numitor, Faustulus told
Romulus all the tale of the wicker cradle caught beneath
the fig tree, and of the wolf and woodpecker that had
tended the helpless babes.
When the herd-lads saw Romulus pass by they followed
him, armed with staves and slings, to see that no
harm should come to him; for they loved him and his
brother well, and counted them their leaders.
As soon as Numitor saw the two lads together and
heard the tale of their finding, he was sure that they
must be the children of his daughter Sylvia.
And Romulus and Remus, when they knew of the evil
deeds of their great-uncle Amulius, determined to take
vengeance on him.
All the herdsmen were ready to follow wherever the
twins might choose to lead, so they set forth at once
for the hall of King Amulius, and they overpowered his
bodyguard and slew him, and made Numitor king in his
King Numitor was no ungrateful monarch, and he assigned
to his grandsons, while yet alive, all the lands
beside the Tiber, and here the brothers determined to
build a city and to found a kingdom.
And now there came a sharp division between Romulus
and Remus. They were of like age, strength, and courage,
and of a like high spirit that ill brooked any kind
of control. Both wanted to rule, neither was willing to
obey; each of the twins was ambitious to be king in the
new city, and to call it after his own name.
Then said their grandfather, King Numitor: "Strive
not together over this thing, but let the all-seeing gods
decide. Go up, either of you, to the top of one of these
mountains, and look abroad upon the earth and sky, and
the gods shall send a sign whereby ye may know who is
So Romulus and Remus went each to the top of one
of the hills by the Tiber, and they looked abroad upon
the earth and sky, all fair and bright in the sunny April
Remus first came back to his grandfather, and he was
flushed with triumph.
"Victory!" he cried. "The gods have chosen me as
king, for I have seen six vultures flying in the sky."
"Wait," said King Numitor; "do nothing rashly; let
us hear what thy brother hath seen."
As he spoke Romulus strode into the hall and bowed
before his grandfather.
"Speak," said King Numitor. "What hast thou seen
from thy mountain-top?"
And Romulus made answer: "I looked abroad upon
the earth, and saw no living thing; but when I gazed upwards,
lo, I saw twelve vultures flying in the sky."
Then said Numitor: "Verily the gods have spoken
plainly; here can be no mistaking. Hail, King Romulus!
Thy brother saw but six vultures."
And all the herdsmen cried with a great shout: "Hail,
But Remus muttered darkly: "I saw mine first, and
I should be the king." But no man heeded him.
Then Romulus took a plow with a brazen share and
yoked to it a bullock and a heifer, and plowed a deep
furrow round the Palatine hill; and all the herdsmen
followed after, turning the earth that the share displaced
all to the side of the furrow where the city was to stand,
so that good fortune might ever follow it and wealth be
stored within its walls. But where the gates were to
stand, the plow was lifted and carried a little space, for
that was the custom of those days, that the gates might
not be holy, but that all men might pass through.
The heart of Remus swelled with sullen anger, and he
would not help his brother, nor take any part in the
building of the city. Romulus would gladly have shared
his lands and his wealth, but Remus would take nothing
at his hands; if he might not be king he cared for nothing
Day by day he loitered about, gloomily watching
Romulus and his men as they toiled at the walls of their
city. They wrought hard and long each day, for they
wished to surround their chosen site with a rampart
before any foe came to interrupt their work.
Their first fortification was but a ditch and a mound,
neither high nor wide, but enough to serve as a defense
while they built better walls behind it at their leisure.
On the day the first wall of his new city was completed,
Romulus was filled with joy, and offered sacrifices
to the gods, and gave thanks in the presence of
all his men.
But Remus thrust rudely in among the throng and
laughed aloud in scorn: "What a wall to make such a
pother about!" he cried; and running forward he leaped
the ditch and the rampart, and turning leaped back again.
"See how great a defense is your fine wall," he cried
to Romulus, mocking him. "If a wolf should push
against it he would knock it down, and I myself can leap
within it whenever I choose."
And Romulus answered, pale with passion: "Go thy
ways, brother, and leave my wall alone, or I may do thee
"Thy wall!" retorted Remus. "Scarce can I see
where thy wall runs. I thought, verily, some mole must
have been rootling here upon the hillside."
Now it has always been the custom of soldiers to build
first with the spade, and the wall that Romulus and his
friends had thrown up as they dug their ditch was higher
even now than most of the walls that were made in those
And Celer, the henchman of Romulus, the youth who
had helped him most in his work, was sorely angered
when Remus mocked; and when once more he leaped
the wall, crying, "Even so will the enemy enter your
city," Celer made answer fiercely: "And even thus will
we meet the enemy"; and he smote Remus suddenly
with the spade that was in his hand, and Remus fell
dead at his brother's feet.
And when Celer saw that he had slain the brother of
the King he flung down his spade and fled quickly, and
being swift of foot he escaped to a far-off land.
And Romulus wept sore for his brother, and they took
the body of Remus to the summit of the hill, and there
they burnt it upon a great funeral pile.
The newly built city was called Rome; and here for
many years Romulus reigned as king, terrible to his
foes and just and kindly to all his people.
And when forty years had passed away it chanced that
the King called together all his warriors to the Goat's
Pool, that he might see and speak with them. They were
standing ranged in their ranks while Romulus sat upon
a high throne to muster them, when on a sudden there
came a great darkness upon the whole assembly so that
no man could see the face of him who stood next to him.
Then, in the midst of the darkness, came a mighty storm
of thunder and lightning. When the storm passed and
the sun came out again all gazed in wonder and terror
at the throne of Romulus, for the King was gone—he
had vanished from their sight. And there were those
who said that they had seen amid the storm a chariot
of fire mounting to the heavens, and that the charioteer
was none other than Mars himself come to bear away
his son Romulus to the abode of the immortal gods.
And while all men doubted and wondered and talked
of these things it fell on a day that a friend of Romulus,
named Julius Proculus, had a wondrous vision. For it
seemed to him as he traveled alone among the mountains,
that the King stood before him, great and noble
and clad in shining armor.
And Julius cried out: "Ah, my lord, wherefore hast
thou left thy city in such sorrow? Hast thou indeed forsaken
forever all those who love thee?"
Then the bright vision made answer: "For a space
have I dwelt with men, and a great and glorious city
have I founded. Know me henceforward as Quirinus,
one of the immortal gods. And now go back to my people
and tell them that if they will follow forever the law
that I have given them, suffering neither cowardice nor
license among them, but being brave and just and honorable,
then will I, Quirinus, ever be at hand to help
them in their need, and they shall rule over all the peoples
of the world."