Romulus and Remus were born to Rhea Silvia, the daughter of Numitor, and niece of Amulius, heirs to Alba Longa.
The father of the boys, claimed Rhea Silvia, was the God Mars. In the forest the God had found and seduced her. Raped her body to carry his children. Perhaps she believed it herself. Or perhaps it was an attempt to palliate shame. One fact remained; the boys had been created through an act of war and violence.
Amulius, with a hunger for power, had seized the kingdom from his older brother Numitor. To ensure the retention of power, and no more heirs of Numitor, he commanded Rhea Silvia to become a Vestal Virgin - a holy position of perpetual virginity. And so, even with the rape and conception, the twin boys were considered a virgin birth, that is, the despoilment of the women not considered an act of breaking virginity. What was required was the woman's despoilment of herself. The longing for the act of sex, and the reception of it.
How Amulius must have looked at Rhea Silvia, the young daughter of his usurped brother, as he ruled over the kingdom. She was well liked in the community, respected and regarded sympathetically. She was a symbol of the hearth - controlled, feminine and beautiful. It is hard to believe that wandering in the forest, considering the departure of her father, it was not a god with a more familiar face Rhea saw as her boys were brutally conceived.
Whatever the truth to her story, it was not entertained by Amulius who, at the birth of the children, commanded to have Rhea and the boys drowned in the river Tiber.
Luckily for Romulus and Remus the Tiber had overflowed its banks and the servant commanded to do the deed found it impossible to trample through the muddy ground to find the actual river. Unable to harm the boys due to their incredible beauty, the servant placed the basket in the sluggish flood waters, hoping that as the boys drifted down steam, the Tiber would do the job for him. Rather than drown the boys, the flood water pulled the boys into a warm enclosed pool where they were ensnared on the roots of a fig tree. They were later found by a she-wolf, Lupa. The animal had recently lost her own pups, and suckled the boys - taking them in and raising them as her own in her cavern lair.
The fate of Rhea Silvia, most famous of the Vestal Virgins, is unknown. Some believe she was buried alive by Amulius' men. Others believe that she was drowned in the Tiber and in death married the God of the river - Tiberinus, a deity formed at the drowning of Tiberinus Silvius, a forefather of the boys. In the afterlife Tivernius and Rhea looked over the boys. Commanding Lupa and a woodpecker Picus, to feed and watch over them.
Lupa, the she-wolf that raised Romulus and Remus, is one of the most famous women in Roman history - the symbol of Rome. Yet very little is known about that feminine entity that guided and selflessly watched over boys-as-kings.
Eventually the boys were found by the shepherd Faustulus and his wife Acca Larentia. They were taken back to the shepherd's hut and raised as shepherds until young adults. They proved skilled at their work, became well liked in the community and helped to defend the land against robbers and bandits.
In many version of the myth Lupa herself takes the form of Larentia - a known prostitute among the locals. Larentia was a whore, she-wolf, working at night to mechanically relieve the urges of the local shepherds. To the boys, Larentia is a familiar character. She has the unexplainable tenderness of the female. The selflessness. At her death she leaves her modest fortune, acquired through sex work, to Roman people.
The boys, now grown, were well known, and it was not long before their true identifies were revealed. In the attendance of a local festival, which featured the men of the land running around naked and disporting themselves in various pranks and jokes, Romulus and Remus fell into a trap laid out by local bandits. Romulus managed to escape but Remus was captured and handed over to Amulius.
Faustulus had always suspected the royal blood of the twins - the story of Rhea was well known around the kingdom. With no option left he told Romulus what he believed of his origins. Bewildered, Romulus had little time to act, knowing the Amulius would surely kill Remus. Romulus gathered together a strong local force and attacked Amulius, killing him and freeing Remus. The brothers returned to Numitor's land triumphant and reinstated Numitor, their grandfather, as the true ruler of the kingdom.
Romulus and Remus are now adults, and the women which raised them stand out. They possess a appeal which has turned them into goddesses of the myth. They are simplistic, mysterious to Rome. Their actions are as little understood by their child-kings, as any other men. It is their femininity which embodies them. A raw reaction to the masculine and misogynistic environment - not upbringing or rational decision. Their spirit exists strongly today. Even with the dissolution of gender roles, the feminist and equal rights movements, this bastion of the feminine is still what women across the world hold dear. The spirit and agency of a whore raising thankless children. A tenderness for life which a king of men could never be capable of, could never understand.
The brothers became unsettled under Numitor. They had a longing for land of their own. They decided to establish a new settlement. As the boys were twins there was no natural, older leader. They argued over the governance and location. Romulus favoured the Palatine Hill while Remus favoured the Aventine Hill. They agreed to settle the dispute by divine augury and took up position on their respective hills.
Almost immediately Remus saw six vultures and departed to tell Romulus. Shortly after Remus' sightings Romulus saw twelve vultures and declared that he must therefore have the divine right to rule. Disregarding Remus, Romulus set about building the wall to define his city boundary. But Remus, still unsatisfied with the result of the augury, claimed he had seen his vultures first. He taunted and belittled Romulus about the state of his defences. In a final attempt of retribution Remus leaped across the wall which Romulus had built. With this Remus was killed, a fateful and regretted act. Over it Romulus utters "So perish every one that shall hereafter leap over my wall".
And with the death of one of the brothers ends the story of Romulus and Remus, and begins the story of Rome.