Livy on the Founding of Rome

the early history of rome

Romulus and Remus, after the control of Alba had been passed to Numitor in the way I have described, were suddenly seized by an urge to found a new settlement on the spot where they had been left to drown as infants and had been subsequently brought up. There was, in point of fact, already an excess of population at Alba, what with the Alban themselves, the Latins, and the addition of herdsman: enough, indeed, to justify the hope that Albia and Lavinium would one day be small places compared with the proposed new settlement. Unhappily the brothers’ plans for the future were marred by the same source which had divided their grandfather and Amulius – jealousy and ambition. A disgraceful quarrel arose from a matter in itself trivial. As the brothers were twins and all questions of seniority was thereby precluded, they determined to as the tutelary gods of the countryside to declare by augury which of them should govern the new town once it was founded, and give name to it. For this purpose Romulus took the Palatine hill and Remus the Aventine as their respective stations from which to observe the auspices. Remus, the story goes, was the first to receive a sign – six vultures; and no sooner was this made known to the people that double the number of birds appeared to Romulus. The followers of each promptly saluted their master as king, one side basing its claim upon priority, the other upon number. Angry words ensued, followed all too soon by blows, and in the course of the affray Remus was killed. There is another story, a commoner, one according to which Remus, by way of jeering at his brother, jumped over the half-built walls of the new settlement, whereupon Romulus killed him in a fit of rage, adding the threat, ‘So perish whoever else shall overleap my battlements.’

This then was how Romulus obtained the sole power. The newly built city was called by its founder’s name.


1. Family Tree of the Lain Kings of Alba Longa

2. Seven Hills of Ancient Rome


1. Livy. The Early History of Rome. Books I-V of The History of Rome from Its Foundation. Harmondsworth, Eng.: Penguin, 1971. Print. 39-40.



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