Sarcophagus Dedicated To Romulus, Founder Of Rome, Discovered

Ancient Rome just keeps yielding up exciting finds that shed new light on our understanding of the classical world. Archaeologists have uncovered a shrine dating to 6th Century BCE containing a sarcophagus dedicated to Romulus, the mythological founder of Rome. The incredible artifact was discovered in the area near the ancient Roman Forum. Alfonsina Russo, director of the Colosseum Archaeological Park commented on the area's archaeological bounty, "This is an extraordinary discovery. The forum never ceases to yield amazing fresh treasures."

Before there was an empire or even a republic, Rome was just another Italian city-state — one of many populating the peninsula in the 8th Century BCE. In Greco-Roman mythology, Romulus was the first king of that city. According to the most popular version of his story, Romulus and Remus were the twin descendants of Aeneas — a legendary figure from Greek mythology who escaped the fall of Troy with the Palladium of Athena.

Sibling rivalry in ancient Rome

They were born in Alba Longa to a vestel not-so-virgin named Rhea Silvia who may or may not have been impregnated by the Roman god of war, Mars. Paternity was tricky back then, especially when gods were involved. One of the most iconic images of Romulus and Remus shows the twins being suckled by the she-wolf that supposedly raised them after their mother's death. 

Upon discovering what would become the historical site of Rome, the two boys disagreed about where to begin construction. Romulus ultimately killed his brother in a kerfuffle over a wall (which Romulus built and Remus mocked). Not the most well-adjusted response, but what do you expect from two refugee orphans literally raised by wolves? That death left Romulus as the last boss standing, so they called the place "Rome" instead of "Reme".

Other versions of the story get freaky

Historians believe that this story is likely a hellenized version of Rome's founding, imparted by traveling Greeks to the early Romans they encountered. In other words, back when the Greeks were still the preeminent cultural force in the Mediterranean, they told this small Italian tribe that they must be descended from the refugees of Troy. The story may have been a kind of implied threat. Think: We kicked your ancestors' asses a few generations ago, and we'll totally do it again. Beware of Greeks bearing gifts, chumps. The Romans apparently bought it, though they would ultimately get the last laugh a few centuries later.

In a raunchier version of the story, Rhea Silvia encountered a phantom phallus sprouting from the floor in the house of Tarchetius, King of the Albans. Romulus' mother became impregnated by this spontaneous floor penis, as one does, and ultimately gave birth to the twins who would found Rome.

Whether you prefer the Trojan refugee version of the story or the — ahem – other one, this latest discovery from the Forum adds a new layer to our understanding of how seriously the Romans took the story of their founding.