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Romulus et Rémus, la louve et la prostituée

Francesca PRESCENDI

fr Anthropozoologica 52 (1) - Pages 45-51

Published on 30 June 2017

Romulus and Remus, the she-wolf and the prostitute.

What did a Roman or a foreigner traveller think when seeing the statue of the she-wolf breastfeeding Romulus and Remus? Why is the she-wolf more present than the mother of the twins, Rhea Silvia, in the iconography and in the classical literature? While trying to answer these questions we will study the most well-known myth of humans who were breastfed by an animal. Through the texts which describe this episode we will try to understand what means being breast-fed by a wild animal which certainly belongs to the domain of the god Mars, but which however is not associated with a completely positive imagination. In fact, the epithet « she-wolves » designed also the prostitutes because of their alleged greed. The she-wolf is the very symbol of the humble and sordid origins from which the Vrbs has risen to the splendour of Augustan time. By its links to the population’s low classes – shepherds and prostitutes – she is also a legitimation symbol of the social and ethnic mixing, typical of the city of Rome.

Keywords :

Myth of the foundation, Rome, she-wolf, milk, animal, Romulus

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