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Altar Mars Venus Massimo.jpg
First-century Roman sculpture in relief depicting the Roman foundation myth. Romulus and Remus are shown being suckled by a she-wolf in the Lupercal (Bottom left)
LocationPalatine Hill in Rome
DiscoveryJanuary 2007

Lupa Capitolina ("The Capitoline Wolf"): The she-wolf is of unknown origin, the suckling twins were added circa 1500 Capitoline she-wolf Musei Capitolini MC1181.jpg
Lupa Capitolina ("The Capitoline Wolf"): The she-wolf is of unknown origin, the suckling twins were added circa 1500

The Lupercal (from Latin lupa "female wolf") was a cave at the southwest foot of the Palatine Hill in Rome, located somewhere between the temple of Magna Mater and the Sant'Anastasia al Palatino. [1] In the legend of the founding of Rome, Romulus and Remus were found there by the she-wolf who suckled them until they were rescued by the shepherd Faustulus. Luperci, the priests of Faunus, celebrated certain ceremonies of the Lupercalia at the cave, from the earliest days of the City until at least 494 AD.

Wolf species of mammal

The wolf, also known as the gray/grey wolf, is a canine native to the wilderness and remote areas of Eurasia and North America. It is the largest extant member of its family, with males averaging 43–45 kg (95–99 lb) and females 36–38.5 kg (79–85 lb). It is distinguished from other Canis species by its larger size and less pointed features, particularly on the ears and muzzle. Its winter fur is long and bushy and predominantly a mottled gray in color, although nearly pure white, red and brown to black also occur. Mammal Species of the World, a standard reference work in zoology, recognises 38 subspecies of C. lupus.

Cave Natural underground space large enough for a human to enter

A cave or cavern is a natural void in the ground, specifically a space large enough for a human to enter. Caves often form by the weathering of rock and often extend deep underground. The word cave can also refer to much smaller openings such as sea caves, rock shelters, and grottos, though strictly speaking a cave is exogene, meaning it is deeper than its opening is wide, and a rock shelter is endogene.

Palatine Hill hill in municipio I, Italy

The Palatine Hill, which is the centremost of the Seven Hills of Rome, is one of the most ancient parts of the city and has been called "the first nucleus of the Roman Empire." It stands 40 metres above the Roman Forum, looking down upon it on one side, and upon the Circus Maximus on the other. From the time of Augustus Imperial palaces were built here. Prior to extensions to the Palace of Tiberius and the construction of the Domus Augustana by Domitian, 81-96 AD, the hill was mostly occupied by the houses of the rich. The perimeter measures 2,182 meters and the area is 255,801 square meters or 63 acres, with a circumference of 1,740 meters while the Regionary Catalogues of the fourth century give a perimeter of 11,510 feet or 3,402 meters (equals 131 acres.


Modern discovery

In January 2007, Italian archaeologist Irene Iacopi announced that she had probably found the legendary cave beneath the remains of Emperor Augustus's house, the Domus Livia , on the Palatine. Archaeologists came across the 15-meter-deep cavity while working to restore the decaying palace. [2] [3]

Irene Iacopi is an Italian archaeologist.

Augustus First emperor of the Roman Empire

Augustus was a Roman statesman and military leader who was the first emperor of the Roman Empire, reigning from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. His status as the founder of the Roman Principate has consolidated an enduring legacy as one of the most effective and controversial leaders in human history. The reign of Augustus initiated an era of relative peace known as the Pax Romana. The Roman world was largely free from large-scale conflict for more than two centuries, despite continuous wars of imperial expansion on the Empire's frontiers and the year-long civil war known as the "Year of the Four Emperors" over the imperial succession.

Livia Roman empress

Livia Drusilla, also known as Julia Augusta after her formal adoption into the Julian family in AD 14, was the wife of the Roman emperor Augustus throughout his reign, as well as his adviser. She was the mother of the emperor Tiberius, paternal grandmother of the emperor Claudius, paternal great-grandmother of the emperor Caligula, and maternal great-great-grandmother of the emperor Nero. She was deified by Claudius who acknowledged her title of Augusta.

On 20 November 2007, the first set of photos were released showing the vault of the grotto which is encrusted with colourful mosaics, pumice stones and seashells. The center of the ceiling features a depiction of a white eagle, the symbol of the Roman Empire. Archaeologists are still searching for the entrance of the grotto. [4]

The cave beneath the Domus Livia on the Palatine Hill. The photo was taken with a probe. Lupercal grotto.jpg
The cave beneath the Domus Livia on the Palatine Hill. The photo was taken with a probe.

Its location below Augustus' residence was thought to be significant; Octavian, before he became Augustus, had considered taking the name Romulus to indicate that he intended to found Rome anew. [5] [6]

Romulus one of the twin brothers of Romes foundation myth

Romulus was the legendary founder and first king of Rome. Various traditions attribute the establishment of many of Rome's oldest legal, political, religious, and social institutions to Romulus and his contemporaries. Although many of these traditions incorporate elements of folklore, and it is not clear to what extent a historical figure underlies the mythical Romulus, the events and institutions ascribed to him were central to the myths surrounding Rome's origins and cultural traditions.

Opposing opinions

Adriano La Regina (formerly Rome's archaeological superintendent 1976–2004, professor of Etruscology at Sapienza University of Rome), [7] Professor Fausto Zevi (professor of Roman Archaeology at Rome's La Sapienza University) [8] and Professor Henner von Hesberg (head of the German Archaeological Institute, Rome) [9] denied the identification of the grotto with Lupercal on topographic and stylistic grounds. They concluded that the grotto is actually a nymphaeum or underground triclinium from Neronian times. The current scholarly consensus is that the grotto is not the Lupercal and that the cave was located lower southwest, closer to piazza Sant'Anastasia al Palatino. [10] [11]

Etruscology is the study of the ancient civilization of the Etruscans in Italy, which was incorporated into an expanding Roman Empire during the period of Rome's Middle Republic. Since the Etruscans were politically and culturally influential in pre-Republican Rome, many Etruscologists are also scholars of the history, archaeology, and culture of Rome.

Sapienza University of Rome Italian university founded in Rome in 1303

The Sapienza University of Rome, also called simply Sapienza or the University of Rome, is a collegiate research university that is located in Rome, Italy. Formally known as Università degli Studi di Roma "La Sapienza", it is one of the largest European universities by enrollments and one of the oldest in history, founded in 1303. The University is one of the most prestigious Italian universities, commonly ranking first in national rankings and in Southern Europe.

Fausto Zevi is a contemporary Italian classical archaeologist.

See also

Related Research Articles


Lupercalia was an ancient, possibly pre-Roman pastoral annual festival, observed in the city of Rome between February 13 and February 15, to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility. Lupercalia was also called dies Februatus, after the instruments of purification called februa, which gave February (Februarius) its name.

Faunus Roman horned god of the forest, plains and fields

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Faunus[fau̯nʊs] was the horned god of the forest, plains and fields; when he made cattle fertile he was called Inuus. He came to be equated in literature with the Greek god Pan.

Romulus and Remus twin brothers and central characters of Romes foundation myth

In Roman mythology, Romulus and Remus are twin brothers, whose story tells the events that led to the founding of the city of Rome and the Roman Kingdom by Romulus. The killing of Remus by his brother, and other tales from their story, have inspired artists throughout the ages. Since ancient times, the image of the twins being suckled by a she-wolf has been a symbol of the city of Rome and the Roman people. Although the tale takes place before the founding of Rome around 750 BC, the earliest known written account of the myth is from the late 3rd century BC. Possible historical basis for the story, as well as whether the twins' myth was an original part of Roman myth or a later development, is a subject of ongoing debate.

The Aventine Hill is one of the Seven Hills on which ancient Rome was built. It belongs to Ripa, the twelfth rione, or ward, of Rome.

<i>Ficus Ruminalis</i>

The Ficus Ruminalis was a wild fig tree that had religious and mythological significance in ancient Rome. It stood near the small cave known as the Lupercal at the foot of the Palatine Hill and was the spot where according to tradition the floating makeshift cradle of Romulus and Remus landed on the banks of the Tiber. There they were nurtured by the she-wolf and discovered by Faustulus. The tree was sacred to Rumina, one of the birth and childhood deities, who protected breastfeeding in humans and animals. St. Augustine mentions a Jupiter Ruminus.

Campitelli rione X of Rome, Italy

Campitelli is the X rione of Rome, located in Municipio I. Its logo consists of a black dragon's head on a white background. This symbol comes from the legend that Pope Silvester I threw out a dragon staying in the Forum Romanum.

Andrea Carandini Italian archaeologist

Count Andrea Carandini is an Italian professor of archaeology specialising in ancient Rome. Among his many excavations is the villa of Settefinestre.

Giuseppe Lugli was Professor of ancient Roman topography at the University of Rome from 1933 to 1961.

Clementina Panella is an Italian archaeologist, a professor at the University of Rome La Sapienza, where she teaches Methodology of Archaeology. She has guided and co-written a number of articles on the commercial pottery of ancient Italy.

Margherita Guarducci was an Italian archaeologist, classical scholar and epigrapher. She was a major figure in several crucial moments of the 20th century academic community. A student of Federico Halbherr, she edited his works after his death. She was the first woman to lead archaeological excavations at the Vatican, succeeding Ludwig Kaas, and completed the excavations on Saint Peter's tomb, discovering relics she asserted were those of Saint Peter. She has asserted that the inscription on the Praeneste fibula is a forgery.

House of Augustus domus

The House of Augustus, or the Domus Augusti, is the first major site upon entering the Palatine Hill in Rome, Italy. Historically, this house has been identified as the primary place of residence for the emperor Augustus. The Domus Augusti is located near the so-called Hut of Romulus and other sites that have connections to the foundation of Rome. This residence contained a complex of structures that were situated around the Temple of Apollo Palatinus.

<i>Casa Romuli</i>

The Casa Romuli, also known as the tugurium Romuli, was the reputed dwelling-place of the legendary founder and first king of Rome, Romulus. It was situated on the south-western corner of the Palatine hill, where it slopes down towards the Circus Maximus, near the so-called "Steps of Cacus". It was a traditional single-roomed peasants' hut of the Latins, with straw roof and wattle-and-daub walls, such as are reproduced in miniature in the distinctive funerary urns of the so-called Latial culture.

Eva Margareta Steinby FSA is a Finnish classical archaeologist. She was the director of the Finnish Institute in Rome from 1979–82 and 1992-4, and Professor of the Archaeology of the Roman Empire at the Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford from 1994-2004. She is best known for her work on the architecture and topography of Rome, especially due to her contributions to the Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae (1993-2000).

She-wolf (Roman mythology) female wolf who rescued Romulus and Remus in the legendary tale of Romes creation

In the Roman foundation myth, it was a she-wolf that nursed and sheltered the twins Romulus and Remus after they were abandoned in the wild by order of King Amulius of Alba Longa. She cared for the infants at her den, a cave known as the Lupercal, until they were discovered by a shepherd, Faustulus. Romulus would later become the founder and first king of Rome. The image of the she-wolf suckling the twins has been a symbol of Rome since ancient times and is one of the most recognizable icons of ancient mythology.

Outline of Rome Overview of and topical guide to Rome

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Rome:


  1. Vuković, Krešimir. "The Topography of the Lupercalia". The Papers of the British School at Rome. 86: 1–9. doi:10.1017/S0068246217000381.
  2. Valsecchi, Maria Cristina (26 January 2007). "Sacred Cave of Rome's Founders Discovered, Archaeologists Say". National Geographic News. National Geographic . Retrieved 20 November 2007.
  3. "Descubren la cueva donde Rómulo y Remo fueron amamantados por la loba" Archived 16 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  4. Jaggard, Victoria (20 November 2007). "Photo in the News: Grotto of Rome's Founders Revealed". National Geographic News. National Geographic. Retrieved 21 November 2007.
  5. The New York Times , 22 October 2007.
  6. Suetonius, Vita Divi Augusti, I.7
  7. Aloisi, Silvia. "Expert doubts Lupercale 'find'", The Australian, 24 November 2007.
  8. "È uno splendido ninfeo, ma il Lupercale non era lì", la Repubblica, 23 November 2007.
  9. Schulz, Matthia. "Is Italy's Spectacular Find Authentic?" Spiegel Online, 29 November 2007.
  10. Coarelli, Filippo (2012). Palatium. Rome: Quasar. pp. 132–9.
  11. Vuković, Krešimir (10 November 2017). "The Topography of the Lupercalia". Papers of the British School at Rome. 86: 37–60. doi:10.1017/S0068246217000381.