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Site of Romulus's murder to be tourist draw  Nov 23, 2008

The spot in the Roman Forum where Romulus, the first King of Rome, is said to have met a grisly end at the hands of senators who resented his high handed autocratic rule is to be shown as a tourist attraction after being covered up for half a century.

Professor Angelo Bottini, Superintendent of Archeology in Rome, said the underground area of black marble paving stone or "Lapis Niger" marking the spot where Romulus is traditionally said to have been killed and dismembered, had been covered over with cement in the 1950s and surrounded by iron railings to protect it.

However recent heavy rain had damaged the covering, and he had decided to remove it. A canopy would be erected over the exposed "murder site" - first discovered in 1899 - so that archeologists could work on it while visitors to the Forum watched.

According to legend the twins Romulus and Remus, sons of the Vestal Virgin Rhea Silvia and Mars, the god of war, jointly founded Rome in the eighth century BC. Romulus became sole ruler after killing Remus in a dispute over omens indicating which of them had the support of the gods.

Romulus went on to create the foundations of Roman society - its army legions, religious cults and civic and political institutions such as the Senate. He expanded Rome's territory, and added to its population by abducting the women of the neighboring Sabine tribes.

However like a number of later Roman rulers, Romulus fell foul of the Senate, and was murdered at the age of 53 in 717 BC, the thirty eighth year of his reign. According to the historian Plutarch, the senators were "exasperated by the imperious behaviour of Romulus toward them, and plotted against his life".

Some accounts claim that Romulus was not murdered but was "carried up into heaven" during a storm and became the god Quirinus, after whom the Quirinal Hill is named. However Plutarch suggested this was invented by his killers to cover up the fact that they had committed regicide. Livy also observes that "some secretly maintained that the king had been torn to pieces by the senators."

Romulus was succeeded by Numa Pompilius, the second King of Rome. A memorial was later erected at the site of the murder with a Latin inscription reading "Whoever violates this place will be consecrated to the infernal gods".

According to legend, Romulus and Remus were the grandsons of Numitor, ruler of the kingdom of Alba Longa (on Lake Albano, south of Rome), who was deposed by his brother Amulius. Amulius ordered a slave to kill the twins, but instead they were cast into a river in a basket and saved by a she wolf, who suckled them until they were found by a shepherd.

Some scholars believe the word "Lupa" refers not to a wild animal but to a woman, since it was the nickname for a prostitute. Last year archeologists said the decorated grotto or "Lupercal" where Romulus and Remus were supposedly brought up had been found 15 metres beneath the Palatine Hill.

Site of Romulus's murder to be tourist draw
The Roman forum, where the city's founder Romulus was hacked to death / Image via

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