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THE SACRED BIRDS
 THE grandsons of Numitor could no longer live as shepherds
on Mount Palatine, which they had learned to love. Nor
could they dwell quietly in Alba, for all their lives
they had been used to live free among the mountains,
nor had they been subject to any king.
So the princes made up their minds to leave Alba, and
to build a city for themselves on the hills they loved.
But the brothers could not agree on which hill to build
their city, Romulus choosing the Palatine, Remus the
Not knowing how to settle their dispute, they asked
Numitor to help them. He bade them, as the custom was,
to appeal to augury—that is, to watch for a sign
or omen from the gods. These signs were given in many
different forms, sometimes by the flight of birds, as
The princes determined to follow their grandfather's
advice. Romulus went to Mount Palatine, Remus to Mount
Aventine, and patient through one long day they watched
for a sign.
But no sign appeared. The slow hours passed, and night
drew on apace, yet still the brothers never stirred.
Then, as darkness faded before the dawn, Remus saw, far
off, dark, moving shapes. Were the gods going to be
gracious, the prince wondered, and after so many hours
send a sign?
Nearer and nearer drew the dark shapes.
"Ah!" Remus cried sharply, "it is a good omen." For
 now he could see that the moving forms were six
vultures winging their way toward the west. These
birds were sacred to the gods, and did no harm to corn,
fruit, or cattle, nor would they, indeed, wound any
Swiftly Remus bade a messenger to go tell his brother
of the good omen vouchsafed to him. But even as his
messenger sped to do his will, Remus was crestfallen.
For before him stood one of the servants of Romulus to
tell him that his brother, too, had seen a flight of
vultures, but while Remus had seen six birds, Romulus
had seen twelve.
What was to be done? It seemed now that the brothers
were not thinking on which hill the city should stand,
but of which of them should build the city. Remus
believed that the augury proclaimed him as the founder
of the new city. Romulus was sure that it was he who
was intended by the gods to build it; for had not he
seen twelve vultures while his brother had seen but
The princes turned to their followers, demanding who
should be their king. Then loud and lusty was the
answering shout: "Romulus, Romulus, he shall be our