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The Story of Rome by  Mary Macgregor


 

 

THE SHE-WOLF

[4] AFTER the death of Ascanius nearly three hundred years passed away, and then a king named Proca died, leaving behind him two sons. The name of the elder was Numitor, the name of the younger Amulius.

The crown belonged by right to Numitor, the elder son, but Amulius, who was ambitious, was not willing that his brother should reign. So he said to Numitor, "One of us shall wear the crown, and to the other shall belong the gold and treasures left by our father Proca."

The story does not tell if Numitor was indignant with his brother, and said that the crown belonged to him; it only tells that Numitor chose to reign, as was indeed his right.

Amulius then seized the gold and treasure, and bribed his followers to drive Numitor from the throne and to make him king.

This, in their greed, they were soon persuaded to do.

Ere long Numitor was banished from the city, and Amulius, to his great content, began to reign.

But the king was soon surprised to find that the crown rested uneasily upon his head.

It might be that the children of Numitor would some day wrench the crown from him, even as he had wrenched it from their father.

That this might never be, Amulius, thinking to get rid of fear, ordered Numitor's son to be slain, while his daughter Silvia was kept, by the command of the king, in a temple [5] sacred to the goddess Vesta. Here the maiden tended the altar fire, which was never allowed to die.

But the god Mars, angry, it might well be, with the cruelty of Amulius, took pity upon the maiden and sent twin sons to cheer her in her loneliness. Such strong beautiful babes had never before been seen.

As for the king, when he heard of the birth of these little boys he was both angry and afraid, lest they should grow into strong men and wrest his kingdom from him.

In his fear Amulius ordered Silvia to be shut up in a prison for the rest of her life, and her beautiful boys he commanded to be thrown into the river Tiber.

Heavy rains had fallen of late, and as the king knew, the river had overflowed its banks, but of this he recked not at all, although, indeed, the flood was to be his undoing.

Two servants, obeying the cruel order of Amulius, placed the baby boys in a basket, and going to the Tiber, flung their burden into the river.

Like a boat the basket floated hither and thither on the water, until at length, carried onward by the flood, it was washed ashore at the foot of a hill called Mount Palatine.

Here, under the shade of a wild fig-tree, the basket was overturned, and the babes lay safe and sound upon the dry ground, while the river stole softly backward into its accustomed channel.


[Illustration]

A she-wolf, coming to the edge of the river to drink, heard their cries.

Before long the babes awoke hungry and began to cry. A she-wolf coming to the edge of the river to drink heard their cries, and carried them away to her cave, where she fed them with her milk, just as she would have fed her lost cubs. She washed them, too, as she was used to wash her own children, by licking them with her tongue.


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