| On the Shores of the Great Sea|
|by M. B. Synge|
|Book I of the Story of the World series. Focuses on the civilizations surrounding the Mediterranean Sea from the time of Abraham to the birth of Christ. Brief histories of the Ancient Israelites, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Scythians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans are given, concluding with the conquest of the entire Mediterranean by Rome. Important myths and legends that preceded recorded history are also related. Ages 9-18 |
THE STORY OF ROMULUS AND REMUS
"The troubled river knew them,
And smoothed his yellow foam,
And gently rocked the cradle
That bore the fate of Rome."
GOING westward from Greece, another peninsula stretches down into the Mediterranean Sea. In shape it is something
like a long leg, and at the
 lower end, lies the island of Sicily, which resembles a foot. We have already heard something of Sicily, and
seen how the Greeks had colonies there. There is also the old story of how Æneas escaped from the siege of
Troy, carrying on his back his aged father, and how, after years of adventures, he landed on the shores of
Italy and built the city of Alba Longa, where for hundreds of years his descendants lived.
At the end of this time—so runs the old legend—there was a king called Numitor. He had a brother, Amulius, who
drove him from the throne, slew his daughter, and seized her two baby sons. Amulius then gave orders, that the
babies should be thrown into the river Tiber, which flowed through the city. Now the Tiber had overflowed its
banks, and when the waters began to subside the cradle containing the twin babies was left high and dry, on the
shallow ground, at the foot of the Palatine Hill.
There, says the story, they were found by a shepherd. He was walking by the river, when he saw a cradle lying
under a fig-tree, and beside the cradle, stood a large wolf. She had taken care of the children, but now she
ran away into the woods and the shepherd carried the babies home to his wife. She named them Romulus and Remus,
and brought them up as shepherds.
So in this home at the foot of the Palatine Hill the boys grew to manhood,—they grew also
 very strong and brave. One day, as years went on, they discovered their origin, that they were the grandsons of
Numitor, who had been dethroned by his brother. So the twins arose, collected an army, drove away Amulius, and
brought their grandfather back to Alba Longa. They then resolved to build a new city for themselves, on one of
the seven low hills, beneath which ran the yellow river Tiber.
But Remus wanted to build on one hill and Romulus on another. Their grandfather advised them each to stand on a
hill, and whichever of them saw the greatest number of vultures flying, he should build the city on his chosen
hill. Remus saw six vultures, but Romulus saw twelve from the Palatine Hill, so that was made the beginning of
the new city, and Romulus was chosen king.
Yoking together a white cow and a snow-white bull to a ploughshare, he drew a furrow around the Palatine and
began to build the walls of the city. But Remus was angry with him, and before the walls had reached his own
height he jumped over them, mocking as he did so. He was immediately slain, while Romulus cried, "So perish all
who dare to climb these ramparts."
He called the name of the city Rome, after himself, and lived in a mud hovel, covered with thatch in the midst
This was in the year 753, and the Romans count their history from this date, just as the Greeks
 count theirs from the beginnings of the Olympic games.
Under Romulus the population of the new city grew apace, partly because he allowed it to be a refuge for
runaway slaves and murderers. He made laws and appointed a senate—a body of elderly men to help him with the
government. It was this Romulus, too, who divided the year into ten months, the first being March, named from
Mars, the god he delighted to honour. But his successor added two more, making January the first month, after
the god Janus, to whom he had built a temple.
This was how Rome began,—that Rome which was to play such an immense part in the world's great history—Rome,
the Eternal City; Rome, the City of the Seven Hills; Rome, long ago, the Mistress of the World.
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