Ancient Vanishings: The mysterious and supernatural disappearance of Romulus
In 753 BC, two twins, Romulus and Remus, founded the city of Rome, and Romulus became the ruler of the city and reigned for 39 years. The identity of the two brothers has both historical and legendary character. According to legend, the two were sons of Mars, the god of war, and they were breastfed and brought up by a she-wolf. History says that, at that time, many men were looked upon as "sons of Mars" and instead of the romantic background, Romulus and Remus had likely been raised by a prostitute. Prostitutes were nicknamed “Lupae” (she-wolves) in ancient Rome.
Sculpture of the Capitolene Wolf suckling Romulus and Remus. Musei Capitolini, Rome, Italy (Public Domain)
The Disappearance of Romulus
But one of the brothers disappeared mysteriously from the pages of history. On July 7, 714 BCE, while he was in the temple of Vulcan to give some instructions to his senators, Romulus disappeared without a trace.
In his work, “ A History of Rome from Its Origins Up to the Year 9 BC”, the historian Livy mentions:
“One day, when he was inspecting the troops on the Field of Mars, near to the Goat Marsh, a storm erupted with deafening thunders. Romulus was surrounded by a cloud so thick that it hid him from the eyes of all those present and from that moment on he was never spotted again anywhere in the world”.
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Other reports describe the mysterious disappearance of Romulus.
Some accounts place the event on the May 26 when a solar eclipse took place. In the case of many supernatural vanishings, these disappearances were believed to have been predicted or accompanied by extreme weather phenomena. This was the belief of Plutarch, as he describes as follows:
“In that circumstance, the air suddenly got thicker and changed miraculously, sunlight diminished and all were engulfed by a surprising darkness, accompanied by terrifying thunder and storm. Then the crowd dispersed and run away, but the nobility gathered forming a separate group. When the storm was over and light was restored, the people returned to their seats and inquired, full of fear, where the king was, but he could no longer be found”.
Romulus, Victor over Acron, hauls the rich booty to the temple of Jupiter. (Public Domain)
Assassinated by Senators?
At the time there were rumors and speculations started by those who believed that Romulus had been killed by the senators. They argued that the senators, tired of his leadership, had killed him and cut the body into small enough pieces so that they could be hidden under their clothing and dumped somewhere where the evidence would never be found. But, he vanished so quickly that the short period of time did not permit a murder and dismemberment, and the large amount of spilled blood from such an act would have been impossible to hide.
Romulus as the god Quirinus
Julius Proculus was the one who ended the string of speculations and rumors. Under oath, he declared that he had met by chance with Romulus who had reappeared in a different form. He was said to have been more distinguished and noble than ever before, and was wearing an armor that shined so bright it almost hurt the eyes.
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The senator said that Romulus had addressed him by confirming his divine status: "My good Proculus, it was the will of the Gods to be here among men for a time, and, after founding a city that is to become the strongest and most glorious in the world, to go back to heaven, from whence we have come. Go now and tell the Romans that through temperance and spiritual strength they will reach the highest summit of human greatness, and I, the god Quirinus, will always be benevolent towards them”.
Romulus was never seen again, and the Romans worshiped him in the form of the god Quirinus for a thousand years.
Featured image: Unusual celestial or weather phenomena heralded supernatural disappearances in the classical world. What became of the Roman leader Romulus? Deriv; Solar Eclipse (Flickr/CC BY 2.0), and Roman Statue (Flickr/CC BY 2.0)
By Valda Roric
Rodney Davis. “Supernatural Disappearances” 2001. Published by Robert Hale Ltd.
Rodney Davis. “Supernatural Vanishings: Otherworldly Disappearances” 1996. Published by Sterling; First Edition