The Romans, who created the first civilization to conquer the whole western world, were aware of their successes. When the empire was on the verge of a downfall its inhabitants felt as much Roman as their predecessors, who had created it. And they were, for the single reason that they belived in it and that believed was the most important. Apart from all the material creations, the most important achievement was the idea of Rome and virtues, which it imposed to be a true Roman citizen.
This idea's origin was traced back to the very beginning of Rome. Romans taught, that their capital city was found in 753 BC by Romulus. We don't have to believe it, but there may be something beyond the myth about the she-wolf, which fed the twin-brothers. It's an example of the influence of the Etruscans, a tribe, which had been living in Italy before the Romans and worshipped wolves, on the Roman culture.
According to the Roman historians, especially Livius, Remus and Romulus were the Alba Longa's (now Castel Gandolfo) king's, Numito, grand-children. Numito's brother, Amulius, performed a coup d'etat, after which the king was imprisoned and his daughter, Rea Sylvia, was forced to become a Vestal Virgin, so that she would not bear any children. But Sylvia became pregnant and gave birth to twins, boys, who were called Romulus and Remus. It is said, that Mars was their father. Amulius wanted the children dead and ordered them to be thrown in the river. But the children were put into a basket, which was found by a she-wolf, which took care of the children and breast-fed them. Then a shepherd came across the basket and adopted them. The boys have grown and became excellent warriors. When they became adult, they performed a coup d'etat and reinstated the true king, Numito. Then they set out to look for a place to find their own city. They found it by the river Tiber, where they had been found by the shepherd, where there were seven hills. They decided to build a city on one of them. But they could not decide should rule in it, so they asked the gods for a sign. They each awaited an answer from the gods on a different one of the seven hills there – they were watching the birds. Remus saw the first sign – six vultures were lying above him. Shortly after that Romulus saw twelve vultures flying over his head and claimed kingship for himself. Remus started to mock at his brother and was killed. It is said that it happened on 21.04.753 BC. Romulus reigned for quite a long time and was believed to be taken into heaven and become a god.
Relief in central Rome presenting she-wolf who fed Remus and Romulus
This myth has grown into the Roman tradition like the date of founding Rome – 753BC. Since then Rome has been ruled by kings and Romulus was the first one of them. After him there were six more kings and the last three of them were Etruscans. Each of them introduced many important reforms and allowed the city to grow in power. Because of this myth the she-wolf became the unofficial symbol of Rome. Its most known image is the sculpture in Etruscan style, dated back to circa 500 BC.
There are a few facts known about the origin of Rome. It is unquestionable that before Romans a tribe called Etruscans reigned in Italy. Unfortunately, historians have only established the outline of their culture and their history remains unknown. Scientists believe, that the Etruscans have highly developed between X and VII century BC. We don't know where did they come from, but when they reached Italy they encountered other tribes there, probably with native Italians among them. During the next centuries their culture developed highly. Around the year 1000 BC iron came into use.
The Etruscans probably learned metallurgy from an older tribe and shortly after they possessed a high metallurgical skill and mined iron ore intensively. Using iron weapons, the Etruscans soon conquered a huge territory. In the VI century BC Etruscans captured an important city on the southern bank of Tiber – the city of Rome, which belonged to the Latins. Thanks to Rome a bit of Etruscans' cultural heritage survived to our times. In the late VI century BC Latins' cities revolted and Rome became independent. Since then, several kings have ruled in Rome and the last one of them was cast out in 509 BC.
At that time the Latins declared war on Etruscans, which were exhausted with their previous wars against Greece. Rome, which had become independent, retained much from Etruscan culture, thanks to which it had its first contact with the Greek culture. Many trade routes were crossed in Rome and it couldn't withstand Greek culture's influence, which later became fundamentals of Roman culture. Nevertheless, it also retained many Etruscan institutions, e.g. its army was divided into centurions. Gladiator fights and triumphant marches also came from Etruscan culture.
It doesn't matter if we belive the myths or hold on to the facts, a big part of Rome's history and especially it's origin will remain unknown. But every myth has a bit of truth in it.