Joy of Museums

Exploring Museums, Art & Historic Sites

Capitoline Wolf

Capitoline she-wolf Musei Capitolini MC1181

Capitoline Wolf

The Capitoline Wolf represents the ancient legend of the founding of Rome; it is a bronze sculpture of the she-wolf suckling the twins, Romulus and Remus. The Capitoline Wolf takes its name from where it is housed, in the Capitoline Museums in Rome. The wolf is depicted in a watchful pose with alert ears and glaring eyes watching. The human twins sculpted in a completely different style, are absorbed by their suckling. The She-wolf is the symbol of the city of Rome; it is one of the ancient symbols of Rome associated with its mythology and founding. It is a symbol which can be seen throughout Italy and Rome.

The myth of Romulus and Remus states that before Rome was founded, when the grandfather of the twins, was overthrown by his brother, the brother ordered that the twins be cast into the Tiber River and to their death. They were rescued by a she-wolf who cared for them until a herdsman, found and raised them. Thus the she-wolf from the legend of the twins has been regarded as a symbol of Rome from ancient times.

When Romulus and Remus became adults, they took back their grandfather’s kingdom and established a city, which grew into Rome. They later quarrelled, and Romulus killed his brother, Remus, thus beginning the history of Rome with a fratricide.

This sculpture image was used on the poster for the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome and as the emblem for the games. Sporting teams and academic institutions have used the image. This famous image can be found in paintings, sculptures and on signs, logos, flags and on building sculptures.

National Myth

A national myth is a revealing account of an incident about the nation’s past. Such myths often serve as an important national symbol and affirm a set of national values. A national myth may sometimes take the form of a national epic.

Exploring Masterpieces of the Capitoline Museums

Reflections

  • Why do nations need a National Myth?
  • Are Greek or Roman National Myths any more credible than many Indigenous Nations myths?

Capitoline Wolf

  • Title:                  Capitoline Wolf
  • Date:                 11th/12th century (wolf) and late 15th century (twins) BCE
  • Material:            Bronze
  • Dimensions:      75 cm × 114 cm (30 in × 45 in)
  • Museums:         Capitoline Museums

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“As a rule, people worry more about what they can’t see than about what they can.”
– Julius Caesar

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Photo Credit:1) See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons