The symbol of the origins of Rome: the capitoline she wolf

of Gianluca Pica

To visit the Capitoline Museums of Rome means to deeply get in touch with the art history of the roman civilization. In this way it is also possibile to know more and more about the legends and the traditions which created the the all history of Rome. For example try to admire this unusual bronze masterpiece, which depicts a she wolf. It is 2500 years old and it is able to show you the main legend about the foundation of Rome. Let’s know it together!


Have you ever heard anything about two twins and a she wolf? Well, that’s what you can see here. Let me tell you a summary of one of the main legends of the history of Rome. There were two twins, Romulus and Remus. When they were babies they were abandoned by their mum, Rea, who left them inside a basket. It was left on the river, Tiber, which is the river that today flows through Rome. Suddenly the basket touche the shores of the river, more or less where is located the Palatine Hill. A she wolf found it. You can expect that the wild animal could eat them… but it didn’t happen! The she wolf started to nurse and feed them, using milk. The animal saved them! Why? Don’t forget how the babies were Mars’ children, according to the myth. So they must survive in order to found Rome, excatly how they did. It is the history, but there is something more to know about this famous and special bronze masterpiece.

Lupa Capitolina

Here I have a surprise for you. I wrote before that this she wolf, at the Capitoline Museums of Rome, was made at the V century BC. Now imagine how just the animal is from that time, because the two twins, who are depicting in the act of being feed, were added later. Really later, at the end of the XV century! A master named Pollaiolo, very active in Rome, created them following the wills of a very important pope of that time, Sixtus IV. He would like to transform an ancient roman work of art in something more, in a real symbol. It is the reason why the babies were added. Why this specific masterpiece? Because it was one of the pieces which came from the private collection of the popes who were donated to the city of Rome. Yes, the pontiff decided to make a sort of gift, making public some of his private beauties. This act is considered as the act of foundation of the capitoline museums, that are considered the most ancient modern museum of the world! Moreover the she wolf is hiding other secrets that still today even the experts are not able to understand. Is this masterpiece a real roman work of art? Because according to some scholars it is an etruscan masterpiece, maybe made in Rome. It is not strange to have some relationships between the etruscan and the romans.

Don’t forget how, according to the ancient roman literary sources, the last three kings of Rome (the VII and VI century BC), were etruscans. Surely the etruscan civilization inspired some aspects and elements of the roman religion, culture and art. So who know how many new secrets could show us this amazing masterpiece!

In the meantime what you have to do is to see it, visiting the Capitoline Museums and its extraordinary collection!

Guide of  – Gianluca Pica

Gianluca Pica

Eyes of Rome
My name is Gianluca and I'm a professional and local tour guide in Rome. I feel very lucky because thanks to my job and my passion I have the opportunity to share with you the beauty of Rome. Moreover I…
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