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How Feral Children Work

        Culture | Subcultures

Romulus and Remus are some of mythology's original feral children.
Romulus and Remus are some of mythology's original feral children.
Sylvain Sonnet/Getty Images

In the ancient world, Rhea Silvia was a princess. Her dad, Numitor, was king of the city of Alba Longa, situated roughly midway down the Italian peninsula. But when her uncle Amulius elbowed Numitor aside and took the throne for himself, he banished Rhea to a temple where she was obliged to be a vestal virgin. Uncle Amulius didn't want any troublesome grand-nephews gunning for him in the future.

But you can't keep gods out of temples, especially those randy ancient ones. Sure enough, Mars, that red-hot god of war, showed up one night, and soon Rhea was pregnant. To make matters worse, she gave birth to twins — Romulus and Remus.

Uncle Amulius was not having it, and he ordered his men to grab the newborns, take them down to the Tiber River and dump them. The assumption was that wild animals would make short work of the babes. The plan backfired when a mama wolf showed up and suckled the twins. Not only that, a helpful woodpecker flapped back and forth with provisions. Between these unlikely parental figures, the two boys survived until they were found and taken in by a shepherd.

The twins grew up to be big, strong warriors who were soon gunning for their grand-uncle Amulius, just as he'd feared. In short order, they toppled him and restored their grandad Numitor. Full of vim, they headed north to start their own city. Having found a likely spot, they had an argument about which hill would make the best site. The argument soon heated up to fratricidal temperatures when Romulus killed Remus, thus settling the question. Romulus founded his eponymous city on Palatine Hill, establishing himself as one of the most famous of all feral children, the founder of Rome itself.

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