An ancient underground grotto 16 metres below the Palatine hills may indeed be the Lupercal—the cave where Romolo and Remo were suckled by a female wolf. Uncovered by chance earlier this year during excavations of the Palatine Hill, Italian archeologists are now ‘reasonably certain’ that the grotto facing the Circus Maximus located underneath Emperor Augustus’ palace is the legendary cave.
Fearing the structure’s collapse, the team lowered a camera to examine the area; it revealed a ceiling decorated with shells, mosaics, coloured marble and a white eagle at the centre. The grotto measures 6.5 metres high and 7 metres wide and is said to be part natural, part manmade. Ancient texts reveal that the cave was a sacred place where pagan priests celebrated ceremonies. Pope Gelasius I ended the practice in 494AD.
According to legend, the infant twins were born in 770BC to Rhea Silvia, a mortal priestess, and Mars, the Roman God of war, who abandoned them at birth on the banks of the Tiber River. They were found and nursed back to health by a she-wolf in her lair. In adulthood, they founded Rome on the Palatine in 753BC.
‘This could reasonably be the place bearing witness to the myth of Rome, one of the most well-known cities in the world—the legendary cave where the she-wolf suckled Romulus and Remus, saving them from death’, said Culture minster Francesco Rutelli.