8.13.2011

The Ficus Navia Lupercalia of 296 BC

We know from ancient sources of two bronze statue groups on the Wolf suckling Romulus and Remus - one on the Capitoline, and one in the Forum. The Forum group was in the Ficus Navia, where the wolf had nursed the twins, on the lower slopes of the Palatine. The location of the sanctuary is given by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities  I. 79, 8:
against the side of the Palatine hill on the road which leads to the Circus, and near it is a sacred precinct in which there is a statue commemorating the incident; it represents a she-wolf suckling two infants, the figures being in bronze and of ancient workmanship.
 In addition Livy X, 23 tells us who erected the statue group in 296 BC and why:
The curule aediles, Cnaeus and Quintus Ogulnius, brought up several money-lenders for trial this year. The proportion of their fines which was paid into the treasury was devoted to various public objects ... They also placed near the Ficus Ruminalis a group representing the Founders of the City as infants being suckled by the she-wolf. 
In 269 BC Quintus Ogulnius Gallus was elected consul, and during his tenure the first silver coins were issued by the Roman Republic: see Livy, Periochae 15.5 and Pliny, NH 30.13:
Silver was not impressed with a mark until the year of the City 485, the year of the consulship of Q. Ogulnius and C. Fabius, five years before the First Punic War
One of these coins depicted the Lupercalia, as seen in this example in the British Museum:


We have two famous groups in ancient Rome described by the sources, and two main poses on surviving antiquities: the wolf looking away from the twins, and the wolf with her head turned to the twins. If the Forum group showed the wolf with her head turned towards the twins, as depicted on this coin, then it seems logical to assume that the group of the Capitoline showed her with her head turned away from them.

The group of the Lupercalia shown in one late mosaic which depicted the Circus Maximus (here) also had a wolf turning towards the twins - whether this is the Forum group, either moved or represented there, or another group, cannot be certain.

Just as the story of an animal suckling a child was not new, nor was its depiction on coins. A bitch suckled the infant Cydon on two coins of Cydonia on Crete from 320-280 BC (here and below source):


Miletus was nursed by a wolf according to Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses, 30

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