Archaeologists have discovered what could be the tomb of Romulus, the founding king of Rome, in the Roman Forum on February 21, 2019. - Andrew Medichini / AP / SIPA
Archaeologists have recently discovered in the Coliseum archaeological park, what could be the tomb of Romulus, the founding king of Rome. Deemed "exceptional" by scientists, this discovery was presented this Friday to the public.
In the 19th century, the Italian Giacomo Boni (1859-1925) had hypothesized that a "heroon", a monument erected in memory of an illustrious or heroic character, who could have been the founder of the city, could be found on the Roman Forum, around the Comitium - space provided for public meetings in Antiquity -.
Impossible to "scientifically affirm" that it is the tomb of Romulus
Recent excavations, carried out by the Coliseum Archaeological Park, have confirmed this hypothesis by bringing to light "a tuff sarcophagus (known from Giacomo Boni) about 1.40 meters long, associated with a circular element, probably an altar ”, the two elements dating back to the sixth century BC, announced the Park. "In his work, Giacomo Boni had not interpreted this place, he had only described it by saying that he had seen a crate or a basin (which corresponds to the sacophagus) and a stone cylinder," said Friday. the director of the Park, Alfonsina Russo, presenting the site to the press for the first time.
"This information was then forgotten for a century, as was the precise location of the place and it was a great discovery for us to find it as Boni had described it," she added. The leaders of the Archaeological Park wanted to clarify that it was impossible to "scientifically affirm" that it is indeed the tomb of Romulus. "It is only a suggestion based on ancient sources which all, for this area of the Forum, evoke the presence of the tomb of Romulus," explained the person in charge of the excavations, Patrizia Fortini. "It is undoubtedly an important monument, the shape of the box makes one think of a memorial, a place of memory but what it really was, we cannot say," added this archaeologist.
A myth that divides
The legendary foundation of Rome was set for April 21 of the year -753 BC. AD by Romulus, the latter having killed his brother Remus for having crossed the furrow he had drawn in order to mark the enclosure of the new city. Popularized by ancient authors like Tite-Live (-59.17), Ovid (-43.17) or Plutarch (46-125), the existence of the two twins suckled by a she-wolf - figure became the symbol of Rome - has always divided historians. Rather than a historical truth, certain authors, like the German Théodore Mommsen (1817-1903), considered this twinning as the symbol of the double Roman consulate while the Italian Ettore Pais (1856-1939) saw it as opposition plebeian-patrician.
An episode of this legend was brought to light by archeology in the late 1980s by a team of scientists, led by Italian archaeologist Andrea Carandini, who in an incompletely explored area of the Forum discovered a long and deep cut staked large stones. For Carandini, this was indeed the pomoerium, the "sacred furrow" drawn by Romulus.
"The fact that Romulus existed or not is not essential"
The death of Romulus also oscillates between myth and reality. The version most often used is that he was killed by angry senators who, after dismembering him, dispersed pieces of his body in different parts of the city. A theory which pleads for an absence of corpse, and therefore of grave. According to another tradition, carried by the ancient author Varron (in the 1st century BC), the tomb of Romulus would be in a place located on the Comitium and where the first of the seven kings of Rome would have been killed.
"The fact that Romulus existed or not is not essential, what matters is that this figure is considered as the starting point chosen by the ancients to mark the political birth of the city", analyzes the archaeologist Paolo Carafa. "The archaeologists of the Colosseum Park propose to recognize these two objects - the sarcophagus and the stone cylinder - like the tomb of Romulus but I would say that from this discovery must now open a scientific debate", believes this specialist in Roman Antiquity at La Sapienza University in Rome.
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