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Title: Cave May Hold Secrets to Legend of Ancient Rome
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Registered: 11/21/2008

(Date Posted:02/18/2009 21:26 PM)
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Cave May Hold Secrets to Legend of Ancient Rome

Corrado Giambalvo/Associated Press
At Rome’s Capitoline Museums, a statue depicts a wolf suckling Romulus and Remus, the city’s legendary founders.
Published: November 21, 2007
ROME, Nov. 20 — Italian archaeologists have inched closer to unearthing the secrets behind one of Western civilization’s most enduring legends.

Italian Culture Ministry, via European Pressphoto Agency
A photo taken by a camera probe of mosaics in a Roman cavern.
The Italian government on Tuesday released the first images of a deep cavern where some archaeologists believe that ancient Romans honored Romulus and Remus — the legendary founders of Rome.
The cavern, now buried 50 feet under the ruins of the palace of Emperor Augustus on the Palatine Hill, is about 23 feet high and 21 feet in diameter. Photographs taken by a camera probe show a domed cavern decorated with extremely well-preserved colored mosaics and seashells. At its center is a painted white eagle, a symbol of the Roman empire.
“This could reasonably be the place bearing witness to the myth of Rome,” Francesco Rutelli, Italy’s culture minister, said Tuesday at a news conference in Rome at which a half dozen photographs were displayed.
The legend concerns Lupercal, the mythical cave where Romulus and Remus — the sons of the god Mars who were abandoned by the banks of the Tiber — were discovered by a female wolf who suckled them until they were found and reared by a shepherd named Faustulus. The brothers are said to have founded Rome in 753 B.C. The legend culminates in fratricide, when Romulus kills his twin in a power struggle.
The cave later became a sacred location where the priests of Lupercus, a pastoral god, celebrated ceremonies until A.D. 494, when Pope Gelasius I ended the practice.
The cave was discovered in January by Irene Iacopi, the archaeologist in charge of Palatine Hill, which abuts the Roman Forum and the Coliseum. It was found during restoration work on the palace of Augustus, Rome’s first emperor, after workers took core samples that alerted them to the presence of a cave.
“This is one of the most important discoveries of all time,” said Andrea Carandini, a prominent Italian archaeologist. He has long held that the myths of ancient Rome could be true. He said he derived added satisfaction from the cave’s location.
“The fact that this sanctuary is under the lower part of the house of Augustus is significant because Augustus was a kind of Romulus himself who refounded Rome — and he did it in the place where Romulus had been,” he said.
Experts said the positioning of the cave, at the base of a hill between the Temple of Apollo and the Church of St. Anastasia, could prove problematic for excavation because of the risk of further collapse.
“We will continue the work with very much caution,” Ms. Iacopi said.
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