The legend of the foundation of Rome came to be illustrated by a famous and beautiful sculpture, namely the Capitoline Wolf (Lupa Capitolina). The earliest work of this kind, made of bronze, was Etruscan in origin and dates from the fifth century BC (fig. 1). This work was created before the myth of the birth of Rome was sufficiently articulated. For this reason, the twin babies, Romulus and Remus, born from relations between the god Mars and the Vestal Virgin Rhea Silvia, were not part of this work. They were only added to the work during the Renaissance. As such, the “classic” model must not have been the Capitoline Wolf, but the representation found on a plaque on Rome’s Palatine which was placed there by the aediles, Gnaeus and Quintus Ogulnius in the year 296 BC. The first Roman Emperor, Octavianus Augustus, appreciated the cult of Romulus and from his reign onwards the iconography of the Roman Wolf (Lupa Romana) began to develop. It lasted throughout the imperial age and came to be represented on a variety of practical objects and monuments. The most durable iconographic series appeared on coins, which started from Augustus’ reign until the fifth century AD, during the reign of the Ostrogoth King, Theodoric.
In the provincial art produced in Dacia we find representations of the wolf with the twins, following the Palatine model. Nine such works, with limited artistic value, were discovered, predominantly in urban areas (Apulum, Potaissa) or military ones (such as Cristeşti, Ilişua, Brâncoveneşti, Gilău, Gherla and Aiud). In Oltenia, at Romula, a gem set in a ring displaying this representation was discovered. All stone representations found are funerary sculptures: they follow the style of ancient iconography in which the wolf has her head turned to the right, towards the two twins. Lupa Romana was not displayed without reason. It primarily illustrated the ideas of Roman citizenship, Roman character, loyalty to the emperor, and veneration of Rome and its symbols.
The discoveries at Apulum (with its two urban settlements) include two sculptures. One of these was a funerary monument worked rather coarsely in the manner of provincial art (fig. 2). The second one disappeared a long time ago but continues to attract curiosity. It is known only from reports left by travellers who visited Alba Iulia in the seventeenth century. The reports describe a sculpted stone with the wolf and the two twins placed on the eastern façade of the eastern gate (known as the gate of St George in the Middle Ages). In ancient times this was the Pretorian gate. David Frölich, travelling in Transylvania during the period 1629-1630, wrote: “On the gate of the city there are sculpted in stone Romulus and Remus suckling from the she-wolf”. Conrad Iacob Hiltebrandt travelled in Transylvania from 1656 to1658 and reported that “The envoys dismounted their horses in front of the gate where on a stone fixed in the wall were Romulus and Remus suckling from the she-wolf”. In the same century, chronicler Wolfgang Bethlen wrote: “The fortress has two twin gates, one to the East, looking towards Mureş River and Ampoi, being at a distance of approximately one thousand yards. This is called the gate of St George and is fortified with a barbican. On this gate is the image of Romulus and Remus suckled by a wolf, perhaps sculpted by the Romans”. Nothing is known about the fate of this monument which survived more than 1500 years. It is not impossible that it suffered the same fate as other monuments from Apulum that were shipped to European aristocratic households after the construction of the Vauban fortress. There is a similar example of an ancient sculpture of the Roman Wolf built in the wall of the fortress at Titel (Serbia).
Nowadays, many modern replicas of this work can be seen throughout the world, from the United States of America to Japan, Australia and Argentina. The most numerous replicas are in Romania, some of them having been donated by the Italian state from the beginning of the twentieth century (Cluj-Napoca, Bucharest, Chișinău and Timișoara) and symbolizing the Roman origin of both peoples. The fate of these works was often dramatic; many of them were relocated or damaged due to the actions of successive political regimes. In 1993, a statue with the wolf and the twins (fig. 3) was donated by Alessandria (Italy) and emplaced on a column with a capital in Alessandria Square in Alba Iulia where it can be admired by passers-by. (C.I.P.)