- The Washington Times - Friday, February 18, 2005

ROME — Italian archaeologists digging in the Forum have unearthed the ruins of a palace they say confirms the legend of Rome’s birth — a discovery that may force the rewriting of Western history.

Most contemporary historians dismiss as fable the tale that Romulus founded Rome in 753 B.C. and built a walled city on the slopes of the Palatine hill where he and his twin brother, Remus, were suckled by a wolf in their infancy.

Andrea Carandini of Rome’s La Sapienza University has spent 20 years trying to prove the skeptics wrong and last month he and his team hit on the final piece of a puzzle he believes shows the myth has root in fact.

“Archaeology and legend appear to go better together than contemporary historians thought,” Mr. Carandini said in an interview before presentation of his findings this weekend.

“We now have all the elements to show that part of the legend may very well be true.”

The source of Mr. Carandini’s confidence is the discovery of traces of an 8th century B.C. house of regal proportions on the edge of the Forum that dates from the period of the Eternal City’s legendary founding.

Found 10 yards or so beneath pines growing on the surface of the Palatine and under centuries of construction from classical to Renaissance times, the palace had a courtyard and covered inner area spanning an estimated 3,800 square feet.

Wooden columns marked its entrances, ceramics decorated it and seats were located against the walls of a grand central hall.

It is located by the Sanctuary of Vesta, the Roman goddess of the hearth, close to the slopes of the Palatine, the site of the earliest traces of Roman civilization and where legend has it Romulus killed Remus before building Rome.

Most historians have always dismissed Rome’s founding myth because they argued the Eternal City was just a huddle of wattle huts at the time Roman historian Livy described Romulus fortifying the Palatine and showing “outward symbols of power.”

Mr. Carandini, who has also found traces of sanctuaries, a defensive wall and a shingle Forum floor dating from the same period, said that view will now have to change.

“It is exceptional, a find of maximum importance,” he said. “It could only be a palace fit for a king.” Scholars elsewhere, when asked for their reaction to the finds, tended to be more cautious.

“The palace is completely convincing. In the 8th century B.C. people tended to live in tiny, sub-oval huts. This structure is much larger and rectangular. But this does not have a direct link to the Romulus myth,” said Elizabeth Fentress, an archaeology research fellow at the British School in Rome.

“The tradition is based on royalty and an orderly community, but that does not mean that Romulus killed Remus.”

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