Children of the She-Wolf

World Mythology 4 Comments

Published in Devlok, Sunday Midday, Jan. 23, 2011

Every time you get a salary, thank the Romans for it. The word salary comes from salarium which is derived from the Latin word ‘sal’ for salt. This was the fixed ration of the highly prized salt given each month to Roman soldiers. Later this term extended to the monthy wage paid.

The Romans who controlled the world for nearly a thousand years, before they were overrun by barbarians, were one of the most pragmatic and ruthless rulers of the world. Their religion had very little to do with spirituality and devotion and more to do with practical issues such as institutions, organizations, rituals and soothsaying that ensured stability of their city and its vast empire.

Virgil’s Aenied traces the origin of Romans to the Aeneas, the prince of Troy. When the Greeks destroyed the city of Troy, their leaders saw Aeneas carry his old father on his shoulders trying to escape. Impressed by his devotion to his father, they let him go unharmed. After many adventures, Aeneas reached the land we now called Italy and settled there.

Amongst his descendents were the two brothers, Romulus and Remus, who were abandoned in the forest after their birth and were raised by a she-wolf. The two brothes grew up to be great warriors. One day, Romulus built a wall and said that he would kill whoever jumped over it. Remus jumped over the wall in jest. Romulus did not appreciate this and killed his brother. Romulus then founded the city of Rome protected by the very same wall he built as a child.

While Romulus built a city and gathered around him men who were willing to live and protect the city, he realized his men needed women to start a family and populate the city. So he approached the neighboring Sabine tribe and asked them to give the hands of their  daughters in marriage. The Sabines refused. So Romulus and his men abducted their daughters and carried them into their homes. The Sabines were furious and attacked Rome and war and death would surely have followed had the Sabine women not intervened. “If you kill the Sabines, we lose our fathers. If you kill the Romans, we lose our husbands. Either way we will be miserable, weeping as orphans or widows,” they said. Hearing this, the Sabines and the Romans lowered their weapons. The wisdom of the women was remembered and a special place was always given to Roman women in the centuries to come.

The abduction of the Sabine women is more popularly known as the ‘rape’ of the Sabine women (though the word ‘rape’ does not mean what it means today). It is a common theme in art. The Christian practice of carrying the bride over the threshold comes from this Roman tale because the Romans carried the Sabine women over the threshold of their homes after abducting them.

  • a l mohan


  • Devsaheb,
    Now i re-collect evolution of the dialogue
    “Sarkar Maine aapka namak khaya hai”

    i will remember the 1st part of the article on my every salary.

    thks/ Sunil Sahu

  • Dear Dev Ji,

    Marrying by abducting is probably the oldest practice of mankind. Even in the present days, amoung many of our Indian tribes, this practice seems to be prevalent. Man of one tribe has to abduct a woman from another tribe. People of woman’s tribe chase the abductor and beat him black and blue, if caught. But, he should succeed in safely reaching his own tribe, along with the abducted woman. Then both the tribes join together in solemnizing their marriage. Probably this practice was in vogue to ensure that the said groom has got the capacity to protect his wife. One, who has the capacity to abduct, is deemed to be having the capacity to also protect her.

    In many of our modern day Indian marriages also, it is a tradition to insist on the groom taking the bride from the bride’s house, by carrying her on his shoulders, after the marriage. All these rituals and practices are probably to test and make sure about the manliness, muscular strength, and coming of age and maturity of a man or groom. We sing paeans of Maharaja Prithviraj Chouhan as a hero, because he succeeded in abducting his beloved, Sanyogita, daughter of King Jaichand, and married her, against all odds, and against her father’s wishes. This practice also ensures the choice and willingness of the bride; because, however strong the man, he cannot abduct a woman, unless and until she too is willing, and she too cooperates.

  • ashim

    The article is silent over the fact that Romulus had killed in his brother for a jest. Wonder what would have happened if this murder had not taken place! Probably the brothers, or their descendants would have ended up fighting each other for generations or till one is totally vanquished. The crude aspect of the story is that killing for a simple jest also pays as Romulus went on to establish the foundation of the Roman empire. I would like to have your opinion on this aspect in the light of the Mahabharat war between kins