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She-wolf was synonymous with harlot

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Famous sculpture of the she-wolf feeding Romulus and Remus
Famous sculpture of the she-wolf feeding Romulus and Remus | Photo: Rosemania | Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

In ancient Rome, the she-wolf ( magnifying glass ) was synonymous with the harlot. Hence the origin of lupanar – a synonym for a brothel. The term is also derived from the legend of Romulus and Remus.

Acca Larentia, the wife of the shepherd Faustulus found the boys, fed and raised them. Later Roman historians (including Titus Livius), relying on the motive of replacing the she-wolf and rationalizing the legend, made her a prostitute, which shepherds referred to with the term “lupa” (literally “she-wolf”, but colloquially “courtesan”). Acca Larentia has lost its fortune earned in lupanar. Hence, the Latin magnifier means a she-wolf as well as a prostitute.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that the famous sculpture of the she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus do not entirely date from one period. Certainly, the twins are a later addition made in the 15th century specifically to illustrate the founding myth. Copies of this sculpture can be found all over the world, largely because Benito Mussolini distributed them left and right – as evidence of upholding Roman traditions.

  • Beard Mary, SPQR. Historia starożytnego Rzymu, Poznań 2016
  • Mazzoni Cristina, She-Wolf: The Story of a Roman Icon

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