Researching Remus (and Romulus) is like reading transcriptions of a game of telephone; there are many ancient texts that contradict each other. The three most widely read accounts are found in the works of Livy (Ab Urbe Condita), Dionysius of Halicarnassus (Roman Antiquities) and Plutarch (Life of Romulus). These stories all agree on a basic creation myth of Rome; Rome was founded by the demigods Romulus and Remus. Their birth and story purportedly begins around 771 BC, 21 years before the founding of Rome in 750 BC. Earliest known written accounts of R & R were around 500 years later. Remus was the twin brother of Romulus, who was later known as the founder of Rome. Remus and Romulus were born in Alba Longa (an ancient Latin city) to Rhea Silvia, who was the daughter of a displaced king, Numitor. She was a virgin priestess, possibly ordained a virgin priestess in order to keep her from becoming pregnant with a son that would overthrow Amulius, the king at the time, and overthrower of Numitor. Eventually Rhea Silvia became pregnant while visiting a grove dedicated to Mars, possibly visited by Mars himself? So the boys were descendents of a god and also Greek and Latin nobility. When Rhea Silvia gave birth to the twins, Amulius was furious and condemned them to die in or near the river Tiber. Tiberius, the river god, took care of them and kept them safely afloat. When they washed up on shore, a woodpecker brought them food and shortly after, a she-wolf found them and brought them back to her cave. The famous she-wolf was Luperca and her cave was the famous Lupercale. There she fed them with her wonderfully nutritious wolf milk, as her wolf pups were all killed or lost somehow and she was heavy with milk. At some point later the boys went to live with a shepherd named Faustulus, who may or may not have been married to the human form of Luperca? What the what. The boys grew up and got strong and did a bunch of awesome stuff. Most importantly, they led a group of folks who thought Amulius was a lame king. Numitor thought “Hmm, these kids might be my grandsons.” Remus got captured by Amulius and Numitor got Romulus to free him. Amulius was killed and Numitor was reinstated on his rightful throne. The twins said “Later, Gramps” and set out to build their own city. They headed out to the seven surrounding hills where they were raised. Supposedly they had a big disagreement over where exactly to build their city; Romulus wanted a city right above the Lupercal on Palatine Hill, Remus thought Aventine Hill might be choice. When they couldn’t agree, they decided to seek divine intervention by setting up a contest of augury (interpreting omens by observing the flight of birds), like you do. So Remus saw six birds flying, thought “I’m golden,” then Romulus saw twelve! Romulus declared himself the winner and went forth and built Rome. Remus got real mad and either got kilt by Romulus or else by Romulus’ pal, Celer. OR (wait for it), according to the ORIGO GENTIS ROMANAE, he traveled 5 MILES AWAY and built his own city, called Remuria!!!
Jessica Chisum is currently writing a one-act play about Remus, tentatively titled The Man Who Cried Wolf. The Man Who Cried Wolf explores Remus’ relationship with his wolf nature, as imbued in him by Mother Lupe (Luperca). Mother Lupe is a fierce she-wolf who leads a pack of were-people. When Remus is ostracized by his power-hungry brother, Mother Lupe comes back into his life, urging him to explore his “wildness,” or else succumb to the negative emotions that threaten to destroy him. Remus becomes torn between two worlds: the human world of industry and innovation (with his spiteful twin brother), and the natural world, with his adoptive wolf family.
REMUS by Jessica Chisum
Directed by Juliana Lustenader
Staged Reading on October 11, 2018 at the EXIT Theatre
Jessica Chisum (playwright, The Man Who Cried Wolf) is an actor, playwright, teacher and voice over artist, currently living in Seattle. In San Francisco, her play PROMENADE was produced by Three Wise Monkeys, and PHOEBE PHOENIX SAVES THE WORLD was workshopped by FoolsFury. Both plays were selected to be performed at the Last Frontier Theatre Festival in Alaska. Her play THERE IS A LIGHT THAT NEVER GOES OUT premiered in San Francisco as part of THE MORRISSEY PLAYS produced by SF Theater Pub. Her latest play, GRIMOIRE, was produced in Seattle as part of 14/48 Projects’ World’s Quickest Theatre Festival. She was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska.