Rome Travel Guide

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Rome's she-wolf takes many forms

The Capitoline Lupa on the column in Michelangelo's piazza.  Bill took this photo, with the three Italian officials in the background. It's a classic.
Anyone who's been in Rome for more than a few minutes will have seen the iconic image of the she-wolf suckling the infant twins.  This "lupa" (she-wolf) is the overarching symbol of Rome - succinctly reminding everyone of the story of Rome's founding.  The twins, Romulus and Remus, were the sons of the God Mars (or perhaps the demi-god, Hercules, but you know how those divinity stories go) and a Vestal Virgin, sworn to chastity  (just to make the story more interesting).  They were abandoned at a river by one of their male forefathers, who tried to prevent them from obtaining their rightful inheritance as leaders of a pre-Roman state, Alba Longa.  A she-wolf found them and suckled them and, eventually (after killing his brother, ETC.!), Romulus founded the new city-state of Rome.

The most famous statue of the lupa suckling the twins is on the Capitoline Hill.  The original is in the museum there, but a darn good replica sits on a post in Michelangelo's piazza (photo above).  We've always been attracted to the statue and the image, and it turns out we're not the only ones.

The lupa sometimes can look menacing, as in this poster; she
no doubt looks more menacing here because of the rips in the poster;
 the poster is simply advertising a concert.

The lupa is the primary symbol of Rome's soccer team, A.S. Roma, founded in 1927.  Some even go so far as to have it tattooed on their arms.
stylized lupa as the soccer team's symbol

Classic lupa as part of A.S. Roma's logo.
Perhaps my favorite.  This was on a publicity poster for the 2012 summer music festival in Villa Ada, a festival that year promoting music from around the world:  the title, Roma incontro il mondo ("Rome meets the world"). Note the ethnicities of the 3 - yes 3 - infants.  And, we have a happy lupa here.

Right-wing use of the lupa, looking threatening,
showing her smashing the Euro.
close-up of the Euro being smashed; the imagery
 argues against Italy being part of the EU.

Mainstream advertising using the lupa:
the furniture store here "offers you more."
The udder is appropriately large.

Artists like the lupa too.  We especially appreciated this image of Italy's most famous film star, Anna Magnani, "walking" the lupa - by street artist Biodpi.

And the image below, well, we couldn't quite figure out what this blogger was about.  The image speaks for itself, we think.


Mussolini was big on the lupa.  So her image appears in many bas reliefs and statues of the Fascist era.  The one at left is from the bas relief on the once-Fiat building at the far end (coming from the train station) of Largo Susanna in central Rome.  The others appear on two public buildings of the era around Rome; for example, below left on a school.

The lupa on a contemporary, official sticker.

More images are available on an Italian Web site:

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