The Roman Lupa: She-Wolf Symbolism in Roman Myth


The Roman Lupa, or she-wolf, holds a significant place in Roman mythology and culture. This article delves into the origins, legends, and symbolism surrounding the Roman Lupa. We explore the role of the she-wolf in nurturing Romulus and Remus, the mythological founders of Rome, and the iconic Lupa Capitolina statue that represents this nurturing role. Additionally, we discuss the influence of the Lupa Capitolina on Roman art and architecture, as well as the broader symbolism of the Lupa as a representation of motherhood and strength in Roman society. We also examine how the Lupa became a political symbol in ancient Rome and its continued significance in modern interpretations and representations.

The Origins and Legends Surrounding the Roman Lupa

The origins of the Roman Lupa can be traced back to the ancient legend of the founding of Rome. According to Roman mythology, Romulus and Remus, twin brothers and descendants of the Trojan prince Aeneas, were abandoned by their parents and left to die. They were discovered and nursed by a she-wolf in the Palatine hills. The she-wolf, or Lupa, became their surrogate mother, feeding and protecting them until they were found by a shepherd.

The Symbolism of the She-Wolf in Roman Culture

The she-wolf held great symbolic significance in Roman culture. It represented both strength and nurturing qualities, embodying the ideals of motherhood and protection. The she-wolf was associated with the goddess Lupa, a deity closely linked to fertility and the protection of children. This symbolism of the she-wolf as a nurturing and protective figure carried over into various aspects of Roman society, including art, architecture, and political propaganda.

The Myth of Romulus and Remus: A Foundation Story

The myth of Romulus and Remus served as a foundation story for the city of Rome. It narrates the birth of Rome and the establishment of its first rulers. The story emphasizes the divine origin of Rome and the divine protection provided by the she-wolf. It also highlights the role of the she-wolf in shaping the destiny of Rome’s founders and the city itself.

The Role of the She-Wolf in Nurturing Romulus and Remus

In the myth of Romulus and Remus, the she-wolf played a crucial role in the survival and upbringing of the twin brothers. The she-wolf’s nurturing instincts and protective nature ensured the survival of Romulus and Remus, who would go on to found Rome. This portrayal of the she-wolf as a maternal figure highlights the importance of motherhood in Roman society and the recognition of the she-wolf’s role in shaping the destiny of Rome.

The Lupa Capitolina: Rome’s Iconic Bronze Statue

One of the most well-known representations of the Roman Lupa is the Lupa Capitolina, a bronze statue located in Rome. The statue depicts the she-wolf standing tall, suckling the twins Romulus and Remus. It is believed to have been created in the 5th century BCE and has become an enduring symbol of Rome’s founding myth and the nurturing role of the she-wolf.

The Influence of the Lupa Capitolina on Roman Art and Architecture

The Lupa Capitolina statue had a considerable influence on Roman art and architecture. Its iconic representation of the she-wolf and the twins became a popular motif in various artistic forms, including sculptures, reliefs, and mosaics. The image of the she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus adorned numerous public buildings, serving as a constant reminder of Rome’s legendary origins and the protective nature of the she-wolf.

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The Lupa Romana: Symbol of Motherhood and Strength

Beyond the Lupa Capitolina, the image of the she-wolf, known as Lupa Romana, became a powerful symbol of motherhood and strength in Roman society. It represented the ideal characteristics of a nurturing mother, embodying qualities such as love, protection, and sacrifice. The Lupa Romana symbolized the importance of family and the central role of women in Roman society, particularly in their capacity as mothers.

The She-Wolf as a Representation of Rome’s Founding Values

The she-wolf’s symbolism extended beyond motherhood and nurturing to represent Rome’s founding values. As a protective figure, the she-wolf embodied the strength and resilience that were essential to the success and survival of the Roman Empire. It became a symbol of Roman power, highlighting the city’s ability to overcome challenges and protect its citizens.

The Lupa as a Political Symbol in Ancient Rome

The Lupa symbol also took on political significance in ancient Rome. Political leaders often used the image of the she-wolf to align themselves with the mythical founders of Rome and project strength and legitimacy. Emperors and politicians utilized the symbolism of the she-wolf to legitimize their authority and portray themselves as protectors of the Roman people, drawing upon the revered myth of Romulus and Remus.

The Continuity of She-Wolf Symbolism in Modern Rome

The symbolism of the she-wolf continues to resonate in modern Rome. The image of the Lupa Capitolina remains a prominent symbol of the city, serving as a reminder of its legendary origins and the enduring values associated with the she-wolf. The she-wolf’s depiction can still be found in various forms throughout Rome, from statues and artwork to corporate logos and public insignia, showcasing the continued relevance of this ancient symbol in contemporary society.

Modern Interpretations and Representations of the Roman Lupa

In addition to its traditional depictions, the Roman Lupa has been reinterpreted and represented in various modern contexts. Artists and writers have used the symbolism of the she-wolf to explore themes of motherhood, feminism, and strength. The she-wolf’s image has also been adopted by sports teams, cultural organizations, and political movements, further solidifying its place as a potent symbol that transcends time.


The Roman Lupa, with its rich origins and symbolism, holds a significant place in Roman mythology and culture. The she-wolf’s role in nurturing Romulus and Remus and its representation of motherhood and strength have made it an enduring symbol in Roman society. From the iconic Lupa Capitolina statue to its influence on art, architecture, and politics, the she-wolf continues to be a powerful emblem of Rome’s founding values. Its symbolism remains relevant in modern Rome, where it is embraced in various interpretations and representations, ensuring the enduring legacy of the Roman Lupa.

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