La Lupa, the She-Wolf of Rome

Century after century, she has stood watch over the Roman Forum, looking down from the Capitoline Hill. Many tourists walk right by her without a second glance. But, she is the very symbol of Rome. And to this day, she is very much beloved.

She forever stands on her column

The Capitoline She-Wolf, also know as La Lupa, stands on a column next to the Palazzo Senatorio in Piazza del Campidoglio, on the top of Capitoline Hill. If you stand with your back to the giant steps leading up to the piazza, look beyond the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius. La Lupa is off to the left, on the side of the building, near a set of small stairs government officials frequently use to enter and exit the palazzo.

The Palazzo Sanatorio. Bear to the left to find La Lupa.

The side of the wall is filled with various plaques, detracting from the little statue of Rome’s “First Lady.”

La Lupa, on the side of the Palazzo Senatorio

 

La Lupa, in all her majesty

So, who is the Capitoline She-Wolf? It’s a bit of a long story.

The legend of Rome’s founding tells that an ancient king, Numitor, was overthrown by his brother Amulius in Alba Longa.

Amulius decreed that Numitor’s twin grandsons, Romulus and Remus, should be dispatched by being placed into a basket to be thrown into the Tiber River.

However, like Moses, the twins somehow made it safely to riverbank, where they were found by the She-Wolf, who suckled them with her milk until they were found by a herdsman who raised them.

Later, like Cain and Abel, Romulus slew his brother in a fit of rage.

Fortunately for the rest of us, however, Romulus went on to found the city that still carries his name, erecting a hut on the Palatine Hill.

While we can’t be sure of the rest of the story, it is indeed true that the first settlement of Rome occurred on the Palatine Hill, above the oft swelling Tiber, where small round huts were built around 750 B.C.E.

The statue on the column is a copy of the original, which is now housed in the Capitoline Museums, and has been dated to the 11th Century. The twin baby boys, which clearly have a different design, were added later.

La Lupa, in the Capitoline Museum

 

Close-up of the twins

The She-Wolf was the symbol of Rome even in ancient times:

An ancient Roman coin, with one side depicting the She-Wolf with Remus and Romulus

 

From Palazzo Massimo, an altar to Mars, with the She-Wolf on the lower left

Today, if you look, you’ll find representations of her scattered throughout Rome. Here’s one I spotted when running an errand:

La Lupa, over SPQR, in the historic center

Today, she’s the symbol of the venerable soccer team, A.S. Roma:

The badge of AS Roma

And the women’s soccer team at the American University of Rome are the She-Wolves! Go She-Wolves!