All you need to know about the Capitoline Hill, the she-wolf of Rome symbol of the city. Where to see her, how to reach her, her interesting story.
Lupa Capitolina, the Capitoline she-wolf is the symbol of the city of Rome.
She is represented as a standing wolf, with the head slightly turned sideways as if looking at her observer, and with two babies under her body, nursing.
The Rome she wolf has a story that goes back to the legend of the foundation of Rome and her statue can be seen in the Capitoline Museums and well as in many other locations in the city.
This is all you need to know about the Capitoline she-wolf of Rome.
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Where can you see the Capitoline wolf of Rome?
Rome wolf address: the statue of the Capitoline she-wolf is in the Aldrovandi Room of the Capitoline Museums on Piazza del Campidoglio 1, Rome.
The museums are among the most beautiful in Rome and they are very big. For the best experience, I recommend you book a guided tour like >>>>>this one<<<<<<.
If you prefer a self guided visit, you can find tickets and prices for entry only here (official museum website).
Read what else to see on the Capitoline Hill of Rome here.
The closest bus stops are in Piazza Venezia, where very many buses stop or even terminate including C3, 40, 53, 80, 85, 63, 70, 81, 83, 87, 160, 170, 175, 186, 271, 628, 716, 810. The Closest Metro station at present is ‘Colosseo’
Good to know: this location is served by most hop-on, hop-off bus tours. Find exact stops >>>>here<<<<
What is the Capitoline she-wolf of Rome?
The Capitoline Wolf is a statue in Rome representing a wolf nursing two twin boys.
It is one of the most famous statues in Rome and a sculpture that tells the story of the foundation of the city, with which she is associated.
Her official name is Lupa Capitolina and in English, you often hear her called Roman she-wolf, roman wolf or even Romulus and Remus wolf. In Italian, it is called Lupa Capitolina or, in brief ‘ la lupa’. In Italian,
Lupo = wolf
Lupa= she wolf
What is the story of the Capitoline she-wolf?
The story of the Capitoline she-wolf taps into the legend of the foundation of Rome.
According to tradition, in the VIII century BC, two twins came into the world in Alba Longa, a city founded by Ascanius, son of Aeneas: they were the sons of Rhea Silvia and the God Mars and were called Romulus and Remus.
Their birth wasn’t welcomed by the reigning power.
Their uncle Amulius, who had usurped the throne from their father Numitor, the legitimate King of Alba Longa, worried they would claim the throne from him and ordered them killed.
Instead of carrying out this death sentence, the twins were put in a basket and let go on the river Tiber: when the basket got stuck on the banks of the river, the cried of the twins attracted the attention of a she-wolf who adopted them as her own cubs and nursed them.
Later in life, on the 21st of April 753 BC, the day still celebrated as Rome’s birthday, Romulus will found Rome therefore the she-wolf is a symbol of the city, that would have never seen the light without her rescuing the city founder.
After this first rescue, the twins were adopted by a local shepherd, Faustolo, who is also occasionally represented with her (see below).
Fun fact! Rhea Silvia was a descendant of Aeneas, son of Venus. Via her, Rome effectively claimed its birth as connected to two of the most powerful Gods of the ancient pantheon Mars (war) and Venus (love), a connection with huge symbolic power.
Some facts about the Capitoline she-wolf of Rome
The main and most ancient representation of the Capitoline she-wolf can be seen in the Capitoline Museum on the Campidoglio Hill in Rome city center.
The statue is 75mc big and her iconography seems to be typical of the V century AD however, the date of its creation is not certain: while for the longest time it was believed the wolf to be from the V century, recent carbon-14 analyses suggest she may date back to medieval times instead – in the museum, both dates are reported as possible.
Made of bronze, she seems to have arrived on the Capitoline Hill under Pope Sixtus IV and was first located on the façade of the palazzo, then moved inside the museum
Fun fact: outside of the Capitoline museums it is possible to see a replica of the she-wolf and the twins. She is perched on top of a column just on the left of the Palazzo Senatorio in Piazza del Campidoglio, high up, looking down over the square and the city! The replica is what you see in the photo at the top of this article.
The Rome she-wolf over the course of history
Representations of the Rome wolf were common in the ancient Roman era.
First images of her seem to have been first observed on coins and, from the III century AD, the she-wolf was also used as a decorative motif on medallions and vases.
On these representations, the she-wolf is often accompanied by the presence of the ficus ruminalis and sometimes even in the company of one or two shepherds, in memory of the role of Faustolo in the rearing of the twins.
In early imperial times, the she-wolf started to appear on funerary monuments and even became a symbol of the start of the golden ages brought in by Octavianus Augustus, who used her as an allegory of prosperity and new beginnings.
Over the course of imperial times, the she-wolf keeps appearing on and off on Roman coins and under emperor Hadrian she started being represented as turned even more towards the twins, in a protective manner, as if to symbolize the protection the emperor was ensuring over his people.
After the III century AD and the spread of Christianity, the wolf appeared less and less and stayed most as a symbol of the foundation of Rome, with which it is still associated now.
In modern history, Mussolini reclaimed the Rome she-wolf as a symbol of the ‘new Rome’ he wanted to found and commissioned several copies of her that have been shipped even to the US, where they can still now be seen (she is in Cincinnati, Ohio!)
Fun fact: as well as Rome and Cincinnati, you can see the Capitoline she-wolf in Siena, Italy. Siena is said to have been founded by Senus, son of Romulus, and in the Middle Ages, the city got the wolf as a symbol of its foundation too. You can find her represented in very many locations in Siena albeit with a slightly different iconography that makes it recognizable but not identical to that in Rome. The main difference is usually the position of her head: straight in Siena, turned towards the twins in that of Rome.
Modern uses of the symbol of the wolf in Rome
The Capitoline Wolf is the she-wolf nursing the twins however, the she-wolf is also present in Rome in many other forms, namely you can see her on the jerseys of the Rome football players!
In that case, you only have the head of the she-wolf, not the traditional iconography of her nursing the boys, but the idea of the she-wolf as a symbol of Rome city still stands.
I hope you enjoyed this quick story about the she-wolf of Rome and it made you want to go see the real Capitoline Wolf or even just her replica! A trip to see her is easy and a great thing to do in Rome with kids of all ages, who usually love her story!