Regrets of Romulus

The Daily Mail, among other news outlets, is reporting this week that “A man raised by wolves for 12 years says his life in human society was a failure and he wishes he could go live among the animals again.” Marcos Rodríguez Pantoja’s story has been told before, since he was found in the 1970s. “Did This Man Live with Wolves?” the BBC asked in 2013. Sent to work in the Spanish mountains at the age of 5 or so, he was abandoned when the goatherd he’d be given to died. Wolves took him in, he said, feeding him and treating them as one of their own. When he was discovered a decade and a half later, he couldn’t really speak or act like a person. He gradually relearned human ways, but was ambiguous about the good it had done him. As the BBC notes, “Now in his late 60s, Marcos bears few grudges, but he does wonder why, after forcing him to come down from the mountains, the state didn’t prepare him properly for life in society.” Evidently, he’d like to go back now, and this made me think about an ancient story. With his brother, Romulus was raised by a wolf, too. At the end of his life, he disappeared, according to Livy (1.16)–Subito coorta tempestas cum magno fragore tonitribusque tam denso regem operuit nimbo ut conspectum eius contioni abstulerit; nec deinde in terris Romulus fuit, “suddenly a storm came up, with loud claps of thunder, and enveloped him in a cloud so thick as to hide him from the sight of the assembly; and from that moment Romulus was no more on earth.” Some say the senate killed him, others say the gods took him up to heaven. But I wonder whether his long tenure as king hadn’t finally gotten to him. To rule Rome, said a later leader, is lupum auribus tenere. Maybe Romulus concluded in the end that it might be just as easy to go back to the wolves.

About Uncomely and Broken

I am a classicist in Sewanee, Tennessee.
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