The story of Romulus and Remus involves the abandoned twins surviving out of chance, being helped by, among others, Lupa a female wolf, who suckles them. They are later taken in by a shepherd, Faustulus, and his wife, Acca Larentia.

Wikipedia says

Another and probably late tradition has Acca Larentia as a sacred prostitute (one of many Roman slangs for prostitute was lupa (she-wolf)).

The double use of "she-wolf" seems to be a very curious coincidence. Is there a connection between Lupa, who suckled the twins and Acca Larentia?

1 Answer 1


According with Michael Grant & John Hazel (1):

[Acca Larentia] Wife of Faustulus, the shepherd who found the abandoned twins Romulus and Remus and brought them up. Since the babies had been suckled by a she-wolf, Acca was named lupa, witch has a double meaning in Latin: "whore" as well as "she-wolf". Acca was also sometimes called Faula or Fabula, another designation of harlots in Latin.

But this you already know, by Wikipedia. What, then, is the she-wolf's relationship with Laurentia?

According with Kathleen N. Daly and Marian Rengel (2), Acca Larentia has two faces in roman mythology:

A minar divinity, perhaps originating in Etruria, honored in Rome during the annual festival of the Laurentalia, held on December 23. Known commonly as Larentia, this goddess appeared to have an association with the world of the dead and the early role of the Lares, guardian spirits of the dead. Scholars studying Roman writers agree that the god existed first and then, as Roman culture developed, stories grew up around Acca Larentia to explain her role in their culture. The oldest stories say that Larentia was the wife of the shepherd Faustulus, who found and brought to her the twins Romulus and Remus, so that she could nurse them and raise them as her own. She was also believed to have been a prostitute, who changed her life and became revered as a saint, for the root of her name, lupa, means both she-wolf and whore. Through these similarities, it became convenient to connect this ancient goddess with the mythology surrounding these prominent twins, who, sons of Mars, were rescued by a she-wolf form the Tiber River and went on to found Rome.


A prostitute with whom the god Hercules spent the night in a Roman temple, after the priest of that temple played dice with the great hero and god and lost. Acca Larentia was the beautiful woman the priest found on the street and locked in the temple as a prize for Hercules. After enjoying the night with her, Hercules told Acca Larentia to approach and be friendly with the first wealthy man she met upon leaving the temple. Some Roman writers say that Hercules influenced the man; others say that Acca Larentia used tricks of her trade to win his affections. As her role in the story of Rome continues, Acca Larentia married the rich man, and when he died, leaving her all of his wealth, she gave the fortune to Rome, the city she loved. Ancient Roman writers and modern scholars are unsure of this story with Acca Larentia who became the foster mother to Romulus and Remus. Some say it was the same woman; others say that familiarity with her name made it an easy one to give to the woman in this story from the Hercules legends.

You can understand, therefore, that there's a relationship between the she-wolf that fed Romulus and Remus and Acca Larentia. This link between these two personalities is had by the word Lupa, used to refer prostitutes, also translated as she-wolf.

The prostitute - corpus in vulgus dabat- was the wife of Faustulus, the shepherd who found the twins by the water's edge. Her name was Acca Larentia, but the called her Lupa because she slept around. [..] Writing to Brutus after Caesar's murder, Cicero says that he, Brutus, like Acca Larentia, ought to be granted public sacrifice and a place on the ritual calendar. (3)

The Roman scholars themselves make this reference between the animal and the woman, even if contradictory as to the literal reference and representation (as she-wolf) and the shepherd's wife. Still, some say that the prostitute who met with Hercules and the she-wolf are the same person. However, this version is even more hazy. Thus, the two stories about Acca Larentia has common features. In both she was a prostitute. In each she performed a service to the state. In one she nurtured its founder, in the other she enriched its citizens.

Plutarch, however, connected the two traditions by recording of the death of the courtesan, that she disappeared at the same place where Romulus' nurse was buried. Afterwards, he says, they discovered her will in which she had left her large fortune to the Roman people.


(1) GRANT, Michael; HAZEL, John. Who's who in Classical Mythology. 3. ed.: Routledge, 2001.

(2) DALY, Kathleen N.; RENGEL, Marian. Greek and Roman Mythology, A to Z. 1. ed.: Infobase Publishing, 2009.

(3) STAPLES, Ariadne. From Good Goddess to Vestal Virgins: Sex and Category in Roman Religion. 1 ed.: Routledge, 2013.

  • 3
    Welcome to Mythology Stack Exchange! This is an awesome answer; it totally makes sense. Thank you.
    – HDE 226868
    Mar 16, 2017 at 1:44

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