Ancient Symbol of Rome - or a Middle Ages Knock-Off?

The Independent (London, England), November 23, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Ancient Symbol of Rome - or a Middle Ages Knock-Off?


First Germans intervened in Italy's politics. Now they're downgrading a cultural icon

The most celebrated and supposedly one of the oldest symbols of the Eternal City may not be a product of the ancient world after all.

The Capitoline Museums' statue of the legendary she-wolf, which was said to have nourished Rome's founders, Romulus and Remus on the banks of the River Tiber, was not crafted by the city's ancestors, the Etruscans, but was made at least 1,000 years later in the Middle Ages, some experts now insist.

According to the museum's website, the bronze she-wolf was made in the 5th or 6th century BC, with the figures of the twin brothers added separately in the early 1500s. But studies of the statue's construction suggest otherwise. And if seeing the iconic work's provenance thrown into doubt weren't bad enough, the museum's authorities have, with red faces, had to emend the statue's description after complaints by German newspapers.

Just days after Rome had, in the eyes of some, had the Eurocrat premier Mario Monti foisted on it by an Angela Merkel-led EU cabal, the Germans have been dispensing diktats regarding Italy's celebrated antiquities. The German daily Der Spiegel led the way in reviving question marks about the statue's origins - forcing the museum to issue a statement this week promising to acknowledge the alternative "hypothesis" of the statue's provenance alongside the usual explanation.

Traditionally, the 30in-high she-wolf, which is the centrepiece of an eponymous room in the museum, was said to be either the product of an Etruscan workshop in the 5th century BC or even the masterpiece of the 6th century BC Etruscan sculptor Vulca of Veii - not far off Romulus's mythical foundation of the city in 753 BC.

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