Ancient Roman shrine devoted to Romulus discovered

CNN's Barbie Nadeau speaks with Colosseum Archeological Park director Alfonsina Russo about this exciting new discovery.

Posted: Feb 25, 2020 6:01 AM
Updated: Feb 25, 2020 6:01 AM

Visitors to Rome have long enjoyed visiting a host of ancient architectural sites, from the fascinating Coliseum to the grandeur of the Pantheon.

Now, a newly unearthed archaeological discovery offers further insight into the Italian capital's cultural history.

It's long been believed that there could be a heroon, an ancient Roman shrine, dedicated to Romulus, Rome's legendary founder, underneath the site of the Roman Forum, which was the political hub of Rome in days gone by.

Now, an underground chamber has indeed been unearthed, next to the Curia-Comitium complex -- the public meeting space for the senators of ancient Rome. And yes, it is believed to be dedicated to Rome's mythical father.

Romulus is a figure from Roman mythology, one of two twin brothers raised by a wolf, he is said to have killed his brother Remus during a fight to found the city of Rome.

In a official press conference held in Rome on Friday morning, Alfonsina Russo, director of the Colosseum Archaeological Park, described the chamber as Romulus' tomb, not his actual burial place. "This place is highly symbolic," she said.

Inside are intriguing treasures including a tuff (a volcanic ash rock) sarcophagus that's about 1.4 meters in length, and what's believed to be an altar.

The sarcophagus is thought to date back to the 6th century BC.

Rome's mayor Virginia Raggi Tweeted about the findings, writing: "Rome always amazes with its treasures" -- and thanking the archaeological team.

Speaking to CNN in Rome, head archaeologist Patrizia Fortini said more research needed to take place: "Let us keep digging," she said.

Russo said excavation would resume at the end of April, and to expect "further surprises."

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