Did the cult of the goddess Rumia, the mysterious deity featured in the Romulus series, exist?

Romulus , graphically rendered as ROMVLVS , is a 2020 Italian television series created by Matteo Rovere. The series, divided into ten episodes and set in the 8th century BC, chronicles the events leading up to the birth of Rome and is unrelated to director Rovere’s film Il primo. This series presents the events leading up to the founding of Rome and features a semi-wild group that takes in the future Romulus and Remus, under a wolf pack aesthetic. This curious group, closer to prehistoric tribes than to the advanced Latins, worships a curious deity that in the series they call Rumia. But who was this deity, and did the cult really exist? In this History and Mysteries article, we tell you all about it so that you can understand this curious and interesting series a little better.

Rumina, Rumilia or Rumia was a goddess of Roman mythology who protected nursing mothers and, probably, nursing children themselves. Her domain extended to the protection of the female-mothers of animals. Like di indigetes, Rumina lacked the elaborate mythology and personality of the late Roman deities, and was instead a more abstract entity or numen.

Rumina’s temple was near the Ficus Ruminalis, the fig tree at the foot of the Palatine Hill where Romulus and Remus were picked up by a she-wolf. Milk, rather than the typical wine, was offered as a libation at this temple. In 58 AD, the tree began to die, which was interpreted as a bad omen.

Together with her sisters the goddess Cuba (protector of children whom she cared for from the cradle until their development) and the goddess Cunina (protector of children), she belonged to the group of “Di indigetes”: indigenous gods that the Romans found in the territory of present-day Italy, which had not, therefore, been adopted from other mythologies, like most of the better known Roman gods, which were adopted from, among others, Greek mythology.

His temple was located at the base of the hill of Mount Palatine, near the Ficus Ruminalis, the place where Romulus and Remus (founders of the city of Rome) were found and suckled by the she-wolf Capitolina.

The offering that the goddess Rumina received in her temple was, as it could not be otherwise, given her title of protector of breastfeeding: milk.

Etymologically, Rumina derives from the Italic root “Ruma”, from which the names of Romulus, Remus and the city of Rome itself also derive. Ruma meant “udder”, “teat”, although it also means “hill”.  If we take this meaning into account, the name of Romulus would mean “the suckled” and that of the city of Rome would mean, in addition to the well-known “city of hills”, “city of udders or teats”. If we also take into account the orography of the land where the city of Rome was built, at the foot of the Palatine Hill, and we look at how the river Tiber spills over the hills (udders), we can establish as the meaning of the name of the city of Rome “city of the river that spills over (like the milk of the breasts)”.

The fig tree (Ficus Ruminalis) was dedicated to her because of the double symbolism of the tree:

Symbol of female fertility: Both because of the shape of the female sexual organ (vulva) of its fruits.
Symbol of lactation: because of the milk distilled from its stems.

Rumina exercised her powers as a protector of lactation not only with women, but also with all females well endowed with milk and udders. As a result, Rumina is represented in Roman mythology both as an animal figure and as a human figure, and with both she had the ability to suckle the twins Romulus and Remus:

When represented as a female animal she appears in the form of the she-wolf Capitolina.
When she is represented as a woman, she appears in the form of Acca Laurentia, wife of the shepherd Faustulus, who found and raised Romulus and Remus.

 

Rumina is sometimes equated with Fauna, the Roman goddess of fertility. She would later be replaced in Christian thought by Saint Martina.

In iconography she is depicted bare-breasted, breastfeeding one of the twins while the other waits his turn, sometimes resting on her knees. The children next to whom she is depicted breastfeeding are not babies or toddlers, but older children, who can stand upright, in a standing position…, showing once again the normality of prolonged breastfeeding.

Her story as the wet nurse of the twins Romulus and Remus and her role as protector of breastfeeding makes more sense for mothers breastfeeding multiples (twins, twins or triplets) or mothers who breastfeed in tandem.

 

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