II. HOW THE SHEPHERDS BEGAN THE CITY.
The proverbs says that Rome was not built in a day. It was no easy task for the twins to agree just where they should even begin the city. Romulus thought that the Palatine Hill, on which he and his brother had lived, was the most favorable spot for the purpose, while Remus inclined no less decidedly in favor of the Aventine, on which Numitor had fed his flocks. In this emergency, they seem to have asked counsel of their grandfather, and he advised them to settle the question by recourse to augury, [Footnote: Augury was at first a system of divining by birds, but in time the observation of other signs was included. At first no plebeians could take the auspices, as they seem to have had no share in the divinities whose will was sought, but in the year 300, B.C., the college of augurs, then comprising four patricians, was enlarged by the admission of five plebeians. The augurs were elected for life.] a practice of the Etrurians with which they were probably quite familiar, for they had been educated, we are told, at Gabii, the largest of the towns of Latium, where all the knowledge of the region was known to the teachers.
Following this advice, the brothers took up positions at a given time on the respective hills, surrounded by their followers; those of Romulus being known as the Quintilii, and those of Remus as the Fabii. Thus, in anxious expectation, they waited for the passage of certain birds which was to settle the question between them. We can imagine them as they waited. The two hills are still to be seen in the city, and probably the two groups were about half a mile apart. On one side of them rolled the muddy waters of the Tiber, from which they had been snatched when infants, and around them rose the other elevations over which the "seven-hilled" city of the future was destined to spread. From morning to evening they patiently watched, but in vain. Through the long April night, too, they held their posts, and as the sun of the second day rose over the Coelian Hill, Remus beheld with exultation six vultures swiftly flying through the air, and thought that surely fortune had decided in his favor. The vulture was a bird seldom seen, and one that never did damage to crops or cattle, and for this reason its appearance was looked upon as a good augury. The passage of the six vultures did not, however, settle this dispute, as Numitor expected it would, for Romulus, when he heard that Remus had seen six, asserted that twelve had flown by him. His followers supported this claim, and determined that the city should be begun on the Palatine Hill. It is said that this hill, from which our word palace has come, received its name from the town of Pallantium, in Arcadia, from which Evander came to Italy.
The twenty-first of April was a festal day among the shepherds, and it was chosen as the one on which the new city should be begun (753 B.C.). In the morning of the day, it was customary, so they say, for the country people to purify themselves by fire and smoke, by sprinkling themselves with spring water, by formal washing of their hands, and by drinking milk mixed with grape-juice. During the day they offered sacrifices, consisting of cakes, milk, and other eatables, to Pales, the god of the shepherds. Three times, with faces turned to the east, a long prayer was repeated to Pales, asking blessings upon the flocks and herds, and pardon for any offences committed against the nymphs of the streams, the dryads of the woods, and the other deities of the Italian Olympus. This over, bonfires of hay and straw were lighted, music was made with cymbal and flute, and shepherds and sheep were purified by passing through the flames. A feast followed, the simple folk lying on benches of turf, and indulging in generous draughts of their homely wines, such, probably, as the visitor to-day may regale himself with in the same region. Towards evening, the flocks were fed, the stables were cleansed and sprinkled with water with laurel brooms, and laurel boughs were hung about them as adornments. Sulphur, incense, rosemary, and fir-wood were burned, and the smoke made to pass through the stalls to purify them, and even the flocks themselves were submitted to the same cleansing fumes.
The beginning of a city in the olden time was a serious matter, and Romulus felt the solemnity of the acts in which he was about to engage. He sent men to Etruria, from which land the religious customs of the Romans largely came, to obtain for him the minute details of the rites suitable for the occasion.
At the proper moment he began the Etrurian ceremonies, by digging a circular pit down to the hard clay, into which were cast with great solemnity some of the first-fruits of the season, and also handfuls of earth, each man throwing in a little from the country from which he had come. The pit was then filled up, and over it an altar was erected, upon the hearth of which a fire was kindled. Thus the centre of the new city was settled and consecrated. Romulus then harnessed a white cow and a snow-white bull to a plow with a brazen share, and holding the handle himself, traced the line of the future walls with a furrow (called the pomoerium [Footnote: Pomoerium is composed of post, behind, and murus, a wall. The word is often used as meaning simply a boundary or limit of jurisdiction. The pomoerium of Rome was several times enlarged.]), carrying the plow over the places where gates were to be left, and causing those who followed to see that every furrow as it fell was turned inwards toward the city. As he plowed, Romulus uttered the following prayer: