You might think you know the myth of the founding of Rome - who can forget all the imagery of the abandoned baby brothers suckling from a she-wolf? But if you don't know it, here it is in a nutshell:
The established story is a dramatic tale of dynastic envy and would-be infanticide, involving the young twins, Romulus and Remus, who are born to King Numitor's daughter, Rhea Silvia, and to the God Mars (maybe). When Numitor is displaced by his younger brother, Amulius, the latter eliminates the threat posed by Numitor's descendants, and he orders the infant twins to be left on a riverbank to die (myths are always so dark). However, the babies are saved by the Gods and survive by suckling a she-wolf. As adults, they discover their true identity, successfully reclaim the throne for Numitor, but fall out over their plans to build their own city in the area of the seven hills: They come to blows - fatally so - and Romulus establishes the city, founded in his name.
Now forget all of that, because Italy's new historical 10-part epic examines the mythology, but grounds it in a gritty reality (think more Vikings than Game of Thrones).
We are taken to Latium, 8th century BC, a primitive and brutal world where the implacable power of nature and the gods decides man’s destiny. Numitor, King of Alba Longa, has been the leader of the Latin League of 30 villages for many years, but droughts and famine threaten their wellbeing and peace. Beyond the villages extend the dark woods, populated by cruel and mysterious creatures. Romulus is the story of this world told through the eyes of three youths, whose lives are marked by death, loneliness, and violence.
Yemos - a prince of Alba Longa
Yemos (Andrea Arcangeli) has always been able to count on his twin brother Enitos, whom he feels deeply bound to by blood and destiny. Circumstances force Yemos to escape his home and while alone in the woods, he is caught by the Luperci and this is how he meets Wiros. When he finds himself on his own, he is lost at first. Forced to fight to go on, he is born again, becoming a new man. The encounter with Wiros sparks a new learning phase for him: as they share tough challenges, he finds a brother of sorts in him.
His royal upbringing truly makes him a man of honour and tradition: family values, honesty, fairness, courage, respect for the Gods and feeling for other people’s plights are qualities he inherits from his maternal grandfather, and strives to keep up even in his harder times. But the weight of old blood legacy proves increasingly cumbersome. The encounter with the Ruminales shows Yemos a new side of himself – wilder and more brutal –that will give him the strength to reclaim what was taken away from him.
Wiros - a young orphaned slave
Alone in the world, with no destiny to his name, Wiros (Francesco Di Napoli) is an orphaned slave in the town of Velia. He takes off for the Lupercalia, the rite of passage that all youngsters in town must overcome to become men. At the encampment in the woods he is subjected to taunts, abuse and torture. Here too he is the least of the last, the weakest link, and the one exposed to the worst attacks; and yet he also proves the most stubborn and resolute, ready to do whatever it takes to survive. The encounter with Yemos marks the passage from loner to brother for him. He learns to trust and care for somebody other than himself, and to give without expecting anything in return. His journey will be a search for his own roots. In the woods, he will find an untapped source of strength and self-assurance within himself.
Ilia - a young Vestal
The daughter of Amulius, Numitor’s younger brother, Ilia (Marianna Fontana) has been secluded at the temple of Vesta since the age of six. Here, she serves the goddess of fertility as a priestess, safeguarding the sacred fire that must be kept burning forever. Not even the forbidden love she has long kept secret can change the destiny that has been chosen for her years before. At least until fate and a terrible betrayal take away what is dearest to her. Ilia will start fighting for control of her life, unaware that her father, the only person in the world whom she trusts, hides a terrible secret.
In the midst of fierce battles and arcane rites, human dreams and supernatural destinies, their young lives will be changed forever. Their actions will alter their worlds and give birth to legend. Romulus is the epic story of the founding of Rome like it has never been told before.
Romulus airs weekly on SBS starting beginning 24 February at 10:15PM (straight after Vikings). The full season will be available to stream at SBS On Demand from 24 February.
Go behind the scenes of the making of Romulus:
Stream the first episode:
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