Rhea Silvia, torso from the amphitheatre at Cartagena in Spain.
<<Rhea Silvia (also written as Rea Silvia), and also known as Ilia, was the mythical mother of the twins Romulus and Remus, who founded the city of Rome. Her story is told in the first book of Ab Urbe Condita of Livy. According to Livy she was the daughter of Numitor, king of Alba Longa, and descended from Aeneas. Numitor's younger brother Amulius seized the throne and killed Numitor's son, then forced Rhea Silvia to become a Vestal Virgin, a priestess of the goddess Vesta
. As Vestal Virgins were sworn to celibacy for a period of thirty years, this would ensure the line of Numitor had no heirs.
However, Rhea Silvia conceived and gave birth to the twins Romulus and Remus, claiming that the god Mars had discovered her in the forest and seduced her.
When Amulius learned of the birth he imprisoned Rhea Silvia and ordered a servant to kill the twins. But the servant showed mercy and set them adrift on the river Tiber, which, overflowing, left the infants in a pool by the bank. There a she-wolf (Lupa), who had just lost her own cubs suckled them. Subsequently Faustulus rescued the boys. Romulus and Remus went on to found Rome, overthrow Amulius, and reinstate Numitor as King of Alba Longa.
In a version presented by Ovid, it is the river Anio who takes pity on her and invites her to rule in his realm. The name Rhea Silvia suggests a minor deity, a demi-goddess of forests. Silva means woods or forest, and Rea may be related to res and regnum; Rea may also be related to Greek rheô, "flow," and thus relate to her association with the spirit of the river Tiber. Carsten Niebuhr proposed that the name Rhea Silvia came from Rea, meaning guilty, and Silvia meaning of the forest and so assumed that Rhea Silvia was a generic name for the guilty woman of the forest, i.e. the woman who had been seduced there.>>