Ancient symbol of Rome – or a Middle Ages knock-off?

First Germans intervened in Italy's politics. Now they're downgrading a cultural icon


The most celebrated and supposedly one of the oldest symbols of the Eternal City may not be a product of the ancient world after all.

The Capitoline Museums' statue of the legendary she-wolf, which was said to have nourished Rome's founders, Romulus and Remus on the banks of the River Tiber, was not crafted by the city's ancestors, the Etruscans, but was made at least 1,000 years later in the Middle Ages, some experts now insist.

According to the museum's website, the bronze she-wolf was made in the 5th or 6th century BC, with the figures of the twin brothers added separately in the early 1500s. But studies of the statue's construction suggest otherwise. And if seeing the iconic work's provenance thrown into doubt weren't bad enough, the museum's authorities have, with red faces, had to emend the statue's description after complaints by German newspapers.

Just days after Rome had, in the eyes of some, had the Eurocrat premier Mario Monti foisted on it by an Angela Merkel-led EU cabal, the Germans have been dispensing diktats regarding Italy's celebrated antiquities. The German daily Der Spiegel led the way in reviving question marks about the statue's origins – forcing the museum to issue a statement this week promising to acknowledge the alternative "hypothesis" of the statue's provenance alongside the usual explanation.

Traditionally, the 30in-high she-wolf, which is the centrepiece of an eponymous room in the museum, was said to be either the product of an Etruscan workshop in the 5th century BC or even the masterpiece of the 6th century BC Etruscan sculptor Vulca of Veii – not far off Romulus's mythical foundation of the city in 753 BC.

The original – and romantic – version of the statue's origins was undoubtedly central to the work's appeal. Benito Mussolini, Italy's Fascist dictator who fancied himself the founder of the New Rome, was in the habit of sending out copies of the bronze as a gift.

In reality, though, the cat was out of the bag several years ago, when in 2006 La Repubblica published the doubts of a leading expert regarding the statue's real age.

Adriano La Regina, professor of Etruscology at Rome's La Sapienza University, who for decades headed the national archaeological office for Rome, claimed that "unarguable evidence tells us that the she-wolf is not a product of the ancient world".

Another expert, the restoration specialist Anna Maria Carruba, said the she-wolf could not have been made in ancient times because it was cast in one piece – a forging technique that was invented by mediaeval sculptors, she noted.

Professor La Regina has even suggested that the Capitoline Museums were reluctant to release test results indicating the bronze's mediaeval origins. "The new information about the epoch of the Capitoline bronze has been held back," he said.

Perhaps the Capitoline Museums' authorities can claim that Italy's notorious bureaucracy was to blame for its failure to inform visitors of the insights five years after the new information surfaced.

But in Mario Monti's new Italy, red tape and inefficiency are due to be replaced by something like teutonic efficiency, though fans of things Italian will be hoping there won't be too much of it.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas