Now there was a wild fig-tree hard by, which they called Ruminalis, either from Romulus, as is generally thought, or because cud-chewing, or ruminating
, animals spent the noon-tide there for the sake of the shade, or best of all, from the suckling of the babes there; for the ancient Romans called the teat
‘ruma,’ and a certain goddess, who is thought to preside over the rearing of young children, is still called Rumilia, in sacrificing to whom no wine is used, and libations of milk are poured over her victims.
Here, then, the babes lay, and the she-wolf of story here gave them suck,1
and a woodpecker came to help in feeding them and to watch over them. Now these creatures are considered sacred to Mars, and the woodpecker is held in especial veneration and honour by the Latins, and this was the chief reason why the mother was believed when she declared that Mars was the father of her babes. And yet it is said that she was deceived into doing this, and was really deflowered by Amulius himself, who came to her in armour and ravished her.
But some say that the name of the children's nurse, by its ambiguity, deflected the story into the realm of the fabulous. For the Latins not only called she-wolves
‘lupae,’ but also women of loose character, and such a woman was the wife of Faustulus, the foster-father of the infants, Acca Larentia by name. Yet the Romans sacrifice also to her, and in the month of April the priest of Mars pours libations in her honour, and the festival is called Larentalia.