Shrine may be tomb of Rome's first king

A 6th-century BC sarcophagus and what appears to be an altar may be the tomb of Rome's first king.
A 6th-century BC sarcophagus and what appears to be an altar may be the tomb of Rome's first king.

Archaeologists have presented the "amazing discovery" of an underground shrine from the 6th century BC which may have been the tomb of the first king of ancient Rome.

The shrine is dedicated to Romulus who, according to legend, founded Rome with his twin Remus on April 21, 753 BC, and became its sole ruler after killing his brother.

It consists of a stone sarcophagus 1.4 metres in length and a circular structure presumed to be an altar, the Colosseum Archaeological Park said in a statement.

The shrine's location within the Roman Forum coincides with the place where, according to ancient texts, Romulus was buried, the park said, speaking of an "amazing discovery".

"The location of the discovery ... makes it quite likely that it could be what the ancient Romans considered the tomb of Romulus," a statement from the park read.

It should be considered a tomb, not a burial place, because, according to tradition, Romulus either disappeared in a storm or was killed and cut to pieces by senators, the statement noted.

After his death, Romulus was venerated as the god Quirinus.

According to the park, the shrine might have been "a funerary monument" created sometime after his death "to celebrate his cult and memory".

The monument was first discovered in 1899, but quickly forgotten, as its significance was not understood. It was hidden by a staircase built in the 1930s during the fascist-era renovation of the forum.

Contemporary archaeologists reinvestigated the area and, in November, began dismantling the staircase, bringing the shrine back to light.

Australian Associated Press