The beautiful statue of Tiberinus, god of the river Tiber, which stands in Piazza del Campidoglio, started off life as a personification of an entirely different river god, that of the Tigris. It, like its neighbour, the god of the river Nile, once belonged to the Baths of Constantine, which were situated on the Quirinal Hill.
Each river god holds a cornucopia, a horn of plenty, a reference to the wealth that water brings. The river Nile is identified by the sphinx, on which it rests its left arm, while the river Tigris originally rested his right arm on a tiger. The tiger has morphed into what is supposed to be a wolf, and the twins Romulus and Remus have been added in a bid to turn the statue into Tiberinus.
According to Vergil's Aeneid, Tiberinus was the river god who found the twins Romulus and Remus and gave them to the Lupa (the she-wolf who had just lost her own cubs) to suckle. He later rescued and married Rhea Silvia, the mother of the twins and a Vestal Virgin, who had been sentenced to death.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
Search Walks in Rome: