The story is a legend.

However, the popular view of the boys being raised by a she-wolf may not have been the original intent of the story.

“She-wolf” in Latin is “lupa,” and lupa was also a common Roman word for a prostitute.

The legend was said to have originated with shepherds, and it eventually became incorporated in the Roman fertility and purification festival called Lupercalia, which was held from February 13 to February 15 every year.

The festival was designed to commemorate the wolf that suckled Romulus and Remus.

But in February wolves would not be suckling pups.

They would be doing something else.

A domestic dog mating with a wolf. Wolf mating season would have been a major problem for ancient shepherds on the Italian Peninsula.

If the legends of Romulus and Remus originated with shepherds and the Lupercalia festival, then we can see that this entire story would have had meaning beyond the foundation myth.

For example, it is likely that February would have been a bad time of the year to have been a shepherd in ancient Italy.

The land was full of wolves, which could be held back with the use of guard dogs.

However, in February, the wolf bitches come into season, and this would mean that male dogs would be more willing to leave their posts.

It also means that dog and wolf interactions could become tense at times, but it also means that their male dogs would be less likely to act aggressively when the wolves came by. The wolves would be emboldened, and their dogs would be lovesick.

And that would mean that stock would be very likely to come up missing during that time.

Female wolves that have not yet found a partner are well-known to solicit male wolves from other packs, as well as male wolves that don’t belong to any particular pack. In Italy, these unattached females are known to solicit male dogs.

Some of these male dogs would probably be killed in their attempts to mate with the unattached females of an established pack, and they would likely lose some livestock from the more emboldened wolves approaching flocks guarded by livestock less attentive, somewhat randy dogs.

One can easily see why lupa got mixed up with the term for prostitute. These unattached female wolves would essentially be harlots that could toll off any of the best guard dogs. Perhaps these dogs would return, but they might have lost some of their animosity towards the wolves during their attempts to respond to the “call of the wild.”

So it would make some symbolic sense that two goats and a dog were sacrificed at the Lupercalia. The choice for this sacrifice might be something like what a shepherd might lose during the wolf mating season. The Roman god Faunus (also known as Lupercus, “he who wards off the wolves”) was the object of the sacrifice, and once paid, it was hoped that he’d keep the wolves under control.

If you’re a poor shepherd whose male guard dogs have suddenly lost their senses in a country teaming with wolves, you’re going to try to come up with some way to explain and possibly prevent or mitigate losses.

Now, the Romans in later generations believed that the she-wolf that nursed Romulus and Remus was an actual wolf. They regularly portrayed the twins nursing from a female wolf.

It would not make sense to connect their foundation myth to the story of a prostitute, even though we all know that the Romans were not a particularly sexually repressed people. We do know that the Romans had a very patriarchal society, and they would rather have their nation associated with a rapacious harlot of a wolf than a prostitute.