New Italian TV show to tell story of Rome’s birth… in Latin

Work has begun on Romulus, a new TV drama that will tell the story of Rome's legendary founder – in an early form of Latin.

New Italian TV show to tell story of Rome's birth... in Latin
People dress up every April to reenact the legendary founding of Rome. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

The series, which is being produced by the same studio responsible for modern-day Italian hits Gomorrah and Suburra, will air on Sky Italia with an international release likely to follow.

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It will be directed by Matteo Rovere, an Italian film director who has already told the Romulus story once before in his movie epic The First King, which was also scripted in archaic Latin.

He described the new show as “a story about feelings, war, brotherhood, courage and fear”.

Watch a preview of the shoot here:

The ten-part series will present “a highly realistic reconstruction of the events that led to the foundation of Rome”, Rovere promised in the press release, “but above all, it is an investigation into the origins and the profound meaning of power in the West”.

The world-changing events will be seen through the eyes of three minor characters, including a vestal virgin, who decide not to follow the fates expected of them.

Shooting is due to begin in Lazio – the region around Rome where the original Romulus is supposed to have hailed from – in June. Filming is expected to involve full recreations of two cities, 700 stunt performers and thousands of extras.

A sketch of the set design, courtesy of Sky Italia.

According to legend, Romulus and his twin brother Remus were cast out at birth by their great-uncle, who had usurped the rightful king, their grandfather, and was wary of the newborns' claim to the throne. Suckled by a she-wolf and raised by shepherds, they grew up to be natural leaders, helped restore their grandfather to the throne and, upon discovering their true identity, set out to found a city of their own.

After a disagreement over which of the seven hills to settle on and disputed omens from the gods, Romulus murdered his brother (or had someone else do it) and built his city on the Palatine Hill. His name, along with the wolf that nursed him, has represented the city ever since.

The all-Italian series will capitalize on “the most recognizable brand of our country, Rome, which is once again set to attract worldwide attention with a great story to tell – that of the founding of the Eternal City and its myth,” said Nicola Maccanico, Sky Italia's executive vice president of programming.

“Our history, the most proudly local of all.”

READ ALSO: Six Italian series worth watching beyond My Brilliant Friend

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Why Friday the 13th isn’t an unlucky date in Italy

Unlucky for some, but not for Italians. Here's why today's date isn't a cause for concern in Italy - but Friday the 17th is.

Why Friday the 13th isn't an unlucky date in Italy

When Friday the 13th rolls around, many of us from English-speaking countries might reconsider any risky plans. And it’s not exactly a popular date for weddings in much of the western world.

But if you’re in Italy, you don’t need to worry about it.

There’s no shortage of strongly-held superstitions in Italian culture, particularly in the south. But the idea of Friday the 13th being an inauspicious date is not among them.

Though the ‘unlucky 13’ concept is not unknown in Italy – likely thanks to the influence of American film and TV – here the number is in fact usually seen as good luck, if anything.

The number 17, however, is viewed with suspicion and Friday the 17th instead is seen as the unlucky date to beware of.

Just as some Western airlines avoid including the 13th row on planes, you might find number 17 omitted on Italian planes, street numbering, hotel floors, and so on – so even if you’re not the superstitious type, it’s handy to be aware of.

The reason for this is thought to be because in Roman numerals the number 17 (XVII) is an anagram of the Latin word VIXI, meaning ‘I have lived’: the use of the past tense apparently suggests death, and therefore bad luck. It’s less clear what’s so inauspicious about Friday.

So don’t be surprised if, next time Friday 17th rolls around, you notice some Italian shops and offices closed per scaramanzia’.

But why then does 13 often have a positive connotation in Italy instead?

You may not be too surprised to learn that it’s because of football.

Ever heard of Totocalcio? It’s a football pools betting system in which players long tried to predict the results of 13 different matches.

There were triumphant calls of ho fatto tredici! – ‘I’ve done thirteen’ – among those who got them all right. The popular expression soon became used in other contexts to mean ‘I hit the jackpot’ or ‘that was a stroke of luck!’

From 2004, the number of games included in Totocalcio rose to 14, but you may still hear winners shout ‘ho fatto tredici’ regardless.

Other common Italian superstitions include touching iron (not wood) for good luck, not toasting with water, and never pouring wine with your left hand.