Franks Casket (Left Panel)

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The left panel of the Franks Casket depicts, among other figures, a wolf lying on her back suckling the legendary twins Romulus and Remus who would later found Rome.





The text of the left panel amounts to a short description of the scene:

Romwalus and Reumwalus twœgen gibroþær
afœdde hiæ wylif in romæcæstri
oþlæ unneg

1 Romwalus and Reumwalus are the foundational brothers of Roman myth, Romulus and Remus; their names are altered here to appear Germanic in origin—twœgen ‘two’; cf. archaic Eng twaingibroþær ‘brothers,’ with collective ge- to denote a famous or canonical group; cf. Ger die Gebrüder Grimm

2 afœddæ 1 ā-fēdan 3 sg pret ind ‘nourished, reared’ lit. ‘fed’—hiæ ‘them’; direct object of afœddæwylif ‘she-wolf’ < PIE *wl̥kʷíh2 cf. * wĺ̥kʷos ‘he-wolf’—romæcæstri dat sg ‘Rome’ lit. ‘Rome-town’; the second element, OE ceaster (cf. modern -chester in place-names), is a loan from Lat castra ‘encampment’ lit. ‘camps,’ the plural of castrum

3 oþlæ neut dat sg ‘heritage, homeland’ < *ōþalą, which is also the reconstructed name of the ᛟ rune; the standard West Saxon form is ēþel < *ōþilą, which explains the Anglo-Saxon value of /œ/ for ᛟ (which was replaced with ᚩ ōs ‘[pagan] god’ for denoting the /o/ sound); both of these variants are themselves the lengthened-grade ablaut variants of the root *aþal-/*aþil- ‘noble’—unneg ‘far’ lit. ‘not near’ with negating prefix un– + OE nēah ‘near, nigh’

Romulus and Remus, two brothers;
A she-wolf reared them in Rome
far from their homeland.


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