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Ficus Ruminalis

The fig tree depicted in the plutei of Trajan is the Ficus Ruminalis (from either ruma, "breast," or roma), which was located close to the Lupercal, the cave at the foot of the Palatine hill, under which Romulus and Remus were believed to have been found by Faustulus being suckled by the she-wolf (Pliny, XV.77; Plutarch, Romulus, IV.1). Livy indicates that the tree still was standing in his day (I.4), although, by the time of Ovid, only a vestige remained (Fasti, II.411).

Pliny intimates that the tree was transferred by the augur Attus Navius to the Comitium (which was located between the Arch of Severus and the Curia Julia) and regarded as sacred, having grown from a spot struck by lightning (XV.77). Or the tree in the Forum may have been revered because it evoked the memory of the Ficus Ruminalis. Whether the Ficus Ruminalis or the Ficus Navia, its descendant or surrogate, its death was taken as an portent of some future event and a new one replanted by the priests. In AD 58, during the reign of Nero, the tree did die but then revived and put forth new shoots (Tacitus, Annals, XIII.58). From the reverence with which it was regarded, and on account of its position, the fig tree became one of the natural landmarks of the Forum.

Pliny also speaks of a fig tree that grew in an unpaved section of the Forum, at the Lacus Curtius. There, too, grew a wild vine and an olive tree, which was planted to provide shade (XV.78), all of which has been recreated in the Forum.