The Roman Empire once stretched from the Atlantic Ocean on the west to Eurasia on the east and from the British Isles on the north to Africa on the south.
This empire was couched in grandeur and beset by strife. It eventually split in two parts; one part flourished while the other was plunged into darkness. Today, the crown jewel of Catholicism rests in the heart of this once-opulent empire.
According to mythology, the seeds of the Roman Empire were sewn in 763 BCE by the brothers Romulus and Remus. But these were no ordinary brothers. As legend has it, Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she-wolf after being abandoned on the banks of the Tiber River by order of jealous King Amulius. Yes, as some contend, the mightiest empire of ancient earth was sired by a pair of feral boys.
While this legend may be hard to digest, there are actually more than 100 documented stories of very young children who were raised by animals. Some of the children were snatched from their homes, but the vast majority were abandoned by their parents because of their physical and/or mental disabilities. In one case, a seven-year-old Romanian boy was believed to have been cared for by dogs for three years after fleeing his home because of domestic violence.
In their strange new environment - and under the loving wings of their new brethren - these outcast children learned to hunt and forage. They developed callouses on their hands and feet and ran faster than any human. Their hair matted and their faces were morphed by life with their new clan. At night, they huddled close to their families in dens or caves. They may not have learned to live as humans, but they certainly learned how to “survive” better than any popular game show contestant plunked down in the Caribbean without a Swiss army knife.
After several years in “the wild,” many of these children were found by hunters, scientists or authorities. Attempts to “humanize” them failed. Lacking human warmth and contact during the crucial early developmental period, the children generally distrusted humans. Deprived of the opportunity to hear and mimic human speech, human language was not accessible to them.
These children never adapted to human ways, let alone integrated into society. Social scientists were mortified at the sight of these “creatures” scrambling on all fours, growling and grunting to make their needs known and slapping their heads in frustration when they were not understood. But what did we expect after turning them out, then plucking them years later from the only world they knew?
One might question whether some of these children may have been better left undiscovered. Most were terrified by us. Many perished after only a few years in human institutions.
Who are we to say that the best years of their lives were not indeed spent in the company of their adopted species? In the end, it was these “wild” animals that accepted, loved and cared for our children when we would not.
Something to think about as we drop our shivering and bewildered fur children off at the shelter because we just couldn’t cope with a little pee on the carpet - or a tail that did not conform to a breeder’s standards.