Peter and Paul, the Fathers of great Rome,
Now sitting in the Senate of the skies,
One by the cross, the other by the sword,
Sent to their thrones on high, to Life’s eternal prize.
Elpis, the wife of Boethius, sings the praises of St. Peter and St. Paul in her Latin poem, Decora lux aeternitatis. In another translation of this hymn, these two apostles are referred to as the “twin founders of Rome.” This historical allusion recalls the legend of the founding of the city of Rome by the twin brothers, Romulus and Remus. Their city matured into an Empire that was one of the most powerful civilizations in human history. Yet over 800 years from the founding of the city of Rome, another set of brothers, Peter and Paul, not natural brothers, but united by the bonds of the Spirit in Christ, laid a foundation of a new civilization which would outlast and outshine the Roman Empire.
Early Christian writers often contrasted Peter and Paul with Rome’s founders, Romulus and Remus. According to the ancient Roman myth, Rome was violently established when Romulus killed his brother as they laid the city’s walls. In comparison, Peter and Paul built up the civilization of love found in the Church with brotherly affection. The Roman Empire, in nascent form at the time of the twin founders, would rule the world through fear and violence under the shroud of the pax romana. Peter and Paul would set the example for the Church to serve the world through faith and charity under the mantle of the pax Christi. The spiritual kingdom of the Church would far surpass the boundaries of time and space to which the Roman Empire had aspired. As noted by Pope St. Leo the Great, the Roman Empire which was the great teacher of error became the disciple of Truth under the guidance of the two great apostles, Peter and Paul.