The Rape of the Sabine Women

After the phase of the foundation of Rome as a new city overlooking the banks of the Tiber, Romulus assumes the role of king of the city assisted by a senate made up of one hundred people called Patrizi.

Sources tell of a city that had managed in just a few years to match the others around it in size and commerce, but there was a problem: Rome lacked women.

The risk was that of not having a certain future for lack of being able to procreate future generations. The king, under the advice of the senators, sent ambassadors to all the other cities asking for commercial relations, friendship and favoring unions in new marriages but the ambassadors returned empty-handed.

The situation was so drastic that the young people of the city even wanted to invent a war in order to bring home over the booty also women to be able to insert as new life for procreative purposes.

It was Romulus’ idea that led to the Rape of the Sabines. In the third year of his reign he decided to organize games in honor of the god Conso called Consulia, to which neighboring peoples were invited and among these those of the Sabines, the latter settled near the Colle Quirinale, who accepted the invitation and came in large numbers to see the new city for the first time.

Romulus showed up at the games started by taking his place on a throne, that was the signal, at which point the men of Rome rushed on the Sabine women taking them in their arms and going to hide inside their homes while the other armed men sent the Sabines back outside of the city. The victimize population promised to return for revenge, and so it was.

In fact, Romans and Sabines fought on more than one occasion while abducted women were promised, if they accepted to stay in the new city, equal rights, the possibility of managing property, an incredible freedom for the time that only Etruscan women enjoyed.

The abducted women are an unknown number ranging from about 500 according to Anziate’ historical sources, to just under 800 according to Plutarch’s ones.

The reckoning occurred with the battle of Lake Cirzio in which Romans and Sabines were fighting bitterly until an unexpected event made the battle take a completely unexpected turn, so Plutarch tells it in: Life of Romulus.

There where they returned to fight again, they were stopped by an incredible spectacle that was difficult to put into words.

In fact, they saw the Sabine daughters, those kidnapped, some throwing themselves on one side, and others on the other, among the weapons and the dead, screaming and threatening their husbands and fathers with warnings, as if they were possessed by a god.

Some had their little ones in their arms … and addressed with sweet calls to both the Romans and the Sabines.

The two sides then moved away, yielding to emotion, and let the women get in the middle.

Thus the daughters of the Sabines by now wives of the Romans, generators of children and grandchildren of both, stopped the conflict favoring the end of hatred and a full fusion of the two peoples.

It is in memory of this event that all over the world still today, the newlyweds cross the threshold of the house with the bride in her husband’s arms, because almost three thousand years ago, Romans kidnapped women by crossing the door of the house with them in their arms, and they became their wives and mothers of their children. This fact allowed to generate something even more lasting over time, a republic and then an empire. Such a tradition is still considered a good omen today.

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