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Legend of kidnapping of Sabine women

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Kidnapping of the Sabine Women, Pietro da Cortona
Kidnapping of the Sabine Women, Pietro da Cortona

Legend of kidnapping of Sabine women is one of the many stories that were passed on to us by Roman historians, and it tells about the formation of the community of the city of Rome. It is worth mentioning that Titus Livius – our main source of information about the event – defended the early Romans. In his opinion, the Romans kidnapped unmarried women and they did it out of the need to ensure the future of the newly founded city.

When Romulus killed brother Remus and founded Rome, he decided to create an asylum grove and announced that whoever entered it, even if they had committed the greatest crime, would feel safe and would become a citizen of the city. Villains, thieves and thieves began to come from everywhere. With their help, Romulus fortified the city. Suddenly everyone noticed that there was a shortage of women in this beautiful country. So Romulus chose the more handsome men dressed in adorned robes and set off to the surrounding tribes. But no one wanted to accept them, the gates were closed to them everywhere, saying: “whether they had opened a sanctuary for women also: for that in that way only could they obtain suitable matches”1.

Romulus decided to wait for the other tribes to forget the origins of his companions. And so, after a few years, he sent out invitations to a great feast combined with hunting and festivities. Men and women came from everywhere. There was no lack of anything and the wine was flowing in streams. Suddenly Romulus made a sign and each of his men kidnapped the woman he was standing by.

Affected husbands, fathers and brothers gathered together and set off in arms against Rome. The Sabines were in the lead, as they suffered the most because the Romans kidnapped most of the Sabine women. The army was headed by Titus Tatius. When his troops were in the suburbs, women who had already managed to become attached to the robbers rushed into the fighting ranks. Their weeping and praying persuaded fathers, husbands and brothers to a truce. Since then, the Sabines and the Romans have merged into one country. Romulus ruled in accordance with Titus Tatius.

Intervention of the Sabine women, Jacques-Louis David

The event was described also by Cicero in his work De Re Publica. According to Cicero’s description, games were organized in Rome and attended by Sabinian maids. Romulus had them kidnapped and married off to men from the best families. For this reason, the Sabines declared war on the Romans, which was only stopped at the request of the kidnapped women. As a sign of the peace made, Romulus shared his power with the king of the Sabines, Titus Tatius.

  1. Titus Livy, Ab urbe condita, I.8
  • Beard Mary, SPQR. Historia starożytnego Rzymu, Poznań 2016

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