Rapeof Sabine Women
The is an important event in the Roman history dueto its significance in forging one of the greatest empires inhistory. The story became a standard of most traditional empires butwas always considered to be a barbaric and brutal act. It is a storythat revolves around deception, abduction, and rape. The rape of theSabine women was due to the problem of population imbalance in Romewhich doomed the City to an uncertain future. The city was onlycomposed of men who were followers of Romulus, and this posed a greatchallenge to the dominance of the City`s future due to a shortage ofchildren. As a result, Romulus who was the leader of Rome had to lookfor solutions. He first made proposals of intermarriage with theneighboring cities which were rejected.
Romulusthen hatched another scheme to take the women of Sabine forcefully.Romulus came up with a plan to deceive their neighbors to acelebration where all the women would be in one place. Using apre-arranged signal from Romulus, the Romans were to take away theSabine women and kill the men forcefully. But several Sabine menescaped and went back to their city for reinforcements. They cameback with their king and waged war against the Romans which theyultimately lost. But the women of Sabine played a greater role ofreconciliation between the warring cities by imploring the men tostop fighting, or they kill themselves. Later the war ceased, and thetwo cities lived in peace with the two kings ruling together.
TheRape of the Sabine Women
Accordingto history, Romulus founded the city of Rome in the 8thcentury, and it grew to become one of the strongest cities that coulddefend itself against any tribes that could be considered asaggressors. But the city had an internal threat about a large numberof men who followed Romulus since he had given sanctuary to outcastsfrom other cities. With an increase in the population within the cityof Rome, there was shortage of women, and this became a problem asthe greatness of the city was only destined to last a singlegeneration due to the lack of children who could be the face of thefuture generations. This paper looks at the history of how the menwithin the city snatched the Sabine women from their families at afestival and won them over through violence coupled with seductivewords.
JaneCostello in her article, TheRape of the Sabine Women by Nicolas Poussin,published in 1947 by the talks about how the Romans initiated a planto impregnate the Sabine women by raping them at a festival that wasorganized by Romulus1.Costello reports that the plan was specifically aimed at seducing andretaining the Sabine women in Rome as wives. According to thearticle, Romulus was to give a signal to the warriors to forciblytake the women by raising his cloak. Fouquet`s‘Rape of the Sabine Women’by Bamber Gascoigne published in 1971 also gives a first-handperception of the occurrences and events that took place when theRoman raped the Sabine women2.It examines how Romulus after realizing the destiny of his cityhatched a plan to abduct the Sabine women for his followers who werepredominantly male for childbearing.
Before,Romans had formed alliances with their neighbors and requested formarriage rights, but it was always a failed mission as the messengerswho were sent never succeeded in convincing their neighbors who werenot in any way interested in their advances. Most of the neighborswere even fearful that Roe would become more powerful and pose athreat to their future generations.3With the neighbors failing to give in to their advances, Romulusdecided to take action so as to ensure the future of his city. Duringa festival event to celebrate Consualia which was founded by Romulushimself, he hatched the plan of the abduction of the women fromSabine. The Consualia celebrations were hatched by Romulus after hediscovered a hidden altar of a god known as Consus. The celebrationswere in the form of sacrifices, shows, and entertainment. The Sabineswere one of the communities that attended the Consualia celebrationswith the entire population including the women and children travelingto Rome.
Duringthe celebrations, Romulus made a pre-arranged signal to his men inRome to forcibly fall on the Sabine women and take them away. Thesignal was when Romulus rose and threw his cloak on his back the menwould act as had earlier been instructed. It is reported that onlyvirgins were to be taken away excluding only one of the married womenknown as Hersilia. At this point, the Sabine men were attacked andkilled with the surviving returning to Sabine for morereinforcements. The escaped men returned to Rome with their KingTitus to get their women back. The Sabines managed to gain accessinto the city through a Roman who unlocked the gates. It is to benoted that the abduction of the women was not in any way an act oflust or sexual starvation but as a means of securing their future andforming a strong alliance with the Sabines. But instead of forming analliance, the Sabines waged war at the Romans due to the outragebrought about by the abduction of their women. But the Romansdefeated the Sabines and their allies, and the Sabine women acceptedtheir responsibilities as the wives of the men in the Roman Empire.
Duringthe war, the Sabine women had already been assimilated into the RomanEmpire, and they were distressed at what was happening between thetwo cities. As a result of the distress, the women stood betweenarmies of the Romans and Sabines during one of the battles and beggedtheir husbands who were the Romans and their father, brothers, andsons who were the Sabines to stop the war. 4Thewomen blamed themselves for the war and even felt they would ratherdie than see both sides fight. The actions of the Sabine women led tothe ceasing of the war, and the Romans and Sabines came up with apeace treaty that saw the two cities fall under the leadership ofRome and further ensured a stronger city.
Thehistory of the rape of the Sabine women can be seen as that of asymbolic conquest as well as an artistic allegory. The story showsthe body of a female as an allegory of art, a subject and naturegiving it a view of a heroic twist of artistry. For the case of theSabines, their war with the Romans was not only for their women butalso for their male rivals5.The actions of the Sabine women during the war were also a depictionof the power that the women could wield over men and thereforeshowing their power. Both the Sabines and Romans in the battlefieldwere touched by the actions of the women to intervene in the war, andthey felt there was no need for fighting. Meanwhile, Romulus hadforgiven the parents of the Sabine women and pardoned them on therequest of his wife, Hersilia. Romulus even gave them the Romancitizenship and later King Titus, and Romulus ruled the city inunison.
Inconclusion, the story of the Rape of the Sabine Women depictstreachery in history and even though it became legendary, it alsobecame a source of Roman tradition from marriage to politics. Thepractices of marriage and the concept of the ruling in Rome wereinfluenced by the story. At the same time, the story also depictedthe barbaric and the brutal nature of Romans. It also showed thestrong will of the Roman people to get whatever they want, a traitwhich would become embedded in their character for centuries whichmade one of the most famous and strongest empires in history.
Costello,Jane. "The Rape Of The Sabine Women By Nicolas Poussin".TheMetropolitan
Museumof Art Bulletin5, no. 8 (1947): 197.
Gascoigne,Bamber. "Fouquet`s ‘Rape Of The Sabine Women’". TheatreSurvey12, no. 02
Luecke,Janemarie. TheRape Of The Sabine Women.1st ed. Fort Lauderdale, Fla.: Wake-Brook
Sussman,Eve, Michael Juul Holm, and Helle Crenzien. TheRape Of The Sabine Women.1st ed
.[Louisiana]: Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2008.
1 Jane Costello, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 5, no. 8 (1947): 197.
2 Luecke, Janemarie. The Rape Of The Sabine Women. 1st ed. Fort Lauderdale, Fla.: Wake-Brook House, 1978.
3 Michel Wedel and Wagner A Kamakura, Market Segmentation, 1st ed. (Boston: Kluwer Academic, 2000).
5 Eve Sussman, Michael Juul Holm and Helle Crenzien, The Rape Of The Sabine Women, 1st ed. ([Louisiana]: Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2008).