At the time of Rome’s foundation, two armies were lined up facing each other waiting for a battle to begin. Suddenly, a group of women stood between the two armies. According to the legend, Romulus founded Rome on April 21st, 753 BC. At the beginning, Rome was only a village of shepherds, but it was destined to grow quickly. According to legend, the first obstacle for Romulus was the fact that all of his subjects were men. There was not even one woman in Rome. Without wives who could generate children, the Roman people were destined to become extinct. Romulus devised a plan to solve the problem. To the northeast of Rome lied the realm of the Sabines, who were rich and numerous [show graphics in the map of Lazio: the kingdom of the Sabines coincides with the province of Rieti]. Romulus invited the Sabines to a festival in honor of Neptune, the god of the sea. The Sabines accepted the invitation, and went to Rome together with their families.To entertain his guests, Romulus organized shows and sporting events. The Sabines were flattered by the welcome. They did not know that they had fallen into a trap. At the given signal, the Romans carried away all the Sabine girls of a marrying age and locked them up in the houses of Rome.
It was an act that would go down in history as the abduction, or the rape of the Sabine women. The Sabines tried to intercede but they were unarmed. The Romans easily drove them away. The Sabine women were then forced to marry the Romans. Titus Tatius, king of the Sabines, decided that the act should be repaid with blood. He began to gather his army. In Rome, the Sabine women discovered that their new husbands were not as brutal as they had seemed. In fact, they proved to be quite the opposite. They were affectionate and attentive men. Many women fell in love with their captors and some became pregnant. Meanwhile, the army of Titus Tatius marched towards Rome. The Romans welcomed them sword in hand, ready for battle. The kidnapped women left their homes and stood between the two armies. They called on the Sabines and the Romans to lay down their arms. They loved their fathers, but also loved their husbands and did not want to become orphans and widows on the same day. Touched by these words, the Romans and the Sabines understood that their people were united by a bond of blood. Fighting did not make sense.
The Rape of the Sabine Women is a story suspended between myth and reality. As much as the abduction of women was common in ancient times, it is likely that the facts did not play out in exactly this way. Despite this, the story made history and inspired the works of many artists. [show graphics of some of these works, for example: the statue by Giambologna in Florence, the painting by Pietro da Cortona, the Rape of the Sabine Women by Picasso]