Chronicles From the City Founding of Livius Titus, Book I

Chapter 9

The rape of the Sabine women provides wives for the Romans.

The Roman weal had become so strong that to any of the bordering states, it was equal in battle ; but for a want of women, the greatness would last but the age of a man, for naturally to those for whom there were no marriages with bordering peoples neither was there hope of offspring at home. So then, on the counsel of the fathers, Romulus sent envoys around to the neighboring tribes, who sought alliance and marriage for the new people : cities also, just as with the rest, born of humblest circumstance ; subsequently, virtue itself and the gods would assist them to fashion for themselves great power and a great name, enough to know that for the Roman origin the gods were present and virtue was not lacking ; accordingly let men not be reluctant to mix blood and tribe with men. Nowhere were the envoys kindly heard ; but all the while spurning Rome1 so, while her might waxed so great in their midst, they also feared for themselves and for their own posterity. And they were dismissed by most asking if they had opened a sanctuary for women, too : for that alone would be an equal marriage. The young men of Roman suffered this poorly and without a doubt the affair began to incline toward violence. So that Romulus could offer an apt time and place for this, disguising his afflicted spirit, he purposely prepared games, ceremonies for the Equestrian Neptune ; he called it the Consualia. Then he bid that the spectacle be proclaimed to the bordering tribes ; and by as much splendor as they then knew or were able, they celebrated, such that the thing became famous and much awaited. Many mortals assembled, and especially zealous to see the new city were each of those nearest, the men of Caenina, of Crustumerium, and Antemnae ;  and the whole multitude of the Sabines came, with their children and their wives. They were invited hospitably through the homes, and when they saw the situation, the walls, and the city crowded with buildings, they were amazed that the Roman weal had grown so much in a brief time. When the time for the spectacle arrived and it had captured their attention2, then, as planned3, violence broke out, and when a signal was given, the Roman youth ran to and fro to abduct the maidens. Most were taken by chance, by whomever each had encountered ; but certain women surpassing in form were chosen by the first rank of the fathers, and men from the plebs, to whom the task had been given, carried them away to their homes. One woman, distinguished before any other by her appearance and beauty, was taken by a gang for a certain Thalassius, they say, and with many asking where they took her, it was repeatedly cried aloud, so that no one would violate her, that she was being taken for Thalassius ; and thus at any marriage this cry is made.

With the festival thrown into tumult by fear, the grief-stricken parents of the maidens fled, protesting that the covenant of violated hospitality and invoking the god to whose games they had come for ceremony and had been deceived contrary to faith and divine law. And for those abducted, neither was their hope for themselves any better nor was their indignation any lesser. But Romulus himself was going around and explaining that this deed of the fathers was done out of pride, for they had been denied marriage by the bordering tribes ; those women, however, would be legally wed and have a share of the state and all fortunes, and of what nothing is be held more dear than, children ; in this way they should mollify angers and, for to whom chance had given their bodies, they should give their spirits ; for often out of injury arises grace ; and in this way they would find better husbands—that each man would strive for his own benefit, since he would perform his duty for his own reciprocal good, so that even the loss for their parents and homeland would be somehow filled. Added were the blandishments of the men, making apologies for a deed done out of desire and love, which are the most effective entreaties to a woman’s nature.

1. Livy doesn’t name Rome here, but rather implies the object of the spurning. I broke down and inserted the object to avoid a total confusion of pronouns.
2. The Latin here is, deditae eo mentes cum oculis errant, literally, “their minds with their eyes had been surrendered to it”.
3. Another Latin idiom, ex composito, from componere, “to compose, to order, arrange”, thus “out of (something) arranged”.

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