Home of a higgledy-piggledy art blog … 

The Rape of the Sabines

This, the first of the subjects-most-often-found-in-old-master-works-of-art posts will probably set the tone for almost all those to come. Someone will die. Or get raped. If it’s a man, it’ll be Christ. If it’s a woman, it’ll be everyone who ever did or did not live. In almost all examples, there will be some excuse to flash a bit of bums, tums, and other wobbly bits. 

In the story of the Rape of the Sabines we get a double whammy of mass rape AND murder. And lots of nakedness. 

Now, some art historians are very fussy about the fact that ‘rape’ in ye oldie times meant abduction. So you will occasionally see the story referred to as the ‘abduction of the Sabines’. Thing is, after the Sabines were abducted, they were….

You guessed it, raped! 

(Except, according to Livy, who swears that the Romans were perfect, abduction-practicing only, gentlemen, who nattered about the weather and local dialects after dragging their new lady possessions back to base),

Also, it’s been called the ‘Rape of the Sabines’ for so long, who am I to start messing around with the title. 

(I don’t think I’ve ever used the word ‘rape’ so often)


Shudder. Anyway, 

Who are these ‘Sabines’ I hear you ask impatiently?

And why were they abducted?


It all happened a long long time ago. In the Rome before the Rome of history, that is, made up land. Romulus and Remus were born. They fondled a wolf. Had a snack. Grew up strong. Romulus then killed Remus. 

And BAM! 

Rome was founded. 

Problem was, its only inhabitants were willy-waving soldiers. And while it’s one thing to machete your bro and get your dude possy to frolic around your new mini empire, it’s quite another to ask an uber-testosteroned warmonger to court a lady. 

Cue the Sabines, their Italic neighbours.

The Romans first tried to negotiate with the Sabines for possession of their womenfolk, who they wanted for wives, reproduction, and likely a roll in the hay. 

This is how I image the negotiations went:

Warmongering Roman: Can we have your women?

Sabine Man: Non.

Warmongering Roman (in his head): Fuck you Sabines, we will take your womenfolk!

So, they did what all abducty rapey people do, they organised a jolly.

Even though there was no Instagram or Facebook, or even Blue Mountain, through which they could send their invites, loads of people from the neighbouring tribes came. 

The party started off as a roaring success. But, just as guests were getting a bit tiddly, the Romans cut the fun short by grabbing all the Sabine women and shooing away the Sabine men.

Everyone was pretty pissed off (and probably pissed) save the Romans.

Somehow they managed to convince the ladies to marry them. It didn’t take long for a few to get preggers too.

Soon, loads of the same local tribes who had been getting jiggy at the aforementioned  partay decided to now feel annoyed. They didn’t like that the Romans were on a power trip, that they nicked other people’s things (well, humans), and that, all in all, that they were behaving like undiluted dipshits. So they all got involved in a mini local war. 

Except for the actual Sabine tribe, who stayed away longer than dormant HPV.

Until finally, they joined in, playing all indigent. And another big battle was begun, with lots of literal sword waving. 

The now Roman-by-marriage, Sabine-by-birth ladies, however, had other ideas. Instead of letting the cluster of cowards and crooks cancel each other out, they somehow thought it best to hurl themselves into the middle of the fighting, and plead with all involved to stop this nonsense and just get along.  

This tactic seemed to work.

Then they all procreated, and Rome became an Empire.  

And that’s the story of the  Rape of the Sabines.


A Western Art History blog by someone who sometimes gets paid  to read and write about Western Art History. Mostly Old Masters. Mostly Italian. Hopefully accurate.

Top Posts