Friday, January 7, 2011

Ancient Roman Hate-Fuck, huh?

Hubby came up with the title of tonight's post. (It was in reference to a discussion of the show Spartacus: Blood and Sand). I decided I needed to use that as a post title. What subject would possibly fit? It's a bit od a stretch, but who cares: Tonight's topic:

The Rape of the Sabine Women.

Why do they call it that? The actual word is "rapito" which means "kidnapped," not sexually violated. I digress. The story, in brief:

Romulus and Remus founded Rome. Romulus killed his brother Remus (where have we heard that before?) and names the city after himself. He also brought in ex-cons and outlaws to populate the city quickly. Makes for a great army, but not so much a great society when you have no heirs. The Romans needed to populate their city with Women.

They allegedly asked permission to marry from other local tribes but were rebuked. If you saw some big badasses trying to move in on your land, wouldn't you want them to disappear in a generation? The Romans were refused. Using their brains as well as their brawn, The Romans threw a big festival to Neptune and invited everyone to come- what we'd call a "family friendly event" these days. Folks came, especially the local Sabines. While the men were distracted with the games, the Romans kidnapped the women and took off.

By the time the Sabine men were ready to fight, Romulus had already negotiated directly with the women (which they should have done in the first place). He guaranteed them equal civil rights and property rights amongst other things. I wonder if he offered to let them go home if they said no. Anyway, the Sabine men finally get their asses in gear and wage war on the Romans when the Women show up and stop the fight. Livy attributes lovely speeches to the Ladies, something along the lines of "kill me instead, I don't want to live without my father or my husband." The men stop the fighting, the king of the Sabines gets to be co-ruler with Romulus (he died 5 years later... hmmm) and the Sabine families moved to Rome.  This is allegedly where the tradition of carrying the bride over the threshold came from.

Do I believe this actually happened? I have no idea. I think it's true on some level. I think they needed Women to survive, but I don't think a mass kidnapping is too bright, and I don't think it would've been all touchy feely with guaranteed rights, "real" marriages (as wiki reports)... what was the concept of "marriage" in those days anyway? (Is this period technically Roman or still pre-Roman? lol). I think the Romans would have had more resources than just having a bunch of ex cons kidnapping the local maidens. Part of the story that's especially fishy is that the women brought their children to the battle to stop it. Wha? FFS it took YEARS for the fathers, husbands and brothers of the Sabine women to get their shit together to get em back? That's what really sends this into the realm of fable for me.

When I'm in a good mood, I romanticize it- the neighboring women loved the Roman men and the mean Sabine daddies were keeping them apart. Bad mood? The evil men kidnapped the women and forced them to bear their children.

So what does this have to do with anything? Yeah.... I don't know. It something that's come up in my reading lately; I don't mean this specific story, but in general the idea that Rome was the America of the ancient world: Show up, found a city, intermarry with the natives (well, the colonists brought whole families here, but I digress), sections of the territory were ruled by several different far off powers until one group comes in and takes over the whole thing, war with one native tribe after another for a land grab until the natives are killed or assimilated... Sound familiar?

Rome was the melting pot of it's day, no matter if they forced some of the melting or not. I find it fitting that so many Italians immigrated to New York City, including my family.

PS: Anita: This rambling post was for you ;)

No comments:

Post a Comment