According to Roman Mythology, the Rape of the Sabine Women is an incident that took place soon after the foundation of the city of Rome by Romulus, in which the men of Rome committed a mass abduction of the Sabine women, with the intention to establish their families in the new city. In fact, the Roman settlers badly needed women to establish their families in the new city, but there was no woman in Rome and without women there was no prospect of offspring at home and the Roman people were destined to become extinct.
To solve the problem, Romulus sent messengers to the neighbouring cities. But, despite the best efforts of the emissaries, they failed to win the hearts of the local Sabines.
They vehemently opposed the idea of accepting the unknown Romans in their society and not at all interested to accept marital relationships with the newcomers. Some scorned, others were apprehensive about the emergence of a rival community and hence immediately rejected the Roman proposal.
After being failed to reach an amicable settlement with the locals regarding the solution of their problem, Romulus, took his time to find the right occasion and finally chalked out a deceptive plan. He prepared to celebrate the Consualia, the solemn games in honour of equestrian Neptune and announced a gala festival to attract people from all the nearby towns. The plan was successful, as the festival was massively attended by many people of the neighbouring towns, Caenina, Crustuminum and Antemnae. In fact, the entire Sabine population, including their men, women and children, made their presence in Rome, received with hospitality in the houses and became amazed to see the glamour of the new city, its walls, and the large number of beautiful buildings.
After that, at the time for the show, when everybody was plunged in the festive mood and was enjoying the fun and frolic of the situation, a prearranged signal was given and all the Roman youths began to grab the nearest Sabine women and fought off their men folks. It was alleged by many that, during the tumultuous confusion, the Romans took the advantage of the situation and raped the Sabine women indiscriminately.
However, after the incident, Romulus personally met the grieving family, who were accusing the Romans of having violated the laws of hospitality to assure them that none of this would have happened if their fathers had not been so inflexible in not letting them marry their neighbours and implored the distressed women to accept their Roman husbands.
While retelling the incident, the Roman historian Titus Livius, otherwise known as Livy, claimed that, there was no direct sexual assault and after the incident Romulus talked to the women, each in person, offered them the right to choose their men, assured them of lawful wedlock and grant them all the civil privileges. In fact, the English word ‘rape’ is conventionally used for the Latin word ‘raptio’, but the modern scholars tend to interpret the word as ‘abduction’ or ‘kidnapping’ as opposed to a sexual assault.
During the Renaissance, the Rape of the Sabine Women became a popular subject for the painters and the sculptors, in which the artist could demonstrate his skill in depicting the female and the male figures, with the added opportunity of depicting a sexual theme. Some painters, like Nicolas Poussin of France, painted two major versions of this subject. Many other eminent painters, including Peter Paul Rubens, Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, Jacques Stella and others also painted their versions of the subject. However, the other side of the story, where the Sabine women intervened to reconcile the warring parties, was painted by Jacques-Louis David, the French painter in the neoclassical style.