Sabines (/ˈseɪbaɪn/; Latin: Sabini; Ancient Greek:
Σαβῖνοι Sabĩnoi; Italian: Sabini, all exonyms) were an Italic
tribe which lived in the central
Apennines of ancient Italy, also
Latium north of the Anio before the founding of Rome.
Sabines divided into two populations just after the founding of
Rome, which is described by Roman legend. The division, however it
came about, is not legendary. The population closer to Rome
transplanted itself to the new city and united with the pre-existing
citizenry, beginning a new heritage that descended from the Sabines
but was also Latinized. The second population remained a mountain
tribal state, coming finally to war against
Rome for its independence
along with all the other Italic tribes. After losing, it became
assimilated into the Roman Republic.
2 Historical geography
3.1 Literary evidence
4 At Rome
4.1 Legend of the Sabine women
4.3 Romans of Sabine ancestry
6 See also
9 Further reading
There is little record of the Sabine language; however, there are some
glosses by ancient commentators, and one or two inscriptions have been
tentatively identified as Sabine. There are also personal names in use
Latin inscriptions from Sabine country, but these are given in
Latin form. Robert Seymour Conway, in his Italic Dialects, gives
approximately 100 words which vary from being well attested as Sabine
to being possibly of Sabine origin. In addition to these he cites
place names derived from the Sabine, sometimes giving attempts at
reconstructions of the Sabine form. Based on all the evidence, the
Linguist List tentatively classifies Sabine as a member of the Umbrian
Italic languages of Indo-European family.
Latin-speakers called the Sabines' original territory, straddling the
modern regions of Lazio, Umbria, and Abruzzo, Sabinium. To this
day[update], it bears the ancient tribe's name in the Italian form of
Sabina. Within the modern region of
Lazio (or Latium), Sabina
constitutes a sub-region, situated north-east of Rome, around Rieti.
The Sabine hills in the middle of Sabina.
According to Dionysius of Halicarnassus, many Roman historians
(including Porcius Cato and Gaius Sempronius) regarded the origins of
indigenous Romans to be Greek, despite the fact that their knowledge
was derived from Greek legendary accounts.
Dionysius regarded Lista as the mother-city of the Aborigines.
Ancient historians were still debating the specific origins of the
Sabines. Zenodotus of Troezen claimed that the
Sabines were originally
Umbrians that changed their name after being driven from the Reatine
territory by the Pelasgians. However, Porcius Cato argued that the
Sabines were a populace named after Sabus, the son of
divinity of the area sometimes called Jupiter Fidius). In another
account mentioned in Dionysius's work, a group of
Sparta since they regarded the laws of Lycurgus as too severe. In
Italy, they founded the Spartan colony of Foronia (near the Pomentine
plains) and some from that colony settled among the Sabines. According
to the account, the Sabine habits of belligerence (aggressive or
warlike behavior) and frugality (prudence in avoiding waste) were
known to have derived from the Spartans.
Plutarch also states in
the Life of Numa Pompilius, "Sabines, who declare themselves to be a
colony of the Lacedaemonians..."
Legend of the Sabine women
The linguistic landscape of Central
Italy at the beginning of Roman
Main article: Rape of the Sabine Women
Legend says that the Romans abducted Sabine women to populate the
newly built Rome. The resultant war ended only by the women throwing
themselves and their children between the armies of their fathers and
their husbands. The
Rape of the Sabine Women
Rape of the Sabine Women became a common motif in
art; the women ending the war is a less frequent but still reappearing
According to Livy, after the conflict, the Sabine and Roman states
merged, and the Sabine king
Titus Tatius jointly ruled
Romulus until Tatius' death five years later. Three new centuries of
Equites were introduced at Rome, including one named Tatienses, after
the Sabine king.
A variation of the story is recounted in the pseudepigraphal book of
Jasher (see Jasher 17:1-15).
Tradition suggests that the population of the early
Roman kingdom was
the result of a union of
Sabines and others. Some of the gentes of the
Roman republic were proud of their Sabine heritage, such as the
Claudia gens, assuming Sabinus as a cognomen or agnomen. Some
specifically Sabine deities and cults were known at Rome: Semo Sancus
and Quirinus, and at least one area of the town, the Quirinale, where
the temples to those latter deities were located, had once been a
Sabine centre. The extravagant claims of
Cicero that augury,
divination by dreams and the worship of
Minerva and Mars originated
Sabines are disputable, as they were general Italic and Latin
customs, as well as Etruscan, despite the fact that they were espoused
by Numa Pompilius, second king of
Rome and a Sabine.
Romans of Sabine ancestry
Titus Tatius, legendary King of the Sabines
Numa Pompilius, legendary King of Rome
Ancus Marcius, legendary King of Rome
Quintus Sertorius, republican general
Attius Clausus, founder of the Roman Claudia gens
Gaius Sallustius Crispus, Roman writer
Marcus Terentius Varro, Roman scholar
Varro's list of Sabine gods
Main article: Roman-Sabine wars
During the expansion of ancient Rome, there were a series of conflicts
with the Sabines, ultimately leading to Roman conquest of Sabinum and
indeed the whole of Italy.
Ancient peoples of Italy
^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds.
Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute
for the Science of Human History.
^ Conway, Robert Seymour (1897). The Italic Dialects Edited with a
Grammar and Glossary. Cambridge: University Press.
^ Dionysius of Halicarnassus. "Book 1.11". Roman Antiquities. But the
most learned of the Roman historians, among whom is Porcius Cato, who
compiled with the greatest care the "origins" of the Italian cities,
Gaius Sempronius and a great many others say that they [Aborigines]
were Greeks, part of those who once dwelt in Achaia, and that they
migrated many generations before the Trojan war. But they do not name
the Greek tribe or city they belonged to, or the date or the leader of
the colony, or what made them leave their mother country. Though they
follow a Greek legend, they cite no Greek historian as their
authority. It is uncertain, therefore, what the truth of the matter
^ Dionysius of Halicarnassus. "Book I.14". Roman Antiquities.
Twenty-four stades from the afore-mentioned city stood Lista, the
mother-city of the Aborigines, which at a still earlier time the
Sabines had captured by a surprise attack, having set out against it
from Amiternum by night.
^ Dionysius of Halicarnassus. "Book II.49". Roman Antiquities. But
Zenodotus of Troezen, a...historian, relates that the Umbrians, a
native race, first dwelt in the Reatine territory, as it is called,
and that, being driven from there by the Pelasgians, they came into
the country which they now inhabit and changing their name with their
place of habitation, from Umbrians were called Sabines. But Porcius
Cato says that the Sabine race received its name from Sabus, the son
of Sancus, a divinity of that country, and that this
Sancus was by
some called Jupiter Fidius.
^ Dionysius of Halicarnassus. "Book II.49". Roman Antiquities. There
is also another account given of the
Sabines in the native histories,
to the effect that a colony of
Lacedaemonians settled among them at
the time when Lycurgus, being guardian to his nephew Eunomus, gave his
laws to Sparta. For the story goes that some of the Spartans,
disliking the severity of his laws and separating from the rest, quit
the city entirely, and after being borne through a vast stretch of
sea, made a vow to the gods to settle in the first land they should
reach; for a longing came upon them for any land whatsoever. At last
they made that part of
Italy which lies near the Pomentine plains and
they called the place where they first landed Foronia, in memory of
their being borne through the sea, and built a temple to the goddess
Foronia, to whom they had addressed their vows; this goddess, by the
alteration of one letter, they now call Feronia. And some of them,
setting out from thence, settled among the Sabines. It is for this
reason, they say, that many of the habits of the
Sabines are Spartan,
particularly their fondness for war and their frugality and a severity
in all the actions of their lives. But this is enough about the Sabine
^ Bunbury, Edward Herbert (1857). "Sabini". In Smith, William.
Dictionary of Greek and Roman geography. Volume II
Iabadius—Zymethus. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.
For a list of words relating to Sabine language, see the Sabine
language category of words in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rape of the Sabine Women.
Ovid, Fasti (Book III, 167–258)
Ars Amatoria (Book I, 102)
Livy, Ab urbe condita (Book I, 9–14)
De Republica (Book II, 12–14)
Parallel Lives (Romulus, 14–20)
Satires (Book III, 81–85)
Donaldson, John William (1860). "Chapter IV: The Sabello-Oscan
Language". Varronianus: a critical and historical introduction to the
ethnography of ancient
Italy and the philological study of the Latin
language. London: John W. Parker and Son.
Library resources about
Resources in your library
Resources in other libraries
Brown, Robert. "Livy's Sabine Women and the Ideal of Concordia."
Transactions of the American Philological Association (1974-) 125
(1995): 291-319. doi:10.2307/284357.
MacLachlan, Bonnie. Women In Ancient Rome: A Sourcebook. London:
Bloomsbury Academic, 2013.
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