The Rape of the Sabine Women, 1574-82, Florence
From Wiki: “The Rape of the Sabine Women is an episode in the legendary history of Rome, traditionally said to have taken place in 750 BC, in which the first generation of Roman men acquired wives for themselves from the neighboring Sabine families. The English word “rape” is a conventional translation of Latin raptio, which in this context means “abduction” rather than its prevalent modern meaning in English language of sexual violation. Recounted by Livy and Plutarch (Parallel Lives II, 15 and 19), it provided a subject for Renaissance and post-Renaissance works of art that combined a suitably inspiring example of the hardihood and courage of ancient Romans with the opportunity to depict multiple figures, including heroically semi-nude figures, in intensely passionate struggle. Comparable themes from Classical Antiquity are the Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs and the theme of Amazonomachy, the battle of Theseus with the Amazons. A comparable opportunity drawn from the Bible was the aftermath of the Battle of Gibeah.
The Rape is supposed to have occurred in the early history of Rome, shortly after its founding by Romulus and his mostly male followers. Seeking wives in order to found families, the Romans negotiated unsuccessfully with the Sabines, who populated the area. Fearing the emergence of a rival society, the Sabines refused to allow their women to marry the Romans. Consequently, the Romans planned to abduct Sabine women, during a festival of Neptune Equester and proclaimed the festival among Rome’s neighbours. According to Livy, many people from Rome’s neighbours including folk from the Caeninenses, Crustumini, and Antemnates, and many of the Sabines attended. At the festival Romulus gave a signal, at which the Romans grabbed the Sabine women and fought off the Sabine men. The indignant abductees were soon implored by Romulus to accept Roman husbands.
Livy is clear that no sexual assault took place. On the contrary, Romulus offered them free choice and promised civic and property rights to women. According to Livy, Romulus spoke to them each in person, “and pointed out to them that it was all owing to the pride of their parents in denying the right of intermarriage to their neighbours. They would live in honourable wedlock, and share all their property and civil rights, and—dearest of all to human nature—would be the mothers of free men.”