• Yoav Levin

The Ancient Roman Root of Female Privilege: the Case of the Sabine Women

עודכן: 8 בדצמ׳ 2021

Roman men probably established the earliest foundations of female privilege preceding even the concepts of medieval chivalry and courtly love as started in the early second millennia around 1100 with the establishment of Eleanor's from Aquitaine's "courts of Love". Many men today act like spineless doormats and brainless servants opening doors for women and act like inferiors cowering in the back of elevators waiting for women to exit first. Roman men following their capture of the Sabine women shaped such social institutions and constructions of pervasive female privilege and superiority over men. Among those that the Roman men created were:

1. Sabine women when walking had right of way over Roman men – this has an astonishing resemblance to many modern cultures where men would walk near the road or street while women would walk on the inside to be protected which additionally has adopted strong chivalric notion and flavor (the protection of women)

2. Roman men were forbidden to utter “any indecent word” in the presence of Sabine women. This is also a common feature of today's culture where men have to behave and always speak in a decent way to a woman because she's s "lady".

3. Roman men were forbidden to allow them-selves to be seen naked by the Sabine women. Violators of this law, which set the model for current U.S. sexual assault regulations, were liable to prosecution before judges of homicide.

At the founding of Rome, after being captured by the Roman men and becoming their wives, the Sabine women received extensive benefits and perks. The Roman leader Romulus promised the Sabine women co-ownership of their husbands’ properties, civil rights, and free-born status for their off springs. Romulus promised that their husbands would be kind and affectionate to them and would do their utmost to comfort them. The Roman men courted and wooed their Sabine women-captives. To excuse their capturing the Sabine women, the Roman men beseeched their passion and love for them, “the most moving of pleas to a woman’s heart.”[1]

Furthermore, while most men have to work vigorously to acquire wealth and property while also struggling to desperately gain passionate love from their wives, the Sabine women gained all of this and more simply through being "captured". As standing opposed to the Gynocentric and especially false historical narrative created by feminist hate mongers it was not the men "capturing their slave women" but it were the alleged "slaves" buying themselves a master. In other words, those were the slaves who possessed the master and not vice versa. As discussed in an another discourse about the spread of Gynocentric culture from ancient India and Mesopotamia over Judaism to Europe, this Roman dynamic has a strong resemblance and is most probably a shared Mesopotamian Jewish heritage which reminds us of the abolishment of slavery in Judaism by granting the alleged "slave" even more rights than to their so called "Master".

Moreover, in a wide variety of cultures and times including Judaism, as we have seen in the above paragraph, women not only actively promoted and encouraged their bridal capture by favorable men but there is even a known celebration in Judaism where in Ancient times Brides were dressing themselves in nice clothes, going out to the fields to dance and letting men symbolically "abduct" and "capture" them for marriage. This festivity which is known as "TU BISHWAT" reminds us a lot and has a lot of similarity with the Christian Valentine's day, known as the lover's days. So, not being really and truly "abducted", it has allegorically and symbolically adopted in ancient time the image of the captured girl while today still bearing the allegorical image of the "captured girl" it is more celebrated in the Christian style. However, in accordance with a fundamental principle of the Gynocentric narrative, the capture of the Sabine women has to this day been widely considered and defined by ancient and modern day gynocentric and feminist propaganda machine" as the "rape" of the Sabine women.”[2]

Moreover, there is another important resemblance with our modern day Gynocentric dynamics and culture. In this term, we should bear in mind that in literary history and life, deaths of many men attract much less attention than the capture of many fewer women. This is a known phenomenon even today. While men can be slaughtered in ten thousand and millions like in the case of Boko Haram a few women that would be abducted would raise an international campaign like the one led by Michelle Obama of "bring back our girls". This is the essence of Gynocentric female privilege and male disposability as well as the subordination to women! In our story of the Sabine women and as standing opposed to thousands of killed Sabine and Roman men, the Roman soldiers captured around 30, or 527, or 683 Sabine women (reports vary). [3] In response, an army of Sabine men attacked Rome. With the help of a Roman woman who betrayed her own people, the Sabine army seized the Roman citadel. [4] The Sabine army totaled of twenty-five thousand men on foot and about a thousand men on horses. The Roman army that fought against the Sabine men totaled about twenty thousand men on foot and about eight hundred on horses.[5]

The battle between the Sabine men and the Roman men was ruthless and cruel. No doubt that many thousands of men were slaughtered on the battle field, perhaps even more than when Greek and Trojan men fought at Troy over Helen. Accounts of the “rape of the Sabine women” not only wholly ignore the truth that there was no "rape" as described above but also the fact that many Sabine and Roman men were killed within that story.[6] In that sense it is important to understand that not only the historical dynamic of wars do not only intend men to die on the battle field and then to be slaughtered in captivity but that that female lives will be spared as standing opposed to men. Yet, another strong female privilege preserved up to modern days

Men upholding such institutions contribute to the prevalence of sexless marriages. They also perpetuate the social subordination of men to women. In terms of economic privilege, Roman men exempted Sabine women from all labor and drudgery except spinning thread. That exemption provided the foundation for an enduring gendered division of earning and spending: husbands labor to earn money that wives spend, or alternatively, men work under familial and legal obligation, while women work for personal fulfillment. Roman men capturing the Sabine women generated gynocentric society. Juvenal in his Satire 6 would later raise a vehement and courageous voice of men’s sexed protest. Roman men later become reluctant to marry women. None of these acts could change the founding order of Rome. The foundational problem was men’s sexual deprivation and desperation.[9] That’s what drove the Roman men to capture the Sabine women. Like the misery of sexless and married men, the misery of sexless and unmarried men must be addressed to establish a humane and enduring civilization.

Additional Notes:

[1] Livy, History of Rome 1.9, from Latin trans. Foster (1919) p. 39. The translation of Canon Roberts (1905), readily available online, is similar.

In modern academic scholarship, men wooing women tends to be associated with harm to women: "we must recognize that men {Roman men wooing their Sabine women captives} are compounding their original act of violence by an act of bad faith — they are, in fact, increasing the distance between themselves and their captives even as they seem to be bridging it

Miles (1992) p. 185. In the title to his article, Miles uses the word “theft” to describe the abduction of the Sabine women. That diction highlights prevalent misunderstanding about women, men, and property.

[2] Bridal capture has been a prevalent, socially complex institution:

There is a thin line between an abduction in which the girl, though she was not aware beforehand of plans for her kidnapping, anticipates some sort of action and is willing to be ‘stolen’, and an actual elopement planned by the two young people together. The disguising as an abduction of what is in fact a mutual agreement serves two useful purposes: it obscures any indication of sexual initiative on the girl’s part, which would be regarded with horror by her parents and by the rest of the community, and it preserves the male’s honour and demonstrates convincingly his courage and manliness. … there appear to be no geographical or religious boundaries within which the phenomenon of marriage by abduction occurs — it is found among Christians (Greece), Moslems (Turkey, Bosnia), and others (Tzeltal Indians in Mexico), in endogamous societies (Turkey) and those which place restrictions on the marriages of close kin (Greece, Tzeltal), and throughout the world, from Mexico to India.

Evans-Grubbs (1989) pp. 62-4. Modern criminal justice systems tend to broadly criminalize men seducing women and men eloping with women. The Latin texts refer to the raptus of the Sabine women. Raptusmeans seizure; in this context, capture of the Sabine women to be wives. Dionysius of Halicarnassus stated that Romulus ordered the Sabine women to be captured “without violating their chastity.” He explained to the Sabine women the likely truth that bridal capture was an ancient Greek custom commonly favorable to women.

For review of such customs, Evans-Grubbs (1989), esp. p. 62. In addition, Dionysius reported: 'he {Romulus} united them {Sabine women and Roman men} according to the customs of each woman’s country, basing the marriages on a communion of fire and water, in the same manner as marriages are performed even down to our times.

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities 2.30.4-6.

[3] Plutarch, Parallel Lives, Romulus 14.6 discusses the various counts of Sabine women.

[4] The Roman woman Tarpeia secret admitted the Sabine king Tatius and his troops into the Capitol. This aspect of the story has many variations, including a variation exculpating Tarpeia. Men tend to be reluctant to acknowledge the possibility of women’s betrayal: "The failure of any single version {of Tarpeia’s betrayal of Rome} may attest to the discomfort felt by the Romans — and Greeks — in coping with the topic of betrayal, especially betrayal by a woman.

Brown (1995) p. 304. Miles displays such discomfort with a convoluted claim that accounts of Tarpeia’s betrayal indicate that men regard women as inherently suspect and difficult to predict. Miles (1992) p. 184. Such disparagement of men is highly predictable.

[5] Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities 2.37.4-5 provides the soldier counts.

[6] The abduction of the Sabine women also generated wars between the Romans and the Caeninensians and the Romans and the Antemnates. Both those wars also involved killing many men.

By the second half of the fourth century, the abduction of the Sabine women had become a play performed frequently in the Circus Maximus of Rome. The performances were “lewd, vulgar, and well-attended.” Holden (2008) p. 138.

Augustine, City of God 2.18, condemned the abduction of the Sabine women. Augustine’s concern was for the women abducted, not men’s sexual deprivation or men being killed. For discussion of Christian responses in late antiquity to the abduction of the Sabine women,

Holden (2008) pp. 131-5. Holden speculates that fear of violence may have stimulated performances of the abduction of the Sabine women:

The story of the abduction of the Sabine women may have been on peoples’ minds in the later fourth and fifth centuries because of the increased danger to Rome and the city’s women posed by tyrants, heretics, pagans, and, especially, barbarians as the city and the empire declined

Id. p. 139. Danger to Roman men apparently mattered little. Violence against men has always been vastly greater than violence against women. Moreover, violence against men has attracted much less social concern, even in societies formally dedicated to ideals of gender equality.

For modern gynocentric accounts of the abduction of the Sabine women, Miles (1992) and Brown (1995). Both refer to the Sabine women being raped. Both ignore the many Sabine, Roman, and other men killed.

[7] Livy, History of Rome 1.9, from Latin trans. Foster (1919) p. 49, translation adapted non-substantially. Flattening Livy with conventional modern misandry, Brown declares: "they {men} are unable to find a peaceful way out of the mess created by their pride and violence. … It is the women who break the cycle of violence, suited to this role by their unwarlike sex and relational social function as wives and mothers.

Brown (1995) p. 314. Medieval literature such as the Tale of Melibeeshows much more sophisticated literary understanding of women, men, and violence.

[8] These female privileges are listed in Plutarch, Parallel Lives, Romulus 20.3. The exemption of women from labor is from id. 19.7. Men classical scholars in recent decades have defined themselves in ways that does not allow them to perceive women’s socially constructed superiority to men: As perceived inferiors, the Sabine women can never exercise enough influence to outweigh the public concerns by which men in this world define themselves.

Miles (1992) p. 189.

[9] With his characteristically sophisticated irony, Ovid heightened the Roman men’s brutality in abducting the Sabine women. He concluded his account of the abduction with an outrageous claim:

Old Romulus the prize for soldiers knew, For such a prize I’d be a soldier too! Thus was the fashion started, and the fair Still find the play a peril and a snare.

Ovid, Art of Love 1.131-4, from Latin trans. Melville (2008) p. 90. Ovid mocked the Roman elegiac soldier of love. He taught men how to seduce verbally attractive women at theaters like that from which the Sabine women were abducted. Moreover, Ovid respected women’s strong, independent sexuality. He recognized that seeking men was a continuing reason that women went to the theater:

So to the play the well-dressed bevies throng, Such wealth of choice as keeps one doubting long. They come to look and to be looked at too. Ah! Virtue, it’s a fatal spot for you.

Ovid, Art of Love 1.97-100, trans. id. p. 89. Long regarded as an eminent teacher of love, Ovid continues to offer useful instruction to men on how to avoid sexual deprivation and desperation. [image] The gynocentric foundation of Rome. The Intervention of the Sabine Women. Jacques-Louis David. Oil on canvas painting, 1799. Held in the Louvre Museum. Thanks to the Web Gallery of Art and Wikimedia Commons.


Brown, Robert. 1995. “Livy’s Sabine Women and the Ideal of Concordia.” Transactions of the American Philological Association. 125: 291-319. Evans-Grubbs, Judith. 1989. “Abduction Marriage in Antiquity: A Law of Constantine (CTh IX 24.1) and its Social Context.” Journal of Roman Studies. 79: 59-83.

Foster, B. O., trans. 1919. Livy. History of Rome. Vol. 1 (Books I-II). Loeb Classical Library 114. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Holden, Antonia. 2008. “The Abduction of the Sabine Women in Context: The Iconography on Late Antique Contorniate Medallions.” American Journal of Archaeology. 112 (1): 121-142.

Melville, A.D., trans. 2008. Ovid. The love poems. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Miles, Gary B. 1992. “The First Roman Marriage and the Theft of the Sabine Women.” Ch. 6 (pp. 161-201) in Ralph Hexter and Daniel Selden, eds., Innovations in Antiquity. Routledge: London.

Further Attributions: The exposition here is based on a discourse written by Douglas Ghalby. While I have agreed and thus adopted some of Ghalbys ideas and assumption I have denounced some of them and replaced them with my the conclusion based elaborated in my owm research and Thesis

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