Jacques-Louis David, The Intervention of the Sabine Women, 1796-99

Yesterday we wrote about the Rape of the Sabine Women, but that’s not where the story ends. After Romulus and his men kidnapped the women from the neighbouring town of Sabine, Romulus spoke to each of the women and convinced them to marry Romans, upon the promise that they would receive civic and property rights in Rome (something their own peoples did not allow women). The women agreed.
Understandably, armies from the neighbouring towns of Caenina, Antemnae, and Crustumerium all attacked but lost in battle and their towns were overtaken by the Romans. Finally it was the Sabines turn to avenge their lost women and invade Rome. At first they appeared to be winning, however, Romulus rallied his men and the Romans soon had the upper hand. For the Sabine women it was too much to see their fathers fighting their husbands, and so they intervened. Livy writes that the women “overcome by such dreadful scenes, had the courage to throw themselves amid the flying weapons, and making a rush across, to part the incensed armies, and assuage their fury; imploring their fathers on the one side, their husbands on the other.”
At first, David started this painting as a plea to get back with his estranged wife (with a ‘love conquers all’ kind of message for her), but it was soon seen as a plea for the French to reunite as a people after the bloodshed of the Revolution just a few years before.

Leave a Reply