The Sabines (Latin Sabini, singular Sabinus) were an Italic tribe that lived in ancient Italy, inhabiting Latium before the founding of Rome. Their language belonged to the Sabellic subgroup of Italic languages and shows some similarities to Oscan and Umbrian. Studies have found many relationships between the Romans and the Sabines, especially in the fields of religion and mythology. In fact, many Sabine deities and cults developed in Rome, and many areas of the town (like the Quirinale) had once served as Sabine centers.
Latin-speakers called the Sabines' original territory, straddling the modern regions of Lazio, Umbria, and Abruzzo, Sabinium. To this day, 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. It has become a tourist destination, known for its interesting medieval villages and its production of olive oil.
According to Dionysius of Halicarnassus
, many Roman historians (including Porcius Cato and Gaius Sempronius) regarded the origins of the Romans (descendants of the Aborigines
) as Greek despite the fact that their knowledge was derived from Greek legendary accounts. The Sabines, specifically, were first mentioned in Dionysius's account for having captured the city of Lista by surprise, which was regarded as the mother-city of the Aborigines. There was still debate among ancient historians pertaining to 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 Sancus (a divinity of the area sometimes called Jupiter Fidius). In another account mentioned in Dionysius's work, a group of Lacedaemonians
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 and frugality were known to have been derived from the Spartans.
The Legend of the Sabine Women
Legend says that Romans
abducted Sabine women to populate the newly built town, the first recorded example of bride kidnapping
. The resultant conflict 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" in this context meaning "kidnapping" rather than its modern meaning, see raptio
) became a common motif in art; the women ending the war forms a less frequent but still reappearing motif.
"Sabine" as a feminine given name
, which originally meant "a Sabine woman", has spread from Latin to various European languages, being especially common in German
. Significantly, there is no similar male name; the existence of the female name seems to indicate that, whatever the veracity of the above legend (the product of a long oral tradition) there were at some time women in Roman society who were identified as being of Sabine origin.
In the 1954 MGM movie musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, the main character, a backwoodsman named Adam, encourages his six younger brothers to kidnap the women they love, citing the story of the Sabine women. All seven brothers sing a song called "Sobbin' Women" (their mispronunciation of "Sabine") as they prepare to abduct their future wives.