|Extinct||Only traces of vocabulary, mainly from Marcus Terentius Varro, 1st century BC|
|Writing system||Not written except as Latinized words|
The Sabines (//; Latin: Sabini; Ancient Greek: Σαβῖνοι) were an Italic tribe that lived in the central Appennines of ancient Italy, also inhabiting Latium north of the Anio before the founding of Rome. The above names, English, Latin and Greek, are all exonyms.
The 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 closest to Rome transplanted itself to the new city and united with the pre-existing citizenry, beginning a new heritage that descended from the Sabine but was also Latinized. The second population remained a mountain tribal state, coming finally to war against Rome for their independence along with all the other Italic tribes. After losing, it was assimilated into the Roman Republic.
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 on 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 Group of 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.
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 by surprise the city of Lista, which was regarded 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 Sancus (a divinity of the area sometimes called Jupiter Fidius). In another account mentioned in Dionysius's work, a group of Lacedaemonians fled 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..."
Sabines at Rome
The legend 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" in this context meaning "kidnapping" rather than sexual violation, see raptio) became a common motif in art; the women ending the war forms a less frequent but still reappearing motif.
According to Livy, after the conflict the Sabine and Roman states merged, and the Sabine king Titus Tatius jointly ruled Rome with Romulus until Tatius' death five years later. Three new centuries of Equites were introduced at Rome, including one named Tatienses, after the Sabine king.
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 Varro and Cicero that augury, divination by dreams and the worship of Minerva and Mars originated with the 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 Claudia gens
- Gaius Sallustius Crispus, Roman writer
- Marcus Terentius Varro, Roman scholar
The Sabine state
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.
- Conway, Robert Seymour (1897). The Italic Dialects Edited with a Grammar and Glossary. Cambridge: University Press. pp. 351–369.
- 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 is."
- 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, quitted 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 race."
- 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 Sabini.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rape of the Sabine Women.|
- Ovid, Fasti (Book III, 167–258)
- Ovid, Ars Amatoria (Book I, 102)
- Livy, Ab urbe condita (Book I, 9–14)
- Cicero, De Republica (Book II, 12–14)
- Plutarch, Parallel Lives (Romulus, 14–20)
- Juvenal, 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.