Sabine: Wikis


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Statue of Semo Sancus from his shrine on the Quirinal
Spoken in Sabinium
Region Central Italy
Language extinction Only trace the vocabulary of mainly Marcus Terentius Varro, 1st century BC
Language family Indo-European
Writing system Not written except as Latinized words
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2
ISO 639-3 sbv
Sabinium. The border with Latium to the south was the Aniene river; however, it is possible that Sabines extended to Lake Regillus slightly to the south of it near Gabii

The Sabines (English pronunciation: /ˈseɪbaɪn/; Latin Sabini, singular Sabinus) were an Italic tribe that lived in the central Appennines of ancient Italy, inhabiting also Latium north of the Anio before the founding of Rome. Their language belonged to the Osco-Umbrian subgroup (formerly Sabellic) of Italic languages and contains some words shared with Oscan and Umbrian as well as with Latin.

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 center. 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.[1]

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.



The Sabine hills in the middle of Sabina.

Philological evidence

Archaeological evidence


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.[2] 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.[3] 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).[4] 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 and frugality were known to have been derived from the Spartans.[5]

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 its modern meaning, 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 Rome 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.

War with Tullius Hostilius

In the 7th century BC, during the reign of Rome's third king Tullus Hostilius, the Sabines and the Romans again went to war. The pretexts for the war were, on the Roman side, that a number of Roman merchants had been seized by the Sabines at a market near the temple of Feronia, and on the Sabine side, that some of the Sabines were being detained at Rome. The Sabines sought and obtained the assistance of some volunteers from Veii, although the government of Veii did not come to their aid, holding faith to the peace treaty previously made with Romulus.

Tullus invaded Sabine territory and met the Sabines at the forest called Malitiosa. The Roman force was superior in both infantry and cavalry. In particular, the Roman cavalry had recently been augmented by the addition of ten new turmae of equites from amongst the Albans who now dwelt in Rome. The Romans were victorious in battle after a cavalry charge threw the Sabines into disarray. The Sabines suffered heavy losses during the retreat [6].

War with the early republic

The fall of the Roman monarchy left the Sabines in an ambiguous position politically with regard to Rome. Their treaties had been with the kings, but now the kings were gone. Into this gap stepped Sextus Tarquinius (unless previously assassinated at Gabii), whose rape of Lucretia had been the event that triggered the revolution. He convinced the Sabines that they ought to help restore the kings. They moved against the Romans under native command and were quickly defeated.

Sextus (or Superbus himself) arguing that the Sabine army was mismanaged now brought Fidenae and Cameria to the assistance of the Sabines, who were so impressed by his confidence, his allies and his analysis that they made him dictator and voted for all-out war on Rome. It was at this point that that Titus Claudius (or Attius Clausus) removed all of his relatives and clients to Rome, including approximately 500 fighting men. The Romans settled them in Rome, ennobled Claudius and promised them land beyond the Anio river in the vicinity of Fidenae. All they had to do was take it from the Fidenates.

The Sabines marched toward Rome and were stopped by the river Anio and presumably the consular troops south of it. They placed two camps, one near Fidenae and one in it. Of the consuls for the year, Publius Valerius Poplicola, camped near the Sabines in the open, while Titus Lucretius Tricipitinus camped on a hill near Fidenae. The consular year was 505/504 BC.

Tarquin's plan was to launch a night attack on the camp of Valerius, filling in the ditch and scaling the wall. The troops in Fidenae were to exit the city and cover these operations against a possible attack by Lucretius. However, a Sabine defector and prisoners brought in by a Roman cavalry patrol informed Valerius of the enemy plan. Lucretius was soon advised.

The attack came after midnight. The Sabines were allowed to fill the ditch and throw up brushwood ramps over the wall into a camp that seemed all too still. In hindsight Tarquin might have guessed the danger from the lack of opposition to his inadvertently noisy operations and the total deficit of sentinels. He took those circumstances to mean that the Romans were all sound asleep, a striking underestimation of his enemy.

The Roman maniples were in fact in formation and waiting in the intervallum around the inner perimeter of the castra, invisible in the total blackness. They could see enough to quietly kill all enemies who came over the wall. The moon suddenly rising, the Roman troops and the piles of slain were visible to the Sabines, whose reaction was to drop their weapons and run. As the ambush was no longer a surprise the Roman troops all shouted together, which was the prearranged signal to Lucretius's men on the hill. He sent out his cavalry, which drove the distracted Fidenates from their ambush. They were massacred by Lucretius' infantry coming up. The Sabine army dissolved into a rout of unarmed individuals. Of them 13500 were slain and 4200 taken captive. The battle was not over. Fidenae remained to be taken (see under Roman-Etruscan Wars).[7]

Notable Sabines

Sabine gods


  1. ^ Bunbury, Edward Herbert (1857). "Sabini". in Smith, William. Dictionary of Greek and Roman geography. Volume II Iabadius — Zymethus. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. 
  2. ^ 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 go on to indicate either the Greek tribe to which they belonged or the city from which they removed, or the date or the leader of the colony, or as the result of what turns of fortune they left their mother country; and although they are following a Greek legend, they have cited no Greek historian as their authority. It is uncertain, therefore, what the truth of the matter is." 
  3. ^ 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." 
  4. ^ 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." 
  5. ^ 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." 
  6. ^ Livy. "Book I.30". History of Rome. 
  7. ^ Dionysius of Halicarnassus. "Book V.40-43". Roman Antiquities.*.html. 




  • 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. 


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also sabine



Wikipedia has an article on:





Sabine (plural Sabines)

  1. a member of an ancient tribe of Italy.


Proper noun


  1. A female given name derived from Latin Sabina.



  • IPA: /saˈbi.nə/

Proper noun


  1. A female given name, cognate to Sabina, popular in the latter half of the twentieth century.


Proper noun


  1. A female given name, cognate to Sabina, popular in the 1960s and the 1970s.



Proper noun


  1. A female given name, cognate to Sabina, popular in the latter half of the twentieth century.


Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Joseph Sabine article)

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