By Catherine Tsounis
Ancient Rome and Greece was a brutal era of violence and war. The masterpiece of sculpture widespread in Florence and Greece is the “Rape of the Sabines”. Who were the Sabines? The ancient sources state interesting facts of this Italic tribe truth.
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 Sabines became a common motif in art; the women ending the war is a less frequent but still reappearing motif. 1
“Plutarch, ancient Greek historian describes this Italic tribe as ”Now the Sabines were a numerous and warlike people, and dwelt in unwalled villages, thinking that it behooved them, since they were Lacedaemonian (Greek Spartan colonists}, to be bold and fearless.”2 “Based on a study by Dionysius, ancient Greek historian, many historians in Rome considered native Romans to have come from Greek descent. In Dionysius’ texts, some Lacedaemonians have left Sparta after experiencing the harshness of the Lycurgus‘ laws. They moved to Italy, and it was here that they formed Foronia or the Spartan colony. The said colony remained in the plains of Pomentine while some of the colonies opted to live with the Sabines.
There were accounts of the temperament and traits of the Sabines, which gave a better understanding of this group of people. For instance, the Sabines were noted as aggressive individuals who had a certain behavior that resembled warlike individuals. Furthermore, there were also frugal that they never allowed anything to end up in waste. These qualities were believed to have been an influence of the Spartans.”3 Sabines legend inspired all. The ancient sources must be taken into consideration.
The masterpiece of Giambologna known as “The Rape of the Sabine Women”(1583) is located at the Loggia dei Lanzi, also called the Loggia della Signoria. It is a building on a corner of the Piazza della Signoria in Florence, Italy, adjoining the Uffizi Gallery. The marble statue is carved from a single block of stone. It is one of the finest works in the history of sculpture.
The actual statue is thirteen feet five inches tall. It shows three figures: at the base of the statue, an older bearded nude man kneels on the ground, his left arm raises in self-defense; a second younger nude male, who stands astride the kneeling man, holds a struggling nude woman in his strong arms. The kneeling man represents the weak elderly husband of the young Sabine woman who is being abducted by the young Roman. All three are interwoven into the group, through physical contact and through eye contact with each other. It is in he since 1583.
A plaster model is displayed centrally in the Hall of the Colossus of the Accademia Galleria. From this model, Giambologna created the marble sculpture that is in the Loggia dei Lanzi. I bought a miniature copy from a marble factory in 1970’s Marousi, Athens. Visiting Florence before the Pandemic and seeing Giambologna’s masterpiece was unforgettable.
https://en. plaster model is displayed centrally in the Hall of the Colossus of the Accademia Galleria.