March is Women’s History Month. I am an avid student of history, particularly the Classical period through the Renaissance, and this plays a prominent role in my work. There are so many lessons we could learn – and disasters we could avoid – if we studied and paid reverence to the past.

I haven’t painted this yet, but there is one story from Ancient Rome that I find really inspiring. It is commonly referred to as the Rape of the Sabine Women.  This story has been the subject of much artistic interpretation over the centuries, and rightfully so. It is an inspiring message about women’s ability to overcome diversity and create change.

The Story of the Romans and the Sabines

The early Romans and the Sabines were neighboring rivals on the Italian peninsula. The Romans were mostly male and attempted to negotiate marriages among the Sabines. Fearing the emergence of a rival tribe, they refused. The Romans then proposed a festival to which they invited the Sabines and other neighboring tribes. On cue, the Romans abducted the women and coerced them into marriage. As you can imagine, this outraged the neighboring clans and ultimately resulted in war with the Sabines. The war ended when the women intervened to end the bloodshed between their husbands and their blood relatives for the sake of their children.

Women’s Power of Influence

Historian Titus Livius tells “the timidity of their sex being 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“. To me, this story is indicative of women’s ability to be empowered by adversity. They used love to overcome conflict. The rest, as they say, is history.

The image above is Rape of the Sabine Women by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. 1696-1770

Click here to read a more thorough account of The Rape of the Sabine Women.