), a people of Central Italy, who inhabited the rugged mountain country on the W. of the central chain of the Apennines, from the sources of the Near and Velinus to the neighbourhood of Reate, and from thence southwards as far as the Tiber and the Anio. They were bounded on the N. and W. by the Umbrians and Etruscans, on the NE. by Picenum, from which they were separated by the main ridge of the Apennines; on the E. by the Vestini, the Marsi and Aequiculi, and on the S. by Latium. Their country thus formed a narrow strip, extending about 85 miles in length form the lofty group o the Apennines above Nursia, in which the Nar takes its rise (now called the Monti della Sibilla
), to the junction of the Tiber and Anio, within a few miles of Rome.
The southern limit of the Sabines had, however, undergone many changes; in Pliny's time it was fixed as above stated, the Anio being generally received as the boundary between them and Latium; hence Pliny reckons Fidenae and Nomentum Sabine cities, though there is good ground for assigning them both in earlier times to the Latins, and Ptolemy again includes them both in Latium. Strabo, on the other hand, describes the Sabine territory as extending as far as
Nomentum, by which he probably means to include the latter city; while Eretum, which was only about 3 miles N. of Nomentum, seems to have been universally considered as a Sabine city. (Strab. v. p.228
; Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 9
. s. 17; Ptol. 3.1.62
In like manner Pliny includes the important city of Tibur among the Sabines, though it was certainly commonly reckoned a Latin city, and never appears in the early history of Rome in connection with the Sabines.
The fact appears to be, that the frontier between the Sabines and Latins was in early times constantly fluctuating, as the Sabines on the one hand were pressing down from the N., and on the other were driven back in their turn by the arms of the Romans and Latins.
But on the division of Italy into regions by Augustus, the Anio was established as the boundary of the First Region, and for this reason was considered by Pliny as the limit also between the Latins and Sabines. (Plin. l.c.
) It is remarkable that no name for the country
is found in ancient writers, standing in the same relation to that of the people which Samnium does to Samnites, Latium to Latini, &c.: it is called only “the land of the Sabines” (Sabinorum ager, or Sabinus ager, Liv. 1.36
, &c.; Tac. Hist. 3.78
), and Roman writers would say “in Sabinis versari, in Sabinos proficisci” &c. The Greeks indeed used η Σαβινη
for the name of the country (Strab. v. pp. 219, 228, &c.; Steph. Byz. s. v.), which is called to the present day by the Roman peasantry La Sabina,
but we do not find any corresponding form in Latin authors.
All ancient authors agree in representing the Sabines as one of the most ancient races of Italy, and as constituting one of the elements of the Roman people, at the same time that they were the progenitors of the far more numerous races which had spread themselves to the E. and S., under the names of Picentes, Peligni, and Samnites, the last of whom had in their turn become the parents of the Frentani, the Lucanians, Apulians and Bruttians.
The minor tribes of the Marsi, Marrucini and Vestini, were also in all probability of Sabine origin, though we have no distinct testimony to this effect [MARSI
These various races are. often comprehended by modern writers under the general name of Sabellian, which is convenient as an ethnic designation; but there is no ancient authority for this use of thle word, which was first introduced by Niebuhr (vol. i. p. 91). Pliny indeed in one passage says th e Samnites were also called Sabelli (Plin. Nat. 3.12. s. 17
), and this is confirmed by Strabo (v. p.250
). Sabellus is found also in Livy and other Latin writers, as an adjective
form for Samnite, though never for the name of the nation (Liv. 8.1
); but it is frequently also used, especially by the poets, simply as an equivalent for the adjective Sabine. (Verg. G. 2.167
7.665; Hor. Carm. 3.6.37
; Juv. 3.169
But notwithstanding the important position of the Sabines in regard to the early history and ethnography of Italy, we have very little information as to their own origin or affinities. Strabo calls them a very ancient race and autochthons (v. p. 228), which may be understood as meaning that there was no account of their immigration or origin which he considered worthy of credit.
He distinctly rejects as a fiction the notion that they or their Samnite descendants were of Laconian origin (Ib.
p. 250); an idea which was very probably suggested only by fancied resemblances in their manners and institutions to those of Sparta (Dionys. A. R. 2.49
But this notion, though not countenanced by any historian of authority, was taken up by the Roman poets, who frequently allude to the Lacedaemonian descent of the Sabines (Ovid. Fast.
1.260, 3.230; Sil. Ital. 2.8
, &c.), and adopted also by some prose writers (Plut. Rom. 16
; Hygin. ap. Serv. ad Aen. 8.638).
A much more important statement is that preserved to us by Dionysius on the authority of Zenodotus of Troezen, which represents the Sabines as an offshoot of the Umbrian race (Dionys. A. R. 2.49
The authority of Zenodotus is indeed in itself not worth much, and his statement as reported to us is somewhat confused; but many analogies would lead us to the same conclusion, that the Sabines and Umbrians were closely cognate races, and branches of the same original stock. We learn from their Eugubine tables that Sancus, the tutelary divinity of thle Sabine nation, was an object of especial worship with the Umbrians also; the same documents prove that various other points of the Sabine religion, which are spoken of as peculiar to that nation, were in fact common to the Umbrians also (Klenze, Philol. Abhandl.
p. 80). Unfortunately the Sabine language, which would have thrown much light upon the subject, is totally lost; not a single inscription has been preserved to us; but even the few words recorded by ancient writers, though many of them, as would naturally be the case in such a selection, words peculiar
to the Sabines, yet are abundantly sufficient to show that there could be no essential difference between the language of the Sabines and their neighbours, the Umbrians on the one side, and the Oscans on the other (Klenze, l.c.;
The general similarity between their dialect and that of the Oscan was probably the cause that they adopted with facility in the more southern regions of Italy, which they had conquered, [p. 2.866]
the language of their Oscan subjects; indeed all the extant inscriptions in that language may be considered as Sabello-Oscan, and have probably received some influence from the language of the conquerors, though we have no means of estimating its amount.
The original Sabines appear to have early lost the use of their own language, and adopted the general use of Latin; which, considering the rugged and secluded character of their country, and their primitive habits of life, could hardly have been the case, had the two languages been radically distinct.
On the whole, therefore, we may fairly conclude that the Sabines were only a branch of the same great family with the Oscans, Latins, and Umbrians, but apparently most closely related to the last of the three. Their name is generally derived from that of Sabus, who is represented as a son of Sancus, the chief tutelary divinity of the nation. (Cato, ap. Dionys. 2.49; Sil. Ital. 8.422
; Serv. ad Aen. 8.638
But another etymology given by ancient writers derives it from their religious habits and devotion to the worship of the gods. (Varr. ap. Fest. p. 343; Plin. Nat. 3.12. s. 17
This last derivation in fact comes to much the same thing with the preceding one, for the name of Sabus (obviously a mythological personage) is itself connected with the Greek σέβω,
and with the word “sevum” found in the Eugubine tables in the sense of venerable or holy, just as Sancus is with the Latin “sanctus,” “sancire,” &c. (Donaldson, l.c.
The original abode of the Sabines was, according to Cato, in the upper valley of the Aternus, about Amiternum, at the foot of the loftiest group of the Apennines. We cannot indeed understand literally, at least as applying to the whole nation, his assertion (as quoted by Dionysius) that they proceeded from a village called Testrina, near Amiternum (Cato, ap. Dionys. 1.14, 2.49); though this may have been true of the particular band or clan which invaded and occupied Reate.
But there is no reason to doubt the general fact that the Sabines, at the earliest period when their name appears in history, occupied the lofty mountain group in question with its adjacent valleys, which, from the peculiar configuration of this part of the Apennines, would afford natural and convenient outlets to their migrations in all directions. [APENNINUS.] The sending forth of these migrations, or national colonies, as they may be called, was connected with an ancient custom which, though not unknown to the other nations of Italy, seems to have been more peculiarly characteristic of the Sabines--the Ver Sacrum or “sacred spring.” This consisted of dedicating, by a solemn vow, usually in time of pressure from war or famine, all the produce of the coming year, to some deity: Mamers or Mars seems to have been the one commonly selected.
The cattle born in that year were accordingly sacrificed to the divinity chosen, while the children were allowed to grow up to man's estate, and were then sent forth in a body to find for themselves new places of abode beyond the limits of their native country. (Strab. v. p.250
; Fest. s. vv. Mamertini,
p. 158, Sacrani,
p. 321, Ver Sacrum,
p. 379; Sisenna, ap. Non. p. 522; Varr. R. R.
3.16.29; Liv. 22.9
.) Such colonies were related by tradition to have given origin to the nations of the Picentes, the Samnites, and the Hirpini, and in accordance with the notion of their consecration to Mars they were reported to have been guided by a woodpecker, or a wolf, the animals peculiarly connected with that deity. (Strab. v. pp. 240, 250; Fest. pp. 106, 212.) We have no statements of the period at which these successive emigrations towards the E. and S. took place: all that is known of the early history of the nations to which they gave rise will be found in the respective articles, and we shall here content ourselves with tracing that of the Sabines themselves, or the people to whom that appellation continued to be confined by the Romans.
These, when they first emerged from their upland valleys into the neighbourhood of Reate, found that city, as well as the surrounding territory, in the possession of a people whom Dionysius calls Aborigines, and who, finding themselves unable to withstand the pressure of the Sabines, withdrew, after the capture of their capital city of Lista, towards the lower valley of the Tiber, where they settled themselves in Latium, and finally became one of the constituent elements of the Latin people. (Cato, ap. Dionys. 1.14, 2.48, 49.) [ABORIGINES; LATIUM.] Meanwhile the Sabines, after they had firmly established themselves in the possession of Reate and its neighbourhood, gradually pressed on towards the S. and W., and occupied the whole of the hilly and rugged country which extends from Reate to the plain of the Tiber, and from the neighbourhood of Ocriculum to that of Tibur (Tivoli.
) (Dionys. A. R. 2.49
The conquest and colonisation of this extensive tract was probably the work of a long time, but at the first dawn of history we find the Sabines already established on the left bank of the Tiber down to within a few miles of its confluence with the Anio; and at a period little subsequent to the foundation of Rome, they pushed on their advanced posts still further, and established themselves on the Quirinal hill, at the very gates of the rising city.
The history of the Sabines under Titus Tatius, of the wars of that king with Romulus, and of the settlement of the Sabines at Rome upon equal terms with the Latin inhabitants, so that the two became gradually blended into one people, has been so mixed up with fables and distorted by poetical and mythological legends, that we may well despair of recovering the truth, or extricating the real history from the maze of various and discordant traditions; but it does not the less represent a real series of events.
It is an unquestionable historical fact that a large part of the population of the city was of Sabine origin, and the settlement of that people on the Quirinal is attested by numerous local traditions, which there is certainly no reason to doubt. (Schwegler, Röm. Gesch.
vol. i. pp. 243, 478, &c.)
We cannot attempt here to discuss the various theories that have been suggested with a view to explain the real nature of the Sabine invasion, and the origin of the legends connected with them. One of the most plausible of these is that which supposes Rome to have been really conquered by the Sabines, and that it. was only by a subsequent struggle that the Latin settlers on the Palatine attained an equality of rights. (Ihne, Researches into the History of the Roman Constitution,
p. 44, &c.; Schwegler, vol. i. pp. 491--493.)
It cannot be denied that this view has much to recommend it, and explains many obscure points in the early history, but it can be scarcely regarded as based on such an amount of evidence as would entitle it to be received as a historical fact.
The Sabine influence struck deep into the character of the Roman people; but its effect was especially prominent in its bearing on their sacred [p. 2.867]
rites, and on their sacerdotal as well as religious institutions.
This is in entire accordance with the character given of the Sabines by Varro and Pliny; and it is no wonder therefore that the traditions of the Romans generally ascribed to Numa, the Sabine king, the whole, or by far the greater part, of the religious institutions of their country, in the same manner as they did the military and political ones to his predecessor Romulus. Numa, indeed, became to a great extent the representative, or rather the impersonation of the Sabine element of the Roman people; at the same time that he was so generally regarded as the founder of all religious rites and institutions, that it became customary to ascribe to him even those which were certainly not of Sabine origin, but belonged to the Latins or were derived from Alba. (Ambrosch, Studien,
pp. 141--148; Schwegler, R. G.
vol.i. pp. 543, 554.)
Throughout these earliest traditions concerning the relations of the Sabines with Rome, Cures is the city that appears to take the most prominent part. Tatius himself was king of Cures (Dionys. A. R. 2.36
); and it was thither also that the patricians sent, after the interregnum, to seek out the wise and pacific Numa. (Liv. 1.18
; Dionys. A. R. 2.58
A still more striking proof of the connection of the Roman Sabines with Cures was found in the name of Quirites, which came to be eventually applied to the whole Roman people, and which was commonly considered as immediately derived from that of Cures. (Liv. 1.13
; Varr. L. L.
6.68; Dionys. A. R. 2.46
; Strab. v. p.228
But this etymology is, to say the least, extremely doubtful; it is far more probable that the name of Quirites was derived from “quiris,” a spear, and meant merely “spearmen” or “warriors,” just as Quirinus was the “spear-god,” or god of war, closely connected, though not identical with, Mamers or Mars.
It is certain also that this superiority of Cures, if it ever really existed, ceased at a very early period. No subsequent allusion to it is found in Roman history, and the city itself was in historical times a very inconsiderable place. [CURES
The close union thus established between the Romans and the Sabines who had settled themselves on the Quirinal did not secure the rising city from hostilities with the rest of the nation. Already in the reign of Tullus Hostilius, the successor of Numa, we find that monarch engaged in hostilities with the Sabines, whose territory he invaded.
The decisive battle is said to have taken place at a forest called Silva Malitiosa, the site of which is unknown. (Liv. 1.30
; Dionys. A. R. 3.32
.) During the reign of Ancus Marcius, who is represented as himself of Sabine descent (he was a grandson of Numa), no hostilities with the Sabines occur; but his successor Tarquinius Priscus was engaged in a war with that people which appears to have been of a formidable description. The Sabines, according to Livy, began hostilities by crossing the Anio; and after their final defeat we are told that they were deprived of Collatia and the adjoining territory. (Liv. 1.36
; Dionys. A. R. 3.55
.) Cicero also speaks of Tarquin as repulsing the Sabines from the very walls of the city. (Cic. de Rep. 2.20
) There seems therefore no doubt that they had at this time extended their power to the right bank of the Anio, and made themselves masters of a considerable part of the territory which had previously belonged to the Latins. From this time no further mention of them occurs in the history of Rome till after the expulsion of the kings; but in B.C. 504, after the repulse of Porsena, a Sabine war again broke out, and from this time that people appears almost as frequently among the enemies of Rome, as the Veientes or the Volscians.
But the renewal of hostilities was marked by one incident, which exercised a permanent effect on Roman history.
The whole of one clan of the Sabines, headed by a leader named Atta Clausus, dissenting from the policy of their countrymen, migrated in a body to Rome, where they were welcomed as citizens, and gave rise to the powerful family and tribe of the Claudii. (Liv. 2.16
; Dionys. A. R. 5.40
; Verg. A. 7.708
; Tac. Ann. 11.24
; Appian, Rom.
i. Fr. 11.)
It is unnecessary to recapitulate in detail the accounts of the petty wars with the Sabines in the early ages of the Republic, which present few features of historical interest. They are of much the same general character as those with the Veientes and the Volscians, but for some reason or other seem to have been a much less favourite subject for popular legend and national vanity, and therefore afford few of those striking incidents and romantic episodes with which the others have been adorned. Livy indeed disposes of them for the most part in a very summary manner; but they are related in considerable detail by Dionysius. One thing, however, is evident, that neither the power nor the spirit of the Sabines had been roken; as they are represented in B.C. 469, as carrying their ravages up to the very gates of Rome; and even in B.C. 449, when the decisive victory of M. Horatins was followed by the capture of the Sabine camp, we are told that it was found full of booty, obtained by the plunder of the Roman territories. (Liv. 2.16
, &c., 3.26, 30, 38, 61--63; Dionys. A. R. 5.37
, &c.) On this, as on several other occasions, Eretum appears as the frontier town of the Sabines, where they established their head-quarters, and from whence they made incursions into the Roman territory.
There is nothing in the accounts transmitted to us of this victory of M. Horatius over the Sabines to distinguish it from numerous other instances of similar successes, but it seems to have been really of importance; at least it was followed by the remarkable result that the wars with the Sabines, which for more than fifty years had been of such perpetual recurrence, ceased altogether from this time, and for more than a century and a half the name of the Sabines is scarcely mentioned in history.
The circumstance is the more remarkable, because during a great part of this interval the Romans were engaged in a fierce contest with the Samnites, the descendants of the Sabines, but who do not appear to have maintained any kind of political relation with their progenitors. Of the terms of the peace which subsisted between the Sabines and Romans during this period we have no account. Niebuhr's conjecture that they enjoyed the rights of isopolity with the Romans (vol. ii. p. 447) is certainly without foundation; and they appear to have maintained a position of simple neutrality. We are equally at a loss to understand what should have induced them at length suddenly to depart from this policy, but in the year B.C. 290 we find the Sabines once more in arms against Rome. They were, however, easily vanquished.
The consul M‘. Curius Dentatus, who had already put an end to the Third Samnite War, next turned his arms against the Sabines, and reduced them to submission in the course of a single campaign. (Liv. Epit.
xi.; Vict. Vir. Ill.
33; Oros. 3.22
; Flor. 1.15
.) They were severely punished for their defection; great numbers of prisoners [p. 2.868]
soners were sold as slaves; the remaining citizens were admitted to the Roman franchise, but without the right of suffrage, and their principal towns were reduced to the subordinate condition of Praefecturae. (Vell. 1.14
; Festus, s.v. Praefecturae; Serv. ad Aen. 7.709
, whose statement can only refer to this period, though erroneously transferred by him to a much earlier one.)
The right of suffrage was, however, granted to them about 20 years later B.C. 268); and from this time the Sabines enjoyed the full rights of Roman citizens, and were included in the Sergian tribe. (Vell. Pat. l.c.; Cic. pro Balb. 13
, in Vatin.
This circumstance at once separated them from the cause of the other nations of Italy, including their own kinsmen the Samnites, Picentes, and Peligni, during the great contest of the Social War. On that occasion the Sabines, as well as the Latins and Campanians, were arrayed on behalf of Rome.
The last occasion on which the name of the Sabines as a people is found in history is during the Second Punic War, when they came forward in a body to furnish volunteers to the army of Scipio. (Liv. 28.45
After their incorporation with the Roman state, we scarcely meet with any separate notice of them, though they continued to be regarded as among the bravest and hardiest of the subjects of Rome. Hence Cicero calls them “florem Italiae ac robur rei publicae.” (Pro Ligar.
Under the Empire their name did not even continue to be used as a territorial designation. Their territory was included in the Fourth Region by Augustus. (Plin. Nat. 3.12. s. 17
It was subsequently reckoned a part of the province of Valeria, and is included with the rest of that province under the appellation of Picenum in the Liber Coloniarum. (Lib. Col.
pp. 253, 257, &c.; P. Diac.Hist. Lang.
2.20; Mommsen, ad Lib. Col.
But though the name of the Sabines thus disappeared from official usage, it still continued in current popular use. Indeed it was not likely that a people so attached to ancient usages, and so primitive in their habits, would readily lose or abandon their old appellation. Hence it is almost the only instance in which the ancient name of a district or region of Italy has been transmitted without alteration to the present day: the province of La Sabina
still forms one of the twelve into which the States of the Church are divided, and is comprised within very nearly the same limits as it was in the days of Strabo. (Rampoldi, Diz. Corog. d'Italia, s. v.
The country of the Sabines was, as already mentioned, for the most part of a rugged and mountainous character; even at the present day it is calculated that above two-thirds of it are incapable of any kind of cultivation.
But the valleys are fertile, and even luxuriant; and the sides of the hills, and lower slopes of the mountains, are well adapted for the growth both of vines and olives.
The northernmost tract of their territory, including the upper valleys of the Nar and Velinus, especially the neighbourhood of Nursia, was indeed a cold and bleak highland country, shut in on all sides by some of the highest ranges of the Apennines; and the whole broad tract which extends from the group of the Monte Velino,
SE. of Reate, to the front of the mountain ranges that border the Campagna
of Rome, is little more than a mass of broken and rugged mountains, of inferior elevation to the more central ranges of the Apennines, but still far from inconsiderable. The Monte Gennaro
(the Mons Lucretilis of Horace), which rises directly from the plain of the Campagna,
attains to an elevation of 4285 English feet above the sea.
But the isolated mountain called Monte Terminillo
NE. of Rieti,
which forms a conspicuous object in the view from Rome, rises to a height of above 7000 feet, while the Monte Velino,
SE. of Rieti,
on the confines of the Sabines and the Vestini, is not less than 8180 feet in height.
The whole of the ridge, also, which separates the Sabines from Picenum is one of the most elevated of the Apennines. The Monti della Sibilla,
in which the Nar takes its rise, attain the height of 7200 feet, while the Monte Vettore
and Pizzo di Sevo,
which form the continuation of the same chain towards the Gran Sasso,
rise to a still greater elevation.
There can be no doubt that these lofty and rugged groups of mountains are those designated by the ancients as the MONS FISCELLUS, TETRICA ( “Tetricae horrentes rupes,” Verg. A. 7.713
), and SEVERUS; but we are unable to identify with any certainty the particular mountains to which these names were applied.
The more westerly part of the Sabine territory slopes gradually from the lofty ranges of these central Apennines towards the valley of the Tiber, and though always hilly is still a fertile and productive country, similar to the part of Umbria, which it adjoins.
The lower valley of the Velinus about Reate was also celebrated for its fertility, and even at the present day is deservedly reckoned one of the most beautiful districts in Italy.
The physical character of the land of the Sabines evidently exercised a strong influence upon the character and manners of the people. Highlanders and mountaineers are generally brave, hardy, and frugal; and the Sabines seem to have possessed all these qualities in so high a degree that they became, as it were, the types of them among the Romans. Cicero calls them “severissimi homines Sabini,” and Livy speaks of the “disciplina tetrica ac tristis veterum Sabinorum.” (Cic.in Vatin.
15, pro Ligar.
11; Liv. 1.18
.) Cato also described the severe and frugal mode of life of the early Romans as inherited from the Sabines ap. Serv. ad Aen. 8.638). Their frugal manners and moral purity continued indeed, even under the Roman government, to be an object of admiration, and are often introduced by the poets of the Empire as a contrast to the luxury and dissoluteness of the capital. (Hor. Carm. 3.6.38
2. 41, Epist.
2.1. 25; Propert. 3.24. 47; Juv. 3.169
.)With these qualities were combined, as is not unfrequently found among secluded mountaineers, an earnest piety and strong religious feeling, together with a strenuous attachment to the religious usages and forms of worship which had been transmitted to them by their ancestors.
The religion of the Sabines does not appear to have differed essentially from that of the other neighbouring nations of Italy; but they had several peculiar divinities, or at least divinities unknown to the Latins or Etruscans, though some of them seem to have been common to the Umbrians also.
At the head of these stood Sancus, called also Semo Sancus, who was the tutelary divinity of the nation, and the reputed father of their mythical progenitor, or eponymous hero Sabus.
He was considered as the peculiar guardian of oaths, and was thence generally identified by the Romans with Dius Fidius; while others, for less obvious reasons, identified him with [p. 2.869]
Hercules. (Ovid. Fast.
6.215; Sil. Ital. 8.420
; Lactant. 1.15; Augustin, Civ. Dei,
18.19; Ambrosch. Studien.
p. 170, &c.) Among the other deities whose worship is expressly said to have been introduced at Rome by the Sabines, we find Sol, Feronia, Minerva and Mars, or Mamers, as he was called by the Sabines and their descendants. (Varr. L. L.
5.74.) Minerva was, however, certainly an Etruscan divinity also; and in like manner Vejovis, Ops, Diana, and several other deities, which are said to be of Sabine extraction, were clearly common to the Latins also, and probably formed part of the mythology of all the Italian nations. (Varro, l.c.;> Augustin, C. D.
4.23; Schwegler, Röm.
Gesch. i. p. 250; Ambrosch. l.c.
pp. 141--176.) On the other hand Quirinus was certainly a Sabine deity, notwithstanding his subsequent identification with the deified Romulus. His temple, as well as that of Sancus, stood on the Quirinal hill, to which indeed it probably gave name. (Varr. L. L.
5.51; Ambrosch, pp. 149, 169.)
Connected with the religious rites of the Sabines may be mentioned their superstitious attachment to magical incantations, which they continued to practise down to a late period, as well as their descendants the Marsi and other Sabellian tribes. (Hor. Epod.
17. 28, Sat.
1.9. 29.) They were noted also for their skill, or pretended skill, in divination by dreams. (Fest. p. 335.)
The rites of augury, and especially of auspices, or omens from the flight of birds, were also considered to be essentially of Sabine origin, though certainly common in more or less degree to the other nations of Central Italy. Attus Navius, the celebrated augur in the reign of Tarquin the Elder, who was regarded by many as the founder of the whole science of augury (Cic. de Div. 2.3. 8
), was a Sabine, and the institution of the “auspicia majora” was also referred to Numa. (Cic. de Rep. 2.14
The Sabine language, as already observed, is known to us only from a few words preserved by ancient writers, Varro, Festus, &c. Some of these, as “multa,” “albus,” “imperator,” &c., are well known to us as Latin words, though said to have originally passed into that language from the Sabines. Others, such as “hirpus” or “irpus” for a wolf, “curis” or “quiris” (a spear), “nar” (sulphur), “teba” (a hill), &c., were altogether strange to the Latin, though still in use among the Sabines.
A more general peculiarity of the Sabine dialect, and which in itself proves it to have been a cognate language with the Latin, is that it inserted the digarmma or F at the commencement of many words instead of the rough aspirate; thus they said “fircus,” “fedus,” “fostis,” “fostia,” &c., for the Latin “hircus,” “hedus,” “hostis,” “hostia,” &c. (Varro, L. L.
5.97; Fest. pp. 84, 102; Klenze, Philolog. Abhandl.
pp. 70--76; Mommsen, U. I. Dialekte,
The two last authors have well brought together the little that we really know of the Sabine language.
It is not quite clear from the expressions of Varro how far the Sabine language could be considered as still existing in his time; but it seems probable that it could no longer be regarded as a living language, though the peculiar expressions and forms referred to were still in use as provincialisms. (Klenze, l.c.
The Sabines, we are told, dwelt principally in villages, and even their towns in the earliest times were unwalled. (Strab. v. p.228
; Dionys. A. R. 2.49
This is one of the points in which they were thought to resemble the Lacedaemonians (Plut. Rom. 16
); though it probably arose merely from their simplicity of manners, and their retaining unchanged the habits of primitive mountaineers.
In accordance with this statement we find very few towns mentioned in their territory; and even of these REATE
appears to have been the only one that was ever a place of much importance. INTEROCREA
about 14 miles higher up the valley of the Velinus (the name of which is still preserved in Antrodoco
), seems never to have been a municipal town; and it is probable that the whole upper valley of the Velinus was, municipally speaking, included in the territory of Reate, as we know was the case with the lower valley also, down to the falls of the river, which formed the limit of the territory of the Sabines on this side; Interamna, as well as Narnia and Ocriculum, being included in Umbria. FALACRINUM
the birthplace of Vespasian, situated near the sources of the Velinus, was certainly a mere village; as was also FORULI
), situated in the cross valley which led from Interocrea to Amiternum and formed the line of communication between the valley of the Velinus and that of the Aternus. AMITERNUM
itself, though situated in the valley of the Aternus, so that it would seem to have more naturally belonged to the Vestini, was certainly a Sabine city (Plin. Nat. 3.12. s. 17
; Strab. v. p.223
), and was probably, next to Reate, the most considerable that they possessed. NURSIA
in the upper valley of the Nar, was the chief town of the surrounding district, but was never a place of much importance.
The lower country of the Sabines, between Reate and Rome, seems to have contained several small towns, which were of municipal rank, though said by Strabo to be little more than villages. Among these were FORUM NOVUM
the site of which may be fixed at Vescovio,
on the banks of the Imele,
and FORUM DECII
the situation of which is wholly unknown. Both these were, as the names show, Roman towns, and not ancient Sabine cities; the former appears to have replaced the Sabine CASPERIA
which was probably situated at Aspra,
in the same neighbourhood. On the other hand CURES
the supposed metropolis of the Sabines that had settled at Rome, still retained its municipal rank, though not a place of much importance.
The same was the case with ERETUM
which was, as already observed, the last of the strictly Sabine towns in proceeding towards Rome; though Pliny includes Nomentum and Fidenae also among the Sabines. Besides these there were two towns of the name of Trebula, both of which must probably be placed in the southern part of the land of the Sabines. Of these TREBULA MUTUSCA (the Mutuscae of Virgil, Aen.
7.711) is represented by Monte Leone,
about 15 miles S. of Rieti,
and on the right of the Salarian Way; while TREBULA SUFFENAS may perhaps be placed at S. Antimo
in the hills W. of Rieti.
in the valley of the Anio, 4 miles above Tibur, still called Vicovaro,
would appear to have been certainly a Sabine town; the whole valley of the Digentia (Licenza
), with its villages of Mandela, Digentia, and Fanum Vacunae (the well-known neighbourhood of Horace's Sabine farm,) being included among its dependencies. [DIGENTIA
The territory of the Sabines was traversed throughout its whole extent by the Salarian Way, which was from an early period one of the great highroads of Italy.
This proceeded from Rome [p. 2.870]
direct to Reate, and thence ascended the valley of the Velinus by Interocrea and Falacrinum, from whence it crossed the ridge of the Apennines into the valley of the Truentus in Picenum, and thus descended to Asculum and the Adriatic.
The stations between Rome and Reate were Eretum, which may be fixed at Grotto Marozza,
and Vicus Novus, the site of which is marked by the Osteria Nuova,
or Osteria dei Massacci,
32 miles from Rome. (Westphal, Röm. Kamp.
p. 128.) [VIA SALARIA
Notwithstanding its mountainous character the Sabine territory was far from being poor. Its productions consisted chiefly of oil and wine, which, though not of first-rate quality, were abundant, and supplied a great part of the quantity used by the lower classes at Rome. (Hor. Carm. 1.9.7
, 20. 1; Juv. 3.85
.) The Sabine hills produced also in abundance the plant which was thence known as Sabina herba (still called Savin,
) which was used by the natives for incense, before the more costly frankincense was introduced from the East. (Plin. Nat. 16.20. s. 33
. s. 61; Virg. Cul.
402; Ovid, Ov. Fast. 1.342
The neighbourhood of Reate was also famous for its breed of mules and horses; and the mountains afforded excellent pasturage for sheep.
The wilder and more inaccessible summits of the Apennines were said still to be frequented by wild goats, an animal long since extinct throughout the continent of Italy. (Varr. R. R.