It was in the fourth month after the founding of the city, as Fabius writes, that the rape of the Sabine women was perpetrated.1
And some say that Romulus himself, being naturally fond of war, and being persuaded by sundry oracles, too, that it was the destiny of Rome to be nourished and increased by wars till she became the greatest of cities, thereby merely began unprovoked hostilities against the Sabines; for he did not take many maidens, but thirty only, since what he wanted was war rather than marriages.
But this is not likely. On the contrary, seeing his city filling up at once with aliens, few of whom had wives, while the greater part of them, being a mixed rabble of needy and obscure persons, were looked down upon and expected to have no strong cohesion; and hoping to make the outrage an occasion for some sort of blending and fellowship with the Sabines after their women had been kindly entreated, he set his hand to the task, and in the following manner.
First a report was spread abroad by him that he had discovered an altar of a certain god hidden underground. They called this god Consus, and he was either a god of counsel
‘consilium’ is still their word for counsel
, and they call their chief magistrates
‘consuls,’ that is to say, counsellors
), or an equestrian Neptune. For the altar is in the Circus Maximus, and is invisible at all other times, but at the chariot-races it is uncovered.
Some, however, simply say that since counsel is secret and unseen, it is not unreasonable that an altar to the god of counsel should be hidden underground.2
Now when this altar was discovered, Romulus appointed by proclamation a splendid sacrifice upon it, with games, and a spectacle open to all people. And many were the people who came together, while he himself sat in front, among his chief men, clad in purple.
The signal that the time had come for the onslaught was to be his rising and folding his cloak and then throwing it round him again. Armed with swords, then, many of his followers kept their eyes intently upon him, and when the signal was given, drew their swords, rushed in with shouts, and ravished away the daughters of the Sabines, but permitted and encouraged the men themselves to escape.
Some say that only thirty maidens were seized, and that from these the Curiae3
were named; but Valerius Antias puts the number at five hundred and twenty-seven, and Juba at six hundred and eighty-three, all maidens. And this was the strongest defence which Romulus could make, namely, that they took only one married woman, Hersilia, and her by mistake, since they did not commit the rape out of wantonness, nor even with a desire to do mischief, but with the fixed purpose of uniting and blending the two peoples in the strongest bonds.
As for this Hersilia, some say that she was married to Hostilius, a most eminent Roman, and others, to Romulus himself, and that she also bore him children: one daughter, Prima, so called from the order of birth, and one son only, whom Romulus named Aollius, from the great concourse
of citizens under him, but later ages Avillius. However, Zenodotus of Troezen, who gives us this account, is contradicted by many.