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Baldassare Castiglione: Sabine peace


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Italian writers on war and militarism

Baldassare Castiglione: Leaders must prepare their people for peace, not war


Baldassare Castiglione
From The Book of the Courtier
Translated by Leonard Eckstein Opdyke

“Nor did the Sabine women contribute less to its [Rome’s] increase than the Trojan women did to its beginning. For Romulus, having excited general enmity among all his neighbours by the seizure of their women, was harassed by wars on every side; which (he being a man of ability) were soon brought to a successful issue, except that with the Sabines, which was very great because Titus Tatius, king of the Sabines, was very powerful and wise. Wherefore, a severe conflict having taken place between Romans and Sabines, with very heavy loss on both sides, and a new and cruel battle making ready, the Sabine women, – clad in black, with hair loose and torn, weeping, sorrowful, fearless of the weapons that were already drawn to strike, – rushed in between the fathers and husbands, imploring them to refrain from defiling their hands with the blood of fathers-in-law and sons-in-law. And if the men were still displeased with the alliance, let the weapons be turned against the women, for it were better for them to die than to live widowed or fatherless and brotherless, and to remember that their children were begotten of those who had slain their fathers, or that they themselves were born of those who had slain their husbands. Lamenting thus and weeping, many of them carried their little babes in their arms, some of whom were already beginning to loose the tongue and seemed to try to call and to make merry with their grandsires; to whom the women showed the little ones, and said, weeping: ‘Behold your blood, which with such heat and fury you are seeking to shed with your own hands.’

“The women’s dutifulness and wisdom wrought such great effect at this pass, that not only were lasting friendship and union established between the two hostile kings, but what was stranger, the Sabines came to live at Rome, and of the two peoples a single one was made. And thus this union greatly increased the power of Rome, thanks to those wise and lofty-minded women, who were rewarded by Romulus in such fashion that in dividing the people into thirty wards he gave thereto the names of the Sabine women.”

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