Romans began March, the month of the war-god Mars, by celebrating the ‘Matronalia’, a kind of mothers’ day with presents for the ladies and a day off for slaves. The strange juxtaposition of war and love was said to go back to the legend of how Romulus’s Rome was settled.
THE first inhabitants of Romulus’s city were mostly desperate outlaws from outlying states, and no father would give them his daughter in marriage.
So on the advice of his grandfather Numitor, Romulus held a great feast in honour of Neptune, with music and dancing.
As anticipated, young women of the neighbouring Sabine tribe came to it, and when it was in full swing the Roman youths snatched six hundred and eighty-three of their fair guests.
For two years, the Sabines protested at this outrage, until Tatius, their chieftain, came with arms to recover his women. The Sabines fought fiercely, and things might have gone ill for Romulus.
But the women of Rome rushed out of their houses, their hair flying and their children in their arms, crying that they had never been dishonoured, but had married willingly, and begging their Sabine fathers not to slay their Roman husbands.
A peace was agreed, and Romulus and Tatius thereafter reigned together at Rome.