The Latin term raptio refers to abduction of women (, the historical English term is rape, see below), either for marriage (bride kidnapping, elopement) or enslavement. In Roman canon law, the term refers to the legal prohibition of matrimony if the bride was abducted forcibly (Canon 1089 CIC).


The practice is surmised to have been common since anthropological antiquity. In Neolithic Europe, excavation of the Linear Pottery culture site at Asparn-Schletz, Austria, the remains of numerous slain victims were found. Among them, young adult females and children were clearly under-represented, suggesting that the attackers had killed the men but abducted the nubile females.

Abduction of women is a common practice in warfare among tribal societies, along with cattle raiding. In historical human migrations, the tendency of mobile groups of invading males to abduct indigenous females is reflected in the greater stability of Human mitochondrial DNA haplogroups compared to Human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroups. Case in point, "Mitochondrial Eve" is estimated to be about twice as old (140,000 years) as "Y-chromosomal Adam" (60,000 years).

The Rape of the Sabine Women is an important part of the foundation legends of Rome (8th century BC). Romulus had established the settlement on the Palatine Hill with mostly male followers. Seeking wives, the Romans negotiated with the neighboring tribe of the Sabines, without success. Faced with the extinction of their community, the Romans planned to abduct Sabine women. Romulus invited Sabine families to a festival of Neptune Equester. At the meeting he gave a signal, at which the Romans grabbed the Sabine women and fought off the Sabine men. The indignant abductees were implored by Romulus to accept Roman husbands. Livy is clear that no sexual assault took place. On the contrary, Romulus offered them free choice and promised civic and property rights to women. According to Livy he spoke to them each in person, "and pointed out to them that it was all owing to the pride of their parents in denying right of intermarriage to their neighbours. They would live in honourable wedlock, and share all their property and civil rights, and—dearest of all to human nature—would be the mothers of free men." The women married Roman men, but the Sabines went to war with the Romans. The conflict was eventually resolved when the women, who now had children by their Roman husbands, intervened in a battle to reconcile the warring parties.

In Sanskrit literature, the practice is known as Rakshasa Vivaha ("devil marriage"), mentioned e.g. by Kautilya. It is one of the eight forms of Hindu marriage, the violent seizure or rape of a girl after the defeat or destruction of her relatives (Manu Smrti 3.33).

According to the Book of Judges, as the tribe of Benjamin following the Battle at Gibeah was threatened with extinction all the men from a nearby Canaanite town were slaughtered, so that their wives could be re-wed to the surviving men of Benjamin.

In the 3rd century, Gothic Christianity appears to have been intiated under the influence of Christian women captured by the Goths in Moesia and Thrace: in 251 AD, the Gothic army raided the Roman provinces of Moesia and Thrace, defeated and killed the Roman emperor Decius, and took a number of (predominately female) captives, many of which were Christian. This is assumed to represent the first lasting contact of the Goths with Christianity.

In the Qur'an, marriage to female prisoners of war is recommended for those who cannot afford to marry Muslim women according to Islamic law (sura 4.25). The right to this practice is also granted to Muhammad himself (sura 33.50).

Mutual abduction of women between Christian and Muslim communities was common in the Balkans under Ottoman rule, and is a frequent topos in the "Hajduk songs" of the period.


The English word rape retains the Latin meaning in literary language, but the meaning is obscured by the more current meaning of "sexual violation". The word is akin to rapine, rapture, raptor, rapacious and ravish, and referred to the more general violations, such as looting, destruction, and capture of citizens that are inflicted upon a town or country during war, eg. the Rape of Nanking. The OED gives the definition "the act of carrying away a person, especially a woman, by force" besides the more general "the act of taking anything by force" (marked as obsolete) and the more specific "violation or ravishing of a woman."

English rape was in use since the 14th century in the general sense of "seize prey, take by force," from raper, an Old French legal term for "to seize", in turn from Latin rapere "seize, carry off by force, abduct". The Latin term was also used for sexual violation, but only very rarely. The legendary event known as the "Rape of the Sabine Women", while ultimately motivated sexually, did not entail sexual violation of the Sabine women on the spot, who were rather abducted, and then implored by the Romans to marry them (as opposed to striking a deal with their fathers or brothers first, as would have been required by law).

Though the sexual connotation is today dominant, the word "rape" can be used in non-sexual context in literary English. In "the rape of the Silmarils" in J. R. R. Tolkien's "The Silmarillion", the word "rape" is used with its old meaning of "seizing and taking away". In Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock, the word "rape" is used hyperbolically, exaggerating a trivial violation against a person. Compare also the adjective rapacious which retains the generic meaning.


See also

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This article is based on "Raptio" from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org). It is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licencse. In the Wikipedia you can find a list of the authors by visiting the following address: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Raptio&action=history