struggle for dominance between Rome and Alba led to constant conflicts
and threatened to grow into a serious war. A Roman legend says, that the
people of two cities agreed to settle the problem by the results of the
combat between three representatives from each side. Rome was represented
by the triplets Horatii, and Alba also by triplets from the family of Curatii.
As a result of the combat only one Horatius survived and Rome was declared
However, that same Horatius was very soon tried and found guilty for having killed his own sister after he learned that she had been betrothed to one of the Curatii and moaned his death.
On David’s painting the Horatii are taking an oath in front of their father who holds their swords, before the combat. Their sisters, who evidently know about the love between one of them and a Coratius, are depicted in a suppressed state but full of acceptance.
See: Jacques-Louis David. The Oath of Horatii.
Titus Livy. The History of Early Rome. The Easton Press. 1978.
Lexikon der Antike. VEB Bibliographisches Institut Leipzig. 1987.
Theodor Mommsen. Römische Geschichte. I. Bis zur Schlacht bei Pydna. St. Petersburg. 1994.