Life of Coriolanus, 1–39

Plutarch  translated by Bernadotte Perrin

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1The patrician house of the Marcii at Rome furnished many men of distinction. One of them was Ancus Marcius, the grandson of Numa by his daughter, and the successor of Tullus Hostilius in the kingship. To this family belonged also Publius and Quintus Marcius, the men who brought into Rome its best and most abundant supply of water. So likewise did Censorinus, whom the Roman people twice appointed censor, and then, at his own instance, made a law by which it was decreed that no one should hold that office twice. 2Caius Marcius, whose life I now write, lost his father at an early age, and was reared by his widowed mother. He showed, however, that such loss of a father, although otherwise bad for a boy, need not prevent him from becoming a worthy and excellent man, and that it is wrong for worthless men to lay upon it the blame for their perverted natures, which are due, as they say, to early neglect. On the other hand, the same Marcius bore witness for those who hold that a generous and noble nature, if it lack discipline, is apt to produce much that is worthless along with its better fruits, like a rich soil deprived of the husbandman’s culture. 3For while the force and vigour of his intelligence, which knew no limitations, led him into great undertakings, and such as were productive of the highest results, still, on the other hand, since he indulged a vehement temper and displayed an unswerving pertinacity, it made him a difficult and unsuitable associate for others. They did indeed look with admiration upon his insensibility to pleasures, toils, and mercenary gains, to which they gave the names of self-control, fortitude, and justice; but in their intercourse with him as a fellow-citizen they were offended by it as ungracious, burdensome, and arrogant. 4Verily, among all the benefits which men derive from the favour of the Muses, none other is so great as that softening of the nature which is produced by culture and discipline, the nature being induced by culture to take on moderation and cast off excess. It is perfectly true, however, that in those days Rome held in highest honour that phase of virtue which concerns itself with warlike and military achievements, and evidence of this may be found in the only Latin word for virtue, which signifies really manly valour; they made valour, a specific form of virtue, stand for virtue in general.

2And so Marcius, who was by nature exceedingly fond of warlike feats, began at once, from his very boyhood, to handle arms. And since he thought that adventitious weapons were of little avail to such as did not have their natural and native armour developed and prepared for service, he so practised himself in every sort of combat that he was not only nimble of foot, but had also such a weight in grapplings and wrestlings that an enemy found it hard to extricate himself. At any rate, those who from time to time contended with him in feats of courage and valour, laid the blame for their inferiority upon his strength of body, which was inflexible and shrank from no hardship.

3He made his first campaign while yet a stripling, when Tarquin, who had been king of Rome, and then had been expelled, after many unsuccessful battles, staked his all, as it were, upon a final throw. Most of the people of Latium and many also of the other peoples of Italy were assisting him and marching with him upon Rome, to reinstate him there, not so much from a desire to gratify him, as because fear and envy led them to try to overthrow the growing power of the Romans. 2In the ensuing battle,[1] which long favoured now this side and now that, Marcius, who was fighting sturdily under the eyes of the dictator, saw a Roman soldier struck down near by. He ran to him at once, stood in front of him, defended him, and slew his assailant. Accordingly, after the Roman general had won the day, he crowned Marcius, among the first, with a garland of oak leaves.

3This is the civic crown which the law bestows upon one who has saved the life of a fellow-citizen in battle, either because the oak was held in special honour for the sake of the Arcadians,[2] who were called acorn-eaters in an oracle of Apollo;[3] or because they could speedily find an abundance of oak wherever they fought; or because it was thought that the garland of oak leaves, being sacred to Jupiter, the city’s guardian, was fittingly bestowed upon one who saved the life of a citizen. The oak, moreover, has the most beautiful fruit of all wild trees, and is the sturdiest of all trees under cultivation. 4Its acorn used to be food, and the honey found in it used to be drink[4] for men, and it furnished them with the flesh of most grazing creatures and birds, since it bore the mistletoe, from which they made bird-lime for snares.

In the battle of which I was speaking, it is said that Castor and Pollux appeared, and that immediately after the battle they were seen, their horses all a-drip with sweat, in the forum, announcing the victory, by the fountain where their temple now stands. Therefore the day on which this victory was won, the Ides of July, was consecrated to the Dioscuri.

4It would seem that when a young man’s ambition is no integral part of his nature, it is apt to be quenched by an honourable distinction which is attained too early in life; his thirst and fastidious appetite are speedily satisfied. But serious and firm spirits are stimulated by the honours they receive, and glow brightly, as if roused by a mighty wind to achieve the manifest good. They do not feel that they are receiving a reward for what they have done, but rather that they are giving pledges of what they will do, and they are ashamed to fall behind their reputation instead of surpassing it by their actual exploits. 2It was in this spirit that Marcius vied with himself in manly valour, and being ever desirous of fresh achievement, he followed one exploit with another, and heaped spoils upon spoils, so that his later commanders were always striving with their predecessors in their efforts to do him honour, and to surpass in their testimonials to his prowess. Many indeed were the wars and conflicts which the Romans waged in those days, and from none did he return without laurels and rewards of valour.

3But whereas other men found in glory the chief end of valour, he found the chief end of glory in his mother’s gladness. That she should hear him praised and see him crowned and embrace him with tears of joy, this was what gave him, as he thought, the highest honour and felicity. And it was doubtless this feeling which Epaminondas also is said to have confessed, in considering it his greatest good fortune that his father and mother lived to know of his generalship and victory at Leuctra. 4But he was so blessed as to have both his parents share in his pleasure and success, whereas Marcius, who thought he owed his mother the filial gratitude also which would have been due to his father, could not get his fill of gladdening and honouring Volumnia, nay, he even married according to her wish and request, and continued to live in the same house with his mother after children were born to him.

5The reputation and influence procured by his valour were already great in the city, when the senate, taking the part of the wealthy citizens, began to be at variance with the common people, who thought they suffered many grievous ills at the hands of the money-lenders. For those of them that were possessed of moderate means were stripped of all they had by means of pledges and sales, while those who were altogether without resources were led away in person and put in prison, although their bodies bore many marks of wounds received and hardships undergone in campaigns for the defence of their country. 2The last of these had been against the Sabines, and they had undertaken it upon a promise of their wealthiest creditors to deal moderately with them, and after a vote of the senate that Marcus Valerius, the consul, should guarantee the promise. But after they had fought zealously in that battle also, and had conquered the enemy, no consideration was shown them by their creditors, 3and the senate did not even pretend to remember its agreements, but again suffered them to be seized in pledge of payments and haled away to prison. Then there were tumults and disorderly gatherings in the city, and the enemy, not unaware of the popular confusion, burst in and ravaged the country, and when the consuls summoned those of military age to arms, no one responded. In this crisis, the opinions of those in authority were again at variance. 4Some thought that concessions should be made to the plebeians, and the excessive rigor of the law relaxed; but others opposed this, and among them was Marcius. He did not regard the financial difficulties as the main point at issue, and exhorted the magistrates to be wise enough to check and quell this incipient attempt at bold outrage on the part of a populace in revolt against the laws.

6The senate met to debate this question many times within the space of a few days, but came to no definite conclusion. The plebeians therefore banded together on a sudden, and after mutual exhortations forsook the city, and taking possession of what is now called the Sacred Mount, established themselves beside the river Anio.[5] They committed no acts of violence or sedition, but only cried aloud that they had for a long time been banished from the city by the rich, and that Italy would everywhere afford them air, water, and a place of burial, 2which was all they had if they dwelt in Rome, except for the privilege of wounds and death in campaigns for the defence of the rich.

These proceedings alarmed the senate, and it sent out those of its older members who were most reasonably disposed towards the people to treat with them. The chief spokesman was Menenius Agrippa, and after much entreaty of the people and much plain speaking in behalf of the senate, he concluded his discourse with a celebrated fable. 3He said, namely, that all the other members of man’s body once revolted against the belly, and accused it of being the only member to sit idly down in its place and make no contribution to the common welfare, while the rest underwent great hardships and performed great public services only to minister to its appetites; but that the belly laughed at their simplicity in not knowing that it received into itself all the body’s nourishment only to send it back again and duly distribute it among the other members. 4“Such, then,” said Agrippa, “is the relation of the senate, my fellow-citizens, to you; the matters for deliberation which there receive the necessary attention and disposition bring to you all and severally what is useful and helpful.”[6]

7A reconciliation followed, after the people had asked and obtained from the senate the privilege of electing five men as protectors of those who needed succour, the officers now called tribunes of the people. And the first whom they chose to this office were Junius Brutus and Sicinius Vellutus, who had been their leaders in the secession.[7] When the city was thus united, the common people at once offered themselves as soldiers, and the consuls found them ready and eager for service in the war.

2As for Marcius, though he was displeased himself to have the people increase in power at the expense of the aristocracy, and though he saw that many of the other patricians were of the same mind, he nevertheless exhorted them not to fall behind the common people in contending for their country’s welfare, but to show that they were superior to them in valour rather than in political power.

8Among the Volscians, with whom the Romans were at war, the city of Corioli took highest rank. When, therefore, Cominius the consul had invested this place,[8] the rest of the Volscians, fearing for its safety, came to its aid against the Romans from all parts, designing to give them battle in front of the city and to attack them on both sides. 2Thereupon Cominius divided his forces, going forth himself to meet the Volscians who were coming up outside, and leaving Titus Lartius, one of the bravest Romans of his day, in charge of the siege. Then the men of Corioli, despising the forces that were left, sallied out against them, overcame them in battle at first, and pursued the Romans to their camp. 3At this point Marcius darted out with a small band, and after slaying those who came to close quarters and bringing the rest of the assailants to a halt, called the Romans back to the fight with loud cries. For he had, as Cato thought a soldier should have,[9] not only a vigour of stroke, but a voice and look which made him a fearful man for a foe to encounter, and hard to withstand. Many of his men rallied to support him, and the enemy withdrew in terror. 4With this, however, he was not satisfied, but followed hard upon them, and drove them at last in headlong flight, up to the gate of their city. There, although he saw the Romans turning back from the pursuit, now that many missiles from the walls were reaching them, and although not a man of them dared to think of bursting into the city along with the fugitives, full as it was of enemies in arms, he nevertheless took his stand, and exhorted and encouraged them to the exploit, crying out that fortune had opened the city for the pursuers rather than for the pursued. 5Only a few were willing to follow him, but he pushed his way through the enemy, leaped against the gate, and burst in along with them, no man daring to oppose him at first or resist him. Then, however, when the citizens saw that few of the enemy all told were inside, they rallied and attacked them. 6Enveloped thus by friends and foes alike, Marcius is said to have waged a combat in the city which, for prowess of arm, speed of foot, and daring of soul, passes all belief; he overwhelmed all whom he assailed, driving some to the remotest parts of the city, while others gave up the struggle and threw down their arms. Thus he made it abundantly safe for Lartius to lead up the Romans who were outside.

9The city having been captured in this manner, most of the soldiers fell to plundering and pillaging it. At this Marcius was indignant, and cried out that he thought it a shame, when their consul and their fellow citizens who were with him had perhaps fallen in with the enemy and were fighting a battle with them, that they on their part should be going about after booty, or, under pretext of getting booty, should run away from the danger. Only a few paid any heed to his words, whereupon he took those who were willing to follow, and set out on the road by which, as he learned, the consul’s army had marched before him, often urging his companions on and beseeching them not to slacken their efforts, and often praying the gods that he might not be too late for the battle, but might come up in season to share in the struggles and perils of his fellow-citizens. 2It was a custom with the Romans of that time, when they were going into action, and were about to gird up their cloaks and take up their bucklers, to make at the same time an unwritten will, naming their heirs in the hearing of three or four witnesses. 3This was just what the soldiers were doing when Marcius overtook them, the enemy being now in sight. At first some of them were confounded when they saw that he had a small following and was covered with blood and sweat; but when he ran to the consul with a glad countenance, gave him his hand, and announced the capture of the city, and when Cominius embraced and kissed him, then they were encouraged, some hearing of the success which had been gained, and some but guessing at it, and all called loudly upon the consul to lead them into battle. 4But Marcius asked Cominius how the enemy were arrayed, and where their best fighting men were placed. And when the consul told him he thought the troops in the centre were those of the Antiates, who were the most warlike of all and yielded to none in bravery, “I ask and demand of you, then,” said Marcius, “post us opposite these men.” The consul, accordingly, granted his request, astonished at his ardour.

5As soon as spears began to fly, Marcius darted out before the line, and the Volscians who faced him could not withstand his charge, but where he fell upon their ranks they were speedily cut asunder. Those on either side, however, wheeled about and encompassed him with their weapons, so that the consul, fearing for his safety, sent to his aid the choicest men he had about his person. 6Then a fierce battle raged around Marcius, and many were slain in short space of time; but the Romans pressed hard upon their enemies and put them to rout, and as they set out in pursuit of them, they insisted that Marcius, who was weighed down with fatigue and wounds, should retire to the camp. He answered, however, that weariness was not for victors, and took after the flying foe. The rest of their army also was defeated, many were slain, and many taken captive.[10]

10On the following day, when Lartius had come up, and the rest of the army was assembled before the consul, Cominius mounted the rostra, and after rendering to the gods the praise that was their due for such great successes, addressed himself to Marcius. In the first place, he rehearsed with praise his astonishing exploits, some of which he had himself beheld in the battle, while to others Lartius bore witness. 2Then, out of the abundant treasures and the many horses and prisoners that had been taken, he ordered him to choose out a tenth, before any distribution to the rest of the army; and besides all this, he presented him with a horse, duly caparisoned, as a prize of valour. After the Romans had applauded this speech, Marcius came forward and said that he accepted the horse, and was delighted with the praises of the consul, but that he declined the rest, holding it to be pay, not honour, and would be content with his single share of the booty. 3“But I do ask one special favour,” he said, “and beg that I may receive it. I had a guest-friend among the Volscians, a man of kindliness and probity. This man is now a prisoner, and from wealth and happiness is reduced to subjection. Since, then, many evils have befallen him, let me at least free him from one, that of being sold into bondage.”

At such words as these still louder shouts greeted Marcius, and he found more admirers of his superiority to gain than of the bravery he had shown in war. 4For the very ones who secretly felt a certain jealous envy of him for his conspicuous honours, now thought him worthy of great rewards because he would not take them; and they were more delighted with the virtue which led him to despise such great rewards, than with the exploits which made him worthy of them. For the right use of wealth is a fairer trait than excellence in arms; but not to need wealth is loftier than to use it.

11When the multitude had ceased shouting their applause, Cominius took up the word again and said: “Ye cannot, indeed, my fellow-soldiers, force these gifts of yours upon the man, when he does not accept them and is unwilling to take them; but there is a gift which he cannot refuse when it is offered. Let us give him this gift, and pass a vote that he be surnamed Coriolanus, unless, indeed, before such act of ours, his exploit has itself given him this name.” Thence came his third name of Coriolanus.[11]

2From this it is perfectly clear that Caius was the proper name; that the second name, in this case Marcius, was the common name of family or clan; and that the third name was adopted subsequently, and bestowed because of some exploit, or fortune, or bodily feature, or special excellence in a man. So the Greeks used to give surnames from an exploit, as for instance, Soter[12] and Callinicus; or from a bodily feature, as Physcon and Grypus; or from a special excellence, as Euergetes and Philadelphus; or from some good fortune, as Eudaemon, the surname of the second Battus. 3And some of their kings have actually had surnames given them in mockery, as Antigonus Doson and Ptolemy Lathyrus. Surnames of this sort were even more common among the Romans. For instance, one of the Metelli was called Diadematus, because for a long time he suffered from a running sore and went about with a bandage on his forehead; another member of this family was called Celer, because he exerted himself to give the people funeral games of gladiators within a few days of his father’s death, and the speed and swiftness of his preparations excited astonishment.[13] 4And at the present day some of them are named from casual incidents at their birth, Proculus, for instance, if a child is born when his father is away from home; or Postumus, if after his death; and when one of twin children survives, while the other dies, he is called Vopiscus. Moreover, from bodily features they not only bestow such surnames as Sulla, Niger, and Rufus, but also such as Caecus and Claudius. And they do well thus to accustom men to regard neither blindness nor any other bodily misfortune as a reproach or a disgrace, but to answer to such names as though their own. This topic, however, would be more fittingly discussed elsewhere.

12The war was no sooner over than the popular leaders revived the internal dissensions, without any new cause of complaint, or just accusations, but making the very evils which had necessarily followed in the wake of their previous quarrels and disturbances a pretext for opposing the patricians. For the greater part of the land had been left unsown and untilled, and the war left no opportunity to arrange an importation of market supplies. 2There was, therefore, a great scarcity of food, and when the popular leaders saw that there were no market supplies, and that if there were, the people had no money to buy them, they assailed the rich with slanderous accusations of purposely arraying the famine against them, in a spirit of revenge.

Moreover, there came an embassy from the people of Velitrae, who offered to hand their city over to the Romans, and begged them to send out colonists for it. For a pestilential disease had assailed them, and wrought such death and destruction among their citizens that hardly the tenth part of the whole number was left. 3Accordingly, such of the Romans as were sensible thought that this request of the people of Velitrae had come at an advantageous and opportune time, since the scarcity of food made it needful to ease the city of its burdensome numbers; at the same time they also hoped to dissipate its sedition, if the most turbulent elements in it, and those which made most response to the exciting appeals of the popular leaders, should be purged away, like unhealthy and disturbing refuse from the body. 4Such citizens, therefore, the consuls selected as colonists and ordered them forth to Velitrae. They also enlisted others in a campaign against the Volscians, contriving thus that there should be no leisure for intestine tumults, and believing that when rich and poor alike, plebeians as well as patricians, were once more united in military service and in common struggles for the public good, they would be more gently and pleasantly disposed towards one another.

13But the popular leaders, Sicinius and Brutus, with their following, at once rose up in opposition, crying out that the consuls were disguising a most cruel deed under that most inoffensive name, a colony, and were really pushing poor men into a pit of death, as it were, by sending them forth into a city which was full of deadly air and unburied corpses, to be associated with a strange and abominable deity; 2and then, as if not satisfied with destroying some of their fellow-citizens by famine, and exposing others to pestilence, they proceeded further to bring on a war of their own choosing, that no evil might spare the city, which had but refused to continue in servitude to the rich. With their ears full of such speeches as these, the people would neither answer the consular summons for enlistment, nor look with any favour on the colony.[14]

3The senate was in perplexity. But Marcius, who was now full of importance, and had grown lofty in spirit, and was looked upon with admiration by the most powerful men of the city, openly took the lead in resisting the popular leaders. The colony was sent out, those that were chosen for it by lot being compelled to go forth under severe penalties; and when the people utterly refused military service, Marcius himself mustered his clients and as many others as he could persuade, and made an incursion into the territory of Antium. 4There he found much corn, and secured large booty in cattle and captives, no part of which did he take out for himself, but brought his followers back to Rome laden with large spoils of every sort. The rest of the citizens therefore repented themselves, envied their more fortunate fellows, and were filled with hostility to Marcius, not being able to endure the reputation and power of the man, which was growing, as they thought, to be detrimental to the people.[15]

14But not long after, when Marcius stood for the consulship,[16] the multitude relented, and the people felt somewhat ashamed to slight and humble a man who was foremost in birth and valour and had performed so many and such great services. Now it was the custom with those who stood for the office to greet their fellow-citizens and solicit their votes, descending into the forum in their toga, without a tunic under it. This was either because they wished the greater humility of their garb to favour their solicitations, or because they wished to display the tokens of their bravery, in case they bore wounds. 2It was certainly not owing to a suspicion of the dispensing of money in bribery that the candidate for the votes of the citizens was required to present himself before them without a tunic and ungirt. For it was long after this time that the buying and selling of votes crept in and money became a feature of the elections. 3But afterwards, bribery affected even courts and camps, and converted the city into a monarchy, by making armies the utter slaves of money. For it has been well said that he first breaks down the power of the people who first feasts and bribes them. But at Rome the mischief seems to have crept in stealthily and gradually, 4and not to have been noticed at once. For we do not know who was the first man to bribe her people or her courts of law; whereas at Athens, Anytus, the son of Anthemion, is said to have been the first man to give money to jurors, when he was on trial for the treacherous failure to relieve Pylos,[17] toward the close of the Peloponnesian war; a time when the pure race of the golden age still possessed the Roman forum.

15So when Marcius disclosed his many scars from many contests, wherein he had been a foremost soldier for seventeen years together, the people were put out of countenance by his valour, and agreed with one another to elect him. But when the day for casting their votes came, and Marcius made a pompous entry into the forum escorted by the senate, and all the patricians about him were clearly more bent on success than ever before, 2the multitude fell away again from their good will towards him, and drifted into feelings of resentment and envy. These feelings were reinforced by their fear that if an aristocrat, who had such weight with the patricians, should become supreme in the government, he might altogether deprive the people of their liberties.

3So, being in such a state of mind, they rejected Marcius and others were proclaimed elected. The senators were indignant, thinking the insult directed rather at them than at Marcius, and he himself could not treat the occurrence with restraint or forbearance. He had indulged the passionate and contentious side of his nature, with the idea that there was something great and exalted in this, and had not been imbued, under the influence of reason and discipline, with that gravity and mildness which are the chief virtues of a statesman. 4Nor did he know that one who undertakes public business must avoid above all things that self-will which, as Plato says,[18] is the “companion of solitude”; must mingle with men, and be a lover of that submissiveness to injury which some people ridicule so much. But since he was ever a straightforward man and obstinate, and since he thought that conquest and mastery in all things and at all times was the prerogative of bravery, rather than of effeminate weakness (which breaks out in anger, like a swelling sore, from the troubled and wounded spirit), he went away full of indignation and bitterness towards the people. 5The younger patricians, too, that element in the city which made most vaunt of noble birth and was most showy, had always been amazingly devoted to the man, and, adhering to him now, when their presence did him no good, fanned his anger by their sympathetic vexation and sorrow. For he was their leader and willing teacher of the art of war in their campaigns, and inspired them in their victories with a zeal for valour, which had no tinge of mutual jealousy.

16In the meantime grain came to Rome, a great part of it bought in Italy, but an equal amount sent as a present from Syracuse, where Gelo was tyrant. Most of the people were consequently in great hope, expecting that the city would be delivered both from its scarcity and its discord. The senate, accordingly, was convened at once, and the people, flocking about the senate-house, awaited the result of its deliberations. They expected that the market-price for grain would now be moderate, and that what had been sent as a present would be distributed gratis. For there were some in the senate who so advised that body. 2But Marcius rose in his place and vehemently attacked those who favoured the multitude, calling them demagogues and betrayers of the aristocracy, and declaring that they were nourishing, to their own harm, the evil seeds of boldness and insolence which had been sown among the rabble; these they should have choked when they first sprang up, and not have strengthened the people by such a powerful magistracy as the tribunate. But now their body was formidable, because it got everything that it desired, allowed no constraint upon its will, and refused to obey the consuls, but had their own leaders in anarchy, whom they styled their rulers. 3To sit there, moreover, voting such a people largesses and supplies, like those Greeks where democracy is most extreme, he said was nothing more nor less than maintaining them in their disobedience, to the common destruction of all. “For they surely will not say that they are getting these as a grateful return for the military services which they omitted, and the secessions by which they renounced their country, and the calumnies against the senate which they have countenanced. They will rather be confident that your fears drive you to subserviency and flattery when you make them these gifts and concessions, and will set no limit to their disobedience, nor cease from their quarrels and seditions. 4Such action on our part would therefore be sheer madness; but if we are wise, we shall take their tribunate away from them, for it makes the consulship null and void, and divides the city. This is no longer one, as before, but has been cut in two, so that we can never grow together again, or be of one mind, or cease afflicting and confounding one another.”

17With many such words as these Marcius was beyond measure successful in filling the younger senators, and almost all the wealthy ones, with his own fierce enthusiasm, and they cried out that he was the only man in the city who disdained submission and flattery. But some of the older senators opposed him, suspecting the outcome. And the outcome was wholly bad. For the tribunes were present, and when they saw that the proposal of Marcius was likely to prevail, they ran out among the crowd with loud cries, calling upon the plebeians to rally to their help. 2Then there was a stormy session of the assembly, and when the speech of Marcius was reported to it, the people were carried away with fury and almost burst in upon the senate. But the tribunes made their formal denunciation of Marcius, and summoned him by messenger to come before them and make his defence. And when he insolently drove away the officers who brought their message, they went themselves, attended by the aediles, to bring him by force, and tried to lay hands upon his person. But the patricians, banding together, drove the tribunes away, and actually beat the aediles.

3By this time, then, evening had fallen, which put an end to the tumult; but as soon as it was day, the exasperated people came running together from all quarters into the forum. When the consuls saw this, they were alarmed for the city, and convening the senate, urged them to consider how, by reasonable proposals and suitable resolutions, they might soothe and pacify the multitude, since it was not a time for ambitious rivalry, nor would they be wise in contending for their dignity, but the crisis was severe and critical, and demanded measures that were considerate and humane. 4The majority of the senate acceding to these views, the consuls went out and reasoned with the people as well as they could, and tried to mollify them, answering their accusations in a reasonable manner, and making only a moderate use of admonition and rebuke; as regarded the price of provisions and market supplies, they declared there should be no difference between them.

18Accordingly, the greater part of the people showed signs of relenting, and it was evident, from their decorous and sober attention, that they were on the way to be controlled and won over. Then the tribunes rose and declared that since the senate was now acting soberly, the people in their turn would make such concessions as were fair and honourable. They insisted, however, that Marcius should make answer to the following charges: Could he deny that he had instigated the senate to violate the constitution and abrogate the powers of the people? When summoned to appear before them, had he not refused? 2And finally, by insulting and beating the aediles in the forum, had he not done all in his power to incite the citizens to arms and bring about a civil war? They made this demand with a desire either that Marcius should be publicly humiliated, if, contrary to his nature, he curbed his haughty spirit and sued for the favour of the people; or, if he yielded to his natural promptings, that he should do something which would justify their wrath against him and make it implacable. The latter was what they the rather expected, and they rightly estimated the man’s character.

3For he came and stood before them as one who would defend himself, and the people were quiet and silent in his presence. But when, instead of the more or less deprecatory language expected by his audience, he began not only to employ an offensive boldness of speech, which at last became actual denunciation, but also to show, by the tone of his voice and the cast of his countenance, that his fearlessness was not far removed from disdain and contempt, 4then the people was exasperated, and gave evident signs that his words roused their impatience and indignation. Upon this, Sicinius, the boldest of the tribunes, after a brief conference with his colleagues, made formal proclamation that Marcius was condemned to death by the tribunes of the people, and ordered the aediles to take him up to the Tarpeian rock at once, and cast him down the cliff below. 5But when the aediles laid hold of his person, it seemed, even to many of the plebeians, a horrible and monstrous act; the patricians, moreover, utterly beside themselves, distressed and horror stricken, rushed with loud cries to his aid. Some of them actually pushed away the officers making the arrest, and got Marcius among themselves; 6some stretched out their hands in supplication of the multitude, since words and cries were of no avail amid such disorder and confusion. At last the friends and kindred of the tribunes, perceiving that it was impossible, without slaying many patricians, to lead Marcius away and punish him, persuaded them to remit what was unusual and oppressive in his sentence, not to use violence and put him to death without a trial, but to surrender him and refer his case to the people. 7Then Sicinius, becoming calm, asked the patricians what they meant by taking Marcius away from the people when it wished to punish him. But the patricians asked in their turn: “What then is your purpose, and what do ye mean, by thus dragging one of the foremost men of Rome, without a trial, to a savage and illegal punishment?” 8“Well then,” said Sicinius, “ye shall not have any such excuse for factious quarrel with the people; for they grant your demand that the man have a trial. And we cite thee, Marcius, to appear before the citizens on the third market-day ensuing, and convince them, if you can, of your innocence, assured that they will decide your case by vote.”

19For the time being, then, the patricians were satisfied with this truce, and went away in glad possession of Marcius. But in the time which intervened before the third market-day (for the Romans hold their markets every ninth day, calling them, therefore, “nundinae”), a campaign was undertaken against the city of Antium, which led them to hope that the issue might be avoided altogether. The campaign would last long enough, they thought, for the people to become tractable, after their rage had languished or altogether disappeared by reason of their occupation with the war. 2But presently, when the citizens returned home after a speedy settlement of their dispute with Antium, the patricians were in frequent conclave, being full of fear, and deliberating how they might not surrender Marcius, and yet prevent the popular leaders from throwing the people again into tumult and disorder. Appius Claudius, indeed, who was counted among those most hostile to the claims of the people, said with all solemnity that the senate would destroy itself and utterly betray the government of the city, if it should suffer the people to wield their vote in judgement on the patricians. 3But the oldest senators, and those most inclined to favour the people, maintained on the contrary that it would not be rendered harsh or severe by its exercise of this power, but mild and humane; for since it did not despise the senate, but rather thought itself despised by that body, the prerogative of trying a senator would be a solace to its feelings and a mark of honour, so that as soon as it proceeded to vote it would lay aside its wrath.

20Marcius, therefore, seeing that the senate was in suspense between its kindly feelings towards him and its fear of the people, asked the tribunes what the accusations against him were, and on what charge he would be tried if they led him before the people. They replied that the charge against him was usurpation, and that they would prove him guilty of planning a usurpation of the government. Thereupon he rose of his own accord and said he was going at once before the people to make his defence, and would deprecate no manner of trial, nor, should he be found guilty, any form of punishment; “Only,” said he, “see that ye confine yourselves to the charge mentioned, and do not play false with the senate.” The tribunes agreed to this, and on these terms the trial was held.

2But when the people were come together, in the first place, the tribunes insisted that the votes be cast not by centuries,[19] but by tribes, thus making the indigent and officious rabble, which had no thought of honour, superior in voting power to the wealthy and well known citizens of the military class. 3In the second place, abandoning the charge of usurpation, which could not be proven, they dwelt again upon the speech which Marcius had previously made in the senate, when he protested against the lowering of the market-price of grain, and urged them to take the tribunate away from the people. They also added a fresh charge against him, namely, his distribution of the spoils which he had taken from the country of Antium; these, they said, he had not turned into the public treasury, but had distributed them among those who made the campaign with him. 4By this accusation Marcius is said to have been more disturbed than by all the rest. For he had not expected it, and was not ready at once with an answer which would satisfy the people, but began to praise those who had made the campaign, whereupon he was clamorously interrupted by those who had not made it, and they were the more numerous. In the end, therefore, the vote was taken by tribes, and a majority of three condemned him.[20] The penalty assigned was perpetual banishment. 5After the result was announced, the people went off in greater elation and delight than they had ever shown for any victory in battle over their enemies; but the senate was in distress and dire dejection, repenting now and vexed to the soul that they had not done and suffered all things rather than allow the people to insult them in the exercise of such great powers. And there was no need now of dress or other marks of distinction in telling one class from another, but it was clear at once that he who rejoiced was a plebeian, and he who was vexed, a patrician.

21Albeit Marcius himself, who was neither daunted nor humbled, but in mien, port, and countenance fully composed, seemed the only man among all the distressed patricians who was not touched by his evil plight. And this was not due to calculation, or gentleness, or to a calm endurance of his fate, but he was stirred by rage and deep resentment, and this, although the many know it not, is pain. 2For when pain is transmuted into anger, it is consumed, as it were, by its flames, and casts off its own humility and sloth. Wherefore the angry man makes a show of activity, as he who has a fever is hot, his spirit being, so to speak, afflicted with throbbing, distention, and inflation. And that such was his condition, Marcius showed right quickly by his conduct.

3He went home, where his mother and his wife met him with wailings and loud lamentations, and after embracing them and bidding them to bear with equanimity the fate that had come upon them, he straightway departed and went to the city gate. Thither all the patricians in a body escorted him, but without taking anything or asking for anything he departed, having only three or four of his clients with him. 4For a few days he remained by himself at some country place, torn by many conflicting counsels, such as his anger suggested to him, purposing no good or helpful thing at all, but only how he might take vengeance on the Romans. At last he determined to incite some neighbouring nation to a formidable war against them. Accordingly, he set out to make trial of the Volscians first, knowing that they were still abundantly supplied with men and money, and thinking that they had been not so much crippled in power by their recent defeats as filled with contentious wrath against the Romans.

22Now there was a certain man of Antium, Tullus Aufidius by name, who, by reason of his wealth and bravery and conspicuous lineage, had the standing of a king among all the Volscians. By this man Marcius knew himself to be hated as no other Roman was; for they had often exchanged threats and challenges in the battles which they had fought, and such emulous boastings as the ambitious ardour of youthful warriors prompts had given rise to a mutual hatred of their own, in addition to that of their peoples. 2However, since he saw that Tullus had a certain grandeur of spirit, and that he, more than all other Volscians, was eager to retaliate upon the Romans, if they gave him any opportunity, Marcius bore witness to the truth of him who said:[21] “With anger it is hard to fight; for whatsoe’er it wishes, that it buys, even at the cost of life.” For, putting on such clothing and attire as would make him seem, to any one who saw him, least like the man he was, like Odysseus,

“He went into the city of his deadly foes.”[22]

23It was evening, and many met him, but no man knew him. He proceeded, therefore, to the house of Tullus, and slipping in unawares, took his seat at the hearth[23] in silence, covered his head, and remained there motionless. The people of the house were amazed, and did not venture to raise him up, for his mien and his silence gave him a certain dignity; but they told Tullus, who was at supper, what a strange thing had happened. 2Tullus rose from table and came to him, and asked him who he was, and why he was come. At this, then, Marcius uncovered his head, and after a slight pause, said: “If thou dost not yet recognize me, Tullus, but disbelievest thine eyes, I must be my own accuser. I am Caius Marcius, he who has wrought thee and the Volscians most harm, and the surname of Coriolanus which I bear permits no denial of this. 3I have won no other prize for all the toils and perils which I have undergone than the name which is a badge of my enmity to your people. This, indeed, cannot be taken away from me; but of everything else I have been stripped, through the envy and insolence of the Roman people, and the cowardly treachery of the magistrates and those of my own order. I have been driven into exile, too, and am become a suppliant at thy hearth, not for the sake of security and safety,—for why should I come hither if I were afraid of death?—but with a desire to take vengeance on those who have driven me forth, which I take at once when I put myself in thy power. 4If, then, thou art eager to assail thine enemies, come, good Sir, take advantage of my calamities, and make my individual misfortune the good fortune of all the Volscians; I shall fight better for you than I have against you, in just so far as those who know the secrets of their enemies fight better than those who do not. But if thou hast given up hope, neither do I wish to live, nor is it for thine advantage to spare one who has long been an enemy and a foe, and now is unprofitable and useless.”

5When Tullus heard this, he was wonderfully pleased, and giving him his right hand, said: “Rise up, Marcius, and be of good courage. In giving thyself to us, thou bringest us a great good, and thou mayest expect a greater one still from the Volscians.” Then he entertained Marcius at table with every mark of kindness, and during the ensuing days they took counsel together concerning the war.[24]

24But at Rome, owing to the hatred of the people by the patricians, who were especially embittered by the condemnation of Marcius, there were great commotions, and many signs from heaven were reported by seers, priests, and private persons, which could not be ignored. One of these is said to have been as follows. There was one Titus Latinus,[25] a man of no great prominence, but of quiet and modest life in general, and free from superstitious fears, as he was also, and yet more, from vain pretensions. 2This man dreamed that Jupiter appeared to him, and bade him tell the senate that the dancer, whom they had appointed to head his procession, was a bad one, and gave him the greatest displeasure. After having this vision, Titus said, he gave it no thought at all at first, but after he had seen it a second and a third time, and still neglected it, he had suffered the loss of an excellent son by death, and had himself become suddenly palsied. 3This story he told after having been brought into the senate on a litter, and no sooner had he told it, they say, than he at once felt the strength return to his body, and rose up, and went away, walking without aid. In amazement, then, the senators made a careful investigation of the matter.

Now, what had happened was this. A certain man had handed over one of his slaves to other slaves, with orders to scourge him through the forum, and then put him to death. 4While they were executing this commission and tormenting the poor wretch, whose pain and suffering made him writhe and twist himself horribly, the sacred procession in honour of Jupiter chanced to come up behind. Many of those who took part in it were, indeed, scandalized at the joyless sight and the unseemly contortions of the victim, but no one made any protest; they merely heaped abuse and curses on the head of the master who was inflicting such a cruel punishment. For in those days the Romans treated their slaves with great kindness, because they worked and even ate with them themselves, and were therefore more familiar and gentle with them. 5And it was a severe punishment for a slave who had committed a fault, if he was obliged to take the piece of wood with which they prop up the pole of a waggon, and carry it around through the neighbourhood. 6For he who had been seen undergoing this punishment no longer had any credit in his own or neighbouring households. And he was called “furcifer”; for what the Greeks call a prop, or support, is called “furca” by the Romans.

25When, therefore, Latinus had reported his vision to the senators, and they were at a loss to know who the unpleasant and bad dancer was who had headed the procession referred to, some of them were led, owing to the extraordinary nature of his punishment, to think of the slave who had been scourged through the forum and then put to death. Accordingly, with the concurrence of the priests, the master of the slave was punished, and the procession and spectacles in honour of the god were exhibited anew.[26]

2Now it would seem that Numa, who in other respects also was a very wise director of sacred rites, had very properly sought to secure the people’s reverent attention by means of the following ordinance. When, namely, magistrates or priests perform any religious function, a herald goes before, crying with a loud voice, “Hoc age.” The meaning of the cry is, Mind this! and it warns the people to give heed to the sacred rites, and suffer no task or demand of business to intervene,[27] implying that men perform most of their duties under some sort of compulsion and by constraint. 3And it is customary for the Romans to renew sacrifices and processions and spectacles, not only for such a reason as the above, but also for trivial reasons. For instance, if one of the horses drawing the sacred chariots called Tensae gives out; or again, if the charioteer takes hold of the reins with his left hand, they decree that the procession be renewed. And in later ages, a single sacrifice has been performed thirty times, because again and again some failure or offence was thought to occur. Such is the reverent care of the Romans in religious matters.

26But Marcius and Tullus were secretly conferring at Antium with the chief men, and were urging them to begin the war while the Romans were torn by internal dissensions. And when shame restrained them from this course, because they had agreed to a truce and cessation of hostilities for two years, the Romans themselves furnished them with a pretext, by making proclamation at the spectacles and games, because of some suspicion or slanderous report, that the visiting Volscians must leave the city before sunset. 2Some say[28] that this was due to a deceitful stratagem of Marcius, who sent a man to the consuls in Rome, bearing the false charge that the Volscians purposed to fall upon the Romans at the spectacles, and set the city on fire.[29] This proclamation made all the Volscians more embittered against the Romans; and Tullus, magnifying the incident, and goading them on, at last persuaded them to send ambassadors to Rome[30] and demand back the territory and the cities which had been taken from the Volscians in war. 3But the Romans, after hearing the ambassadors, were full of indignation, and replied that the Volscians might be first to take up arms, but the Romans would be last to lay them down. Upon receiving this answer, Tullus called a general assembly of his people, and after they had voted for the war, advised them to call in Marcius, cherishing no resentment against him, but firmly convinced that he would be more helpful as an ally than he had been injurious as a foe.

27Marcius was therefore called in, and held a conference with the assembly; they saw from his speech that he was as eloquent as his exploits in arms had taught them that he was warlike, and were convinced of his surpassing intelligence and daring; so they appointed him general with Tullus, and gave him full powers to conduct the war. 2Fearing, then, that the time needed to equip and marshal the Volscians would be so long as to rob him of his best opportunity for action, he left orders with the magistrates and chief men of the city to assemble and provide the remaining forces and supplies that were requisite, while he himself, after persuading the most ardent spirits to march forth as volunteers with him and not stop for formal enrolment, burst into the Roman territory of a sudden, when no one expected it. 3Consequently he secured such abundance of booty that the Volscians had more than they could possibly do to use it in their camp or carry it off home. But the abundant supplies secured, and the great injury and damage done to the enemy’s country, were, in his eyes, the most insignificant result of that expedition; its chief result, and his main object in making it, was to furnish the people of Rome with fresh charges against the patricians. For while he maltreated and destroyed everything else, he kept a vigorous watch over the lands of the patricians, and would not suffer anyone to hurt them or take anything from them. 4This led to still further accusations and broils between the parties in the city; the patricians accused the people of unjustly driving out an influential man, and the people charged the patricians with bringing Marcius up against them in a spirit of revenge, and then enjoying the spectacle of what others suffered by the war, while the war itself protected their own wealth and property outside the city. After Marcius had accomplished his purposes, and greatly helped the Volscians towards courage and scorn of their enemies, he led his forces back in safety.[31]

28The entire force of the Volscians was assembled with speed and alacrity, and was then seen to be so large that they determined to leave a part of it behind for the security of their cities, and with the other part to march against the Romans. Moreover, Marcius left it to the choice of Tullus which of the two divisions he would command. Then Tullus, remarking that Marcius was clearly in no wise inferior to himself in valour, and had enjoyed a better fortune in all his battles, bade him lead the division that was to take the field, and he himself would remain behind to guard the cities and provide what was requisite for the army abroad.[32] 2With a stronger force than before, then, Marcius set out first against Circeii, a city which was a colony of Rome; this surrendered to him of its own accord, and he did it no harm. Next, he laid waste the country of the Latins, where he expected that the Romans would engage him in defence of the Latins, who were their allies and by frequent messengers were calling upon them for help. 3But the commons were indifferent to the appeal, the consuls were unwilling to risk a campaign during the short time left of their term of office, and therefore the Latin envoys were dismissed. Under these circumstances Marcius led his forces against their cities, and taking by assault those which offered resistance to him, namely, Tolerium, Lavicum, Pedum, and later Bola, he made slaves of the inhabitants and plundered their property. But for those who came over to him of their own accord he showed much concern, and that they might suffer no harm, even against his wishes, he encamped as far as he could from them, and held aloof from their territory.

29But after he had taken Bola, a city not more than twelve miles away from Rome, where he got much treasure and put almost all the adults to the sword; and after the Volscians even who had been ordered to remain in their cities grew impatient, and came trooping in arms to Marcius, declaring that he was the sole and only general whom they would recognize as their leader, then his name was great throughout all Italy, and men thought with amazement how the valour of a single man, upon his changing sides, had effected such a marvellous turn in affairs.

2At Rome, however, all was disorder; its citizens refused to fight, and spent their whole time in cabals and factious disputes with one another, until tidings came that the enemy had laid close siege to Lavinium, where the sacred symbols of the ancestral gods of the Romans were stored up, and from which their nation took its origin, since that was the first city which Aeneas founded. 3This produced an astonishing and universal change of opinion in the commons, as well as one which was altogether strange and unexpected in the patricians. For the commons were eager to repeal the sentence against Marcius and invite him back to the city; whereas the senate, on assembling and considering the proposition, rejected and vetoed it; either because they were angrily bent on opposing all the people’s desires; 4or else because they were unwilling that Marcius should owe his restoration to the kindness of the people; or because they were now angry at Marcius himself, seeing that he was injuring all alike, although he had not been ill-treated by all, and showed himself an enemy of his whole country, although he knew that the most influential and powerful men in it sympathised with him and shared in his wrongs. When this decision of the senate was made public, the people was powerless; it could not by its vote enact a law, without a previous decree of the senate.

30But Marcius, when he heard of it, was yet more exasperated, and raising the siege of Lavinium, marched against Rome in wrath, and encamped at the so-called Fossae Cluiliae, only five miles distant from the city. Although the sight of him produced terror and great confusion there, still, it put a stop for the present to their dissensions; for no one longer, whether consul or senator, dared to oppose the people in the matter of restoring Marcius. 2On the contrary, when they saw the women running frantic in the city, and the aged men resorting to the sacred shrines with suppliant tears and prayers, and everywhere an utter lack of courage and saving counsels, then all agreed that the people had done well to seek a reconciliation with Marcius, but that the senate had made a total mistake in beginning then to indulge its wrath and revengeful spirit, when it had been well to lay such feelings aside. It was, therefore, unanimously decided to send ambassadors to Marcius, offering him the privilege of returning to his country, and begging him to stop his war upon them. 3Moreover, the messengers from the senate were kinsmen and friends of Marcius, and expected to be treated with great friendliness in their first interview with a man who was a relative and associate of theirs. But matters turned out quite otherwise; for after being led through the camp of the enemy, they found him seated in great state, and looking insufferably stern. 4Surrounded by the chief men of the Volscians, he bade the Romans declare their wishes. They did so, in reasonable and considerate language, and with a manner suitable to their position, and when they had ceased, he made an answer which, so far as it concerned himself, was full of bitterness and anger at their treatment of him, and in behalf of the Volscians, as their general, he ordered the restitution of the cities and territory which had been torn from them in war, and the passage of a decree granting the Volscians, as allies, equal civic rights, as had been done for the Latins. 5For no respite from the war would be secure and lasting, he said, except it be based on just and equal rights. Moreover, he gave them thirty days for deliberation, and when the ambassadors were gone, he immediately withdrew his forces from the country.[33]

31This was the first ground of complaint against him which was laid hold of by those of the Volscians who had long been jealous of him, and uneasy at the influence which he had acquired. Among these was Tullus also, not because he had been personally wronged at all by Marcius, but because he was only too human. For he was vexed to find his reputation wholly obscured and himself neglected by the Volscians, who thought that Marcius alone was everything to them, and that their other leaders should be content with whatever share of influence and authority he might bestow upon them. 2This was the reason why the first seeds of denunciation were sown in secret, and now, banding together, the malcontents shared their resentment with one another, and called the withdrawal of Marcius a betrayal, not so much of cities and armies, as of golden opportunities, which prove the salvation or the loss of these as well as of everything else; for he had granted a respite of thirty days from war, although in war the greatest changes might occur in much less time than this.

3And yet Marcius did not spend this time in idleness, but fell upon the enemy’s allies, harassed and ravaged their territories, and captured seven of their large and populous cities.[34] And the Romans did not venture to come to their aid, but their spirits were full of hesitation, and their attitude toward the war was that of men who are completely benumbed and paralyzed. 4And when the time had passed, and Marcius was at hand again with his entire force, they sent out another embassy to entreat him to moderate his wrath, withdraw the Volscian army from the country, and then make such proposals and settlements as he thought best for both nations; for the Romans would make no concessions through fear, but if he thought that the Volscians ought to obtain certain favours, all such would be granted them if they laid down their arms. 5Marcius replied that, as general of the Volscians, he would make no answer to this, but as one who was still a citizen of Rome, he advised and exhorted them to adopt more moderate views of what justice required, and come to him in three days with a ratification of his previous demands; but if they should decide otherwise, they must know well that it was not safe for them to come walking into his camp again with empty phrases.

32When the embassy had returned and the senate had heard its report, it was felt that the city was tossing on the billows of a great tempest, and therefore the last and sacred anchor was let down. A decree was passed that all the priests of the gods, and the celebrants or custodians of the mysteries, and those who practised the ancient and ancestral art of divination from the flight of birds,—that all these should go to Marcius, arrayed as was the custom of each in the performance of their sacred rites, and should urge him in the same manner as before to put a stop to the war, and then to confer with his fellow-citizens regarding the Volscians. 2He did, indeed, admit this embassy into his camp, but made no other concession, nor did he act or speak more mildly, but told them to make a settlement on his former terms, or else accept the war.[35] Accordingly, when the priests had returned, it was decided to remain quietly in the city, guarding its walls, and repulsing the enemy, should he make an attack. 3They put their hopes in time especially, and in the vicissitudes of fortune, since they knew not how to save themselves by their own efforts, but turmoil, terror, and rumours of evil possessed the city. At last something happened that was like what Homer often mentions, although people generally do not wholly believe it. 4For when some great and unusual deed is to be done, that poet declares in his stately manner:—

“He then was inspired by the goddess, flashing-eyed Athene”;[36]

and again:—

“But some immortal turned his mind by lodging in his heart

A fear of what the folk would say”;[37]

and again:—

“Either through some suspicion, or else a god so bade him do”;[38]

but people despise Homer and say that with his impossible exploits and incredible tales he makes it impossible to believe in every man’s power to determine his own choice of action. 5This, however, is not what Homer does, but those acts which are natural, customary, and the result of reasoning, he attributes to our own volition, and he certainly says frequently:—

“But I formed a plan within my lordly heart”;[39]

and also:—

“So he spake, and Peleus’ son was sore distressed, and his heart

Within his shaggy breast between two courses was divided”;[40]

and again:—

“But him no whit
Could she persuade from his integrity, the fiery-hearted Bellerophon”;[41]

6while in exploits of a strange and extraordinary nature, requiring some rush of inspiration, and desperate courage, he does not represent the god as taking away, but as prompting, a man’s choice of action; nor yet as creating impulses in a man, but rather conceptions which lead to impulses, and by these his action is not made involuntary, but his will is set in motion, while courage and hope are added to sustain him. 7For either the influence of the gods must be wholly excluded from all initiating power over our actions, or in what other way can they assist and co-operate with men? They certainly do not mould our bodies by their direct agency, nor give the requisite change to the action of our hands and feet, but rather, by certain motives, conceptions, and purposes, they rouse the active and elective powers of our spirits, or, on the other hand, divert and check them.

33Now in Rome, at the time of which I speak, various groups of women visited the various temples, but the greater part of them, and those of highest station, carried their supplications to the altar of Jupiter Capitolinus. Among these was Valeria, a sister of that Publicola who had done the Romans so many eminent services both as warrior and statesman. Publicola, indeed, had died some time before, as I have related in his Life;[42] but Valeria was still enjoying her repute and honour in the city, where her life was thought to adorn her lineage. 2This woman, then, suddenly seized with one of those feelings which I have been describing, and laying hold of the right expedient with a purpose not uninspired of heaven, rose up herself, bade the other women all rise, and came with them to the house of Volumnia,[43] the mother of Marcius. After entering and finding her seated with her daughter-in-law, and holding the children of Marcius on her lap, Valeria called about her the women who had followed, and said: 3“We whom thou seest here, Volumnia, and thou, Vergilia, are come as women to women, obeying neither senatorial edict nor consular command; but our god, as it would seem, taking pity on our supplication, put into our hearts an impulse to come hither to you and beseech you to do that which will not only be the salvation of us ourselves and of the citizens besides, but also lift you who consent to do it to a more conspicuous fame than that which the daughters of the Sabines won, when they brought the fathers and husbands out of war into friendship and peace. 4Arise, come with us to Marcius, and join with us in supplicating him, bearing this just and true testimony in behalf of your country, that, although she has suffered much wrong at his hands, she has neither done nor thought of doing harm to you, in her anger, but restores you to him, even though she is destined to obtain no equitable treatment at his hands.”

5These words of Valeria were seconded by the cries of the other women with her, and Volumnia gave them this answer: “O women, not only have we an equal share with you in the common calamities, but we have an additional misery of our own, in that we have lost the fame and virtue of Marcius, and see his person protected in command, rather than preserved from death, by the arms of our enemies. And yet it is the greatest of our misfortunes that our native city is become so utterly weak as to place her hopes in us. 6For I know not whether the man will have any regard for us, since he has none for his country, which he once set before mother and wife and children. However, take us and use us and bring us to him; if we can do nothing else, we can at least breathe out our lives in supplications for our country.”

34After this, she took the children and Vergilia and went with the other women to the camp of the Volscians. The sight of them, and the pitifulness of it, produced even in their enemies reverence and silence. Now it chanced that Marcius was seated on a tribunal with his chief officers. 2When, accordingly, he saw the women approaching, he was amazed; and when he recognized his mother, who walked at their head, he would fain have persisted in his previous inflexible and implacable course, but, mastered by his feelings, and confounded at what he saw, he could not endure to remain seated while they approached him, but descended quickly from the tribunal and ran to meet them. He saluted his mother first, and held her a long time in his embrace, and then his wife and children, sparing now neither tears nor caresses, but suffering himself as it were to be borne away by a torrent of emotion.

35But when he was sated with this, and perceived that his mother now wished to say something, he brought to his side the councillors of the Volscians, and heard Volumnia speak as follows: “Thou seest, my son, even if we do not speak ourselves, and canst judge from the wretchedness of our garb and aspect, to what a pitiful state thy banishment has reduced us. 2And now be sure that we who come to thee are of all women most unhappy, since fortune has made the sight which should have been most sweet, most dreadful for us, as I behold my son, and this wife of thine her husband, encamped against the walls of our native city. And that which for the rest is an assuagement of all misfortune and misery, namely prayer to the gods, has become for us most impracticable; for we cannot ask from the gods both victory for our country and at the same time safety for thee, but that which any one of our foes might imprecate upon us as a curse, this must be the burden of our prayers. 3For thy wife and children must needs be deprived either of their country or of thee. As for me, I will not wait to have the war decide this issue for me while I live, but unless I can persuade thee to substitute friendship and concord for dissension and hostility, and so to become a benefactor of both parties rather than a destroyer of one of them, then consider and be well assured that thou canst not assail thy country without first treading underfoot the corpse of her who bore thee. For it does not behoove me to await that day on which I shall behold my son either led in triumph by his fellow-citizens or triumphing over his country. 4If, then, I asked you to save your country by ruining the Volscians, the question before thee would be a grievous one, my son, and hard to decide, since it is neither honourable for a man to destroy his fellow-citizens, nor just for him to betray those who have put their trust in him; but as it is, we ask only a relief from evils, something which would be salutary for both parties alike, but more conducive to fame and honour for the Volscians, because their superiority in arms will give them the appearance of bestowing the greatest of blessings, namely peace and friendship, although they get these no less themselves. If these blessings are realized, it will be chiefly due to thee; if they are not, then thou alone wilt bear the blame from both nations. 5And though the issues of war are obscure, this is manifest, that if victorious, thou wilt only be thy country’s destroying demon, and if defeated, the world will think that, to satisfy thy wrath, thou didst bring down the greatest calamities upon men who were thy benefactors and friends.”

36While Volumnia was saying this, Marcius listened without making any answer, and after she had ceased also, he stood a long time in silence. Volumnia therefore began once more: “Why art thou silent, my son? Is it right to yield everything to wrath and resentment, but wrong to gratify a mother in such a prayer as this? 2Or is the remembrance of his wrongs becoming to a great man, while the remembrance, with reverence and honour, of the benefits which children have received from their parents is not the duty of a great and good man? Surely for no man were it more seemly to cherish gratitude than for thee, who dost so bitterly proceed against ingratitude. 3And yet, although thou hast already punished thy country severely, thou hast not shown thy mother any gratitude. It were, therefore, a most pious thing in thee to grant me, without any compulsion, so worthy and just a request as mine; but since I cannot persuade thee, why should I spare my last resource?” And with these words she threw herself at his feet, together with his wife and children. 4Then Marcius, crying out “What hast thou done to me, my mother!” lifted her up, and pressing her right hand warmly, said: “Thou art victorious, and thy victory means good fortune to my country, but death to me; for I shall withdraw vanquished, though by thee alone.” When he had said this, and had held a little private conference with his mother and his wife, he sent them back again to Rome, as they desired, and on the next morning led away his Volscians, who were not at all affected in the same way nor equally pleased by what had happened. 5For some found fault both with him and with what he had done; but others, who were favourably disposed towards a peaceful settlement of the dispute, with neither; while some, though displeased with his proceedings, nevertheless could not look upon Marcius as a bad man, but thought it pardonable in him to be broken down by such strong compulsions. No one, however, opposed him, but all followed him obediently, though rather out of admiration for his virtue than regard for his authority.[44]

37But the Roman people showed more plainly, when they were set free from the war, the greatness of their fear and peril while it lasted. For as soon as those who manned the walls descried the Volscians drawing their forces off, every temple was thrown open, and the people crowned themselves with garlands and offered sacrifices as if for victory. But the joy of the city was most apparent in the honour and loving favour which both the senate and the whole people bestowed upon the women, declaring their belief that the city’s salvation was manifestly due to them. 2When, however, the senate passed a decree that whatsoever they asked for themselves in the way of honour or favour, should be furnished and done for them by the magistrates, they asked for nothing else besides the erection of a temple of Women’s Fortune, the expense of which they offered to contribute of themselves, if the city would undertake to perform, at the public charge, all the sacrifices and honours, such as are due to the gods. 3The senate commended their public spirit, and erected the temple and its image at the public charge,[45] but they none the less contributed money themselves and set up a second image of the goddess, and this, the Romans say, as it was placed in the temple, uttered some such words as these: “Dear to the gods, O women, is your pious gift of me.”[46]

38These words were actually uttered twice, as the story runs, which would have us believe what is difficult of belief and probably never happened. For that statues have appeared to sweat, and shed tears, and exude something like drops of blood, is not impossible; since wood and stone often contract a mould which is productive of moisture, and cover themselves with many colours, and receive tints from the atmosphere; and there is nothing in the way of believing that the Deity uses these phenomena sometimes as signs and portents. 2It is possible also that statues may emit a noise like a moan or a groan, by reason of a fracture or a rupture, which is more violent if it takes place in the interior. But that articulate speech, and language so clear and abundant and precise, should proceed from a lifeless thing, is altogether impossible; since not even the soul of man, or the Deity, without a body duly organized and fitted with vocal parts, has ever spoken and conversed. 3But where history forces our assent with numerous and credible witnesses, we must conclude that an experience different from that of sensation arises in the imaginative part of the soul, and persuades men to think it sensation; as, for instance, in sleep, when we think we see and hear, although we neither see nor hear. However, those who cherish strong feelings of good-will and affection for the Deity, and are therefore unable to reject or deny anything of this kind, have a strong argument for their faith in the wonderful and transcendent character of the divine power. 4For the Deity has no resemblance whatever to man, either in nature, activity, skill, or strength; nor, if He does something that we cannot do, or contrives something that we cannot contrive, is this contrary to reason; but rather, since he differs from us in all points, in His works most of all is He unlike us and far removed from us. But most of the Deity’s powers, as Heracleitus says,[47] “escape our knowledge through incredulity.”

39But as for Marcius, when he came back to Antium from his expedition, Tullus, who had long hated him and been oppressed with jealousy of him, plotted to take him off at once, believing that if his enemy escaped him now, he would never give him another chance to seize him. Having, therefore, arrayed a large party against him, he bade him lay down his command and give the Volscians an account of his administration. 2But Marcius, afraid of being reduced to private station when Tullus was in command and exercising the greatest influence among his own countrymen, said he would resign his command to the Volscians, if they bade him do so, since it was at their general bidding that he had assumed it; and that he was ready, and would not refuse even before that, to give a full account of his administration to all the people of Antium who desired it. An assembly was therefore held, at which the popular leaders who had been set to the work rose and tried to embitter the multitude against him. 3But when Marcius rose to speak, the more disorderly part of his audience grew quiet, out of reverence for him, and gave him opportunity to speak fearlessly, while the best of the men of Antium, and those that were especially pleased with peace, made it clear that they would listen to him with favour and give a just decision. Tullus, therefore, began to fear the effect of the man’s plea in self-defence; for he was one of the most powerful speakers, and his earlier achievements secured him a gratitude which outweighed his later fault; nay more, the very charge against him was but so much proof of the great gratitude which was his due. 4For they would not have thought themselves wronged in not getting Rome into their power, had not the efforts of Marcius brought them near to taking it.

Accordingly, the conspirators decided to make no more delay, and not to test the feelings of the multitude; but the boldest of them, crying out that the Volscians must not listen to the traitor, nor suffer him to retain his command and play the tyrant among them, fell upon him in a body and slew him, and no man present offered to defend him.[48] 5However, that the deed was not wrought with the approval of the majority of the Volscians, was seen at once from their coming out of their cities in concourse to his body, to which they gave honourable burial, adorning his tomb with arms and spoils, as that of a chieftain and general. But when the Romans learned of his death, they paid him no other mark either of honour or resentment, but simply granted the request of the women that they might mourn for him ten months, as was customary when any one of them lost a father, or a son, or a brother. For this was the period fixed for the longest mourning, and it was fixed by Numa Pompilius, as is written in his Life.[49]

6The loss of Marcius was keenly felt at once by the Volscian state. For, in the first place, they quarrelled with the Aequians, who were their allies and friends, over the supreme command, and carried their quarrel to the length of bloodshed and slaughter; in the second place, they were defeated in battle by the Romans, wherein Tullus was slain and the very flower of their forces was cut to pieces, so that they were glad to accept most disgraceful terms, becoming subjects of Rome, and pledging themselves to obey her commands.[50]

« About This Work | Plut. Cor. 1–39 (end) | About This Work »


  • [1] By Lake Regillus, 498 (?) B.C.

  • [2] Early colonists of Rome, under Evander.

  • [3] Cf. Herodotus, i. 66.

  • [4] In the shape of mead.

  • [5] Three miles from the city (Livy, ii. 32, 2).

  • [6] Cf. Livy, ii. 32, 9-11; Dionysius Hal., Antiq. Rom. vi. 86.

  • [7] Cf. Livy, ii. 33, 1-3.

  • [8] It is in connection with the attack on Corioli that Livy first mentions Marcius (ii. 33, 5-9); also Dionysius Hal. (vi. 92).

  • [9] Cf. Cato the Elder, i. 6.

  • [10] Cf. Dionysius Hal. vi. 94.

  • [11] Cf. Dionysius Hal. vi. 94.

  • [12] Soter, Saviour; Callinicus, Of noble victory; Physcon, Fat-paunch; Grypus, Hook-nosed; Euergetes, Benefactor; Philadelphus, Sister- or Brother-lover; Eudaemon, Prosperous; Doson, Always-promising; Lathyrus, Vetchling; Sulla, Blotches (?); Niger, Black; Rufus, Red; Caecus, Blind; Claudius, Lame.

  • [13] Cf. Romulus, x. 2.

  • [14] Cf. Dionysius Hal. vii. 13.

  • [15] Cf. Dionysius Hal. vii. 19.

  • [16] There is nothing of this candidacy for the consulship in Livy (ii. 34, 7-35). Marcius urges the senate to take advantage of the famine and exact from the plebeians a surrender of their tribunate. This so exasperates the people that they try Marcius in absentia and banish him, whereupon he goes over to the Volsci. Plutarch's story (xiv.-xx.) agrees closely with Dionysius Hal. vii. 21-64.

  • [17] A stronghold on the western coast of Messenia, in Peloponnesus. It was occupied and successfully defended by the Athenians in 425 B.C. (Thuc. iv. 2-41). In 410, the Lacedaemonians laid siege to its Messenian garrison, which surrendered after an Athenian fleet had failed to relieve it (Diodorus, xiii. 64, 5 f.).

  • [18] In a letter to Dio (Epist. iv. ad fin.).

  • [19] Out of the 193 centuries, the richest class alone had 98, against 95 of all the other five classes put together.

  • [20] Dionysius Hal. (vii. 64) says that nine of the twenty-one tribes voted to acquit Marcius.

  • [21] Heracleitus, Fragment 105 (Bywater, Heracliti Ephesii reliquiae, p. 41).

  • [22] Odyssey, iv. 246.

  • [23] A sacred place of refuge for the suppliant. Cf. Odyssey, vii. 153.

  • [24] Livy simply says that Marcius was kindly received by the Volscians, and that he lodged with Tullus (ii. 35, 6). Chapters xxi.-xxiii. agree closely with Dionysius Hal. vii. 67 and viii. 1.

  • [25] The story is found in Livy, ii. 36, and in Valerius Maximus, i. 7, 4.

  • [26] According to Livy (ii. 36 and 37), it was at the repetition of the great games, which was made necessary by the profanation made known by the dream of Latinus, that the Volscians were sent out of the city, as described by Plutarch in chapter xxvi. 1.

  • [27] Cf. Numa, xiv. 2.

  • [28] See the following Comparison, ii. 2.

  • [29] According to Livy (ii. 37, 1-7), it was Tullus himself who came to the consuls, as had been planned with Marcius. Plutarch agrees rather with Dionysius Hal. viii. 3.

  • [30] Livy speaks only of a revolt (ii. 38, fin.). Plutarch agrees with Dionysius Hal. viii. 4-10.

  • [31] There is nothing of this preliminary foray in Livy. It is on the main expedition (chap. xxviii.) that the patrician lands are spared (ii. 39). According to Dionysius (viii. 12), Tullus led one division into the territory of the Latins, Marcius the other into that of Rome, and both brought back enormous booty.

  • [32] Cf. Dionysius, viii. 13.

  • [33] There is nothing of this withdrawal of forces in Livy (ii. 39).

  • [34] Cf. Dionysius, viii. 36. Chapters xxviii.-xxx. in Plutarch agree closely with Dionysius viii. 14-35.

  • [35] Cf. Livy, ii. 39, 12; Dionysius, viii. 38.

  • [36] Odyssey, xviii. 158 = xxi. i. (τῇ δ᾽ ἄρα).

  • [37] Not to be found now in Homer.

  • [38] Odyssey, ix. 339.

  • [39] Odyssey, ix. 299.

  • [40] Iliad, i. 188 f.

  • [41] Iliad, vi. 161 f.

  • [42] Chapter xxiii.

  • [43] "Then the matrons came in a body to Veturia, the mother of Coriolanus, and Volumnia, his wife. Whether this was the result of public counsel, or of the women's fear, I cannot ascertain." —Livy, ii. 40, 1. In Dionysius also (viii. 39, 40), whom Plutarch seems otherwise to be following, Veturia is the mother, and Volumnia the wife, of Marcius.

  • [44] Compare Livy's story of this interview and its results (ii. 40, 3-9). Plutarch agrees rather with Dionysius, viii. 39-54.

  • [45] Cf. Livy, ii. 40, 11.

  • [46] Cf. Dionysius, viii. 56.

  • [47] Fragment 116 (Bywater, p. 45).

  • [48] "Then, after he had withdrawn his troops from the Roman territory, they say that he was overwhelmed with hatred in consequence, and lost his life, different writers giving different details of his death. In Fabius, who is by far the most ancient authority, I find that he lived even to old age" (Livy, ii. 40, 10). Chapter xxxix. in Plutarch agrees closely with Dionysius viii. 57-59, who says that Marcius was stoned to death.

  • [49] Chapter xii. 2.

  • [50] Cf. Livy, ii. 40, 12 f.

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