Gaius Marcius


The Moral Liberal, Classics Library

Plutarch: “Gaius Marcius”, Plutarch’s Lives, 75 A.C.E.


I. The patrician family of the Marcii at Rome produced many illustrious men, amongst whom was Ancus Marcius, the grandson of Numa, who became king after the death of Tullus Hostilius. To this family also belonged Publius and Quintus Marcius, who supplied Rome with abundance of excellent water, and Censorinus, twice appointed censor by the Roman people, who afterwards passed a law that no one should hold that office twice.

Caius Marcius, the subject of this memoir, was an orphan, and brought up by a widowed mother. He proved that, hard though the lot of an orphan may be, yet it does not prevent a man’s becoming great and distinguished, and that the bad alone allege it as an excuse for an intemperate life. He also proves to us that a naturally noble nature, if it be not properly disciplined, will produce many good and bad qualities together, just as a rich field, if not properly tilled, will produce both weeds and good fruit. The immense energy and courage of his mind used to urge him to attempt and to perform great exploits, but his harsh and ambitious temper made it difficult for him to live on friendly terms with his companions. They used to admire his indifference to pleasure and pain, and his contempt for bribes, but in politics they were angered by his morose and haughty manner, too proud for a citizen of a republic. Indeed there is no advantage to be gained from a liberal education so great as that of softening and disciplining the natural ferocity of our disposition, by teaching it moderation, and how to avoid all extremes. However, at that period warlike virtues were valued above all others at Rome, which is proved by the Romans possessing only one word for virtue and for bravery, so that virtue, a general term, is applied by them to the particular form, courage.

II. Marcius, having an especial passion for war, was familiar from childhood with the use of arms. Reflecting that artificial weapons are of little use without a body capable of wielding them, he so trained himself for all possible emergencies that he was both able to run swiftly and also to grapple with his foe so strongly that few could escape from him. Those who entered into any contest with him, when beaten, used to ascribe their defeat to his immense bodily strength, which no exertions could tire out.

III. He served his first campaign while yet a youth, when Tarquin, the exiled King of Rome, after many battles and defeats, staked all upon one last throw, and assembled an army to attack Rome. His force consisted chiefly of Latins, but many other Italian states took his part in the war, not from any attachment to his person, but through fear and dislike of the growing power of Rome. In the battle which ensued, in which various turns of fortune took place, Marcius, while fighting bravely under the eye of the dictator himself, saw a Roman fallen and helpless near him. He at once made for this man, stood in front of him, and killed his assailant. After the victory, Marcius was among the first who received the oak-leaf crown. This crown is given to him who has saved the life of a citizen in battle, and is composed of oak-leaves, either out of compliment to the Arcadians, whom the oracle calls ‘acorn eaters,’ or because in any campaign in any country it is easy to obtain oak-boughs, or it may be that the oak, sacred to Jupiter the protector of cities, forms a suitable crown for one who has saved the life of a citizen. The oak is the most beautiful of all wild trees, and the strongest of those which are artificially cultivated. It afforded men in early times both food and drink, by its acorns and the honey found in it, while by the bird-lime which it produces, it enables them to catch most kinds of birds and other creatures, as additional dainties.

This was the battle in which they say that the Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux, appeared, and immediately after the battle were soon in the Forum at Rome announcing the victory, with their horses dripping with sweat, at the spot where now there is a temple built in their honour beside the fountain. In memory of this, the day of the victory, the 15th of July, is kept sacred to the Dioscuri.

IV. To win distinction early in life is said to quench and satisfy the eagerness of some men whose desire for glory is not keen; but for those with whom it is the ruling passion of their lives, the gaining of honours only urges them on, as a ship is urged by a gale, to fresh achievements. They do not regard themselves as having received a reward, but as having given a pledge for the future, and they feel it their duty not to disgrace the reputation which they have acquired, but to eclipse their former fame by some new deed of prowess. Marcius, feeling this, was ever trying to surpass himself in valour, and gained such prizes and trophies that the later generals under whom he served were always striving to outdo the former ones in their expressions of esteem for him, and their testimony to his merits. Many as were the wars in which Rome was then engaged, Marcius never returned from any without a prize for valour or some especial mark of distinction. Other men were brave in order to win glory, but Marcius won glory in order to please his mother. That she should hear him praised, see him crowned, and embrace him weeping for joy, was the greatest honour and happiness of his life. Epameinondas is said to have had the same feelings, and to have considered it to be his greatest good-fortune that his father and mother were both alive to witness his triumphant success at the battle of Leuktra. He, however, enjoyed the sympathy and applause of both parents, but Marcius, being fatherless, lavished on his mother all that affection which should have belonged to his father, besides her own share. So boundless was his love for Volumnia that at her earnest desire he even married a wife, but still continued to live in the house of his mother.

V. At this time, when his reputation and influence were very considerable because of his prowess, there was a party-quarrel going on in Rome between the patricians, who wished to defend the privileges of men of property, and the people, who were suffering terrible ill-treatment at the hands of their creditors. Those who possessed a small property were forced either to pledge or to sell it, while those who were absolutely destitute were carried off and imprisoned, though they might be scarred and enfeebled from the wars in which they had served in defence of their country. The last campaign was that against the Sabines, after which their rich creditors promised to treat them with less harshness. In pursuance of a decree of the Senate, Marcus Valerius the consul was the guarantee of this promise. But when, after serving manfully in this campaign and conquering the enemy, they met with no better treatment from their creditors, and the Senate seemed unmindful of its engagements, allowing them to be imprisoned and distresses to be levied upon their property as before, there were violent outbreaks and riots in the city. This disturbed condition of the commonwealth was taken advantage of by the enemy, who invaded the country and plundered it. When the consuls called all men of military age to arms, no one obeyed, and then at last the patricians hesitated. Some thought that they ought to yield to the lower classes, and make some concessions instead of enforcing the strict letter of the law against them; while others, among whom was Marcius, opposed this idea, not because he thought the money of great consequence, but because he considered this to be the beginning of an outburst of democratic insolence which a wise government would take timely measures to suppress before it gathered strength.

VI. As the Senate, although it frequently met, came to no decision on this matter, the plebeians suddenly assembled in a body, left the city, and established themselves on what was afterwards called the Mons Sacer, or Sacred Hill, near the river Anio. They abstained from all factious proceedings, and merely stated that they had been driven from the city by the wealthy classes. Air and water and a place in which to be buried, they said, could be obtained anywhere in Italy, and they could get nothing more than this in Rome, except the privilege of being wounded or slain in fighting battles on behalf of the rich. At this demonstration, the Senate became alarmed, and sent the most moderate and popular of its members to treat with the people. The spokesman of this embassy was Menenius Agrippa, who, after begging the plebeians to come to terms, and pleading the cause of the Senate with them, wound up his speech by the following fable: Once upon a time, said he, all the members revolted against the belly, reproaching it with lying idle in the body, and making all the other members work in order to provide it with food; but the belly laughed them to scorn, saying that it was quite true that it took all the food which the body obtained, but that it afterwards distributed it among all the members. “This,” he said, “is the part played by the Senate in the body politic. It digests and arranges all the affairs of the State, and provides all of you with wholesome and useful measures.”

VII. Upon this they came to terms, after stipulating that five men should be chosen to defend the cause of the people, who are now known as tribunes of the people. They chose for the first tribunes the leaders of the revolt, the chief of whom were Junius Brutus and Sicinius Vellutus. As soon as the State was one again, the people assembled under arms, and zealously offered their services for war to their rulers. Marcius, though but little pleased with these concessions which the plebeians had wrung from the patricians, yet, noticing that many patricians were of his mind, called upon them not to be outdone in patriotism by the plebeians, but to prove themselves their superiors in valour rather than in political strength.

VIII. Corioli was the most important city of the Volscian nation, with which Rome then was at war. The consul Cominius was besieging it, and the Volscians, fearing it might be taken, gathered from all quarters, meaning to fight a battle under the city walls, and so place the Romans between two fires. Cominius divided his army, and led one part of it to fight the relieving force, leaving Titus Lartius, a man of the noblest birth in Rome, to continue the siege with the rest of his troops. The garrison of Corioli, despising the small numbers of their besiegers, attacked them and forced them to take shelter within their camp. But there Marcius with a few followers checked their onset, slew the foremost, and with a loud voice called on the Romans to rally. He was, as Cato said a soldier should be, not merely able to deal weighty blows, but struck terror into his enemies by the loud tones of his voice and his martial appearance, so that few dared to stand their ground before him. Many soldiers rallied round him and forced the enemy to retreat; but he, not satisfied with this, followed them close and drove them in headlong flight back to the city. On arriving there, although he saw that the Romans were slackening their pursuit as many missiles were aimed at them from the city walls, and none of them thought of daring to enter together with the fugitives into a city full of armed men, yet he stood and cheered them on, loudly telling them that fortune had opened the city gates as much to the pursuers as to the pursued. Few cared to follow him, but he, forcing his way through the crowd of fugitives, entered the city with them, none daring at first to withstand him. Soon, when the enemy saw how few of the Romans were within the gates, they rallied and attacked them. Marcius, in the confused mass of friends and foes, fought with incredible strength, swiftness, and courage, overthrowing all whom he attacked, driving some to the further parts of the town, and forcing others to lay down their arms, so that Lartius was able to march the rest of the Roman army into the gates unmolested.

IX. When the city was taken, the greater part of the soldiers fell to plundering it, which greatly vexed Marcius. He loudly exclaimed that it was a disgraceful thing, when the consul was on the point of engaging with the enemy, that they should be plundering, or, on the pretext of plunder, keeping themselves safe out of harm’s way. Few paid any attention to him, but with those few he marched on the track of the main body, frequently encouraging his followers to greater speed, and not to give way to fatigue, and frequently praying to Heaven that he might not come too late for the battle, but arrive in time to share the labours and perils of his countrymen. There was at that time a custom among the Romans, when they were drawn up in order of battle, ready to take their shields in their hands, and to gird themselves with the trabea, to make their will verbally, naming their heir in the presence of three or four witnesses. The Roman army was found by Marcius in the act of performing this ceremony. At first some were alarmed at seeing him appear with only a few followers, covered with blood and sweat; but when he ran joyously up to the consul and told him that Corioli was taken, Cominius embraced him, and all the ranks took fresh courage, some because they heard, and others because they guessed the glorious news. They eagerly demanded to be led to battle. Marcius now enquired of Cominius how the enemy’s line of battle was arranged, and where it was strongest. When the consul answered that he believed that the men of Antium, the proudest and bravest troops of the Volscians, were posted in the centre, he answered, “I beg of you, place us opposite to those men.” The consul, filled with admiration for his spirit, placed him there. As soon as the armies met, Marcius charged before the rest, and the Volscians gave way before his onset. The centre, where he attacked, was quite broken, but the ranks on either side wheeled round and surrounded him, so that the consul feared for his safety, and despatched the choicest of his own troops to his aid. They found a hot battle raging round Marcius, and many slain, but by the shock of their charge they drove off the enemy in confusion. As they began to pursue them, they begged Marcius, now weary with toil and wounds, to retire to the camp, but he, saying that “it was not for victors to be weary,” joined in the pursuit. The rest of the Volscian army was defeated, many were slain, and many taken.

X. On the next day Lartius and the rest joined the consul. He ascended a rostrum, and after returning suitable thanks to Heaven for such unexampled successes, turned to Marcius. First he praised his conduct in the highest terms, having himself witnessed some part of it, and having learned the rest from Lartius. Next, as there were many prisoners, horses, and other spoil, he bade him, before it was divided, choose a tenth part for himself. He also presented him with a horse and trappings, as a reward for his bravery. As all the Romans murmured their approval, Marcius coming forward said that he gladly accepted the horse, and was thankful for the praise which he had received from the consul. As for the rest, he considered that to be mere pay, not a prize, and refused it, preferring to take his share with the rest. “One especial favour,” said he, “I do beg of you. I had a friend among the Volscians, who now is a captive, and from having been a rich and free man has fallen to the condition of a slave. I wish to relieve him from one of his many misfortunes—that of losing his liberty and being sold for a slave.” After these words, Marcius was cheered more than he had been before, and men admired his disinterestedness more than they had admired his bravery. Even those who grudged him his extraordinary honours now thought that by his unselfishness he had shown himself worthy of them, and admired his courage in refusing such presents more than the courage by which he had won the right to them. Indeed, the right use of riches is more glorious than that of arms, but not to desire them at all is better even than using them well.

XI. When the cheering caused by Marcius’s speech had subsided, Cominius said: “Fellow soldiers, we cannot force a man against his will to receive these presents; but, unless his achievements have already won it for him, let us give him the title of Coriolanus, which he cannot refuse, seeing for what it is bestowed, and let us confirm it by a general vote.”

Hence he obtained the third name of Coriolanus. From this we may clearly see that his own personal name was Caius, and that Marcius was the common name of his family, while the third name was added afterwards to mark some particular exploit, peculiarity, or virtue in the bearer. So also did the Greeks in former ages give men names derived from their actions, such as Kallinikus (the Victor), or Soter (the Preserver); or from their appearance, as Fusco (the Fat), or Gripus (the Hook-nosed); or from their virtues, as Euergetes (the Benefactor), or Philadelphus (the Lover of his Brethren), which were names of the Ptolemies: or from their success, as Eudaemon (the Fortunate), a name given to the second king of the race of Battus. Some princes have even had names given them in jest, as Antigonus was called Doson (the Promiser), and Ptolemy Lathyrus (the Vetch).

The Romans used this sort of name much more commonly, as for instance they named one of the Metelli Diadematus, or wearer of the diadem, because he walked about for a long time with his head bound up because of a wound in the forehead.

Another of the same family was named Celer (the Swift), because of the wonderful quickness with which he provided a show of gladiators on the occasion of his father’s funeral. Some even to the present day derive their names from the circumstances of their birth, as for instance a child is named Proculus if his father be abroad when he is born, and Postumus if he be dead. If one of twins survive, he is named Vopiscus. Of names taken from bodily peculiarities they use not only Sulla (the Pimply), Niger (the Swarthy), Rufus (the Red-haired), but even such as Caecus (the Blind), and Claudus (the Lame), wisely endeavouring to accustom men to consider neither blindness nor any other bodily defect to be any disgrace or matter of reproach, but to answer to these names as if they were their own. However, this belongs to a different branch of study.

XII. When the war was over, the popular orators renewed the party-quarrels, not that they had any new cause of complaint or any just grievance to proceed upon; but the evil result which had necessarily been produced by their former riotous contests were now made the ground of attacks on the patricians. A great part of the country was left unsown and untilled, while the war gave no opportunities for importation from other countries. The demagogues, therefore, seeing that there was no corn in the market, and that even if there had been any, the people were not able to buy it, spread malicious accusations against the rich, saying that they had purposely produced this famine in order to pay off an old grudge against the people. At this juncture ambassadors arrived from the town of Velitrae, who delivered up their city to the Romans, desiring that they would send some new inhabitants to people it, as a pestilence had made such havoc among the citizens that there was scarcely a tenth part of them remaining alive.

The wiser Romans thought that this demand of the people of Velitrae would confer a most seasonable relief on themselves, and would put an end to their domestic troubles, if they could only transfer the more violent partizans of the popular party thither, and so purge the State of its more disorderly elements. The consuls accordingly chose out all these men and sent them to colonize Velitrae, and enrolled the rest for a campaign against the Volsci, that they might not have leisure for revolutionary plottings, but that when they were all gathered together, rich and poor, patrician and plebeian alike, to share in the common dangers of a camp, they might learn to regard one another with less hatred and illwill.

XIII. But Sicinnius and Brutus, the tribunes of the people, now interposed, crying aloud that the consuls were veiling a most barbarous action under the specious name of sending out colonists. They were despatching many poor men to certain destruction by transporting them to a city whose air was full of pestilence and the stench from unburied corpses, where they were to dwell under the auspices of a god who was not only not their own, but angry with them. And after that, as if it was not sufficient for them that some of the citizens should be starved, and others be exposed to the plague, they must needs plunge wantonly into war, in order that the city might suffer every conceivable misery at once, because it had refused any longer to remain in slavery to the rich. Excited by these speeches, the people would not enrol themselves as soldiers for the war, and looked with suspicion on the proposal for the new colony. The Senate was greatly perplexed, but Marcius, now a person of great importance and very highly thought of in the State, began to place himself in direct opposition to the popular leaders, and to support the patrician cause. In spite of the efforts of the demagogues, a colony was sent out to Velitrae, those whose names were drawn by lot being compelled by heavy penalties to go thither; but as the people utterly refused to serve in the campaign against the Volscians, Marcius made up a troop of his own clients, with which and what others he could persuade to join him he made an inroad into the territory of Antium. Here he found much corn, and captured many prisoners and much cattle. He kept none of it for himself, but returned to Rome with his troops loaded with plunder. This caused the others to repent of their determination, when they saw the wealth which these men had obtained, but it embittered their hatred of Marcius, whom they regarded as gaining glory for himself at the expense of the people.

XIV. Shortly after this, however, Marcius stood for the consulship, and then the people relented and felt ashamed to affront such a man, first in arms as in place, and the author of so many benefits to the State. It was the custom at Rome for those who were candidates for any office to address and ingratiate themselves with the people, going about the Forum in a toga without any tunic underneath it, either in order to show their humility by such a dress, or else in order to display the wounds which they had received, in token of their valour. At that early period there could be no suspicion of bribery, and it was not for that reason that the citizens wished their candidates to come down among them ungirt and without a tunic. It was not till long afterwards that votes were bought and sold, and that a candidature became an affair of money. This habit of receiving bribes, when once introduced, spread to the courts of justice and to the armies of the commonwealth, and finally brought the city under the despotic rule of the emperors, as the power of arms was not equal to that of money. For it was well said that he who first introduced the habit of feasting and bribing voters ruined the constitution. This plague crept secretly and silently into Rome, and was for a long time undiscovered. We cannot tell who was the first to bribe the people or the courts of law at Rome. At Athens it is said that the first man who gave money to the judges for his acquittal was Anytus the son of Anthemion, when he was tried for treachery at Pylos towards the end of the Peloponnesian War, a period when men of uncorrupted simplicity and virtue were still to be found in the Forum at Rome.

XV. Marcius displayed many scars, gained in the numerous battles in which for seventeen years in succession he had always taken a prominent part. The people were abashed at these evidences of his valour, and agreed among themselves that they would return him as consul. But when, on the day of election, he appeared in the Forum, escorted by a splendid procession of the entire Senate, and all the patricians were seen collected round him evidently intent upon obtaining his election, many of the people lost their feeling of goodwill towards him, and regarded him with indignation and envy; which passions were assisted by their fear lest, if a man of such aristocratic tendencies and such influence with the patricians should obtain power, he might altogether destroy the liberties of the people. For these reasons they did not elect Marcius. When two persons had been elected consuls, the Senate was much irritated, considering that it, rather than its candidate Marcius, had been insulted, while he was much enraged, and could not bear his disgrace with any temper or patience, being accustomed always to yield to the more violent and ferocious emotions as being the more spirited course, without any mixture of gravity and self-restraint, virtues so necessary for political life. He had never learned how essential it is for one who undertakes to deal with men, and engage in public business, to avoid above all things that self-will which, as Plato says, is of the family of solitude, and to become longsuffering and patient, qualities which some foolish people hold very cheap. Marcius, plain and straightforward, thinking it to be the duty of a brave man to bear down all opposition, and not reflecting that it is rather a sign of weakness and feebleness of mind to be unable to restrain one’s passion, flung away in a rage, bitterly irritated against the people. The young aristocracy of Rome, who had ever been his fast friends, now did him an ill service by encouraging and exasperating his anger by their expressions of sympathy; for he was their favourite leader and a most kind instructor in the art of war when on a campaign, as he taught them to delight in deeds of prowess without envying and grudging one another their proper meed of praise.

XVI. While this was the state of affairs at Rome, a large amount of corn arrived there, some of which had been bought in Italy, but most of it sent as a present from Sicily by Gelon the despot; which gave most men hopes that the famine would come to an end, and that the quarrel between the patricians and plebeians would, under these improved circumstances, be made up. The Senate at once assembled, and the people eagerly waited outside the doors of the senate house, expecting and hoping that prices would be lowered, and that the present of corn would be distributed gratis among them; and indeed some of the senators advised the adoption of that course. Marcius, however, rose and bitterly inveighed against those who favoured the people, calling them demagogues and betrayers of their own order, alleging that by such gratification they did but cherish that spirit of boldness and arrogance which had been spread among the people against the patricians, which they would have done well to crush upon its first appearance, and not suffer the plebeians to grow so strong by giving so much power to the tribunes of the people. Now, he urged, they had become formidable because every demand they made had been agreed to, and nothing done against their wishes; they contemned the authority of the consuls, and lived in defiance of the constitution, governed only by their own seditious ringleaders, to whom they gave the title of tribunes. For the Senate to sit and decree largesses of corn to the populace, as is done in the most democratic States in Greece, would merely be to pay them for their disobedience, to the common ruin of all classes. “They cannot,” he went on to say, “consider this largess of corn to be a reward for the campaign in which they have refused to serve, or for the secession by which they betrayed their country, or the scandals which they have been so willing to believe against the Senate. As they cannot be said to deserve this bounty, they will imagine that it has been bestowed upon them by you because you fear them, and wish to pay your court to them. In this case there will be no bounds to their insubordination, and they never will cease from riots and disorders. To give it them is clearly an insane proceeding; nay, we ought rather, if we are wise, to take away from them this privilege of the tribuneship, which is a distinct subversion of the consulate, and a cause of dissension in the city, which now is no longer one, as before, but is rent asunder in such a manner that there is no prospect of our ever being reunited, and ceasing to be divided into two hostile factions.”

XVII. With much talk to this effect Marcius excited the young men, with whom he was influential, and nearly all the richer classes, who loudly declared that he was the only man in the State who was insensible both to force and to flattery. Some of the elders, however, opposed him, foreseeing what would be the result of his policy. Indeed, no good resulted from it. The tribunes of the people, as soon as they heard that Marcius had carried his point, rushed down into the forum and called loudly upon the people to assemble and stand by them. A disorderly assembly took place, and on a report being made of Marcius’s speech, the fury of the people was so great that it was proposed to break into the senate house; but the tribunes turned all the blame upon Marcius alone, and sent for him to come and speak in his own defence. As this demand was insolently refused, the tribunes themselves, together with the aediles, went to bring him by force, and actually laid hands upon him. However, the patricians rallied round him, thrust away the tribunes of the people, and even beat the aediles, their assistants in this quarrel. Night put an end to the conflict, but at daybreak the consuls, seeing the people terribly excited, and gathering in the forum from all quarters, began to fear the consequences of their fury. They assembled the senators and bade them endeavour, by mild language and healing measures, to pacify the multitude, as it was no season for pride or for standing upon their dignity, but if they were wise they would perceive that so dangerous and critical a posture of affairs required a temperate and popular policy. The majority of the senators yielded, and the consuls proceeded to soothe the people in the best way they could, answering gently such charges as had been brought against them, even speaking with the utmost caution when blaming the people for their late outrageous conduct, and declaring that there should be no difference of opinion between them about the way in which corn should be supplied, and about the price of provisions.

XVIII. As the people now for the most part had cooled down, and from their attentive and orderly demeanour were evidently much wrought upon by the words of the consuls, the tribunes came forward and addressed them. They said that now that the Senate had come to a better frame of mind, the people would willingly make concessions in their turn; but they insisted that Marcius should apologise for his conduct, or deny if he could that he had excited the Senate to destroy the constitution, that when summoned to appear he had disobeyed, and that finally he had, by beating and insulting the aediles in the market-place, done all that lay in his power to raise a civil war and make the citizens shed one another’s blood. Their object in saying this was either to humble Marcius, by making him entreat the clemency of the people, which was much against his haughty temper, or else expecting that he would yield to his fiery nature and make the breach between himself and the people incurable. The latter was what they hoped for from their knowledge of his character.

Marcius came forward to speak in his defence, and the people stood listening in dead silence. But when, instead of the apologetic speech which they expected, he began to speak with a freedom which seemed more like accusing them than defending himself, while the tones of his voice and the expression of his countenance showed a fearless contempt for his audience, the people became angry, and plainly showed their disapprobation of what he said. Upon this, Sicinnius, the boldest of the tribunes, after a short consultation with his colleagues, came forward and said that the tribunes had condemned Marcius to suffer the penalty of death, and ordered the aediles to lead him at once to the Capitol, and cast him down the Tarpeian rock. When the aediles laid hold of him, many of the people themselves seemed struck with horror and remorse, and the patricians in the wildest excitement, called upon one another to rescue him, and by main force tore him from his assailants and placed him in the midst of themselves. Some of them held out their hands and besought the populace by signs, as no voice could be heard in such an uproar. At last the friends and relations of the tribunes, seeing that it was impossible to carry out their sentence on Marcius without much bloodshed, persuaded them to alter the cruel and unprecedented part of the sentence, and not to put him to death by violence, or without a trial, but to refer the matter to the people, to be voted upon by them. Upon this Sicinnius, turning to the patricians, demanded what they meant by rescuing Marcius from the people when they intended to punish him. They at once retorted, “Nay, what do you mean by dragging one of the bravest and best men in Rome to a cruel and illegal death?” “You shall not,” answered Sicinnius, “make that a ground of quarrel with the people, for we allow you what you demand, that this man be put on his trial. You, Marcius, we summon to appear in the forum on the third market-day ensuing, and prove your innocence if you can, as the votes of your countrymen will be then taken about your conduct.”

XIX. The patricians were glad enough to terminate the affair in this way, and retired rejoicing, bearing Marcius with them. During the time which was to elapse before the third market-day (which the Romans hold on every ninth day, and therefore call them nundinae), they had some hope that a campaign against the people of Antium would enable them to put off the trial until the people’s anger had abated through length of time and warlike occupations; afterwards, as they came to terms at once with the Antiates, the patricians held frequent meetings, in which they expressed their fear of the people, and considered by what means they could avoid delivering Marcius up to them, and prevent their mob orators from exciting them. Appius Claudius, who had the reputation of being the bitterest enemy of the people in Rome, gave it as his opinion that the Senate would destroy itself and ruin the State utterly if it permitted the people to assume the power of trying patricians and voting on their trials; while the older men, and those who were more inclined to the popular side, thought that this power would render the people gentle and temperate, and not savage and cruel. The people, they said, did not despise the Senate, but imagined that they were despised by it, so that this privilege of holding the trial would agreeably salve their wounded vanity, and, as they exercised their franchise, they would lay aside their anger.

XX. Marcius, perceiving that the Senate, divided between their regard for himself and their fear of the people, knew not what to do, himself asked the tribunes of the people what it was that he was charged with, and what indictment they intended to bring against him at his trial. When they answered that the charge against him was one of treason, because he had attempted to make himself absolute despot in Rome, and that they would prove it, he at once rose, saying that he would at once defend himself before the people on that score, and that if he were convicted, he would not refuse to undergo any punishment whatever; “Only,” said he, “do not bring forward some other charge against me, and deceive the Senate.” When they had agreed upon these conditions, the trial took place.

The tribunes, however, when the people assembled, made them vote by tribes, and not by centuries;[27] by which device the votes of rich respectable men who had served the State in the wars would be swamped by those of the needy rabble who cared nothing for truth or honour. In the next place, they passed by the charge of treason, as being impossible to prove, and repeated what Marcius had originally said before the Senate, when he dissuaded them from lowering the price of corn, and advised the abolition of the office of tribune. A new count in the indictment was that he had not paid over the money raised by the sale of the plunder after his expedition against Antium, but had divided it among his own followers. This last accusation is said to have disturbed Marcius more than all the rest, as he had never expected it, and was not prepared with any answer that would satisfy the people, so that the praises which he bestowed on those who had made that campaign with him only angered the far greater number who had not done so. At last the people voted. Marcius was condemned by a majority of the tribes, and was sentenced to perpetual banishment. After sentence was passed, the people displayed greater joy than if they had won a pitched battle, while the Senate was downcast and filled with regret at not having run any risks rather than allow the people to obtain so much power, and use it so insolently. Nor was there any need for distinctions of dress or anything else to distinguish the two parties, because a plebeian might be told at once by his delight, a patrician by his sorrow.

XXI. Marcius himself, however, remained unmoved. Proud and haughty as ever, he appeared not to be sorry for himself, and to be the only one of the patricians who was not. This calmness, however, was not due to any evenness of temper or any intention of bearing his wrongs meekly. It arose from concentrated rage and fury, which many do not know to be an expression of great grief. When the mind is inflamed with this passion, it casts out all ideas of submission or of quiet. Hence an angry man is courageous, just as a fever patient is hot, because of the inflamed throbbing excitement of his mind. And Marcius soon showed that this was his own condition. He went home, embraced his weeping wife and mother, bade them bear this calamity with patience, and at once proceeded to the city gates, escorted by the patricians in a body. Thence, taking nothing with him, and asking no man for any thing, he went off, accompanied by three or four of his clients. He remained for a few days at some farms near the city, agitated deeply by conflicting passions. His anger suggested no scheme by which he might benefit himself, but only how to revenge himself on the Romans. At length he decided that he would raise up a cruel war against them, and proceeded at once to make application to the neighbouring nation of the Volscians, whom he knew to be rich and powerful, and only to have suffered sufficiently by their late defeats to make them desirous of renewing their quarrel with Rome.

XXII. There was a certain citizen of Antium named Tullus Aufidius, who, from his wealth, courage, and noble birth, was regarded as the most important man in the whole Volscian nation. Marcius knew that this man hated him more than any other Roman; for in battle they had often met, and by challenging and defying one another, as young warriors are wont to do, they had, in addition to their national antipathy, gained a violent personal hatred for one another. In spite of this, however, knowing the generous nature of Tullus, and longing more than any Volscian to requite the Romans for their treatment, he justified the verses,

“‘Tis hard to strive with rage, which aye,
Though life’s the forfeit, gains its way.”
He disguised himself as completely as he could, and, like Ulysses,

“Into the city of his foes he came.”

XXIII. It was evening when he entered Antium, and although many met him, no one recognised him. He went to Tullus’s house, and entering, sat down by the hearth in silence, with his head wrapped in his cloak. The domestics, astonished at his behaviour, did not dare to disturb him, as there was a certain dignity about his appearance and his silence, but went and told Tullus, who was at supper, of this strange incident. Tullus rose, went to him, and inquired who he was and what he wanted. Then at length Marcius uncovered his face, and, after a short pause, said, “If you do not recognise me, Tullus, or if you do not believe your eyes, I must myself tell you who I am. I am Caius Marcius, who has wrought you and the Volscians more mischief than any one else, and who, lest I should deny this, have received the additional title of Coriolanus. This I cannot lose: every thing else has been taken from me by the envious spite of the people, and the treacherous remissness of the upper classes. I am an exile, and I now sit as a suppliant on your hearth, begging you, not for safety or protection, for should I have come hither if I feared to die, but for vengeance against those who drove me forth, which I am already beginning to receive by putting myself in your hands. If then, my brave Tullus, you wish to attack your foes, make use of my misfortunes, and let my disgrace be the common happiness of all the Volscians. I shall fight for you much better than I have fought against you, because I have the advantage of knowing exactly the strength and weakness of the enemy. If, however, you are tired of war, I have no wish for life, nor is it to your credit to save the life of one who once was your personal enemy, and who now is worn out and useless.” Tullus was greatly delighted with this speech, and giving him his right hand, answered, “Rise, Marcius, and be of good courage. You have brought us a noble present, yourself; rest assured that the Volscians will not be ungrateful.” He then feasted Marcius with great hospitality, and for some days they conferred together as to the best method of carrying on the war.

XXIV. Rome meanwhile was disturbed by the anger of the patricians towards the plebeians, especially on account of the banishment of Marcius, and by many portents which were observed both by the priests and by private persons, one of which was as follows. There was one Titus Latinus, a man of no great note, but a respectable citizen and by no means addicted to superstition. He dreamed that he saw Jupiter face to face, and that the god bade him tell the Senate that “they had sent a bad dancer before his procession, and one who was very displeasing to him.”

On first seeing this vision he said that he disregarded it; but after it had occurred a second and a third time he had the unhappiness to see his son sicken and die, while he himself suddenly lost the use of his limbs.

He told this story in the senate house, to which he had been carried on a litter; and as soon as he had told it, he found his bodily strength return, rose, and walked home.

The senators, greatly astonished, inquired into the matter. It was found that a slave, convicted of some crime, had been ordered by his master to be flogged through the market-place, and then put to death. While this was being done, and the wretch was twisting his body in every kind of contortion as he writhed under the blows, the procession by chance was following after him. Many of those who walked in it were shocked at the unseemliness of the spectacle, and disgusted at its inhumanity, but no one did anything more than reproach and execrate a man who treated his slaves with so much cruelty.

At that period men treated their slaves with great kindness, because the master himself worked and ate in their company, and so could sympathise more with them. The great punishment for a slave who had done wrong was to make him carry round the neighbourhood the piece of wood on which the pole of a waggon is rested. The slave who has done this and been seen by the neighbours and friends, lost his credit, and was called furcifer, for the Romans call that piece of timber furca, “a fork,” which the Greeks call hypostates, “a supporter.”

XXV. So when Latinus related his dream to the senators, and they were wondering who the bad and unacceptable dancer could be who had led the procession, some of them remembered the slave who had been flogged through the market-place and there put to death. At the instance of the priests, the master of the slave was punished for his cruelty, and the procession and ceremonies were performed anew in honour of the gods. Hence we may see how wisely Numa arranged this, among other matters of ceremonial. Whenever the magistrates or priests were engaged in any religious rite, a herald walked before them crying in a loud voice “Hoc age.” The meaning of the phrase is, “Do this,” meaning to tell the people to apply their minds entirely to the religious ceremony, and not to allow any thought of worldly things to distract their attention, because men as a rule only attend to such matters by putting a certain constraint on their thoughts.

It is the custom in Rome to begin a sacrifice, a procession, or a spectacle, over again, not only when anything of this kind happens, but for any trifling reason. Thus, if one of the horses drawing the sacred car called Thensa stumbles, or the charioteer takes the reins in his left hand, they have decreed that the procession must begin again. In later times they have been known to perform one sacrifice thirty times, because every time some slight omission or mistake took place.

XXVI. Meanwhile Marcius and Tullus in Antium held private conferences with the chief men of the Volscians, and advised them to begin the war while Rome was divided by its domestic quarrels. They discountenanced this proposal, because a truce and cessation of hostilities for two years had been agreed upon: but the Romans themselves gave them a pretext for breaking the truce, by a proclamation which was made at the public games, that all Volscians should quit the city before sunset. Some say this was effected by a stratagem of Marcius, who sent a false accusation against the Volscians to the magistrates at Rome, saying that during the public games they meant to attack the Romans and burn the city. This proclamation made them yet bitterer enemies to the Romans than before; and Tullus, wishing to bring the business to a climax, induced his countrymen to send ambassadors to Rome to demand back the cities and territory which the Romans had taken from the Volscians in the late war. The Romans were very indignant when they heard these demands, and made answer, that the Volscians might be the first to take up arms, but that the Romans would be the last to lay them down. Upon this, Tullus convoked a general assembly, in which, after determining upon war, he advised them to summon Marcius to their aid, not owing him any grudge for what they had suffered at his hands, but believing that he would be more valuable to them as a friend than he had been dangerous as an enemy.

XXVII. Marcius was called before the assembly, and having addressed the people, was thought by them to know how to speak as well as how to fight, and was considered to be a man of great ability and courage. He, together with Tullus, was nominated general with unlimited powers. As he feared the Volscians would take a long time to prepare for the war, and that meanwhile the opportunity for attack might pass away, he ordered the leading men in the city to make all necessary preparations, and himself taking the boldest and most forward as volunteers, without levying any troops by compulsory conscription, made a sudden and unexpected inroad into the Roman territory. Here he obtained so much plunder that the Volscians were wearied with carrying it off and consuming it in their camp. However, his least object was to obtain plunder and lay waste the country; his main desire was to render the patricians suspected by the people. While all else was ravaged and destroyed, he carefully protected their farms, and would not allow any damage to be done or anything to be carried off from them. This increased the disorders at Rome, the patricians reproaching the people for having unjustly banished so able a man, while the plebeians accused them of having invited Marcius to attack in order to obtain their revenge, and said that, while others fought, they sat as idle spectators, having in the war itself a sure safeguard of their wealth and estates. Having produced this new quarrel among the Romans, and, besides loading the Volscians with plunder, having taught them to despise their enemy, Marcius led his troops back in safety.

XXVIII. By great and zealous exertions the entire Volscian nation was soon assembled under arms. The force thus raised was very large; part was left to garrison the cities, as a measure of precaution, while the rest was to be used in the campaign against Rome. Marcius now left Tullus to determine which corps he would command. Tullus, in answer, said that as Marcius, he knew, was as brave a man as himself, and had always enjoyed better fortune in all his battles, he had better command the army in the field. He himself, he added, would remain behind, watch over the safety of the Volscian cities, and supply the troops with necessaries. Marcius, strengthened by this division of the command, marched to the town of Circeii, a Roman colony. As it surrendered, he did it no harm, but laid waste the country of Latium, where he expected the Romans would fight a battle in defence of their allies the Latins, who frequently sent to entreat their protection. But at Rome the people were unwilling to fight, and the consuls were just at the expiry of their term of office, so that they did not care to run any risks, and therefore rejected the appeals of the Latins. Marcius now led his troops against the Latian cities, Tolerium, Labici, Pedum, and Bola, all of which he took by storm, sold the inhabitants for slaves, and plundered the houses. Those cities, however, which voluntarily came to his side he treated with the utmost consideration, even pitching his camp at a distance, for fear they might be injured by the soldiery against his will, and never plundering their territory.

XXIX. When at last he took Bollae, a town not more than twelve miles from Rome, obtaining immense booty and putting nearly all the adult inhabitants to the sword, then not even those Volscians who had been appointed to garrison the cities would any longer remain at their posts, but seized their arms and joined the army of Marcius, declaring that he was their only general, and that they would recognise no other leader. His renown and glory spread throughout all Italy, and all men were astonished that one man by changing sides should have produced so great a change. The affairs of Rome were in the last disorder, the people refusing to fight, while internal quarrels and seditious speeches took place daily, until news came that Lavinium was being invested by the enemy. This town contains the most ancient images and sacred things of the tutelary deities of Rome, and is the origin of the Roman people, being the first town founded by Aeneas.

Upon this a very singular change of opinions befel both the people and the Senate. The people were eager to annul their sentence against Marcius, and to beg him to return, but the Senate, after meeting and considering this proposal, finally rejected it, either out of a mere spirit of opposition to anything proposed by the people, or because they did not wish him to return by favour of the people; or it may be because they themselves were now angry with him for having shown himself the enemy of all classes alike, although he had only been injured by one, and for having become the avowed enemy of his country, in which he knew that the best and noblest all sympathised with him, and had suffered along with him. When this resolution was made known to the people, they were unable to proceed to vote or to pass any bill on the subject, without a previous decree of the Senate.

XXX. Marcius when he heard of this was more exasperated than ever. He raised his siege of Lavinium, marched straight upon Rome, and pitched his camp five miles from the city, at the place called Fossae Cluiliae. The appearance of his army caused much terror and disturbance, but nevertheless put an end to sedition, for no magistrate or patrician dared any longer oppose the people’s desire to recall him. When they beheld the women running distractedly through the city, the old men weeping and praying at the altars, and no one able to take courage and form any plan of defence, it was agreed that the people had been right in wishing to come to terms with Marcius, and that the Senate had committed a fatal error in inflicting a new outrage upon him, just at the time when all unkindness might have been buried. It was determined, therefore, by the whole city that an embassy should be despatched to Marcius, to offer him restoration to his own country, and to beg of him to make peace. Those of the Senate who were sent were relations of Marcius, and expected to be warmly welcomed by a man who was their near relation and personal friend. Nothing of the kind, however, happened. They were conducted through the enemy’s camp, and found him seated, and displaying insufferable pride and arrogance, with the chiefs of the Volscians standing round him. He bade the ambassadors deliver their message; and after they had, in a supplicatory fashion, pronounced a conciliatory oration, he answered them, dwelling with bitterness on his own unjust treatment; and then in his capacity of general-in-chief of the Volscians, he bade them restore the cities and territory which they had conquered in the late war, and to grant the franchise to the Volscians on the same terms as enjoyed by the Latins. These, he said, were the only conditions on which a just and lasting peace could be made. He allowed them a space of thirty days for deliberation, and on the departure of the ambassadors immediately drew off his forces.

XXXI. This affair gave an opportunity to several of the Volscians, who had long envied and disliked his reputation, and the influence which he had with the people. Among these was Tullus himself, who had not been personally wronged by Marcius, but who, as it is natural he should, felt vexed at being totally eclipsed and thrown into the shade, for the Volscians now thought Marcius the greatest man in their whole nation, and considered that any one else ought to be thankful for any measure of authority that he might think fit to bestow. Hence secret hints were exchanged, and private meetings held, in which his enemies expressed their dissatisfaction, calling the retreat from Rome an act of treason, not indeed that he had betrayed any cities or armies to the enemy, but he had granted them time, by which all other things are won and lost. He had given the enemy a breathing time, they said, of thirty days, being no less than they required to put themselves in a posture of defence.

Marcius during this time was not idle, for he attacked and defeated the allies of the Romans, and captured seven large and populous towns. The Romans did not venture to come to help their allies, but hung back from taking the field, and seemed as if paralysed and benumbed. When the term had expired, Marcius presented himself a second time before Rome, with his entire army. The Romans now sent a second embassy, begging him to lay aside his anger, withdraw the Volscians from the country, and then to make such terms as would be for the advantage of both nations. The Romans, they said, would yield nothing to fear; but if he thought that special concessions ought to be made to the Volscians, they would be duly considered if they laid down their arms. To this Marcius answered that, as general of the Volscians, he could give them no answer; but that as one who was still a citizen of Rome he would advise them to adopt a humbler frame of mind, and come to him in three days with a ratification of his proposals. If they should come to any other determination, he warned them that it would not be safe for them to come to his camp again with empty words.

XXXII. When the ambassadors returned, and the Senate heard their report, they determined in this dreadful extremity to let go their sheet anchor. They ordered all the priests, ministers, and guardians of the sacred mysteries, and all the hereditary prophets who watched the omens given by the flight of birds, to go in procession to Marcius, dressed in their sacred vestments, and beseech him to desist from the war, and then to negotiate conditions of peace between his countrymen and the Volscians. Marcius received the priests in his camp, but relaxed nothing of his former harshness, bidding the Romans either accept his proposals or continue the war.

When the priests returned, the Romans resolved in future to remain within the city, repulse any assault which might be made on the walls, and trust to time and fortune, as it was evident that they could not be saved by anything that they could do. The city was full of confusion, excitement, and panic terror, until there happened something like what is mentioned in Homer, but which men as a rule are unwilling to believe. He observes that on great and important occasions

“Athene placed a thought within his mind;”

and again—

“But some one of th’ immortals changed my mind,
And made me think of what the folk would say;”

and—

“Because he thought it, or because the god
Commanded him to do so.”

Men despise the poet, as if, in order to carry out his absurd mythological scheme, he denied each man his liberty of will. Now Homer does nothing of this kind, for whatever is reasonable and likely he ascribes to the exercise of our own powers, as we see in the common phrase—

“But I reflected in my mighty soul;”

and—

“Thus spoke he, but the son of Peleus raged,
Divided was his soul within his breast;”

and again—

“But she persuaded not
The wise Bellerophon, of noble mind.”
But in strange and unlikely actions, where the actors must have been under the influence of some supernatural impulse, he does speak of the god not as destroying, but as directing the human will; nor does the god directly produce any decision, but suggests ideas which influence that decision. Thus the act is not an involuntary one, but opportunity is given for a voluntary act, with confidence and good hope superadded. For either we must admit that the gods have no dealings and influence at all with men, or else it must be in this way that they act when they assist and strengthen us, not of course by moving our hands and feet, but by filling our minds with thoughts and ideas which either encourage us to do what is right, or restrain us from what is wrong.

XXXIII. At Rome at this time the women were praying in all the temples, especially in that of Jupiter in the Capitol, where the noblest ladies in Rome were assembled. Among them was Valeria, the sister of the great Poplicola, who had done such great services to the State both in peace and war. Poplicola died some time before, as has been related in his Life, but his sister was held in great honour and esteem in Rome, as her life did credit to her noble birth. She now experienced one of the divine impulses of which I have spoken, and, inspired by Heaven to do what was best for her country, rose and called on the other ladies to accompany her to the house of Volumnia, the mother of Marcius. On entering, and finding her sitting with her daughter-in-law, nursing the children of Marcius, Valeria placed her companions in a circle round them, and spoke as follows: “Volumnia, and you, Virgilia, we have come to you, as women to women, without any decree of the Senate or instructions from a magistrate; but Heaven, it would appear, has heard our prayers, and has inspired us with the idea of coming hither to beg of you to save our countrymen, and to gain for yourselves greater glory than that of the Sabine women when they reconciled their husbands and their fathers. Come with us to Marcius, join us in supplicating him for mercy, and bear an honourable testimony to your country, that it never has thought of hurting you, however terribly it has been injured by Marcius, but that it restores you to him uninjured, although possibly it will gain no better terms by so doing.” When Valeria had spoken thus, the other women applauded, and Volumnia answered in the following words: “My friends, besides those sufferings which all are now undergoing, we are especially to be pitied. We have lost the glory and goodness of our Marcius, and now see him more imprisoned in than protected by the army of the enemy. But the greatest misfortune of all is that our country should have become so weak as to be obliged to rest its hopes of safety on us. I cannot tell if he will pay any attention to us, seeing that he has treated his native country with scorn, although he used to love it better than his mother, his wife, and his children. However, take us, and make what use of us you can. Lead us into his presence, and there, if we can do nothing else, we can die at his feet supplicating for Rome.”

XXXIV. Having spoken thus, she took Virgilia and her children, and proceeded, in company with the other women, to the Volscian camp. Their piteous appearance produced, even in their enemies, a silent respect. Marcius himself was seated on his tribunal with the chief officers; and when he saw the procession of women was at first filled with amazement; but when he recognised his mother walking first, although he tried to support his usual stern composure, he was overcome by his emotion. He could not bear to receive her sitting, but descended and ran to meet her. He embraced his mother first, and longest of all; and then his wife and children, no longer restraining his tears and caresses, but completely carried away by his feelings.

XXXV. When he had taken his fill of embraces, perceiving that his mother desired to address him, he called the chiefs of the Volscians together, and listened to Volumnia, who addressed him as follows:

“You may judge, my son, by our dress and appearance, even though we keep silence, to what a miserable condition your exile has reduced us at home. Think now, how unhappy we must be, beyond all other women, when fortune has made the sight which ought to be most pleasing to us, most terrible, when I see my son, and your wife here sees her husband, besieging his native city. Even that which consoles people under all other misfortunes, prayer to the gods, has become impossible for us. We cannot beg of heaven to give us the victory and to save you, but our prayers for you must always resemble the imprecations of our enemies against Rome. Your wife and children are in such a position, that they must either lose you or lose their native country. For my own part, I cannot bear to live until fortune decides the event of this war. If I cannot now persuade you to make a lasting peace, and so become the benefactor instead of the scourge of the two nations, be well assured that you shall never assail Rome without first passing over the corpse of your mother. I cannot wait for that day on which I shall either see my countrymen triumphing over my son, or my son triumphing over his country. If indeed I were to ask you to betray the Volscians and save your country, this would be a hard request for you to grant; for though it is base to destroy one’s own fellow citizens, it is equally wrong to betray those who have trusted you. But we merely ask for a respite from our sufferings, which will save both nations alike from ruin, and which will be all the more glorious for the Volscians because their superiority in the field has put them in a position to grant us the greatest of blessings, peace and concord, in which they also will share alike with us. You will be chiefly to be thanked for these blessings, if we obtain them, and chiefly to be blamed if we do not. For though the issue of war is always doubtful, this much is evident, that if you succeed, you will become your country’s evil genius, and if you fail, you will have inflicted the greatest miseries on men who are your friends and benefactors, merely in order to gratify your own private spite.”

XXXVI. While Volumnia spoke thus, Marcius listened to her in silence. After she had ceased, he stood for a long while without speaking, until she again addressed him. “Why art thou silent, my son? Is it honourable to make everything give way to your rancorous hatred, and is it a disgrace to yield to your mother, when she pleads for such important matters? Does it become a great man to remember that he has been ill treated, and does it not rather become him to recollect the debt which children owe to their parents. And yet no one ought to be more grateful than you yourself, who punish ingratitude so bitterly: in spite of which, though you have already taken a deep revenge on your country for its ill treatment of you, you have not made your mother any return for her kindness. It would have been right for me to gain my point without any pressure, when pleading in such a just and honourable cause; but if I cannot prevail by words, this resource alone is left me.” Saying this, she fell at his feet, together with his wife and children. Marcius, crying out, “What have you done to me, mother?” raised her from the ground, and pressing her hand violently, exclaimed, “You have conquered; your victory is a blessed one for Rome, but ruinous to me, for I shall retreat conquered by you alone.” After speaking thus, and conferring for a short time in private with his mother and his wife, he at their own request sent them back to Rome, and the following night led away the Volscian army. Various opinions were current among the Volscians about what had taken place. Some blamed him severely, while others approved, because they wished for peace. Others again, though they disliked what he had done, yet did not regard him as a traitor, but as a soft-hearted man who had yielded to overwhelming pressure. However, no one disobeyed him, but all followed him in his retreat, though more out of regard for his noble character than for his authority.

XXXVII. The Roman people, when the war was at an end, showed even more plainly than before what terror and despair they had been in. As soon as they saw the Volscians retreating from their walls, all the temples were opened, and filled with worshippers crowned with garlands and sacrificing as if for a victory. The joy of the senate and people was most conspicuously shown in their gratitude to the women, whom they spoke of as having beyond all doubt saved Rome. The senate decreed that the magistrates should grant to the women any mark of respect and esteem which they themselves might choose. The women decided on the building of the temple of Female Fortune, the expenses of which they themselves offered to subscribe, only asking the state to undertake the maintenance of the services in it. The senate praised their public spirit, but ordered the temple and shrine to be built at the public expense. Nevertheless, the women with their own money provided a second image of the goddess, which the Romans say, when it was placed in the temple was heard to say,

“A pleasing gift have women placed me here.”

XXXVIII. The legend says that this voice was twice heard, which seems impossible and hard for us to believe. It is not impossible for statues to sweat, to shed tears, or to be covered with spots of blood, because wood and stone often when mouldering or decaying, collect moisture within them, and not only send it forth with many colours derived from their own substance, but also receive other colours from the air; and there is nothing that forbids us to believe that by such appearances as these heaven may foreshadow the future. It is also possible that statues should make sounds like moaning or sighing, by the tearing asunder of the particles of which they are composed; but that articulate human speech should come from inanimate things is altogether impossible, for neither the human soul, nor even a god can utter words without a body fitted with the organs of speech. Whenever therefore we find many credible witnesses who force us to believe something of this kind, we must suppose that the imagination was influenced by some sensation which appeared to resemble a real one, just as in dreams we seem to hear when we hear not, and to see when we see not. Those persons, however, who are full of religious fervour and love of the gods, and who refuse to disbelieve or reject anything of this kind, find in its miraculous character, and in the fact that the ways of God are not as our ways, a great support to their faith. For He resembles mankind in nothing, neither in nature, nor movement, nor learning, nor power, and so it is not to be wondered at if He does what seems to us impossible. Nay, though He differs from us in every respect, it is in his works that He is most unlike us. But, as Herakleitus says, our knowledge of things divine mostly fails for want of faith.

XXXIX. When Marcius returned to Antium, Tullus, who had long hated him and envied his superiority, determined to put him to death, thinking that if he let slip the present opportunity he should not obtain another. Having suborned many to bear witness against him, he called upon him publicly to render an account to the Volscians of what he had done as their general. Marcius, fearing to be reduced to a private station while his enemy Tullus, who had great influence with his countrymen, was general, answered that he had been given his office of commander-in-chief by the Volscian nation, and to them alone would he surrender it, but that as to an account of what he had done, he was ready at that moment, if they chose, to render it to the people of Antium. Accordingly the people assembled, and the popular orators endeavoured by their speeches to excite the lower classes against Marcius. When, however, he rose to speak, the mob were awed to silence, while the nobility, and those who had gained by the peace, made no secret of their good will towards him, and of their intention to vote in his favour. Under these circumstances, Tullus was unwilling to let him speak, for he was a brilliant orator, and his former services far outweighed his last offence. Indeed, the whole indictment was a proof of how much they owed him, for they never could have thought themselves wronged by not taking Rome, if Marcius had not brought them so near to taking it. Tullus, therefore, thought that it would not do to wait, or to trust to the mob, but he and the boldest of his accomplices, crying out that the Volscians could not listen to the traitor, nor endure him to play the despot over them by not laying down his command, rushed upon him in a body and killed him, without any of the bystanders interfering in his behalf. However, the most part of the nation was displeased at this act, as was soon proved by the numbers who came from every city to see his dead body, by the splendid funeral with which he was honoured, and by the arms and trophies which were hung over his tomb, as that of a brave man and a consummate general.

The Romans, when they heard of his death, made no sign of either honour or anger towards him, except that they gave permission to the women, at their request, to wear mourning for him for ten months, as if they were each mourning for her father, her brother, or her son. This was the extreme limit of the period of mourning, which was fixed by Numa Pompilius, as has been related in his Life.

The loss of Marcius was at once felt by the Volscians. First of all, they quarrelled with the Aequi, their friends and allies, and even came to blows with them; next, they were defeated by the Romans in a battle in which Tullus was slain, and the flower of the Volscian army perished. After this disaster they were glad to surrender at discretion, and become the subjects of Rome.



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Translated by Aubrey Stewart and George Long. The copyright for the original of this document is held in the Public Domain. Font, formatting, spelling modernizations, typo/transcription corrections, and explanatory footnotes for this version of Plato’s “The Republic” Copyright © 2011 Steve Farrell and The Moral Liberal.