1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Virginia (Roman martyr)

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VIRGINIA, or Verginia, in Roman legendary history, daughter of L. Virginius, a plebeian centurion. Her beauty attracted the notice of the decemvir Appius Claudius, who instructed Marcus Claudius, one of his clients, to claim her as his slave. Marcus accordingly brought her before Appius, and asserted that she was the daughter of one of his female slaves, who had been stolen and passed off by the wife of Virginius as her own child. Virginius presented himself with his daughter before the tribunal of Appius, who, refusing to listen to any argument, declared Virginia to be a slave and the property of Marcus. Virginius thereupon stabbed her to the heart in the presence of Appius and the people. A storm of popular indignation arose and the decemvirs were forced to resign. The people for the second time “seceded” to the Sacred Mount, and refused to return to Rome until the old form of government was re-established.

See Livy iii. 44-58; Dion. Halic. xi. 28-45, whose account differs in some respects from Livy's; Cicero, De finibus, ii. 20; Val. Max. vi. 1, 2; for a critical examination of the story and its connexion with the downfall of the decemvirs, see Sir G. Cornewall Lewis, Credibility of Early Roman History, ii.; Schwegler, Römische Geschichte, bk. xxx. 4, 5; also E. Pais, Ancient Legends of Roman History (Eng. trans. 1906), p. 185, according to whom the legends of Virginia and Lucretia (two different versions of one and the same story, connecting the history of Roman liberty with the martyrdom of a woman) are nothing but late elaborations of legends connected with the cults of Ardea.