The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Coriolanus
CORIOLANUS, the name bestowed by the Roman people on the patrician Cneius Marcius, for the conquest of the Volscian town of Corioli. He was a leading member of the senate during the dissensions which followed soon after the establishment of the tribunes. Having been rejected as candidate for the consulship, he was so exasperated against the people, that during the great famine which then occurred he proposed in the senate the retention of grain sent from Sicily until the plebeians should consent to sacrifice the new magistracy created for the defence of their rights (491 B. C.). For this he was impeached by the tribunes and condemned to exile by the assembly of the people, to which his case was referred by the senate. He left Rome, made his way to Antium, the capital of the Volsci, against whom he had fought bravely a few years before, took the command of their army, ravaged the Roman colonies, conquered the towns of the Latins, their allies, and compelled this people to join him. He penetrated to Rome, and ravaged from his camp at the Cluilian dike the lands of the plebeians, sparing those of his own order. The terrified plebs now entreated the senate to revoke the decree of banishment; the senators refused to compromise the dignity of Rome, but were finally compelled to yield. Five consular and other distinguished citizens carried the decree of recall into the camp of Coriolanus; but he demanded the restitution to the Volsci of all the lands formerly conquered from them, and the acceptance of this condition within 30 days. Before the expiration of this term the Romans, reduced to extremity, sent one embassy after another to the haughty exile. He refused to listen to the senators or to the priests, but could not resist the reproaches of his mother Veturia, and the tears of his wife Volumnia, who led an embassy of matrons. “Thou hast saved Rome,” said he to his mother, “but lost thy son.” He then returned with his army into the land of the Volsci, who, according to some historians, punished his defection with death; according to others, he was suffered to live quietly among them. The matrons of Rome, it is said, mourned his death for a whole year, in a temple erected to Fortuna Muliebris, to commemorate their merits. The history of Coriolanus contains so many improbabilities that its authenticity has been seriously questioned by modern critics.