|The Story of the Romans|
|by Helene A. Guerber|
| Elementary history of Rome, presenting short stories of the great heroes, mythical and historical, from Aeneas and the founding of Rome to the fall of the western empire. Around the famous characters of Rome are graphically grouped the great events with which their names will forever stand connected. Vivid descriptions bring to life the events narrated, making history attractive to the young, and awakening their enthusiasm for further reading and study. Ages 10-14 |
THE STORY OF CORIOLANUS
 THE plebeians returned to Rome as soon as they were
sure that their rights would be respected.
They had no sooner arrived, however, than they once
more armed themselves, and went out to fight the
Volscians, who had taken advantage of the revolt to
rise up against Rome. The victory was soon won, and the
army came back to the city, where, in spite of the
tribunes' efforts, new quarrels arose between the
patricians and plebeians.
One of the principal causes of discontent was that the
patricians now regretted having given any rights to the
plebeians, and were always seeking some good excuse to
reduce them to their former state of subjection.
Three years after the revolt of the plebeians, there
was a great famine in Rome. The poor, as usual,
suffered the most, and they were almost starved, when a
king of Sicily took pity upon them and gave them a
great quantity of wheat.
The wheat was sent to the senate, with a request that
it should be divided among the suffering plebeians.
Now, as you surely remember, none but the patricians
were allowed to belong to the senate, and they gladly
took charge of the wheat. But, instead of distributing
it immediately, they kept it, saying that it would be
given to the poor only on condition that they gave up
the right of electing tribunes and ædiles.
The plebeians were in despair. They were unwilling to
lose their dearly-won rights, and still they were so
hungry that they could scarcely resist the temptation
to do as the
 senators wished, for the sake of getting food for
themselves and their families. They were very
indignant that such a cruel advantage should be taken
of their misery; and, when they found that the plan had
been suggested by a Roman named Coriolanus, they hated him.
In their anger they loudly accused Coriolanus of
treason, and made such fierce threats that the senate
did not dare to protect him. Coriolanus therefore
fled from Rome, swearing that he would take his
revenge; and he went to join the Volscians.
The Volscians, you know, were the enemies of Rome.
They had already made war against the proud city, and
had lost part of their lands. They therefore received
Coriolanus with joy, and gave him the command of their
army; for they knew that he was an excellent warrior.
Coriolanus then led them straight to Rome. On the way,
he won one victory after another over the Roman troops,
and took village after village. Such was his success
that the Romans began to fear for their city. The
plebeians, moreover, heard that he was ravaging their
lands and destroying all their property, while he did
no harm to the farms of the patricians; and they began
to tremble for their lives.
When the victorious exile was only five miles away, a
deputation of senators went out to meet him, and
implored him to spare the city. But Coriolanus would
not listen to their entreaties. He was equally deaf to
the prayers of the priests and of the Vestal Virgins,
who next came to beseech him to have mercy upon Rome.
Coriolanus before Rome.
The Romans were in despair. They thought their last
hour had come, but they made a final effort to disarm
 anger of Coriolanus, by sending his mother, wife, and
children, at the head of all the women of Rome, to
intercede for them.
When the banished Coriolanus saw his mother,
Veturia, and his wife, Volumnia, heading this
procession, he ran forward to embrace them. Then the
women all fell at his feet, and begged him so fervently
to spare their country that the tears came to his eyes.
He would not yield, however, until his mother exclaimed:
"My son, thou shall enter Rome only over my dead
These words almost broke his heart, for he was a good
son, and dearly loved Veturia. He could no longer
resist her prayers, in spite of his oath and promises
to the Volscians that he would make them masters of
Rome. Bursting into tears, he cried: "Mother, thou
hast saved Rome
and lost thy son."
The tears of the Roman women now gave way to cries of
joy, and the procession returned in triumph to Rome.
Only Veturia and Volumnia were sad, because Coriolanus
could not accompany them, and because they could not
forget his exclamation, and feared for his life.
When the women were gone, Coriolanus led his
disappointed army home. Some historians say that he
dwelt quietly among the Volscians until he died of old
age, while others declare that they were so angry with
him for betraying them and sparing Rome, that they put
him to death.
According to a third version of the story, Coriolanus
died of grief, because he had left Rome and nearly
caused her ruin, and because to save his native city he
had been obliged to betray the Volscians who had
The spot where Veturia and Volumnia had knelt in
 tears before Coriolanus was considered as hallowed
ground. Here the Romans built a temple dedicated to
the Fortune of Women. They never forgot how generously
Coriolanus had spared them, when they were at his
mercy; and when he died, all the women of the city wore
mourning for him, as they had worn it for Brutus.
Thus, you see, even in those ancient times the people
knew that it was nobler to conquer one's own evil
passions than to win a great victory; and that a man
who is brave enough to own himself in the wrong and to
do right, is more worthy of honor than many another
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