| Famous Men of Rome|
|by John H. Haaren|
|Attractive biographical sketches of twenty-eight of the most prominent characters in the history of ancient Rome, from its founding to its fall. Includes most of the best known characters from the kingdom and republic of Rome, as well as the most prominent personages from the imperial age. Each story is told in a clear, simple manner, and is well calculated to awaken and stimulate the youthful imagination. Ages 9-12 |
 ONE of the great men of Rome not long after the banishment
of the Tarquins was Caius Marcius. He was a member of a
noble family, and from his youth he had been noted for his
In his time there was a war between the Romans and the
Volscians, a people of a district in Latium. The Romans
made an attack on Corioli, the capital city of the
Volscians, but were defeated and driven back. Caius Marcius
reproached the Roman soldiers for running from the enemy.
His words made them ashamed and they turned again to the
fight. With Caius at their head they sent the Volscians
flying back into the city. Caius followed the enemy to the
gates, which were partly open. When he saw this he shouted
to the Romans:
"The gates are open for us; let us not be afraid to enter!"
Caius himself sprang in and kept the gates open for the
Romans. After a short fight the city was taken.
 Then everybody said that it was Caius who had taken Corioli,
and that he should be called after the name of the city he
had won. So ever afterward he was known
BUT though Coriolanus was a brave soldier and always ready
to fight for Rome, he had some qualities that were not so
good. He had great contempt for the common people, and he
took part with those who tried to oppress them.
Only a little while before the taking of Corioli, there was
a serious trouble between the people and the patricians. A
great many of the people earned their living by farming.
But when there was a war the strong men had to become
soldiers, and as Rome was almost constantly at war the men
were nearly always away from their farms. Very often,
therefore, they had to borrow money to support their
families while they themselves were away fighting, for at
this time Roman soldiers got no regular pay.
Now it was the rich patricians who loaned the money, and if
it was not paid back at the time agreed upon they could put
the people who owed it in jail, or they could sell their
wives and children as slaves.
 In this way the plebeians often suffered much hardship. At
last a great number of them resolved to leave Rome and make
a settlement for themselves somewhere else in Italy. The
patricians did not like this very much, for if the common
people went away there would be a scarcity of soldiers for
the army. So the Senate, after thinking the matter over,
proposed that the plebeians should elect officers of their
own, to be called tribunes, who should have power to veto
laws they did not like, that is, prevent them from being
passed. The word veto, which is Latin for I forbid, is used
in the same way in our own country. The President of the
United States and the governors of some states have, within
certain limits, power to prevent the passing of laws they do
not approve. This is called the veto power.
The plebeians were pleased with the proposal that they were
to have tribunes, so they returned to Rome, and for a time
there was peace between them and the patricians.
But Coriolanus and other patricians were opposed to the
election of tribunes, because they thought it gave the
common people too much power. Once when there was a famine
in Rome, and the poor were suffering greatly from want of
food, the Greeks living in Sicily sent several ships laden
with corn to
 Rome to relieve the people in distress. When
the corn arrived the Senate was about to order that it
should be divided among the people who needed it, but
"No, no," he said, "if the people want corn let them first
give up their tribunes. It must be either no corn or no
The people were so angry when they heard of this speech that
they talked about killing Coriolanus. And they would have
done so but for the wise advice of the tribunes.
''No, no," said the tribunes, "you must not kill him; that
would be against the law. But you can have him tried for
treason against the people and we will be his accusers."
Coriolanus was then ordered to appear before the assembly of
the people to be tried, for the people had power to try in
their assemblies persons charged with such offences. But
Coriolanus was afraid the assembly would condemn him, so he
secretly fled from the city, leaving his family behind, and
went to a town of the Volscians.
The chief of the Volscians received Coriolanus in a friendly
manner. Coriolanus then told him why he had left Rome. The
Volscian chief was glad to hear it. He had long wanted to
fight the Romans, but had been afraid to make the attempt.
 the aid of such a soldier as Coriolanus, however, he
was sure that Rome might be taken. So he raised a large
army and put it under the command of the great Roman.
THE Volscian army, led by Coriolanus, captured many cities
belonging to the Roman Republic. At last Coriolanus
resolved to attack Rome itself, and he marched his army
towards the city. The Romans just then were not very well
prepared for a battle, so the Senate decided to send
messengers to Coriolanus to beg him to spare his native city
and make terms of peace.
The messengers chosen were five of
the leading nobles, and they at once set out for the
Volscian camp. Coriolanus received them cordially, for they
were old friends; but he said that he would not spare Rome
unless the Romans would give up all the lands and cities
which they had taken from the Volscians in former wars.
To this the Senate would not agree, and Coriolanus refused
to listen to any other terms. The Romans then began to
prepare for battle, though they feared very much that they
would be defeated.
But while the men were thus in fear and doubt,
 the women of
Rome saved the city! Valeria, a noble Roman lady,
remembered that Coriolanus had always dearly loved his
"Perhaps," thought she, "he may listen to her though he will
hear no one else."
So Valeria, with a large number of noble ladies, went to the
house of Veturia, the mother of Coriolanus, and said to
"The gods have put it into our hearts to come and ask you to
join with us to save our country from ruin. Come then with
us to the camp of your son and pray him to show mercy."
The aged mother at once agreed to go, so she got ready
immediately and set out for the camp of the Volscians,
accompanied by a great number of ladies and her son's wife
and little children. It was a strange sight, this long line
of Roman ladies, all dressed in mourning, and even the
Volscian soldiers showed them respect as they passed along.
Coriolanus happened to be sitting in front of his tent in
the Volscian camp with a number of officers around him as
the procession came in view. "Who are these women?" he
asked. Before an answer could be given he saw that among
them were his mother and wife and children, and he stood up
and hastened forward to meet them. They fell on their knees
and begged him to spare his native city.
 Coriolanus seemed deeply distressed. He made no answer, but
bent his head, pressed his hand to his breast and gazed down
upon the dear ones who knelt at his feet. Then his mother
"If I had no son Rome would not be in this danger. I am too
old to bear much longer your shame and my own misery. Look
to your wife and children; if you continue in your present
course you will send them to an early death."
PLEADING WITH CORIOLANUS
Coriolanus was so grieved that for some minutes he could not
speak. At last he cried out:
"Oh, mother, what have you done to me? You have saved
Rome, but you have ruined your son."
Then he embraced his mother and looked at her sadly for a
moment. He also embraced and kissed his wife and children
and told them to go back to Rome, for they would be safe
there. The women then returned to the city and Coriolanus
marched away with the Volscian army. Rome was saved!
Coriolanus lived the rest of his life with the Volscians,
but he never again made war against his native city. It is
supposed that he died about the middle of the fifth century
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