Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
 AT about the time in which Coriolanus lived the family of the
very powerful in Rome. Among the leaders or chief men of the family at that
period were Quintus Fabius, Marcus Fabius, and Cæso Fabius.
In those times the Roman nobles were very rich and powerful. They held all
the high offices of government and cared very little about the welfare of
the plebeians. Often they treated them very harshly.
The Fabii also treated the plebeians harshly. Once when Quintus Fabius
defeated the Volscians in a battle, he sold all the valuable things he took
from the enemy and put the money into the public treasury. Such things were
called spoils. The Roman generals usually divided the spoils among the
soldiers. This was the way the soldiers were paid in those days. But
Quintus Fabius would not divide the spoils. So the soldiers were very
bitter against him.
But some time afterwards Marcus Fabius was
 elected consul, and once after a great battle with the
people of Etruria, he took the entire care of the poor wounded soldiers and
supplied all their wants at his own expense.
The next year his brother Cæso Fabius was consul, and he tried to get the
Senate to divide among the poor citizens the lands that had been taken from
the Veientians and other people whom the Romans had defeated in war. Often
afterwards in the Senate the voice of a Fabius was heard speaking for
justice to the plebeians. The common people, therefore, soon loved the
whole family of the Fabii instead of hating them as they had before.
The nobles were very angry because the Fabii took the side of the plebeians,
and they threatened to do all they could against them. Now the Fabii saw
clearly that it would be useless to attempt to fight the nobles, because the
nobles had a great deal of power and could do almost whatever they pleased
in Rome. Therefore, the Fabii thought that it would be better for them to
remove from the city and make a new home for themselves somewhere else. So
they resolved to do this, and the place they selected was on the banks of
the River Cremera, a few miles from Rome.
At this time the Romans were again at war with the Veientians. These people
lived in Veii, a
 city on the Cremera River. One day, when there was a discussion in the
Roman Senate about this war, Cæso Fabius said:
"As you know, we of the house of the Fabii are going to leave Rome and
settle on the borders of the country of the Veientians. If you give us
permission we will fight those people and try to defeat them for the honor
of Rome and the glory of our house. We will ask neither money nor men from
the Senate. We will carry on the war with our own men and at our own cost."
The senators were glad of the chance to get rid of the Fabii, and so they at
once gave them the permission they asked for. The Fabii then began to make
preparations for their departure. There were over three hundred men in
addition to women-folk, children, and servants, and when all were ready they
marched out of the city to their new home with Cæso Fabius at their head.
At first the Fabii had only a camp on the Cremera River, but afterwards they
built a small city, with a strong fortress. Many good Roman soldiers came
and joined them, and soon they had a fine army of earnest, devoted men.
The Veientians were soon conquered. Fabius and his brave men defeated them
in several battles, and at last the Veientians made up their minds that they
 had got enough of war. Then they returned to their own city of Veii and
remained quiet for a long time. But they declared that they would destroy
the Fabii whenever they could get the chance.
Now it was an old custom of the Fabii to have a special worship of the gods
on a certain day of every year. Early in the morning of that day all the
men of the family would go in a body to a famous temple on a hill near Rome
and have religious services for several hours. The men took no arms with
them, as it was thought improper to go armed to religious worship.
The Veientians heard of this annual religious service of the Fabii and saw
in it a chance for revenge. So they resolved to kill the Fabii the next
time they went to the temple for their special service. When the day came
the Fabii set out as usual. On their way to the temple they had to go over
a road which had high, steep rocks on each side. There a large number of
Veientian soldiers hid themselves, and when the unsuspecting Fabii came
along a furious attack was made on them from front and rear. Without arms
they could not fight very well. They made the best defence they could, but
it was useless. They were all killed except one young man who escaped to
Rome. Thus the cowardly Veientians had their revenge.