|The Story of Rome|
|by Mary Macgregor|
|A vivid account of the story of Rome from the earliest times to the death of Augustus, retold for children, chronicling the birth of a city and its growth through storm and struggle to become a great world empire. Gives short accounts of battles and campaigns, and of the men who expanded the borders of the Roman empire to include all lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Ages 10-14 |
CORIOLANUS AND HIS MOTHER VETURIA
 MANY legends are told of the wars which the Romans now waged
with a fierce tribe named the Volscians.
None, perhaps, is so well known as the story I am going
to tell you of Gaius Marcius, who was named Coriolanus.
Marcius was only a lad of seventeen years of age when
he fought in the great battle of Lake Regillus. For
his courage in saving the life of a comrade on the
battlefield he was crowned with a wreath of oak leaves,
as was the Roman custom.
The young lad loved his mother Veturia well. When the
battle was over, his first thought was to hasten to
show her the wreath that his valour had gained, for he
had no greater joy than to please her.
When the Romans went to war with the Volscians, Marcius
was with the army which was besieging Corioli, their
One day, the defenders of the city, seeing that part of
the Roman army had withdrawn from the walls, determined
to venture out to attack those soldiers who remained.
So fierce was their onslaught, that the Romans began to
Marcius, who was some distance off, saw what had
happened, and with only a few followers rushed to the
aid of his comrades, at the same time calling in a loud
voice to those who were retreating to follow him.
Encouraged by the young patrician, the Romans rallied,
and dashing after Marcius, they soon forced the
 enemy to turn and fly back toward the shelter of their
The Romans pursued the Volscians until they reached the
gates, but they did not dream of entering, for within
the city were many more of the enemy. Already the
walls were manned, and a deadly rain of arrows was
descending among them.
But Marcius, crying that the gates were open, "Not so
much to shelter the vanquished as to receive the
conquerors," forced his way into the city.
With only a handful of men, he succeeded in keeping the
gates of Corioli open, until the main body of the army
arrived, when the city was taken without difficulty.
The soldiers said, as was indeed the truth, that it was
Gaius Marcius who had taken the city.
When the war with the Volscians ended, the Consul
wished to reward Marcius for this and many another
courageous deed. So he ordered that of all the booty
that had been taken in the war, the tenth part should
be given to the brave young patrician. He himself gave
to Marcius a noble horse, splendidly caparisoned.
But Marcius refused to receive more than his proper
share of the booty. He begged, however, for one
favour. It was that a Volscian who had shown him
hospitality and was now a prisoner, might be set free.
Shouts of applause greeted Marcius when the soldiers
heard his request.
When all was again quiet, the Consul said: "It is
idle, fellow-soldiers, to force and obtrude those other
gifts of ours on one who is unwilling to accept them.
Let us therefore give him one of such a kind that he
cannot well reject it. In memory of his conquest of
the city of Corioli, let him henceforth be called
So it was that from this time Coriolanus was the name
of the young soldier.
In Rome, as was usual after war, there was much misery,
 for the fields had been left unploughed, and no seed
had been sown while the plebeians were away on the
battlefield. Now the people were starving.
The Consuls sent to Etruria for food, and when it
reached Rome it was divided among the people, but still
there was not enough to satisfy their hunger.
While the people still cried for bread, the time to
elect Consuls for the following year drew near.
Coriolanus was one of the candidates. He came to the
Forum, clad in his white toga only, and drawing it
aside he showed to the people the marks of the wounds
he had received in fighting for his country.
But although at first they meant to elect Coriolanus,
many of them remembered that he often spoke of their
tribunes with bitter contempt. If he were Consul, he
might try to do away with the tribunes altogether, and
to whom then would the people be able to appeal against
the oppression of the haughty patricians?
When the day came to elect the Consuls, the feeling
against Coriolanus had grown so strong that he was
rejected. This made him very angry with the plebeians,
nor did he try to disguise his feelings.
Soon after the elections were over, large ships laden
with corn reached Ostia. The senators were eager to
feed the starving people, and as some of the corn was a
gift, they were ready to give it to them without
charging even a small sum.
But Coriolanus was indignant, and denounced in the
Senate-house those who wished to treat the people so
well. The plebeians had already grown more insolent
than was fitting, owing to the favours bestowed upon
them. "Before you feed them," said the haughty
patrician, "let them give up their tribunes."
When the plebeians learned what Coriolanus had said,
their anger knew no bounds. They would have forced
their way into the Senate-house and torn him to pieces,
 the tribunes protected him and calmed the fury of the
"Do not kill him," said the tribunes, "for that will
only harm your cause. We will accuse him of having
broken the sacred laws, and you shall yourselves
pronounce his sentence."
But when the tribunes summoned Coriolanus to appear
before them, he mocked both at them and at the people.
A patrician appear before the tribunes to be judged!
That was to Coriolanus a foolish idea.
But although the patrician ignored the summons, the
tribunes and the people met and declared that
Coriolanus was banished from Rome.
Then Coriolanus was forced to leave the city.
Hastening to the Volscians, he threw himself upon the
mercy of their chief, Attius Tullius.
Tullius was willing to help the banished patrician to
punish Rome, and soon an army, led by the chief and by
Coriolanus, was on its way to the city. Town after
town fell into the hands of the advancing army. At
length it encamped only five miles from Rome.
The Senate, in alarm at the success of the Volscians,
sent to beg for peace.
But Coriolanus sent back the Roman ambassadors, saying
that unless all the towns taken from the Volscians in
the last war were restored to them, peace would not be
Such terms were scorned by the Senate, and it sent
other ambassadors to beg for easier conditions. But
Coriolanus refused even to see these messengers.
Then the priests, clad in their sacred robes, walked in
solemn procession to the camp of the enemy, to try to
appease the anger of the haughty patrician. But the
efforts of the priests were vain.
Meanwhile, the matrons of Rome had been beseeching
Jupiter to come to the aid of the city.
When the priests returned, having accomplished nothing,
 one of these matrons said: "We will go to Veturia and
Volumnia and beseech them to go plead with Coriolanus.
He cannot refuse to listen to his mother and his wife,
for he loves them well."
Veturia, who was stricken with grief that her son could
betray his country into the hands of the enemy, needed
no persuasion to go to speak with him.
Clad in black garments, she and Volumnia with her
little children, followed by a band of Roman matrons
set out for the camp of the enemy.
Coriolanus, when he caught sight of his mother, leaped
from his seat, and running quickly toward her, would
have kissed her, as was his wont.
But she, putting him aside, bade him first answer her
"Am I the mother of Gaius Marcius," she asked
reproachfully, "or a prisoner in the hands of the
leader of the Volscians? Alas! had I not been a
mother, my country had still been free." As his mother
said these words, his wife and children fell at his
knees and clung to him. His mother's words did what
nothing else had been able to do, for the proud
patrician could not bear to listen to her reproaches.
With tears in his eyes he cried: "O my mother, thou
hast saved Rome, but thou hast lost thy son."
"O my mother, thou hast saved Rome, but thou hast lost thy son."
Then he led the Volscian army away from the city, and
restored to the Romans the towns which the enemy had
Some legends tell that the Volscians were so angry with
Coriolanus for deserting them, that they slew him as a
traitor; but others say that he lived in exile until he
was an old man.
Weary of exile, he is said to have cried: "Only an old
man knows how hard it is to live in a far country."
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