THE REVENGE OF CORIOLANUS
BY CHARLES MORRIS (ADAPTED)
CAIUS MARCIUS was a noble Roman youth, who fought valiantly,
when but seventeen years of age, in the battle of Lake
Regillus, and was there crowned with an oaken wreath, the
Roman reward for saving the life of a fellow soldier. This
he showed with joy to his mother, Volumnia, whom he loved
exceedingly, it being his greatest pleasure to receive
praise from her lips.
He afterward won many more crowns in battle, and became one
of the most famous of Roman soldiers. One of his memorable
exploits took place during a war with the Volscians, in
which the Romans attacked the city of Corioli. Through
 Caius's bravery the place was taken, and the Roman general
said: "Henceforth, let him be called after the name of this
city." So ever after he was known as Caius Marcius
Courage was not the only marked quality of Coriolanus. His
pride was equally great. He was a noble of the nobles, so
haughty in demeanor and so disdainful of the commons that
they grew to hate him bitterly.
At length came a time of great scarcity of food. The people
were on the verge of famine, to relieve which shiploads of
corn were sent from Sicily to Rome. The Senate resolved to
distribute this corn among the suffering people, but
Coriolanus opposed this, saying: "If they want corn, let
them promise to obey the Patricians, as their fathers did.
Let them give up their tribunes. If they do this we will let
them have corn, and take care of them."
When the people heard of what the proud noble had said, they
broke into a fury, and a mob gathered around the doors of
the Senate house, prepared to seize and tear him in pieces
when he came out. But the tribunes prevented this, and
Coriolanus fled from Rome, exiled from his native land by
his pride and disdain of the people.
The exile made his way to the land of the Volscians and
became the friend of Rome's great
 enemy, whom he had formerly helped to conquer. He aroused
the Volscians' ire against Rome, to a greater degree than
before, and placing himself at the head of a Volscian army
greater than the Roman forces, marched against his native
city. The army swept victoriously onward, taking city after
city, and finally encamping within five miles of Rome.
The approach of this powerful host threw the Romans into
dismay. They had been assailed so suddenly that they had
made no preparations for defense, and the city seemed to lie
at the mercy of its foes. The women ran to the temples to
pray for the favor of the gods. The people demanded that the
Senate should send deputies to the invading army to treat
The Senate, no less frightened than the people, obeyed,
sending five leading Patricians to the Volscian camp. These
deputies were haughtily received by Coriolanus, who offered
them such severe terms that they were unable to accept them.
They returned and reported the matter, and the Senate was
thrown into confusion. The deputies were sent again,
instructed to ask for gentler terms, but now Coriolanus
refused even to let them enter his camp. This harsh repulse
plunged Rome into mortal terror.
All else having failed, the noble women of Rome, with
Volumnia, the mother of Coriolanus,
 at their head, went in procession from the city to the
Volscian camp to pray for mercy.
It was a sad and solemn spectacle, as this train of noble
ladies, clad in their habiliments of woe, and with bent
heads and sorrowful faces, wound through the hostile camp,
from which they were not excluded as the deputies had been.
Even the Volscian soldiers watched them with pitying eyes,
and spoke no scornful word as they moved slowly past.
On reaching the midst of the camp, they saw Coriolanus on
the general's seat, with the Volscian chiefs gathered around
him. At first he wondered who these women could be; but when
they came near, and he saw his mother at the head of the
train, his deep love for her welled up so strongly in his
heart that he could not restrain himself, but sprang up and
ran to meet and kiss her.
The Roman matron stopped him with a dignified gesture. "Ere
you kiss me," she said, "let me know whether I speak to an
enemy or to my son; whether I stand here as your prisoner or
He stood before her in silence, with bent head, and unable
"Must it, then, be that if I had never borne a son, Rome
would have never seen the camp of an enemy?" said Volumnia,
in sorrowful tones.
"But I am too old to endure much longer your
 shame and my misery. Think not of me, but of your wife and
children, whom you would doom to death or to life in
Then Virgilia, his wife, and his children, came forward and
kissed him, and all the noble ladies in the train burst into
tears and bemoaned the peril of their country.
Coriolanus still stood silent, his face working with
contending thoughts. At length he cried out in heart-rending
accents: "O mother! What have you done to me?"
Then clasping her hand he wrung it vehemently, saying:
"Mother, the victory is yours! A happy victory for you and
Rome! but shame and ruin for your son."
Thereupon he embraced her with yearning heart, and afterward
clasped his wife and children to his breast, bidding them
return with their tale of conquest to Rome. As for himself,
he said, only exile and shame remained.
Before the women reached home, the army of the Volscians was
on its homeward march. Coriolanus never led it against Rome
again. He lived and died in exile, far from his wife and
The Romans, to honor Volumnia, and those who had gone with
her to the Volscian camp, built a temple to "Woman's
Fortune," on the spot where Coriolanus had yielded to his
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