Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 11



Welcome to Rome, renowned Coriolanus!--Shakspeare.


1. During the late separation, all tillage had been entirely neglected, and a famine was the consequence the ensuing season. 2. The senate did all that lay in their power to remedy the distress; but the people, pinched with want and willing to throw the blame on any but themselves, ascribed the whole of their distress to the avarice of the patricians, who, having purchased all the corn, as was alleged, intended to indemnify themselves for the abolition of debts, by selling it out to great advantage. 3. But plenty soon after appeased them for a time. A fleet of ships, laden with corn, from Sicily, once more raised their spirits.

4. But Coriola'nus[1] incurred their resentment, by insisting that the corn should not be distributed till the grievances of the senate were removed. For this, the tribunes summoned him to a trial before the people.

5. When the appointed day was come, all persons were filled with the greatest expectations, and a vast concourse from the adjacent country assembled and filled the forum. Coriola'nus presented himself before the people, with a degree of intrepidity that merited better fortune. His graceful person, his persuasive eloquence, and the cries of those whom he had saved from the enemy, inclined the auditors to relent. 6. But, being unable to answer what was alleged against him to the satisfaction of the people, and utterly confounded with a new charge, of having embezzled the plunder of _Antium_, the tribunes immediately took the votes, and Coriola'nus was condemned to perpetual exile.

7. This sentence against their bravest defender struck the senate with sorrow, consternation and regret. Coriola'nus alone, in the midst of the tumult, seemed an unconcerned spectator. 8. He returned home, followed by the lamentations of the most respectable senators and citizens, to take leave of his wife, his children, and his mother, Vetu'ria. Thus, recommending all to the care of Heaven, he left the city, without followers or fortune, to take refuge with Tullus At'tius,[2] a man of great power among the _Volsci_, who took him under his protection, and espoused his quarrel.

9. Some pretence was necessary to induce the Volsci to break the league which had been made with Rome; and, for this purpose, Tullus sent many of his citizens thither, apparently for the purpose of seeing some games at that time celebrating; but gave the senate private information, that the strangers had dangerous intentions of burning the city. 10. This had the desired effect; the senate issued an order, that all strangers, whoever they were, should depart from Rome before sun-set. 11. This order Tullus represented to his countrymen as an infraction of the treaty, and procured an embassy to Rome, complaining of the breach, and redemanding all the territories belonging to the Volsci, of which they had been violently dispossessed; declaring war in case of refusal. This message, however, was treated by the senate with contempt. 12. War being, in consequence, declared on both sides, Coriola'nus and Tullus were made generals of the Volsci, and accordingly invaded the Roman territories, ravaging and laying waste all such lands as belonged to the plebeians, but letting those of the senators remain untouched. 13. In the mean time, the levies went on but slowly at Rome; the two consuls, who were re-elected by the people, seemed but little skilled in war, and even feared to encounter a general whom they knew to be their superior in the field. The allies also showed their fears, and slowly brought in their succours: so that Coriola'nus continued to take their towns one after the other. 14. Fortune followed him in every expedition, and he was now so famous for his victories, that the Volsci left their towns defenceless to follow him into the field. The very soldiers of his colleague's army came over to him, and would acknowledge no other general. 15. Thus finding himself unopposed in the field, and at the head of a numerous army, he at length invested the city of Rome itself, fully resolved to besiege it. 16. It was then the senate and the people unanimously agreed to send deputies to him, with proposals for his restoration, in case he would draw off his army. 17. Coriola'nus received these proposals at the head of his principal officers, and, with the sternness of a general that was to give the law, refused their offers.

18. Another embassy was now sent, conjuring him not to exact from his native city aught but what became Romans to grant. Coriola'nus, however, naturally severe, still persisted in his former demands, and granted them only three days for deliberation. 19. In this exigence, all that was left to be done was another deputation, still more solemn than either of the former, composed of the pontiffs, priests, and augurs. These, clothed in their habits of ceremony, and with a grave and mournful deportment, issued from the city, and entered the camp of the conqueror: but all in vain, they found him severe and inflexible.

20. When the people saw them return without success, they began to give up the commonwealth as lost. Their temples were filled with old men, with women and children, who, prostrate at the altars, put up their ardent prayers for the preservation of their country. Nothing was to be heard but anguish and lamentation; nothing to be seen but scenes of affright and distress. 21. At length it was suggested to them, that what could not be effected by the intercession of the senate, or the adjuration of the priests, might be brought about by the tears of a wife, or the commands of a mother. 22. This deputation seemed to be approved by all, and even the senate themselves gave it the sanction of their authority. Vetu'ria, the mother of Coriola'nus, at first hesitated to undertake so pious a work; knowing the inflexible temper of her son, and fearing only to show his disobedience in a new point of light, by his rejecting the commands of a parent; however, she at last undertook the embassy, and set forward from the city, accompanied by many of the principal matrons of Rome, with Volum'nia his wife, and his two children. 23. Coriola'nus, who at a distance discovered this mournful train of females, was resolved to give them a denial, and called his officers round him to be witnesses of his resolution; but, when told that his mother and his wife were among the number, he instantly came down from his tribunal to meet and embrace them. 24. At first, the women's tears and embraces took away the power of words, and the rough soldier himself, hardy as he was, could not refrain, from sharing their distress. Coriola'nus now seemed much agitated by contending passions; while his mother, who saw him moved, seconded her words by the most persuasive eloquence, that of tears: his wife and children hung around him, entreating for protection and pity: while the female train, her companions, added their lamentations, and deplored their own and their country's distress. 25. Coriola'nus for a moment was silent, feeling the strong conflict between honour and inclination; at length, as if roused from a dream, he flew to raise his mother, who had fallen at his feet, crying out, "O, my mother, thou hast saved Rome, but lost thy son!" He accordingly gave orders to draw off the army, pretending to the officers that the city was too strong to be taken. 26. Tullus, who had long envied Coriola'nus, was not remiss in aggravating the lenity of his conduct to his countrymen. Upon their return, Coriola'nus is said to have been slain by an insurrection of the people, and honourably buried, after a late and ineffectual repentance.

27. Great and many were the public rejoicings at Rome upon the retreat of the Volscian army;[3] but they were clouded soon after by the intrigues of Spu'rius Cas'sius, who, wanting to make himself despotic by means of the people, was found guilty of a number of crimes, all tending towards altering the constitution; and was thrown headlong from the Tarpei'an rock,[4] by those very people whose interests he had endeavoured to extend.


Questions for Examination.

1. What were the consequences of the late separation?

2. What measures were taken to remedy these misfortunes, and to whom was the blame of them attributed?

3. What happened to remove the popular discontent?

4. What circumstances raised a fresh commotion?

5. Did Coriolanus obey the summons?

6. What was the issue of the trial?

7. To what sensations did this sentence give rise?

8. What circumstance attended his departure?

9. In what manner did he commence his revenge?

10. Was this information believed?

11. What use did Tullus make of this order?

12. To whom was the conduct of the war committed?

13. Was this invasion vigorously opposed?

14. Was Coriolanus uniformly successful?

15. What did this good fortune induce him to undertake?

16. What measures did the senate adopt on this emergency?

17. How were these proposals received?

18. Were they repeated?

19. What was the next step adopted?

20. Did the Romans boldly resolve to oppose force by force?

21. What new expedient was proposed?

22. Was this proposal adopted?

23. What was the conduct of Coriola'nus on the occasion?

24. Describe this interview.

25. What was the result?

26. Did the Volscians approve of this measure?

27. What followed this happy deliverance?



Like rigid Cincinnatus, nobly poor.--Thomson.


1. The year following, the two consuls of the former year, Man'lius and Fa'bius, were cited by the tribunes to appear before the people. The Agra'rian law, which had been proposed some time before, for equally dividing the lands of the commonwealth among the people, was the object invariably pursued, and they were accused of having made unjustifiable delays in putting it off.

2. The Agra'rian law was a grant the senate could not think of making to the people. The consuls, therefore, made many delays and excuses, till at length they were once more obliged to have recourse to a dictator; and they fixed upon Quintus Cincinna'tus, a man who had for some time, given up all views of ambition, and retired to his little farm, where the deputies of the senate found him holding the plough, and dressed in the mean attire of a labouring husbandman. 3. He appeared but little elevated with the addresses of ceremony, and the pompous habits they brought him; and, upon declaring to him the senate's pleasure, he testified rather a concern that his aid should be wanted. He naturally preferred the charms of a country retirement to the fatiguing splendors of office, and only said to his wife, as they were leading him away, "I fear, my Atti'lia, that for this year our little fields must remain unsown." 4. Then, taking a tender leave, he departed for the city, where both parties were strongly inflamed against each other. However, he resolved to side with neither; but, by a strict attention to the interests of his country, instead of gaining the confidence of faction, to seize the esteem of all. 5. Thus, by threats and well-timed submission, he prevailed upon the tribunes to put off their law for a time, and conducted himself so as to be a terror to the multitude whenever they refused to enlist, and their greatest encourager whenever their submission deserved it. 6. Having, by these means, restored that tranquillity to the people which he so much loved himself, he again gave up the splendors of ambition, to enjoy it with a greater relish on his little farm.

[Sidenote: U.C. 295.] 7. Cincinna'tus had not long retired from his office, when a fresh exigence of the state once more required his assistance; and the 'qui and the Vol'sci, who, although always worsted, were still for renewing the war, made new inroads into the territories of Rome. 8. Minu'tius, one of the consuls who succeeded Cincinna'tus, was sent to oppose them; but being naturally timid, and rather more afraid of being conquered than desirous of victory, his army was driven into a defile between two mountains, from which, except through the enemy, there was no egress. 9. This, however, the 'qui had the precaution to fortify, by which the Roman army was so hemmed in on every side, that nothing remained but submission to the enemy, famine, or immediate death. 10. Some knights who found means of getting away privately through the enemy's camp, were the first that brought the account of this disaster to Rome. 11. Nothing could exceed the consternation of all ranks of people when informed of it: the senate at first thought of the other consul; but not having sufficient experience of his abilities, they unanimously turned their eyes upon Cincinna'tus, and resolved to make him dictator. 12. Cincinna'tus, the only person on whom Rome could now place her whole dependence, was found, as before, by the messengers of the senate, labouring in his field with cheerful industry. 13. He was at first astonished at the ensigns of unbounded power, with which the deputies came to invest him; but still more at the approach of the principal of the senate, who came out to attend him.

14. A dignity so unlooked for, however, had no effect upon the simplicity or integrity of his manners; and being now possessed of absolute power, and called upon to nominate his master of the horse, he chose a poor man named Tarqui'tius, one who, like himself, despised riches when they led to dishonour. Thus the saving a great nation was devolved upon a husbandman taken from the plough, and an obscure sentinel found among the dregs of the army. 15. Upon entering the city, the dictator put on a serene look, and entreated all those who were able to bear arms, to repair, before sunset, to the Cam'pus Mar'tius (the place where the levies were made) with necessary arms, and provisions for five days. 16. He put himself at the head of these, and, marching all night with great expedition, arrived early the next day within sight of the enemy. Upon his approach, he ordered his soldiers to raise a loud shout, to apprise the consul's army of the relief that was at hand. 17. The 'qui were not a little amazed when they saw themselves between two enemies; but still more when they perceived Cincinna'tus making the strongest entrenchments beyond them, to prevent their escape, and enclosing them as they had enclosed the consul. 18. To prevent this, a furious combat ensued; but the 'qui, being attacked on both sides, and unable longer to resist or fly, begged a cessation of arms. 19. They offered the dictator his own terms: he gave them their lives, and obliged them, in token of servitude, to pass under the yoke, which was two spears set upright, and another across, in the form of a gallows, beneath which the vanquished were to march. Their captains and generals he made prisoners of war, being reserved to adorn his triumph. 20. As for the plunder of the enemy's camp, that he gave entirely up to his own soldiers, without reserving any part for himself, or permitting those of the delivered army to have a share. 21. Thus having rescued a Roman army from inevitable destruction, having defeated a powerful enemy, having taken and fortified their city, and still more, having refused any part of the spoil, he resigned his dictatorship, after having enjoyed it but fourteen days. The senate would have enriched him, but he declined their proffers, choosing to retire once more to his farm and his cottage, content with competency and fame.

22. But this repose from foreign invasion did not lessen the tumults of the city within. The clamours for the Agra'rian law still continued, and still more fiercely, when Sic'cius Denta'tus, a plebeian advanced in years, but of an admirable person and military deportment, came forward to enumerate his hardships and his merits. This old soldier made no scruple of extolling the various achievements of his youth; indeed, his merits more than supported his ostentation. 23. He had served his country in the wars forty years: he had been an officer thirty, first a centurion, and then a tribune; he had fought one hundred and twenty battles, in which, by the force of his single arm, he had saved a multitude of lives; he had gained fourteen civic,[5] three mural,[6] and eight golden crowns; besides eighty-three chains, sixty bracelets, eighteen gilt spears, and twenty-three horse-trappings, whereof nine were for killing the enemy in single combat; moreover, he had received forty-five wounds in front, and none behind. 24. These were his honours; yet, notwithstanding all these, he had never received any share of those lands which were won from the enemy, but continued to drag on a life of poverty and contempt, while others were possessed of those very territories which his valour had won, without any merit to deserve them, or ever having contributed to the conquest.[7] 25. A case of so much hardship had a strong effect upon the multitude; they unanimously demanded that the law might be passed, and that such merit should not go unrewarded. It was in vain that some of the senators rose up to speak against it, their voices were drowned by the cries of the people. 26. When reason, therefore, could no longer be heard, passion, as usual, succeeded; and the young patricians, running furiously into the throng, broke the balloting urns, and dispersed the multitude that offered to oppose them. 27. For this they were, some time after, fined by the tribunes; their resolution, however, for the present, put off the Agra'rian law.


Questions for Examination.

1. On what accusation were Manlius and Fabius cited to appear before, the people?

2. What measure did the consuls adopt? Where, and in what employment was Cincinnatus found?

3. What effect had this dignity on Cincinnatus?

4. How did he conduct himself?

5. Were his measures successful?

6. Did Cincinnatus continue in office?

7. Was he permitted to continue in retirement?

8. What was the exigence that required his return to office?

9. What prevented the Romans from forcing their way through?

10. How was this news received at Rome?

11. Whom did they resolve to appoint dictator?

12. How was Cincinnatus now employed when the messengers arrived?

13. What was his behaviour on the occasion?

14. How was he affected by this exaltation?

15. What were his first measures?

16. What followed?

17. How were the enemy affected by his approach?

18. What was the consequence?

19. What were the terms of peace?

20. What became of the plunder?

21. What were his rewards for this important service?

22. Was domestic tranquillity the consequence of foreign conquest?

23. What were these achievements?

24. How was he rewarded?

25. What was the consequence of his appeal to the people?

26. Did the people obtain their demand?

27. How was this outrage punished?



[1] This man's name was originally Ca'ius Mar'cius. He received the surname of Coriola'nus as a reward for having, by his valour, occasioned the taking of Cori'oli, the capital of the Vol'sci. Previous to the occurrence mentioned in the text, he had been condemned to death by the tribunes, but saved by the interference of his friends.

[2] Tullus At'tius was a most determined enemy to the Romans, and to Coriola'nus in particular, for the share he had in humbling the power of the Vol'sci. It was probably more from a hope of revenge, by means of this valiant soldier, than any noble principle, that he offered him his countenance and protection.

[3] The senate commanded a temple to be erected on the spot where the interview between Coriola'nus and his mother took place, which saved Rome, and dedicated it to maternal influence?

[4] Tarpe'ian Rock, or Tarpei'us Mons, a hill at Rome, about eighty feet in perpendicular height, whence the Romans threw down their condemned criminals.

[5] A civic crown among the Romans, was made of oaken leaves, and given to those who had saved the life of a citizen.

[6] A mural crown was an honorary reward, given by the ancient Romans to the soldiers who first scaled the walls of an enemy's city.

[7] "These military toys," said he, "are the only rewards I have hitherto received. No lands, no share of the conquered countries. Usurpers, without any title but that of a patrician extraction, possess them. Is this to be endured? Shall they alone possess the fruits of our conquests? The purchase of our blood?"

Oliver Goldsmith