Then the married women gathered in large1
numbers at the house of Veturia, the mother of Coriolanus, and Volumnia, his wife.
Whether this was public policy or woman's fear I cannot find out; in any case they prevailed with them that both Veturia, an aged woman, and Volumnia should take the two little sons of Marcius and go with them to the camp of the enemy; and that, since the swords of the men could not defend the City, the women should defend it with their prayers and tears.
When they reached [p. 349]
the camp, and the word came to Coriolanus that a2
great company of women was at hand, at first, as might have been expected of one whom neither the nation's majesty could move, as represented in its envoys, nor the awfulness of religion, as conveyed to heart and eye by the persons of her priests, he showed even greater obduracy in resisting women's tears.
Then one of his friends, led by Veturia's conspicuous sadness to single her out from amongst the other women, as she stood between her son's wife and his babies, said: “Unless my eyes deceive me, your mother is here and your wife and children.”
Coriolanus started up like a madman from his seat, and running to meet his mother would have embraced her, but her entreaties turned to anger, and she said: “Suffer me to learn, before I accept your embrace, whether I have come to an enemy or a son; whether I am a captive or a mother in your camp.
Is it this to which long life and an unhappy old age have brought me, that I should behold in you an exile and then an enemy? Could you bring yourself to ravage this country, which gave you birth and reared you?
Did not your anger fall from you, no matter how hostile and threatening your spirit when you came, as you passed the boundary? Did it not come over you, when Rome lay before your eyes: ' Within those walls are my home and my gods, my mother, my wife, and my children?'
So then, had I not been a mother Rome would not now be besieged! Had I no son I should have died a free woman, in a free land!
But I can have nothing now to suffer which could be more disgraceful to you or more miserable for myself; nor, wretched though I am, shall I be so for long: it is these you must consider, for whom, if you keep on, untimely death or [p. 351]
long enslavement is in store.” The embraces of his3
wife and children, following this speech, and the tears of the entire company of women, and their lamentations for themselves and their country, at last broke through his resolution.
He embraced his family and sent them back, and withdrew his forces from before the City. Having then led his army out of Rome's dominions he is said to have perished beneath the weight of resentment which this act caused, by a death which is variously described. I find in Fabius, by far the oldest authority, that Coriolanus lived on to old age.
At least he reports that this saying was often on his lips, that exile was a far more wretched thing when one was old. There was no envy of the fame the women had earned, on the part of the men of Rome —so
free was life in those days from disparagement of another's glory —and to preserve its memory the temple of Fortuna Muliebris was built and dedicated.4
Afterwards the Volsci again invaded Roman soil, in conjunction with the Aequi, but these would no longer put up with Attius Tullius for their general.
Whereupon the dispute as to whether the Volsci or the Aequi should furnish a commander for the allied army, led to a quarrel, and this to a bloody battle. There the good fortune of the Roman People destroyed two hostile armies in one struggle, which was no less ruinous than it was obstinately fought.
The consulship of Titus Sicinius and Gaius Aquilius. Sicinius got the Volscian war for his command, and Aquilius that with the Hernici —for they too were up in arms. This year the Hernici were conquered, while the campaign against the Volsci was indecisive.