Then the matrons assemble in a body around Veturia, the mother of Coriolanus, and his wife, Volumnia: whether that was the result of public counsel, or of the women's fear, I cannot ascertain.
They certainly carried their point that Veturia, a lady advanced in years, and Volumnia, leading her two sons by Marcius, should go into the camp of the enemy, and that women should defend by entreaties and tears a city which men were unable to defend by arms.
When they reached the camp, and it was announced to Coriolanus, that a great body of women were approaching, he, who had been moved neither by the majesty of the state in its ambassadors, nor by the sanctity of religion so strikingly addressed to his eyes and understanding in its priests, was much more obdurate against the women's tears.
Then one of his acquaintances, who recognised Veturia, distinguished from all the others by her sadness, standing between her daughter-in-law and grandchildren, says, “Unless my eyes deceive me, your mother, children, and wife, are approaching.”
When Coriolanus, almost like one bewildered, rushing in consternation from his seat, offered to embrace his mother as she met him, the lady, turning from entreaties to angry rebuke, says, “Before I receive your embrace, let me know whether I have come to an enemy or to a son; whether I am in your camp a captive or a mother?
Has length of life and a hapless old age reserved [p. 127]
me for this —to behold you an exile, then an enemy? Could you lay waste this land, which gave you birth and nurtured you?
Though you had come with an incensed and vengeful mind, did not your resentment subside when you entered its frontiers? When Rome came within view, did it not occur to you, within these walls my house and guardian gods are, my mother, wife, and children?
So then, had I not been a mother, Rome would not be besieged: had I not a son, I might have died free in a free country. But I can now suffer nothing that is not more discreditable to you than distressing to me; nor however wretched I may be, shall I be so long.
Look to these, whom, if you persist, either an untimely death or lengthened slavery awaits.” Then his wife and children embraced him: and the lamentation proceeding from the entire crowd of women, and their bemoaning themselves and their country, at length overcame the man; then, after embracing his family, he sends them away; he moved his camp farther back from the city.
Then, after he had drawn off his troops from the Roman territory, they say that he lost his life, overwhelmed by the odium of the proceeding: different writers say by different modes of death: I find in Fabius, far the most ancient writer, that he lived even to old age; he states positively, that advanced in years he made use of this phrase, “That exile bore much heavier on the old man.”
The men of Rome were not remiss in awarding their praises to the women, so truly did they live without detracting from the merit of others; a temple was built also and dedicated to female Fortune, to serve as a monument.
The Volscians afterwards returned in conjunction with the Aequi into the Roman territory: but the Aequi would no longer have Attius Tullus as their leader;
hence from dispute, whether the Volscians or the Aequi should give a general to the allied army, a sedition, and afterwards a furious battle arose. There the good fortune of the Roman people destroyed the two armies of the enemy, by a contest no less bloody than obstinate.
T. Sicinius and C. Aquillius were made consuls. The Volsci fell as a province to Sicinius; the Hernici (for they too were in arms) to Aquillius. That year the Hernici were defeated; they came off with respect to the Volscians on equal terms.