Now in Rome, at the time of which I speak, various groups of women visited the various temples, but the greater part of them, and those of highest station, carried their supplications to the altar of Jupiter Capitolinus. Among these was Valeria, a sister of that Publicola who had done the Romans so many eminent services both as warrior and statesman. Publicola, indeed, had died some time before, as I have related in his Life;1
but Valeria was still enjoying her repute and honour in the city, where her life was thought to adorn her lineage.
This woman, then, suddenly seized with one of those feelings which I have been describing, and laying hold of the right expedient with a purpose not uninspired of heaven, rose up herself; bade the other women all rise, and came with them to the house of Volumnia,2
the mother of Marcius. After entering and finding her seated with her daughter-in-law, and holding the children of Marcius on her lap, Valeria called about her the women who had followed, and said:
‘We whom thou seest here, Volumnia, and thou, Vergilia, are come as women to women, obeying neither senatorial edict nor consular command; but our god, as it would seem, taking pity on our supplication, put into our hearts an impulse to come hither to you and beseech you to do that which will not only be the salvation of us ourselves and of the citizens besides, but also lift you who consent to do it to a more conspicuous fame than that which the daughters of the Sabines won, when they brought their fathers and husbands out of war into friendship and peace.
Arise, come with us to Marcius, and join with us in supplicating him, bearing this just and true testimony in behalf of your country, that, although she has suffered much wrong at his hands, she has neither done nor thought of doing harm to you, in her auger, but restores you to him, even though she is destined to obtain no equitable treatment at his hands.’
These words of Valeria were seconded by the cries of the other women with her, and Volumnia gave them this answer:—
‘O women, not only have we an equal share with you in the common calamities, but we have an additional misery of our own, in that we have lost the fame and virtue of Marcius, and see his person protected in command, rather than preserved from death, by the arms of our enemies. And yet it is the greatest of our misfortunes that our native city is become so utterly weak as to place her hopes in us.
For I know not whether the man will have any regard for us, since he has none for his country, which he once set before mother and wife and children. However, take us and use us and bring us to him; if we can do nothing else, we can at least breathe out our lives in supplications for our country.’