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Coriolanus   


stepped in and stood before him, and slew his assailant. The general,
after having gained the victory, crowned him for this act, one of
the first, with a garland of oaken branches; it being the Roman custom
thus to adorn those who had saved the life of a citizen; whether that
the law intended some special honour to the oak, in memory of the
Arcadians, a people the oracle had made famous by the name of acorn-eaters;
or whether the reason of it was because they might easily, and in
all places where they fought, have plenty of oak for that purpose;
or, finally, whether the oaken wreath, being sacred to Jupiter, the
guardian of the city, might, therefore, be thought a proper ornament
for one who preserved a citizen. And the oak, in truth, is the tree
which bears the most and the prettiest fruit of any that grow wild,
and is the strongest of all that are under cultivation; its acorns
were the principal diet of the first mortals, and the honey found
in it gave them drink. I may say, too, it furnished fowl and other
creatures as dainties, in producing mistletoe for bird-lime to ensnare
them. In this battle, meantime, it is stated that Castor and Pollux
appeared, and immediately after the battle were seen at Rome just
by the fountain where their temple now stands, with their horses foaming
with sweat, and told the news of the victory to the people in the
forum. The fifteenth of July, being the day of this conquest, became
consequently a solemn holiday sacred to the Twin Brothers.
It may be observed, in general, that when young men arrive early at
fame and repute, if they are of a nature but slightly touched with
emulation, this early attainment is apt to extinguish their thirst
and satiate their appetite; whereas the first distinctions of more
and solid and weighty characters do but stimulate and quicken them
and take them away like a wind in the pursuit of honour; they look
upon these marks and testimonies to their virtue not as a recompense
received for what they have already done, but as a pledge given by
themselves of what they will perform hereafter, ashamed now to forsake
or underlive the credit they have won, or, rather, not to exceed and
obscure all that is gone before by the lustre of their following actions.
Marcius, having a spirit of this noble make, was ambitious always
to surpass himself, and did nothing how extraordinary soever, but
he thought he was bound to outdo it at the next occasion; and ever
desiring to give continual fresh instances of prowess, he added one
exploit to another, and heaped up trophies upon trophies, so as to
make it matter of contest also among his commanders, the latter still
vying with the earlier, which should pay him the greatest honour and
speak highest in his commendation. Of all the numerous wars and conflicts
in those days there was not one from which he returned without laurels
and rewards. And, whereas others made glory the end of their daring,
the end of his glory was his mother's gladness; the delight she took
to hear him praised and to see him crowned, and her weeping for joy
in his embraces rendered him in his own thoughts the most honoured
and most happy person in the world. Epaminondas is similarly said
to have acknowledged his feeling, that it was the greatest felicity
of his whole life that his father and mother survived to hear of his
successful generalship and his victory of Leuctra. And he had the
advantage, indeed, to have both his parents partake with him, and
enjoy the pleasure of his good fortune. But Marcius, believing himself
bound to pay his mother Volumnia all that gratitude and duty which
would have belonged to his father, had he also been alive, could never
satiate himself in his tenderness and respect to her. He took a wife,
also, at her request and wish, and continued, even after he had children,
to live still with his mother, without parting families.
The repute of his integrity and courage had, by this time, gained
him a considerable influence and authority in Rome, when the senate,
favouring the wealthier citizens, began to be at variance with the
common people, who made sad complaints of the rigorous and inhuman
usage they received from the money-lenders. For as many as were behind
with them, and had any sort of property, they stripped of all they
had, by the way of pledges and sales; and such as through former exactions

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