Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Plutarch
Pages of Coriolanus

Previous | Next


prevail so far, and gain ground of the senators, and might observe
many other patricians have the same dislike of the late concessions,
he yet besought them not to yield at least to the common people in
the zeal and forwardness they now showed for their country's service,
but to prove that they were superior to them, not so much in power
and riches, as in merit and worth.
The Romans were now at war with the Volscian nation, whose principal
city was Corioli; when, therefore, Cominius the consul had invested
this important place, the rest of the Volscians, fearing it would
be taken, mustered up whatever force they could from all parts, to
relieve it, designing to give the Romans battle before the city, and
so attack them on both sides. Cominius, to avoid this inconvenience,
divided his army, marching himself with one body to encounter the
Volscians on their approach from without and leaving Titus Lartius,
one of the bravest Romans of his time, to command the other and continue
the siege. Those within Corioli, despising now the smallness of their
number, made a sally upon them, and prevailed at first, and pursued
the Romans into their trenches. Here it was that Marcius, flying out
with a slender company, and cutting those in pieces that first engaged
him, obliged the other assailants to slacken their speed; and then,
with loud cries, called upon the Romans to renew the battle. For he
had, what Cato thought a great point in a soldier, not only strength
of hand and stroke, but also a voice and look that of themselves were
a terror to an enemy. Divers of his own party now rallying and making
up to him, the enemies soon retreated; but Marcius, not content to
see them draw off and retire, pressed hard upon the rear, and drove
them, as they fled away in haste, to the very gates of their city;
where, perceiving the Romans to fall back from their pursuit, beaten
off by the multitude of darts poured in upon them from the walls,
and that none of his followers had the hardiness to think of falling
in pell-mell among the fugitives and so entering a city full of enemies
in arms, he, nevertheless, stood and urged them to the attempt, crying
out, that fortune had now set open Corioli, not so much to shelter
the vanquished, as to receive the conquerors. Seconded by a few that
were willing to venture with him, he bore along through the crowd,
made good his passage, and thrust himself into the gate through the
midst of them, nobody at first daring to resist him. But when the
citizens on looking about saw that a very small number had entered,
they now took courage, and came up and attacked them. A combat ensued
of the most extraordinary description, in which Marcius, by strength
of hand, and swiftness of foot, and daring of soul, overpowering every
one that he assailed, succeeded in driving the enemy to seek refuge,
for the most part, in the interior of the town, while those remaining
submitted, and threw down their arms; thus affording Lartius abundant
opportunity to bring in the rest of the Romans with ease and safety.
Corioli being thus surprised and taken, the greater part of the soldiers
employed themselves in spoiling and pillaging it, while Marcius indignantly
reproached them, and exclaimed that it was a dishonourable and unworthy
thing, when the consul and their Fellow-citizens had now perhaps encountered
the other Volscians, and were hazarding their lives in battle, basely
to misspend the time in running up and down for booty, and, under
a pretence of enriching themselves, keep out of danger. Few paid him
any attention, but, putting himself at the head of these, he took
the road by which the consul's army had marched before him, encouraging
his companions, and beseeching them, as they went along, not to give
up, and praying often to the gods, too, that he might be so happy
as to arrive before the fight was over, and come seasonably up to
assist Cominius, and partake in the peril of the action.
It was customary with the Romans of that age, when they were moving
into battle array, and were on the point of taking up their bucklers,
and girding their coats about them, to make at the same time an unwritten
will, or verbal testament, and to name who should be their heirs,
in the hearing of three or four witnesses. In this precise posture
Marcius found them at his arrival, the enemy being advanced within

Previous | Next
Site Search