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

Previous | Next


of being contemned by it, which made them pretend to such a prerogative.
Let that he once allowed them as a mark of respect and kind feeling,
and the mere possession of this power of voting would at once dispossess
them of their animosity.
When, therefore, Marcius saw that the senate was in pain and suspense
upon his account, divided, as it were, betwixt their kindness for
him and their apprehensions from the people, he desired to know of
the tribunes what the crimes were they intended to charge him with,
and what the heads of the indictment they would oblige him to plead
to before the people; and being told by them that he was to be impeached
for attempting usurpation, and that they would prove him guilty of
designing to establish arbitrary government, stepping forth upon this,
"Let me go then," he said, "to clear myself from that imputation before
an assembly of them; I freely offer myself to any sort of trial, nor
do I refuse any kind of punishment whatsoever; only," he continued,
"let what you now mention be really made my accusation, and do not
you play false with the senate." On their consenting to these terms,
he came to his trial. But when the people met together, the tribunes,
contrary to all former practice, extorted first, that votes should
be taken, not by centuries, but tribes; a change, by which the indigent
and factious rabble, that had no respect for honesty and justice,
would be sure to carry it against those who were rich and well known,
and accustomed to serve the state in war. In the next place, whereas
they had engaged to prosecute Marcius upon no other head but that
of tyranny, which could never be made out against him, they relinquished
this plea, and urged instead, his language in the senate against an
abasement of the price of corn, and for the overthrow of the tribunician
power; adding further, as a new impeachment, the distribution that
was made by him of the spoil and booty he had taken from the Antiates,
when he overran their country, which he had divided among those that
had followed him, whereas it ought rather to have been brought into
the public treasury; which last accusation did, they say, more discompose
Marcius than all the rest, as he had not anticipated he should ever
be questioned on that subject, and, therefore, was less provided with
any satisfactory answer to it on the sudden. And when, by way of excuse,
he began to magnify the merits of those who had been partakers with
him in the action, those that had stayed at home, being more numerous
than the other, interrupted him with outcries. In conclusion, when
they came to vote, a majority of three tribes condemned him; the penalty
being perpetual banishment. The sentence of his condemnation being
pronounced, the people went away with greater triumph and exultation
than they had ever shown for any victory over enemies; while the senate
was in grief and deep dejection, repenting now and vexed to the soul
that they had not done and suffered all things rather than give way
to the insolence of the people, and permit them to assume and abuse
so great an authority. There was no need then to look at men's dresses,
or other marks of distinction, to know one from another: any one who
was glad was, beyond all doubt, a plebeian, any one who looked sorrowful,
a patrician.
Marcius alone, himself, was neither stunned nor humiliated. In mien,
carriage, and countenance he bore the appearance of entire composure,
and, while all his friends were full of distress, seemed the only
man that was not touched with his misfortune. Not that either reflection
taught him, or gentleness of temper made it natural for him to submit:
he was wholly possessed, on the contrary, with a profound and deep-seated
fury, which passes with many for no pain at all. And pain, it is true,
transmuted, so to say, by its own fiery heat into anger, loses every
appearance of depression and feebleness; the angry man makes a show
of energy, as the man in a high fever does of natural heat, while,
in fact, all this action of the soul is but mere diseased palpitation,
distension, and inflammation. That such was his distempered state
appeared presently plainly enough in his actions. On his return home,
after saluting his mother and his wife, who were all in tears and
full of loud lamentations, and exhorting them to moderate the sense

Previous | Next
Site Search