Cassius Dio
Roman History


Fragments of Book V


Dio, Book V. "This was the honor which the people bestowed upon him."

Zonaras 7
Tzetzes, Chil. 6, 532-542

The first secession of the Romans, then, terminated as described. Now many of the neighboring tribes had taken advantage of the secession to begin hostilities against them; but the Romans after their reconciliation conducted vigorously and harmoniously the wars brought by their enemies and conquered them all. It was at this time that in the siege of Corioli they came within an ace of being driven from their very camp; but a patrician, Gnaeus Marcius, showed his prowess and repelled the assailants. For this he received various marks of distinction and was given the title of Coriolanus from the people which he had routed.

When the Romans were warring against the city of Coriolanum, and had all turned to flight at full speed, he [Coriolanus] turned toward the hostile city, and finding it open, set fire to it all alone. As the flames rose brilliantly, he mounted his horse and fell with great violence upon the rear of the barbarians, who were causing headlong flight to the Romans. They wheeled about, and when they saw the fire consuming the city, thinking it was sacked, they fled in another direction. And he, as a result of saving the Romans and sacking the city, which we have already said was called Coriolanum, received, in addition to his former names, Marcus and Gnaeus, the title of Coriolanus, from his victory.

Zonaras, cont.
Tzetzes, cont.

For it is not easy for a man either to be strong at all points or to possess excellence in the arts both of war and of peace at the same time. Those who are physically strong are, as a rule, weak-minded, and success that has come in unstinted measure generally does not florish equally well everywhere. This explains why, after having once been exalted by the citizens to the foremost rank, he was not long afterward exiled by them, and how it was that after making the city of the Volsci a slave to his country he with the aid of that people brought his own land in turn into the very extreme of danger.

The same man wished to be made praetor, and upon failing to secure the office became angry at the populace; because of this and also because of his displeasure at the great influence of the tribunes he employed greater frankness in speaking to the people than was attempted by others whose deeds entitled them to same rank as himself. When a severe famine had broken out and the town of Norba called for a colony, the multitude blamed the nobles on both these scores, maintaining that through them they were being deprived of food and were purposely being delivered into the hands of their enemies for manifest destruction. For whenever persons come to suspect each other, they take amiss everything even that is done in their behalf, judging it all in a spirit of party hatred. Coriolanus had invariably shown contempt for the people, and after grain had been brought in from many sources, most of it sent as a gift from princes in Sicily, he would not allow them to receive allotments of it as they were demanding. Accordingly, the tribunes, whose office he was especially eager to abolish, brought him to trial before the populace on a charge of aiming at tyranny and exiled him. It availed naught that all the senators cried out and expressed their indignation at the fact that the tribunes dared to pass such sentence upon their order. So on being expelled he betook himself, raging at his treatment, to the Volsci, though they had been his bitterest foes. He expected that because of his valor, of which they had had a taste, and because of the with respect to that he cherished toward his fellow-citizens they would receive him gladly, since they might hope by his aid to inflict upon the Romans injuries equal to those they had received, or even greater. For when one has suffered severe injuries at the hands of any persons, one is strongly inclined to expect benefits as well from these same people in case they are willing and also able to confer favors.

For the time he was thus exalted, but not long afterward he was anxious to be made praetor and failed, and therefore became angry with the populace and evinced displeasure toward the tribunes. Accordingly, the latter, whose office he was especially eager to abolish, heaped up accusations against him, fixed upon him a charge of aiming at tyranny, and exiled him from Rome. So, on being expelled, he forthwith went over to the Volsci.

But — such is the treatment that jealousy accords to benefactors — after a little in the course of their reflections they fined the man. And he, grievously smarting with most just wrath, left his wife, his mother, and his country, and went to the Corioli, who received him. And they arrayed themselves against the Romans.

The chief men there and the magistrates were delighted and again made ready for war. Attius Tullius was urging this course upon them all, but the multitude was lacking in enthusiasm. So when the leaders could prevail upon them neither by exhortation nor by intimidation to take up arms, they concocted the following scheme. The Romans were conducting a horse-race, and the Volsci among other neighboring peoples had gathered in a large body to behold the spectacle. Tullius, as a pretended friend of the Romans, persuaded the Roman praetors that they should keep a watch on the Volsci, since the latter had made ready to attack them unexpectedly in the midst of the horse-race. The praetors, after communicating the information to the others, made proclamation at once, before the contest, that all the Volsci must depart. The Volsci, indignant because they alone of all the spectators had been expelled, put themselves in readiness for battle. Placing at their head Coriolanus and Tullius, and with numbers swollen by the accession of the Latins, they advanced against Rome. The Romans, when informed of it, instead of making a vigorous use of arms, fell into mutual recriminations, the popular party censuring the patricians because Coriolanus, who was marching with the enemy against his country, belonged to their number, and the other party the populace because they had been unjust in expelling him and making him an enemy. Because of this contention they would have incurred some great disaster, had not the women come to their aid. For when the senate voted to recall Coriolanus and envoys had been despatched to him to this end, he demanded that the land of which the Volsci had been deprived in the previous wars be given back to them. But the people would not relinquish the land. The result was a second embassy.

Zonaras, 7, 16

For he was exceedingly angry because they would not, even when in danger of losing their own country, withdraw from the possessions of others. When, now, this news was brought back to them, the men, for their part, were no more moved than before; they were, indeed, so bitterly at variance that not even dangers could reconcile them. But the women, Volumnia, the wife of Coriolanus, and Veturia, his mother, gathering a company of all the most distinguished matrons, came to him in camp, bringing his children with them; and they caused him to end the war not only without requiring the surrender of the conquered territory, but without even demanding his own restoration. For he admitted them at once, as soon as he learned they were there, and granted them an interview, the corse of which was as follows. While the rest wept in silence, Veturia began: "Why are you startled? We are not deserters, but in us the country has sent to you, if you should yield, your mother and wife and children, but otherwise your spoil. Hence, if even now you are angry, kill us first. Why do you weep? Why do you turn away? Or do you not know that we have just ceased lamenting the state of affairs in the city, in order that we might see you? Be reconciled with us, then, and harbor no longer your anger against your countrymen, your friends, your temples, your tombs; and do not burst into the city with hostile rage nor take by storm your native place, in which you were born, were reared, and became Coriolanus, bearer of this great name. Yield to me, my child, and send me not hence without result, unless you would see me dead by my own hand."

He was very angry because they would not, even when in danger of losing their own country, withdraw from the possessions of others. Now when this news was brought back to them, the men were still unmoved, and would not, even in the presence of dangers, desist from quarrelling. But the women, Volumnia, the wife of Coriolanus, and Veturina, his mother, gathering a company of all the most distinguished matrons, came to him in camp, bringing his children along with them. And while the rest wept in silence, Veturina began: "We are not deserters, my son, but in us the country has sent to you, if you should yield, your mother and wife and children, but otherwise your spoil. And if even now you still are angry, kill us first. Be reconciled and harbor no longer your anger against your countrymen, your friends, your temples, your tombs; do not take by storm your native place, in which you were born, were reared, and became Coriolanus, bearer of this great name. Send me not hence without result, unless you would behold me dead by my own hand."

Tzetzes, Chil. 6, 551-555

At the end of this speech she burst into tears, and tearing open her clothing, bared her breasts, and touching her belly, exclaimed: "See, my child, this brought you forth, these reared you up." When she had thus spoken, his wife and children and the rest of the women joined in the lament, so that he, too, was overcome with grief. Recovering himself at length with difficulty, he embraced his mother, and kissing her the whole, replied: "See, mother, I yield to you. Yours is the victory, and to you let all the others ascribe this favor. For I cannot endure even to see those men, who after receiving such great benefits at my hands have treated me in such a way. Hence I will never even enter the city. But do you keep your country instead of me, since you have so wished it; and I will depart out of the way of you all." With these words he withdrew. For, through fear of the multitude and shame before his peers, in that he had ever undertaken an expedition against them, he would not accept even the restoration offered him, but retired among the Volsci, and thee died, either as the result of a plot or from old age.

She, then, spoke thus; and his wife and children and the rest of the women joined in the lament, so that he, too, was moved to grief. Recovering himself with difficult, he enfolded his mother in his arms, kissing her the while, replied: "See, mother, I yield to you. Yours is the victory, and to you let all ascribe this favor. For I cannot endure even to see those men, who after receiving such great benefits at my hands have given me such a recompense, nor will I enter the city. Do you keep your country instead of me, because you have so wished it, and I will depart." With these words he withdrew. And he would not even accept his restoration, but retired among the Volsci, and there passed away in old age.

And had not his wife and mother (Veturnia and Volumnia were their names) at the breaking out of that war run and rent their tunics and stood about him naked and checked him, with difficulty, from the battle against the Romans, Rome would have formed the resolve to honor benefactors. But brought to a halt by the prayers of his mother and of his wife, he stopped the war against the Romans, and leaving behind the Corioli and the Romans, himself hurried to another land, smitten with sorrow.


Dio, Book V. "The rich, encouraging them with certain hopes."

Cassius after benefiting the Romans was put to death by that very people. Thus it was demonstrated anew in his case that there is no sense of loyalty in multitudes. On the contrary, they destroy men who are altogether devoted to them no less than men guilty of the greatest wrongs. For in each event they deem those great who are the cause of benefits to them, but when they have profited to the full by such men's services, they no longer regard them as having any nearer claims than bitterest foes. For Cassius, although he humored them, was nevertheless slain by them because of the very matters on which he prided himself, and they made it clear that he perished through envy and not as the result of any wrong he had committed.

For the men from time to time in control of affairs, when they became unable to restrain the people by any other method, stirred up purposely war after war, in order that they might be kept busy attending to those conflicts and not disturb themselves about the land.

At any rate they were so inflamed with rage by each of the two as to promise victory under oath to their generals; with regard to the immediate attack they thought themselves actually lords of destiny.

It is natural for the majority of the human race to quarrel with an opposing force even beyond what is to its own advantage, and upon those who yield to bestow a benefit in turn even beyond its power.

The Fabii, who on the basis of birth and wealth were as proud-spirited as the noblest, very quickly saw that they the Romans were dejected. For when men involve themselves in undertakings at once numerous and difficult, they can discover no device for confronting the multitude and array of dangers, and give up as hopeless quite easy projects; after which they lose their spirit, strange to say, as well as their confidence, and voluntarily abandon matters in hand, with the idea that their labor will be in vain; finally they surrender themselves to the uncertain dispensations of Heaven and await whatever Chance may bring.

The Fabii, three hundred and six in number, were killed by the Etruscans. Thus the arrogance which arises from confidence in one's valor is ofttimes brought to naught by this very boldness, and the boastfulness which comes from good fortune runs made and suffers a complete reverse.

For these the Romans grieved, both in private and with public demonstrations, to a greater degree than the number of the lost would seem to warrant. That number was not small, to be sure, especially since it was composed entirely of patricians; but they further felt, when they stopped to consider the reputation and the resolute spirit of these men, that all their strength had perished. For this reason they inscribed among the accursed days the one on which these men had been destroyed and put under the ban the gates through which they had marched out, so that no magistrate might pass through them. And they condemned to death Titus Menenius, the praetor,— for it was in his year that the disaster took place,— when he was later accused before the people of having failed to assist the Fabii and of having been defeated subsequently in battle.

Dio, Book VI. "When he had ended his term of office, they indicted him and imposed a fine, but neither brought him into danger of his life ...."

Now the tribunes demanded that some land acquired by the Romans from the enemy be apportioned among the people, and as a result of their action many injuries were received by the citizens both from one another and from the enemy. For the nobles, being unable to restrain the people in any other way, stirred up purposely war after war, in order that, being busied therewith, they might not disturb themselves about the land. But after a time some persons began to suspect what was going on, and would not permit both of the consuls (or praetors) to be appointed by the nobles, but desired to choose one of them themselves from the patricians. Upon gaining this point they selected Spurius Furius, and campaigning with him accomplished with enthusiasm all the objects for which they had set out. But those who took the field with his collage, Kaeso Fabius, not only displayed no energy, but abandoned their camp, came to the city, and raised a tumult, until the Etruscans, learning of it, assailed them. Even then, in fact, they did not march out of the city until some of the tribunes came to an agreement with the nobles. Still, they fought vigorously and destroyed many of the enemy, and not a few of their own number also were killed. One of the consuls, Manlius, likewise fell; the populace chose Manlius praetor for the third time.

Again a war was waged against them by the Etruscans. And when the Romans were dejected and at a loss to know how they should withstand the enemy, the Fabii came to their aid. These, three hundred and six in number, when they saw that the Romans were dejected, were not following profitable counsels, and were despairing of the whole cause, took upon themselves the burden of the war against the Etruscans, offering to carry on the conflict zealously all by themselves with their persons and with their wealth. They occupied and fortified an advantageous position from which as a base they ravaged the entire hostile domain, since the Etruscans would not even venture to engage in combat with them, or, if they ever did join issue, were decisively defeated. But, upon the accession of allies, the Etruscans laid an ambuscade in a wooded spot; and when the Fabii, as masters of the whole field, assailed them incautiously, they surrounded and slew them all. And their race would have entirely disappeared, had not one of them because of his youth been left at home; in his descendants the family later attained renewed renown.

After the Fabii had thus been destroyed the Romans suffered many injuries at the hands of the Etruscans. Subsequently they concluded a peace with the enemy, but turning against one another committed many outrages; in fact, the populace did not refrain from attacking even the praetors. They beat their assistants and shattered their fasces and made the praetors themselves submit to investigation on every pretext, great and small. Thus, they actually planned to throw Appius Claudius into prison in the very midst of his term of office, inasmuch as he persistently opposed them at every point and had decimated the troops who served under him because of their giving way before the Volsci in battle. Now decimation was the following sort of process. When the soldiers had committed any grave offence the leader told them off in groups of ten, and taking one man of each ten, who had drawn the lot, he would punish him by death. Upon Claudius' retirement from office the popular party straightway brought him to trial; and though they failed to condemn him, they forced him, by postponing their vote, to commit suicide. And among the measures introduced year some of the tribunes to the prejudice of the patrician interests was one permitting the populace to convene separately and without interference from the patricians to deliberate upon and transact as much business as they pleased. They also ordained that, if any one for any cause should have an excessive penalty imposed upon him by the praetors, the populace might thereupon have the case appealed to them and decide it. And they increased the number of aediles and tribunes, in order to have a large body of persons to act as their champions.

The patricians openly took scarcely any retaliatory measures, except in a few cases, where they appealed to Heaven for vengeance; but they secretly slaughtered a number of the boldest spirits. Thus, nine tribunes on one occasion were delivered to the flames by the populace. This did not, however, deter the others; on the contrary, those who in turn held the tribuneship afterwards derived far more encouragement from their own eagerness for the struggle than fear from the fate of their predecessors. Hence, far from being disheartened, they were even the more emboldened by those very proceedings. For they put forward the death of the former tribunes as a justification of the vengeance they were going to take in their own behalf; and personally they got great pleasure out of the belief that they might, after all, accomplish the unexpected and come through unharmed. The consequence was that some of the patricians, being unable to effect anything otherwise, transferred themselves to the ranks of the populace; they thought its humble condition, in view of their desire for the tribunician power, far preferable to the weakness of their own ornamental distinctions, especially since many held the office a second and third and even a greater number of times, and that in succession, although it was forbidden to take the position twice.

To this state the populace brought by the patricians themselves. For the policy which the latter pursued with an eye to their own advantage — that of always having some wars in readiness for them, so that the people might be compelled by the dangers from without to practise moderation — was a policy that only rendered the people bolder. By refusing to go on a campaign unless they obtained in each instance the objects for which they were striving, and by contending listlessly whenever they did take the field, they accomplished all that they desired. Meanwhile, as a matter of fact, not a few of the neighboring tribes, relying on the dissension of their foes more than on their own power, kept revolting.

The Aequi, after capturing Tusculum and conquering Marcus Minucius, became so proud that when Roman ambassadors were sent to chide them regarding the seizure of the place, they made no answer at all to the censure, but after designating, by the mouth of their general, Cloelius Gracchus, a certain oak, bade them speak to it, if they desired anything.

The Romans, on learning that Minucius with some followers had been intercepted in a bushy defile, elected as dictator against the enemy Lucius Quinctius, in spite of the fact that he was a poor man and at the time was engaged in tilling with his own hands the little piece of ground which was his sole possession. For in addition to being the equal of the foremost in general excellence, he was distinguished for his moderation; though he did let his hair grow in curls, from which practice he received the nickname of Cincinnatus.

During the progress of these events the patricians openly took scarcely any retaliatory measures, except in a few cases, but secretly slaughtered a number of the boldest spirits. Neither this, however, nor the fact that on one occasion nine tribunes were delivered to the flames by the populace deterred the others. Not only were those who subsequently held the tribuneship not disheartened, but they were actually the more emboldened. To this state was the populace brought by the patricians. They would not obey the summons to go on a campaign, though wars were threatening, unless they secured the objects for which they were striving; and if they ever did take the field, they fought listlessly, unless they had accomplished all that they desired . Hence many of the tribes living close to them, relying on the dissension of their foes more than on their own strength, revolted.

Among these were the Aequi, who, after conquering at this time Marcus Minucius, the praetor, became filled with pride. The men in Rome, learning that Minucius had been defeated, chose as dictator Lucius Quinctius, who was a poor man and had devoted his life to farming, but was distinguished for his excellence and moderation; though he did let his hair grow in curls, whence he was named Cincinnatus. He, upon being elected dictator, took the field that very day, used wariness as well as speed, and joining with Minucius in attacking the Aequi, killed great numbers of them and captured the rest alive; the latter he led under the yoke and then released. The nature of the yoke was somewhat as follows. The Romans used to fix in the ground two poles (upright wooden beams, that is to say, with a space between them) and across them they would lay a transverse beam; through the frame thus formed they led the captives naked. This conferred great distinction upon the side that conducted the operation, but vast dishonor upon the side that endured it, so that some preferred to die rather than to submit to any such treatment. Cincinnatus also captured a city of theirs called Corbio, and then returned; he removed Minucius from his praetorship because of his defeat, and resigned his own office.

The Romans, however, now had a war on their hands at home, in which their adversaries were slaves and some exiles who made an attack unexpectedly by night and secured possession of the Capitol. This time, too, the multitude did not take up arms until some further concessions had been wrung from the patricians. Then they assailed the rebels and overcame them, but lost many of their own men.

For these reasons, accordingly, and because of certain portents, the Romans became sobered, dismissed their mutual grievances and voted to establish the rights of citizenship on a fairer basis. And they sent three men to Greece to observe the laws and the customs of the people there. Upon the return of the commission they abolished all the magistracies, including that of the tribunes, and chose instead eight of the foremost men, and appointed Appius Claudius and Titus Genucius praetors with absolute power for that year. They empowered them to compile laws, and further voted that no appeal could be taken from them — a power granted previously to none of the magistrates except the dictators. These men held sway each for a day, assuming by turns the dignity of rulership. They also compiled laws which they exposed to view in the Forum. When the law were found acceptable to all, they were brought before the people, and after receiving their ratification were inscribed on ten tables; for all records that were deemed worthy of safe-keeping used to be preserved on tables.

The above-mentioned magistrates surrendered their office at the expiration of the year, but ten more chosen anew — for the overthrow of the state, as it almost seemed — came to grief. For they all held sway at once on equal terms, and chose from among the patricians some most brazen youths, through whose agency they committed many acts of violence. At last, toward the end of the year, they compiled some few additional statutes written upon two tables, all of which were the product of their own arbitrary judgment. From these not harmony but greater disputes were destined to fall to the lot of the Romans.

The so-called twelve tables we thus created at that time. But besides doing this the lawgivers in question, when their year of office had expired, still remained in control of affairs, occupying the city by force; and they would not even convene the senate or the people, lest, if they came together, they should depose them. And when the Aequi and the Sabines now stirred up war against the Romans, these officials by arrangement with their adherents arranged to have the conduct of the wars entrusted to them. Thus, of the decemvirate Servius Oppius and Appius Claudius alone remained at home; the other eight set out against the enemy.

Affairs of camp and state alike were thrown into confusion. For the men under arms, eagerly vying with one another to prevent any success from attending those who held the power, voluntarily disregarded both the public and their own personal interests; while those in the city not only took pleasure in the death of their opponents at the hands of the enemy, but themselves likewise destroyed in some convenient manner many of the more active champions of the populace. As a result no small contention arose between the parties.

Absolutely all the affairs, however, of state and camp alike were thrown into confusion, and hence contention again arose. For the leaders of the army had invaded the land of the Sabines and had sent a certain Lucius Sicius, a mighty warrior, and accounted also among the foremost of the populace, along with some companions, ostensibly to seize a certain position; but they had the man slain by the party that had been sent out with him. The report was brought into camp that the man with others had been killed by the foe, and the soldiers went out to gather up the dead bodies. They found not one corpse belonging to the enemy, but many of their own race, whom Sicius had killed in his own defence when they attacked him. And when they saw the dead lying all around him with their faces turned towards him, they suspected what had been done and actually raised a tumult.

There was still another incident, of the following nature, that served to arouse them.

Lucius Verginius, a man of the people, had a daughter of surpassing beauty, whom he intended to bestow in marriage upon Lucius Icilius, a man of his own rank. For this maiden Claudius conceived a passion, and after failing otherwise to attain his ends he arranged with certain men to declare her à slave; he, meanwhile, was the judge. The father of the girl accordingly came from the camp and pleaded his case. When Claudius had given sentence against her and the girl was delivered to those who had declared her a slave, and no one came to her rescue, her father, wild with grief, took a cleaver and ended his daughter's life, then just as he was, rushed out to the soldiers. The latter, who had previously been far from tractable, were so wrought up that they straightway set out in haste against the city to find Claudius. And the rest, who had gone on a campaign against the Sabines, abandoned their entrenchments when they learned this, and, joining with the others, set at their head twenty men, determined to accomplish something of importance. The remainder of the multitude in the city likewise joined their cause and added to the tumult.

Meanwhile Claudius, in terror, had hidden himself and Oppius had convened the senate; and sending to the populace, he inquired what they wished. They demanded that Lucius Valerius and Marcus Horatius, two of the senators who favored their cause, be sent to them, saying that through these men they would send some reply. Owing to the fear of the ten magistrates, who were now all on the spot, that the people would employ the two as generals against them, they were not sent, whereupon the populace grew still more angry. As a consequence, the senators were filled with no slight fear, and accordingly, even against the will of the magistrates, they sent Valerius and Horatius to the people. But this means a reconciliation was effected: the rioters we granted immunity for their acts, and the decemvirate was abolished; the annual magistracies, including that of the tribunes, were restored with the same privileges as they had formerly enjoyed. Verginius was one of the magistrates appointed; and they cast into prison Oppius and Claudius (who committed suicide before their cases were investigated), and indicted, convicted, and banished the remainder of the board.

Now the consuls (it is said that this is the first time they were styled consuls, having been previously called praetors; and they were Valerius and Horatius) both then and later favored the populace and strengthened their cause rather than that of the patricians. The patricians, though defeated, would not readily convene or put matters entirely in the power of the consuls, but they permitted the tribunes also to take the auspices in the assemblies; nominally this was an honor and distinction for them, since from very ancient times this privilege had been accorded the patricians alone, yet in reality it was a hindrance. The nobles intended that the tribunes and the populace should not accomplish easily everything they pleased, but should sometimes be prevented under the pretext of the auspices. The patricians and the senate were both displeased at the consuls, whom they regarded as favorable to the popular case, and so did not vote a triumph for them, though each had won a war, nor assign to each a day as had been the custom. The populace, however, both held a festival for two days and voted a triumph to the consuls.