CORIOLANUS. Gaius Marcius.

Coriolanus is the hero of one of the most famous and beautiful Roman legends. According to this legend, he gained the surname 'Coriolanus' thanks to the value he showed to the powerful Corioli in 493 a.C. Under the consul Posthumus Cominius. During 492 a.C. there was a severe famine, Coriolanus argued in the Senate that the grain sent by Dionysius of Syracuse (who began his reign in 405 a.C.) wasn't distributed to the populace. He then, in turn made personal enemies, who accused him of misconduct on behalf of  the people. Coriolanus, by default, was sentenced to exile. Coriolanus decided to take refuge with the king of the Volscians 'Attio Tullio', who he managed to persuade to wage war against the Romans. He rose to become the head of the Volsci and began the invasion of the Roman territory conquering many cities including Labici and Pedum, arriving at fossae Cluiliae, five miles from Rome.

In vain two ambassadors of the Roman Consulate accompanied by priests went to his camp to placate him. Following this were visits from the Roman matrons, preceded by his wife Volumaia and mother Veturia. Coriolanus, forewarned, rushed to embrace his mother, who asked him first if she was about to be embraced by an enemy or her son. Coriolanus relented and withdrew the army of the Volscians. In order to celebrate the success of the Roman matrons 'The Temple of Fortuna Muliebris' (Women’s Luck) was constructed a quarter mile from Via Latina. According to the ancient legend, Coriolanus, went on to live to a ripe old age among the Volscians. Another legend recounts that he was instead killed as a traitor, and a third version, as already recognised by the ancient poetry (Cicero, Brutus, 42); spoke of his suicide.

The legend of Coriolanus, which has elements that are both noble and profoundly Roman is a celebration of the matrons and a extraordinary branch of love. According to the story, the consuls do not appear, nor the name Coriolanus in any of the annals, although Dionysius (VIII, 62) says that even in his time Coriolanus was celebrated in the Volsci songs.

It seems to be absurd, this explanation of the name Coriolanus, which would be payable in any case the consul Postumus Cominio: missing the strange anachronism of wheat sent by Dionysius of Syracuse. Some people deny the legend has any historical value, that is not to reflect the seriousness of the threat Volsca indeed posed to Rome at the time. Others believe that Coriolanus was originally a Volsci, and that during an expedition in the Rome area, he was separated from the Ernici from Lazio (indeed Labici is one of the cities he conquered) and made contact with Equi. The memory is preserved in the folk tradition, which would transform lucky Capitan into a Roman traitor.



It was a very ancient town in Latium, one of the thirty towns which sent their delegations onto Mount Albano to share the bull’s meat, which was sacrificed to Iuppiter latialis. According to the legend, it passed under the Volsci, and then under the Romans in 493 through Gaius Marcius’s bravery, thus called Coriolanus. From the description Livy (II, 33, 39), Dionysius (VII, 9 and following) and Plutarch (Coriol., passim) give of this event, as well as from the quarrel risen between the Aricini and the Ardeatini in 443 B.C., Nibby thought the town lay on Monte Giove, one of the last hills of the Albano chain towards the seaside, in conctact with Ardea, Ariccia, Anzio and Lanuvio.

G. Treccani (1949), Coriolano, Gneo Marcio, In Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, vol. XI, page 412. 

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