Зображення сторінки
[ocr errors]

lower estate at all hazards still, undoubtedly, prevailed. Another aspect comes over the procession of the Fabii, as they departed to meet the dangers they preferred abroad to wearier and more perilous conflicts at home; and though the acclamations were as hearty and the farewells as tender, a different chord from that echoed in the story was struck in those who stayed and those who went away. But the Plebeians were not so utterly feeble as when Cassius died. Titus Menenius, a son of old Menenius Agrippa, and then Consul, who was encamped not far from the Fabii at the moment of their surprise and slaughter, was accused, at the end of his term, by two Tribunes, Considius and Titus Genucius, of having looked on, as they would say, while the best men in Rome were perishing before his eyes. The Patricians exerted themselves, in every way, to save him from the judgment of the Tribes before whom he was brought to trial.” The memory of his father spared the son a severer sentence than a fine; and the Tribunes were contented to have proved their grateful remembrance of those whom he was believed, for party motives, to have betrayed. Menenius died of shame.”

* This, as previously mentioned. is a doubtful point in the eyes of some good scholars. Livy writes, however, in this (II. 52) as in the other instances (II. 52, 54, 57, 61), much rather of the Tribes than of the Centuries. The word Populus is a strong argument with those who would have us read Centuries: e. g. “rei ad populum ” (II. 54), “reus adjudicium populi” (II. 61). But Populus seems only to mean

that it was one of the great trials, the Judicia Populi, as they were called, without any peculiar reference to the Centuries. The reader will pardon this second note on the same subject, if he reflect that the whole chapter which he is reading depends upon the activity credited to the Tribunes and the Tribes.

23 Liv., II. 51, 52. Dion. Hal., IX. 27.

It does not, after this, seem probable that the Tribunes would, for want of vigor or understanding, allow their friends and advocates of the higher estate to perish by execution or in exile. The transition, indeed, from idle looking-on, as in the persecution of Cassius, or tardy appreciation, as in the overthrow of the Fabii, to zealous and successful retaliation upon one, like Coriolanus, who had injured the Plebeians, is so striking, that it is to be feared lest the legend be placed too soon in the sketch we are endeavouring to design. Trusting, however, to the great modern historian of Rome, who advances the date of the story concerning Coriolanus some twenty or thirty years.” we may here relate the first actual triumph which the Tribunes of the Plebeians effected against their generally more powerful antagonists.

We must take for granted that the arrogance of Caius Martius Coriolanus was heightened in the legend, because of its congeniality to the pride by which most of his order were characterized, and that he is to be regarded, not merely as an individual, but as a personification of what has once before in this history been called Patricianism. This being premised, it may be safely read that there was once a man in Rome so brave in arms that the name he commonly bore was taken from a captured city,” who was said to have fought against Tarquin, by the Regillus, and to have borne the brunt of many a later conflict. The hero carried the same spirit to which he owed his renown in war into his manner and policy in times of peace;” baffling the Tribunes in every exercise they ventured of their authority, and opposing the desires of the lower estate, whether right or wrong, because the Plebeians deserved to have no wishes of their own. So wild was his animosity, that, on seeking the consulship, he was rejected by the Centuries, in which the votes of the higher classes predominated, as if the majority of the Patricians, however anxious to maintain their own inviolability, were nevertheless aware that the Plebeians had better be taught to look up to them as their protectors than hate them as their oppressors. Angered by his repulse at the elections, Coriolanus put forth all his energy, as it appears, to rouse the more violent men amongst his order to resume the attitude in which they had long stood exulting over their prostrate fellow-citizens. A famine occurred, so general and so alarming that it was necessary to seek supplies from foreign nations; and when they arrived, to feed, as was supposed, the starving poor, Coriolanus is reported to have addressed the Senate in this wise: —“If yonder rabble will have the grain they need, let them restore to us our ancient authority. Am I, who could not brook a king, to bear with a Tribune, a Triton of the minnows? Let them secede again; the way is open to their Sacred Hill, or to any hill they please!” Such words, uncertain though they be, are the best description” of the feelings which long excited the Patricians, from father to son, through many generations, against the growth of freedom in the Commonwealth of Rome. In the present instance, they were met as they deserved. The Tribunes called the Plebeians to hear the outrage which Coriolanus was urging in the Senate-house, and when he came forth with the other Senators, he would have been assailed by the multitude, infuriated by want of food as well as by wish for freedom, had not their Tribunes interposed to summon him to trial before the Tribes. Coriolanus retorted, that they had no right” to sit in judgment upon such as he; but the Tribunes were resolute, and even the Senate warned him he must yield. All that the Patricians, or the party of which he was the leader, could do for him was done; menace, surely, and violence were not spared; but the Plebeians, not, perhaps, without the aid of their supporters amongst the Patricians, were nerved, for once, to use their faculties of self-defence, and Coriolanus departed into banishment. The story of his return with the Volscians is not otherwise a fabrication except that he must rather have been a follower or an officer than the general in command. It is no greater fiction, that he should have been besought by messages and embassies to leave the invaders, or that he who came in arms against his country to purge it from the class he hated should have submitted to his mother's expostulations and his wife's tears, entreating him to begone. The next step of the Tribunes, after thus prevailing against a Patrician who had endeavoured to violate the charter, as it may be called, of the Plebeians, was to use their authority in calling others to account for injuries to the Commonwealth at large. In the year after the trial of Menenius, one of his successors in the consulship, Spurius Servilius, was impeached by two Tribunes for having sustained a defeat by the Etruscan forces in the very sight of Rome, under the Janiculan hill; but so manly was his denial of treachery or incapacity, that he was readily acquitted.” The old disputes concerning the Agrarian law recurring within a year or two, more warmly than ever since the death of Cassius,” the Consuls at the time, Lucius Furius and Caius Manlius, opposed

* See Niebuhr's History, Vol. engaged in war, separately from its II. pp. 51 et seq., 114. confederates. See the explanation

* Corioli, which, however, was in note 16 to Chap. XI. of Arnold's one of the Latin towns at peace History. with Rome. It may, indeed, have

26 “Nature, Even with the same austerity and garb Not to be other than one thing, not moving As he controlled the war.” From the casque to the cushion, but com- Shaks., Coriol., IV. 7.

manding peace WOL. I. 52

Only for bearing burdens, and sore blows

For sinking under them. . . . . .
This viper,

That would depopulate the city,

27 A free translation (with Shakspeare's assistance) from Liv., II. 34. 28 Which is at all historical. Such

poetry as the following is more valuable : —

“We must suggest the people in what hatred

He still hath held them ; that, to his power, he would

Have made them mules, silenced their pleaders,

And dispropertied their freedoms; holding them,

In human action and capacity,

Of no more soul, nor fitness for the world,

Than camels in their war; who have their

And be every man himself.”
Coriol., II. 1, III. I.

* Saying, according to Livy (II. 35), “Auxilii non poenae jus datum illi potestati, plebisque non patrum tribunos esse.” Dionysius says (VII. 45) that Coriolanus was further charged with aspiring to make himself tyrant.

30 Dion. Hal., IX. 28, 33. Liv., conjectures, of victories lately gained II. 52. over the Etruscans. See Dion. 3. In consequence, as Niebuhr Hal., IX. 37.

« НазадПродовжити »