The Warlord Ascends

18/01/2012 § Leave a comment

“Verily, among all the benefits which men derive from the favour of the Muses, none other is so great as that softening of the nature which is produced by culture and discipline, the nature being induced by culture to take on moderation and cast off excess. It is perfectly true, however, that in those days Rome held in highest honour that phase of virtue which concerns itself with warlike and military achievements, and evidence of this may be found in the only Latin word for virtue, which signifies really manly valour; they made valour, a specific form of virtue, stand for virtue in general.

And so Marcius, who was by nature exceedingly fond of warlike feats, began at once, from his very boyhood, to handle arms. And since he thought that adventitious weapons were of little avail to such as did not have their natural and native armour developed and prepared for service, he so practised himself in every sort of combat that he was not only nimble of foot, but had also such a weight in grapplings and wrestlings that an enemy found it hard to extricate himself. At any rate, those who from time to time contended with him in feats of courage and valour, laid the blame for their inferiority upon his strength of body, which was inflexible and shrank from no hardship.

He made his first campaign while yet a stripling, when Tarquin, who had been king of Rome, and then had been expelled, after many unsuccessful battles, staked his all, as it were, upon a final throw. Most of the people of Latium and many also of the other peoples of Italy were assisting him and marching with him upon Rome, to reinstate him there, not so much from a desire to gratify him, as because fear and envy led them to try to overthrow the growing power of the Romans.  In the ensuing battle, which long favoured now this side and now that, Marcius, who was fighting sturdily under the eyes of the dictator, saw a Roman soldier struck down near by. He ran to him at once, stood in front of him, defended him, and slew his assailant. Accordingly, after the Roman general had won the day, he crowned Marcius, among the first, with a garland of oak leaves.”

Plutarch, Life of Coriolanus.
The basis of the Tragedy of Coriolanus by William Shakespeare.

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