Veturia

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Veturia was a Roman matron, the mother of the possibly legendary Roman general Gaius Marcius Coriolanus. Veturia came from a patrician family and encouraged her son's involvement in Roman politics. As the story is told, Coriolanus was expelled from Rome in the early fifth century BC because he demanded the abolition of the people's tribunate in return for distributing state grain to the starving plebeians. He settled with the Volscians, a people hostile to Rome, while formulating his revenge.

Coriolanus and the Volscians marched upon Rome, which did not have the military power to defeat them. A few Roman consuls and an embassy of Roman matrons decided that Veturia might be the only person who could convince Coriolanus to put an end to his campaign. Veturia was skeptical of her influence, but agreed to help; she also brought along Coriolanus' wife and children.

When Veturia came to her son's camp, Coriolanus embraced her and begged her to ally herself with his cause. Veturia refused on behalf of all the Roman citizens and convinced her son to cease his crusade against Rome, throwing herself at his feet and threatening to do harm to herself if he did not retreat. Coriolanus obliged, and marched away from Rome; soon, the angry and frustrated Volscians put him to death.

The Romans honored Veturia for her courage, patriotism, and strength in a crisis; she had succeeded where all men before her had failed. She became a model of Roman female virtue. She did not ask for any special favors or honors, except that a temple be built as a monument of Female Fortune. Plutarch wrote: "The senate, much commending their public spirit, caused the temple to be built and a statue set up in it at the public charge; they, however, made up a sum among themselves, for a second image of Fortune, which the Romans say uttered, as it was putting up, words to this effect, “Blessed of the gods, O women, is your gift.”"

In Shakespeare's play Coriolanus, the character of Coriolanus' mother performs much the same function as in the Roman story, but her name has been changed to "Volumnia."

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References[edit]

Primary sources[edit]

  • Livy, Ab urbe condita libri II.39.1-40.12
  • Valerius Maximus, Factorum et dictorum memorabilum v.2.1a

Secondary sources[edit]

  • Beam, Jacob N. (1918), Hermann Kirchner's Coriolanus. PMLA 33:269-301.
  • Smethurst, S.E. (June 1950), "Women in Livy's 'History'". Greece and Rome 19:80-87
  • Plutarch Lives: "Coriolanus" translated by John Dryden and revised by Arthur Hugh Clough.
  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainWood, James, ed. (1907). "article name needed". The Nuttall Encyclopædia. London and New York: Frederick Warne. 
  • Plutarch (2000), The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans.Canada: Random House of Canada.
  • Legasse, Paul,The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th edition. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000. 407