Roman legend tells of Gnaeus Marcius Coriolanus, a patrician of the 400s B . C . Although he may have been a real person, no firm evidence of his existence survives.

According to the story, Gnaeus Marcius earned the name Coriolanus by capturing the town of Corioli from the Volscian people. Proud and disdainful of the lower classes, Coriolanus opposed giving grain to the poor people of Rome in time of famine, and he sought to restore the special privileges of aristocrats. Banished from Rome, he committed treason by leading the Volscian armies against his own city. The Volscians were on the point of capturing Rome when Coriolanus, moved by the pleas of his mother and his wife, changed his mind and ordered the army to withdraw. Some accounts say that the Volscians killed him; others tell of his spending the rest of his life in miserable exile from Rome.

patrician aristocrat or member of the noble class

The legend of Coriolanus was powerful enough to make him the subject of works by the Greek writer Plutarch* and by William Shakespeare. Coriolanus, the last of Shakespeare's tragedies, uses strong language to portray a proud, inflexible warrior whose scorn for others brings about his downfall.

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